By Umoru Callistus Osikhotse. Paxcalle20@gmail.com
Demographically, the Nigerian youths are in the majority, but politically, they are in the minority. Today, the youths are far removed from the political affairs of the country. Thus, the questions that come to the fore would be; what could have caused such apathy, estrangement, removal and disinterestedness in the political affairs of the country, even when the youths are in the majority?
Why the sudden change of youthful vibe as compared to our youthful compatriots who fought strenuously to ensure that political liberation was granted to Nigeria? It is interesting to note that at the frontline of political freedom from the clutches of colonialism, the Nigerian Nationalists who then were youths were the major protagonists.
This was clearly seen in the establishment of various clubs, associations, and media houses amongst others. The formulation and establishment of the Nigeria Youth Movement in Lagos, Stanley Orogun, with Professor Eyo Ita as president, and other prominent members such as Samuel Akinsaya, Ernest Okoli, Kofo Abayomi, H. O Davies, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Samuel Akintola, Obafemi Awolowo amongst others, was geared towards correcting the notion that Yaba college was an inferior institution, the need to appoint Africans into senior positions in the civil service, discrimination amongst black drivers amongst others.
These young Nigerians were bent on promoting the values and dignity of the African man, whom the Britons saw as inferior and ill-experienced. These youths were indeed patriotic, and were ready to defend the patrimony of their nation with all their strength and might. Little wonder, Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1937, launched the West African Pilot, a newspaper dedicated to fighting for liberation from British colonial rule. The aim of the young Nigerians was met when in 1960, independence was gained, and the British Indirect rule in Nigeria was abrogated. Indeed the power, vigour, energy and vibrancy of the Nigeria youths were seen here. But then what happened to the energy of the youths as time passed on?
As time passed on, the Nigerian youths became alienated from political activities, their patriotism lessened, their strength declined, their vigour and youthfulness became bastardized as a result of individualism and the quest to gain and get quick money. The syndrome of quick money among the youths has made them apathetic towards political matters, and this leads them to indulge in nefarious activities. Little wonder, there is increase in cybercrime, involvement in ritual killings amongst others.
What are the resultant effects or implications as youths are alienated, removed, estranged or apathetic towards political matters and issues? This question will be answered in the subsequent paragraph.
Since, demographically youths are in the majority but are in the minority with regard to political involvement, the first implication is that the rate of unemployment, poverty will be on the increase as the youths who are meant to be in the frontline of social development are estranged from political participation and involvements.
In addition, there would be low outcome in productivity in the Nigerian polity as a result of youth alienation not just in politics but in all facets of life that concerns the Nigeria polity. This is seen as the youths continually leave the shores of the country to seek for greener pastures elsewhere, no matter what it takes. Another implication of youth alienation from politics is the fact that youths’ interest within the political scene would be marginally or not attended to at all. Little wonder, police brutality and molestation to the Nigerian youths continued and spanned for a long time in the country.
A specific example of this, is the fact that with regard to the killings of the Nigerian youths who came out en masse on October 20, 2020 for the EndSARs protest. The voices of the Nigerian youths have been silenced for a long time, but it is high time, they spoke up and defended their rights and the rights of the common man. Enough is enough!
The youths are to take the bull by its horn, and revive the youthful enthusiasm in them; the EnDSARS protest was like a test run of what the youths are capable of doing when they unite together, regardless of tribal and cultural inclination.
At this point in the history of Nigeria, we need to move the needle to a significant vantage point, as Nigeria needs leaders who are knowledgeable as well as electorates who can discern.
It is only an ignorant and less informed youth that will give his or her vote to a self-centred leader for peanuts, and for the next four years wallow in abject poverty. Also, it is only an ignorant youth that will be apathetic towards political activities and allow his or her right be trampled upon. The Nigeria system has become like a squid game that has the kpletocratic and gerontacratic leaders as spectators, while the Nigeria youths are used like gladiators in the amphitheatre; this is readily seen during elections where youths are used as thugs. The youths therefore become a means to get their ill-gotten and ill-driven desires, namely continuity in governance.
It is worth remarking here that the attempt to remove history from the curriculum in the Nigerian educational system was a way to prevent the youths from knowing much of their history, for when a nation is devoid of the knowledge of the past; it hovers and leans on the clutches of uncertainty, ignorance and imbecility.
It is in the face of all of these that there is a clarion call on all the Nigerian youths and all well meaning Nigerians that it is high time we went out to bell the cat by ourselves. It is high time we showed these leaders of ours that there is the youthful spirit that can help in developing our country. It is high time we expressed our patriotism to our country by defending it from the flaws that bedevil it, because when this is not done, posterity will never be our friend but our accuser.
This can only be done when we all trope out en masse just as we did in the protest to end SARS and participate in politics either by vying for positions or voting for others, whom we deem competent for the job.
It is needful to state that when elections are around the corner, there are farce political campaigns and propaganda, politicians branding and packaging themselves to be presidents and governors when history has shown that they have failed the nation.
As elections approach, youths are to ask themselves these salient questions: for how long shall we continue to recycle leaders, or rather rulers, with old and tired ideas? In a country where the retirement age for civil service is 65 years, why should those above 65 be jostling for public political office? Is Aso Rock now a retirement home? If youths are the leaders of tomorrow when exactly is that tomorrow?
The EndSARS protest is a pilot scheme to test-run the power of the Nigerian Youth community. It is the beginning of a revolution, reformation and renaissance. Little wonder, an erstwhile President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo asserted in 2017 that “we are sitting on the keg of gunpowder when it comes to the youths.” The youths came out strong to defend their rights in the EndSARS protest; they are to come out en masse and participate actively in the country’s politics. Thus, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson become apt at this point, namely that “the world belongs to the energetic.”
The Nigerian youths are vibrant and intelligent, and when they are coordinated they can bring the needed growth we need in this country. It is sad when we realize that some of these leaders who are still in power led this country as youths but due to greed and self-centeredness, have refused to let the current youths to pilot the affairs of this country.
Youths, running to other countries to seek for greener pastures will not alleviate the problems that bedevil our country. No one will come from other parts of the world to improve Nigeria. We are to improve it by ourselves. Running away to other countries still puts us in the hand of these oldies that have refused to step down for energetic youths to govern. Thus, Plato’s dictum is appropriate here that “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” Stemming from this therefore, youths should shun all forms of political apathy and become participatory in Nigerians’ politics. The revolution we need is now, and it begins with you and me.