Young Nigerians as Yesterday’s Leaders
In unorthodox or unconventional, i begin this piece with the message that should normally be part of the conclusion of my interrogation. Why it has to be this way stems from the reality that the young people who form the center of this discussion might not be able to stand me until the end. In their “digital” world, reading is not part of their agenda, except to pass exams. Not wanting to risk losing the message, I therefore chose to introduce the subject by way of conclusion. My message simply to young Nigerians is to wake up from their slumber and actively participate in the political process leading to the emergence of real and genuine leaders of the country.
Now that voter registration is open, they not only need to take steps to register to vote in the next general election in 2023, they need to make sure they do everything they can to mobilize their contemporaries to do so. Among other messages I have for them, may their impact now be felt in the political firmament.
A few weeks ago the world celebrated our youth on a global scale. It is generally a day reserved by the United Nations and dedicated to universal youth. Nigerian youth are of course no exception to this celebration. The only possible distinction between celebrations in other countries and Nigeria, however, might be the non-existence of a basis for the celebration of Nigerian youth except to console themselves in their mere existence as opposed to real life. I am sure you will appreciate the difference between a person living a life and one existing in the space of the earth. The comparison is like that of a person with a house or shelter over their head and a person with a house. While one lives in a shell without the facilities that make a house, the others live in a structure with all the accessories.
Young Nigerians have little to celebrate. Except for those whose parents can afford to pay for it, young Nigerians lack access to quality health care, quality education, employment and good infrastructure. For those on the fringes of existence, who are the majority, they are largely miserable and now not only shadows of themselves, but replicas of people / entities they will never dream of wanting to be.
Young Nigerians substantially populate the arena of kidnappings, banditry, terrorism, fraud, political thugs and violence, drugs, prostitution, etc. His spiritual consciousness has become so completely degraded that where he is not into fetishism by joining sects or engaging in money rituals, he solves scientific problems with spiritual means by populating mosques and settlements. churches with ridiculous demands that God is tired of listening to, having endowed him with brains and muscles.
Unlike their global counterparts, Nigerian youth appear to have nothing to celebrate as their future is not only uncertain but bleak. According to the United Nations categorization, all people between the ages of 15 and 24 are considered young. In Nigeria, there does not seem to be a clear understanding of who the youth really is. In some legislative texts 20 is the age for contracting, while under electoral laws 18 has been set as the age required to exercise the right to vote. However, if the national youth policy is something to follow, young people in Nigeria are in the 18 and 35 age range. Based on this figure, young people in Nigeria make up about 43 percent of the country’s population. As charitable as it is in terms of elasticity over the United Nations range, the point is that, in the real Nigerian context, the classification of young people extends up to 40 years of age. If this threshold is adopted, the percentage of youth representation in the country increases to 55 percent. Again, according to voter registration data, young people in Nigeria constitute over 60 percent of eligible voters in the country.
Whichever of the above figures is adopted, the truth is that young people constitute a significant number in the nation. This is supposed to be an asset for the country in terms of energy and the contribution of young people, when properly harnessed. Unfortunately, however, it cannot be said that the value proposition is real in the country. Energy is not only dissipated in general but often diverted to causes other than noble ones.
The factors responsible for this situation range from the poor quality of education, the collapse of values and virtues in the country, poor infrastructure, corruption and, above all, unemployment and poverty. According to the latest statistics, around 40 percent of the population of Nigeria is unemployed and even a greater number unemployed due to the nature and quality of education we give them.
A contributing factor is also how and how the country’s rulers, as I always like to describe them, display wealth. Of course, this is no stranger to the quality of leadership in the country, produced by a flawed electoral system and process. The point is that young Nigerians are the main players in the Nigerian project. As stated above, they are the most vulnerable of the lot, negatively impacted by poor governance.
Today, apart from a substantial number of them being unemployed and unfit for work, they have been forced into trades for which they had never negotiated. They suddenly became the “hushpuppies” and “woodberries” of the world. They are in various forms of vices, forced by the need for survival and the collapse of values. The country’s economy continues to plunge as the national currency is on the fast track to worthlessness. While the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is busy dealing with issues that do not concern him, the country appears to lack a cabinet member in charge of economic policies and finances.
The governor of the Central Bank is now the formulator and executor of policy and competes favorably with politicians in the media. The main responsibility of any central bank governor is to defend his country’s currency, but not in Nigeria because economic experimentation is the order of the day. Which country !
The consequence of the inadequacy in the governance of the country is the prevalence of vices in the nation today. Terrorism, banditry, kidnappings, fraud, corruption, agitation for secession, unemployment, poverty and widespread insecurity dominate our daily experience.
These are afflictions largely perpetrated by young people, in part out of frustration. The major factor which is, however, responsible for the problem of lack of good governance stems from the quality of the country’s leadership, engendered by our faulty electoral processes. The result, not to mention the apathy of the voters, an uninformed electorate.
According to data released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the last elections, only 35% of the total electorate determined who the current leaders are. Of these 35 percent, more than 70 percent of them are not only illiterate but uninformed voters. Therefore, this comfortable majority who knew neither why they were voting nor why they were voting for a particular party or candidate, decided the leaders.
The implication of this is that, by their misjudgment due to ignorance, they have endangered not only themselves but all of us. This danger remains and still looms because of the negligence, refusal / failure of informed, in particular elites, to participate in the electoral process. Among these elites are the substantial number of young people who are educated. Thus, it is safe to conclude that it is the inertia or nonchalant attitude of presumably informed youth about elections that continues to put us all in danger and continually makes our youth vulnerable and susceptible to all kinds of manipulation. and vices. Therefore, it is up to young people to become aware of the reality and to embark not only on massive registration on electoral rolls or running for political office, but also in educating and enlightening the mass of illiterate voters.
It is important to help this mass of uninformed voters connect their votes to their lives and stop marketing their votes, which they see as products. It is this scenario facing Nigeria in contemporary times that explained Plato’s conclusion that democracy is the rule of the ignorant. Using the theory of ship navigation, Plato argues that a popular vote in choosing a captain is ineffective because people can be influenced by characteristics as irrelevant as their appearance.
As the highest player in the Nigerian project, I urge our young people to step up on the pedestal now and make a difference in the electoral process. Overall, many of your age mates are heads of state and government. Jacinda Arden became Prime Minister of New Zealand at 37; Emanuel Macron, who became President of France at 39, Sebastian Kurz of Austria took office at 31; Sanna Marin became Prime Minister of Finland at 34; Juri Ratas assumed the post of Prime Minister of Estonia at 39; while Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became Emir of Qatar at 36, to name just a few of the heads of government. What then stops young Nigerians?
Aren’t you tired of the on-going retraining in the direction of the country, featuring geriatrics and depleted forces? Now is the time for real change on your part. Gone are the days when young people were described as the leaders of tomorrow. The aphorism is now a misnomer in contemporary Nigeria. Let me say without fear of being contradicted that the young people in Nigeria are now the leaders of yesterday, as their grandparents are still the ones in the leadership positions in the country. Your parents’ time is over and your time is running out. Arise and save the land from collapse and eventual extinction. There is no tomorrow to come or to come for young people. You have to fight with the tight emperors of the country.
Most of them are contemporaries of General Yakubu Gowon who ruled the country as head of state in 1966, over 50 years ago, at the age of 31, and they still occupy leadership positions today. Under such circumstances, do you expect a miracle according to the progress of the country? Certainly not. My message, once again, is that Nigerian youth rise to the nation’s current challenge by fully participating in the elections. You need to mass-register as voters, aggressively mobilize other young people to register and run for political office, educate and enlighten uninformed voters, protect vulnerable voters, like men and market women and civil servants.
Now is the time to change the rhetoric on credible elections by stubbornly staying up to date on the evolution of the electoral process and making sure the votes count. It is the only safety valve and the guarantee of any future for the youth of the country. I am resting my case as I continue to urge you through other media.