President-elect Marcon at 39, My Meeting With a Top Buhari Official at 39
Emmanuel Macron has just been elected French president at the age of 39. Kudos to him. It says a lot about attitudes and possibilities of different peoples. I looked back at when I was 39. It was Buhari's inauguration. I had been invited not by connection to the men in Buhari's team, but because a very smart and wise Buhari's wife, Aisha felt the need to give some of the few IV's (about 300 total for all APC) to people who made an impact on the social media. Someone recommended me. Excited as ever, I bought my ticket and held my breath as I landed Abuja airport. "Whew! GEJ did not arrest me!" I was lodged at the corner of Aso rock villa. I could literally smell my arch enemy, GEJ.
While in Abuja for the inauguration, I and about 2 others were again selected by someone in Buhari's administration today. Or rather, I was called to be part of a group of 3 or 4 "mover youth" who moved the media. We were taken to dinner by a certain person. Mind you, at this time no positions were given, but this person assured us that he had the president's ear. He eventually became a top 10 in the current Buhari administration, or perhaps top 5, even. I will not mention who he is out of courtesy and discipline and in consideration of the other parties to the meeting.
This top Buhari official took us to dinner about three times. The topic was, setting us up as a media barrier. What does this mean: the person said, "we in the government will be working hard. But there will be distractions. We will want you to be a barrier on the social media, to take care of those distractions so we can work."
I understood. TAN came to mind. As well as other individuals and phony groups that write everyday in the media with some unusual intel access and a "surprising" overtly zealous solidarity with the government. We all read these releases in the mainstream media. The rich ones that protested to kick out Amnesty international from Nigeria. Or the ones that published several libelous articles against yours truly in all main stream media.
Here's the kicker. We asked this person: what's in it for us? The person said that there will be a sufficient budget for us to carry out this work and recruit millions of youth. I clarified my question: what influence will we on behalf of the youth have on government decisions? What power will we have in the administration?
The person looked at me and explained how old he was. "I am quite old, he said. when I wake up to pray, it is hard for me. I have acquired wisdom (or something like that)."
"You guys are young," he continued, "what do you know?"
I stepped down. I insisted that we need to have some kind of lobby access at least. We can not only be barking attack dogs like TAN, I told him. I gave examples of lobby groups in the US that are able to push agenda with the government.
"This is not America," he responded.
He insisted that we "youth" know nothing. Those were his words, literally. "What do you youth know?" Mind you, I have a lot of gray hair on my head.
Finally I gave him what I call the "doggy bargain," it's the bargain you read in the Bible where the Canaanite lady who Jesus the blessed will not attend to for being Gentile and not Jew, says, "well at least the dogs can get the crumbs that fall from the table of the children(Jews)." And Jesus says she spoke smartly and heals her kid.
I tell him, well even if we know nothing, at least we know where it hurts us (youth), we should have access to report on this. Finally he succumbed and agreed that yes, we should be able to have such access.
It was exasperating to say the least and quite uncomfortable. We battled back and forth.
One of us, another daring guy on the table asked him. "Sir, so what should we take away from this?" He got mad and red in the face. It was like the third dinner meeting. "If you like you can take nothing." The guy clarified that he didn't mean to insult and he had actually been taking notes, however he just wanted a summary.
As you can imagine, it was clear. I had realised I was dealing with old people who had no respect for the value of youth, even kids. I saw someone who wished to turn me into an FFK, a TAN. A paid attack dog with no conscience and no strength.
At 39 with gray hairs, I saw someone who I hoped was wrong in assuring me he will be a top official, that believed I, a physician with an additional graduate degree and a body of publications and 10 years experience in the art of social media communication...and whatever else I prided myself for having, was a kid with no "idea of how government works and what they do," as he put it.
I am sure you know the rest of the tale. I don't know about the rest members, but I never spoke to this individual again. I have made a pledge early in life, that the day I lose the truth and my principles for power or money, let it be my last so I don't acquire the sins of the citizens I deprive of their commonwealth.
I have since observed the tragedy this person has been involved in. I know he observes me too more closely than anyone in the Buhari administration. Perhaps now he realizes that youth know how the government works and youth can run the government, or perhaps not. But as I look at Marcon, I think about the mentality of the Buhari side of the presidency. I wonder how many more years Nigeria has to go. In a sense, we are the youth(with our aged leaders), while France is the adult(with its trust of its youth).
We don't all have to or want to be president, but our country and government must include and respect all of us.
Dr. Perry Brimah; @EveryNigerian