Nigerian Youth And Urgency Of A New Paradigm

By  Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
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Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Even when there is no codified word or structured documentation adequate enough to evaluate a public office holder, there exist presently, a compelling need to evaluate the present administration in the country, via a broader view of the people’s paramount concerns and legitimate expectations in order to unravel its values of fiscal discipline, prudent management, robust and continuous community engagement, effective and efficient public communication, and excellent public service delivery for the benefit of this generation and the next.

This logical, rational and practical belief is predicated on the current unpalatable happenings and failures recorded in recent times and traceable to the current administration.

Out of many of such instances, one that cries for attention is; how well has the present administration at both state and Federal levels treated its critical mass-the youths?

Aside from enjoying demographic advantage and being in possession of commanding majority, providing answer to this question/evaluation is important because Nigerian youths will provide the future leadership needs of the country.

Take as an illustration, in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari promised during his electioneering to work with the youths. But contrary to that promise, eight years after such a promise was made, the Nigerian youth are still relegated to the political background. Again, even when they are celebrated daily at the world stage for their superlative showings and performance, right here in Nigeria, they are judged to be ‘lazy’ by the same administration that promised to work with them .

The first of such shock came to the youths shortly after the 2019 general election and Mr. President submitted to the National Assembly for screening the list of 43 ministerial nominees. Separate from the disproportionately skewed list screaming with evidence that youth’s political highway remains slippery, rough and riddled with potholes and hopelessness, the list eloquently laid bare an ingrained falsehood of the administration.

In the same style, not only did the ministerial list make nonsense of the seemingly gains of the not-too-young-to run campaign embarked on by the youths on July 2017, which brought about the amendment of some sections of the nations’ constitution to accommodate youths desirous of seeking political or elective positions, what is now left at this stage, of course, is the question of the extent to which youths should draw political lessons from the episode or whether to continue exerting power on inglorious political functions they are reputed for without result.

Also in 2018, Mr. president while attending an international function, stated among other things that;‘ a lot of them (Nigerian youths) haven’t been to school and they are claiming, that Nigeria has been an oil-producing country therefore, they should sit and do nothing and get housing, health care, and education’, a remark that Nigerian youths and vast majority of other Nigerians received with disbelief, grief, and rage.

Certainly, in my view, if there is a sterling lesson the youths must draw from the asymmetrical structure of appointments by the present government at the centre, it is the new awareness that thuggery and other illicit political functions at the polls cannot guarantee a political position for the youths. Rather, what guarantees political appointment and position is the possession of a keen sense of independence, self-respect and oneness and insistence on choosing the right people as leaders during the election.

To explain, throughout the period of the 2019 general election, the Nigerian youths hobnobbed and romanced these politicians without knowing that our political leaders are experts in adopting the tactics of the coquette.

‘A tactic that makes the public fall in love with excitement while these leaders remain inwardly detached; while keeping them in control. What the youths must learn from this exclusion is that to gain relevance politically, they must develop the will to work out their political salvation by recognizing ‘that there is little hope until they become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance.

Regardless of whether the appointments in the past seven years were made by Mr. President to achieve a particular purpose—such as tackling the nation’s troubled economy, insecurity, unemployment or improvement of power generation, the truth is that looking at the lopsided architecture of those that Mr President appointed in 2019- predominantly made up of familiar names that did not spectacularly performed during Mr. President’s first term, coupled with their present below average performance, the youth should know that as the nation races to 2023 general election, the hour has come for a shift in paradigm.

The above is not to suggest that this non-appointment of the youths to political positions in the country is limited to the present administration or just happening for the first time; as no administration in Nigeria can boast of clean hands. The challenge may exist in overt and glaring forms among the Buhari’s administration but may have existed in the hidden and subtle manner in others.

In my view, these are happening because Nigerian youths apart from playing visionless politics, they are in the words of Professor Wole Soyinka full of spunk abroad, but gas at home. Coupled with the reality that our nation is unfortunately blessed with a huge number of ‘coercive’ and selfish leaders as against truly ‘democratic, pacesetting and coaching’ leaders.

As an illustration, like a prophet that was supernaturally informed of it and supernaturally moved to announce it, I recall writing a piece dated August 2017 and titled; Nigerian youths; celebrated abroad and despised at home, were pointed out that the Nigerian government right from independence has evidently proved not to be interested in, or paid adequate attention to supporting youths involvement in politics or holding of public offices, but are merely concerned with clarifying the problem of youths apathy in politics without solution. I also in that piece submitted that the only twist to that narrative is that youths have visible but ignorantly endorsed these underground plots through their actions and inactions.

Conversely, political pundits have argued that the youths should not be blamed for their inability to occupy political or leadership positions in the country, be it elective or appointment, but blamed on the nation’s inglorious departure from politics of ideas to money politics or what is currently referred to as the politics of the highest bidder which the youths have no financial muscles to partake in and therefore settled for the easiest option at their disposal which is praise singing.

Despite the virtues and attributes of the above positions, I still hold an opinion that the bulk of the blame rests at the doorstep of the youths as the list of political actions not taken was lengthy and worrisome.

As an incentive, if the youths had during the build-up to 2019 general elections, identified the areas which really hold the key to political success, and apply the right mix of resources, make collaborative efforts and discipline, they should have been able to put themselves in a position of real competitive superiority using their demographic advantage.

To, therefore, catalyze the process of reversing this appalling trend, and form a force that must not be ignored, Nigerian youths must first understand the threat fear poses for a reason. They need to remember that under ‘right circumstances; fear can trigger the temptation to surrender to a demagogue promising strength and security in return.’ The 2018 general elections and current political situation in the country stand as vivid examples.

Finally, Nigerians youths must not continue to agonize over such developments but wake up and do something civil and positive. On their part, our leaders should not live under the illusion of misguided cleverness but should ‘study history, study the actions of the eminent men, to see how they conducted themselves and to discover the reasons for their victories or their defeats so that they can avoid the latter and imitate the former.’

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;j[email protected]/08032725374.

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