By Temitope Adebiyi
Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission either to fulfill it, or betray it”— Frantz Fannon
This is one quote I got familiarized with as a member of the Students’ Union of the Obafemi Awolowo University while running for a post at the Central Executive Council of the Union in 2009.
Years afterwards, the depth of this particular quote by Frantz Fanon flashes through my mind as I daily reflect on the fate of an average Nigerian Youth in Nigeria’s political system.
It is no wrong, and cannot be written off that men who redefined the course of history in several countries around the globe have all been pointed out to begin as vibrant Youths. Ranging from Adolf Hitler, Nelson Mandela, Napoleon Bonaparte to Martin Luther King.
History has being fair to make us realize that, most Nigerian leaders like Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Tafawa Balewa, Maitama Sule, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Samuel Akintola, who bravely engaged our colonial masters to fight for our independence during the Pre-Independence and during the Post independence era were vibrant men below the age of 40years.
It is sadly regrettable to say that the tide has changed over a period of time as the same soil upon which youths were once treasured as the strength and future of the nation is now being spit on with the current youths being relegated to mere hooligans and political hoodlums while men almost close to their grave still compete eagerly for elective positions that should have been pushed over to generation upcoming.
Is it now safe to say this generation of Nigerian youths have not discovered its mission?
Or probably have discovered it but, chosen to betray it?
It is rather bad news that Nigerian Politicians are now fond of using youths restiveness as a political strategy to do and get away with their corrupt deeds. And was that not why former Governor of Rivers State; Rotimi Amaechi could have said at the second Nigeria Symposium for Young and Emerging Leaders in Ekiti State three years
ago that, Nigerians are too timid to revolt.
Statistics apparently indicated that Nigeria is a nation made up overwhelmingly of young people. Sixty-five percent of Nigeria’s over 160 million population is under 30 years but sadly, since 1999 after the return back to democracy, we have only had a disappointing 12% active youth running for elective posts in the country, in which, just over 3% of them were successful at the polls. It can be observed clearly that majority of those occupying most of the leadership seats in the country at present are the same set of people who had been ruling in the last 30years!
Since 1990, there has been just a little change in the political structure of Nigeria thereby, giving room for the leadership of Nigeria as a nation to be recycled with familiar power thirst faces almost- always taking leadership seats.
Why has this leadership position eluded the youths? Their silence!
The silence of the Nigerian Youths over issues that matter has been the sole reason why it looks almost impossible for them break through stiffed structure that has indirectly barred them from holding political offices.
It is also that same prolonged silence that has made the old foundation of Nigeria that celebrates youths holding leadership role to be replaced with a new one that makes holding leadership role a Herculean task
At a critical period of our history when the World is growing fast on ICT and Technology, the position of Youth leader in our major political parties go to men far above age 50s, We are silent! At a critical period when the ideas of the older generation have become obsolete, the best a youth can get in an administration is the position of a Special Assistant or Personal Assistant to serve as a means to put bread on his table. We are silent! Not even the position of commissioner for Youths in some states are managed by Youths, not to talk of the Minister for Youth Development. Yet we are silent! While the old guard politicians have continue to drive the narrative in Nigeria, the younger ones have been the muscle behind it. How sad!
Whatever happened to the era when we had a 29year old man (Maitama Sule) as oil Minister?
Isn’t it more pitiful that even after the expiration of the tenure of some state governors, their next target almost immediately is the National House Of Assembly so as to have, a gulp of drink from the juicy cup of the Senator’s pay and allowances. In all, we are still silent.
With the way all these old political actors are parading themselves on our political theatrical stage presenting a bad act to the silent onlookers as a form of entertainment, am tempted to say, the cliche that “we are the leaders of tomorrow” might never come to play.
Any society that by anyway sideline its youth in the political affairs of state is liable to go astray, and that is why Nigeria is in her current state of backward development. Globally now, most countries have already accepted it as a welcome development to elect or appoint younger ones in some selected post.
I believe as collective youths, we can do better by making conscious effort to demand for what belongs to us, and channel our youthful energy to how we can return this nation to the era when youths were not cut away from leadership positions rather than being hired by these older politician to cause social unrest.
As youths, we need not allow the political class to take undue advantage over us, using the problems occasioned by poverty and greed, economic and social mal-administration as a bait
Its time we proved wrong former Nigerian Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida who in April 2010 ignorantly said “Nigerian Youths are not capable of ruling Nigeria’ while being interviewed by the Hausa BBC service as Nigeria was preparing for 2011 elections.
If our silence continues, 2019 is another time for the Older politicians to trample on the Nigerian Youths to clinch tight to Leadership positions.
We need to act now lest the generation unborn mock us.
Temitope Adebiyi hails from Ondo State. He is a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council. He graduated from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University where studied Theatre Arts.