Before You Judge Them…

by Nnaemeka Oruh

Our country as it is today is threatened by a total breakdown of law and order. There is the ever increasing rate of armed robbery, the abduction of expatriates, corruption, bickerings among our leaders-as evidenced by the Obasanjo/Atiku saga, and the political wrangling in Oyo State – political thuggery and assassinations, et cetera. Incidentally, this is the season for political thuggery and assassinations as the nation waits on bated breath for the new leaders that would be imposed on her come April.

Amidst this chaos, one notices that the youths have been bequeathed with a large part in this unfolding tragic drama. I use the word “bequeathed” to express my firm belief that the totality of the crimes perpetrated by the Nigerian youths are thrust upon them by the elders of this country whose duty –fate has said- it is to rule. A popular proverb tells us that “when the elder chameleon dances, the younger one watches, when the younger chameleon becomes older, will it not also dance?” This dance would of course be in consonance with the dance steps learnt from the elder one.

That the youths of this country have become veritable weapons of self destruction, and indeed the destruction of the society is no longer news. Anybody who keeps his ears and eyes a little open would have noticed that a great deal of the political assassinations and thuggeries manifesting in this country are carried out by young men especially fresh and jobless graduates, and their undergraduate counterparts. These deprived and hungry youths lured by politicians have seen these openings as the only survival source, and with both hands grabbed them.

I am bereaved by the huge aspersions cast on the Nigerian youths by some members of the society. Worse is the fact that the youths are repeatedly reminded that they are the future of this country and thus miracles are expected of them. I ask, what future? A future in a life without a present? A future that exists independent of a present? I believe that the condemnation of the youths stem not solely from a holier-than-thou stance, but principally from the ignorance of the totality of the situation that coalesced to inform the criminal tendencies.

First there is the elder chameleon-younger chameleon syndrome. I will provide a concrete example to illustrate this. In Abia state for instance, the youths of the state capital have been provided with an example of the way to the top. This example lies in the story of the chairman of motor park touts in that town. This youngman-whose name I have withheld-has grown from a poor and struggling chairman of touts, to a very affluent and influential politician in that state courtesy of the political machineries of that state that found in him their weapon of destruction. Today, he is vying for the Chairmanship position in his local government. News from the grapevine says that he is using both threat and bribery to stand down his opponents. A case of when the elder chameleon dances?

The second point is an issue which I had discussed earlier namely society’s use of material riches as a criterion to determine manhood, and success in life. This is so bad in a land where there is a dearth of opportunities for material riches. A scarcity that is human induced. The hungry youth has to eat. He has to clothe, and he has to answer to his societal responsibilities. For the ladies, they welcome prostitution. A profession where at least “no years of experience”, and “who do you know” are required.The men? There are a whole lot of”opportunities” open to them the crime way! Bunkering; abduction of white men for ransoms; scamming-e-mail scam; assassination of the political enemies of their hirers; and political thuggery. So in this fertile season of electioneering, the youths would be “gainfully” employed. Ballot boxes must disappear, and pseudo-elections held under cover of darkness in palatable mansions of political godfathers must take place. Political opponents must be beaten, killed, maimed, or simply threatened. Many of these youths of course will die in the process, thus turning to stepping stones to the greedy elders’ mansion of misrule and injustice. And my prostitute sisters,? In this season of political meetings and rallies, when pot bellied politicians will need fresh blood for the night, most of these sisters will end up at ritual altars-sacrificial lambs to our political needs. But none of these will matter. It is simply the survival game which the society has handed down to us.

As for my bunkering-oil bunkering practitioners-and scamming brothers, they have always been in the season. No blames for them because as one told me recently – the inspiration for this article – bunkering is his office, and his mineral resource, so he does his job effectively. He is not concerned with what the corrupt politicians are doing. For all he knows they are drilling their mineral resources. They should not bother him with his.

Mention need to also be made of the wave of armed robbery attacks that took Aba, and its environs plus the Umuahia-Aba expressway by storm in the middle of last year. For a change the greater majority of the robbery attacks were aimed at Bullion vans. It was the youths’ violent way of expressing their discontent with the society and the government. Ironically, those robbers were generally called PDP! It was a most eloquent articulation of the infamy which the acronym PDP had gathered within eight years. Like the younger chameleon, this class of robbers had carefully watched the looting of public funds by the PDP, and had decided to do so themselves. Before you judge them, remember this.

Now to round off with this example from my hometown. Orji Uzor Kalu’s flagrant creation of autonomous communities through the division of very small communities into several autonomous communities at a fee brought nothing but death, destruction of property, and general unrest to the people of Abia State. In my home town of Obuohia Ibere, during the tussle for the throne of the Eze, the youths of that hitherto peaceful community had been used by the different factions. Elders who saw nothing wrong in arming the youths with guns. Even though the situation seems a little calmer now, the psychological impact of that ugly period still manifests in a whole lot of ways. The youths have been used and in the process, they have tasted money. They thus keep calling up unnecessary issues that need settlement, brandishing guns in the process and generally causing heart attacks to the aging members of the society. Material riches had come to them through violence, and nothing will stop them from using violence for self aggrandizement. No fairy tales!

“No fairy tales for young black males…selling my soul for material riches.” That was Tupac Amaru Shakur again who explicitly captures the situation, and rounds it off with “I was given this world I didn’t make it”.

Despite the strong condemnations heaped on the Nigerian youths, the society will never witness an amelioration in the present social turbulence and decay. This will continue until new survival means are allowed to open up. It will also continue until the elder chameleon changes its dance steps. So ” Before you judge them look at all the shit you did to them.”

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2 comments July 19, 2007 - 7:44 am

Enitan,I am sorry for responding late to your comment.I will try to be brief–and hope to get your e-mail or phone contact so we can talk in details on this–you cannot save all the Nigerian youths,but at least you can save some.When we all save two,we would have saved a large number,and hopefully,our future will be brighter.You can reach me on

Reply March 28, 2007 - 6:35 am

Excellent article. If we can't bend dried old fish, we certainly need to watch the future. Saving Nigerian youth within the Nigerian environment is a tall order.

Many of us were –saved– by parents who removed us from the environment before the bottom fell out and the rest of the middle class disappeared.

Now I for one am often at a loss for how to reach back to Nigerian youth when the factors that keep them so entrenched in destructive patterns far outweigh my capacity to help. I'd like to hear from you on that one.


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