How old is Peter Esele?

by Anthony A. Kila

There is a new generation of Nigerians rearing their dynamic heads and determined to put their mark on their country. Age is an important element that unites them, for they are young and indeed they define themselves as young, there are also a lot other socio-economic and political elements that delineate them.

Most of these new Nigerians have never gained any tangible benefit from their country and government. Growing up, they did not get free education, free health care and in living their everyday lives, they cannot count on the state to protect their live and properties. Unlike their parents, they cannot just on merit, hope for fulfilling careers within governmental organizations like Nigeria Railway Corporation, Nigeria Airways or the Nigerian Post Offices.

Rather, they have to pay for their education at home and abroad, invent their own jobs; provide their own infrastructure and even their own security services.

Whilst fending for themselves, they feel the rough and unpleasant hand of government only when they have to pay exorbitant taxes to register and run their business. Whilst going about their lives and making ends meet, they bump into the presence of government, when they discover without warning or consultation that a new law has been introduced and they have to change all their plans and projections. They also feel the annoying presence of government when they are caught up in traffic on bad roads and government officials are driven past them with sirens.

These Nigerians are generally dynamic, full of hopes; they are way ahead of their institutions and at par with their peers in the rest of the world. They communicate with email and their BB rather than with letters and fax. Like other young people around the globe, they use strange, (or is it just new?) languages and codes which many of us struggle to understand. They blog and chat and sell and buy and love and rejoice or grieve via face book and status profiles.

In the middle of using all these technologies, there are exposed to the rest of the world, so they read and feel the mood and events of the rest of the globe. Many of them even react and contribute to what is going in faraway lands. They are global villagers and they get information from and relate with people from all over the world in real time regardless of their location. They see what governments and people in the rest of the world are doing every day and they instinctively compare these to what is going on their own country and they cringe and get angry over a lot.

No surprise at all then, when on the first day of 2012, they said no and enough is enough when the government of Nigeria announced its fuel price hike measures in the country. They took to the streets to shout their no to the increase and contrary to what Mr. Peter Esele is saying lately, Nigerians as citizens, as angry, frustrated dared and provoked citizens took the streets without and before the labour unions.

It must be said Organized was Labour like others came in with a clear statement “Revert to N65 naira per litre and then we can dialogue”. The first time I took real notice of Peter Esele during the N65 naira protest was when he gave an articulate polite and yet clear and firm reprimand to the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu. It would be quite an omission not use the title chief when referring to or addressing the honorable minister of labour for although young, this former local government chairman and former adviser to Orji Uzor Kalu has not one but at least five traditional titles from across the country. Part of Chief Emeka Wogu’s claim to fame during the N65 naira was to say those protesting were ignorant hoodlums and that no amount of protest would make the Federal Government reverse its policy.

After watching Peter Esele give Chief Emeka Wogu that clear and bold lesson on what a public official should not say, I asked around “How old is Peter Esele? I hoped he was even younger than he looked. I ascribed him as one of the new generations of Nigerians in touch and comfortable with international standards and I earmarked him down as one that would and should play an important role in the New Nigeria that will inevitably come. I got really excited. A Lagos based lawyer that clearly knows more than me warned me not to get too excited about Peter Esele, I ignored him.

The next time I took real notice of Peter Esele during the N65 naira protest was when he was standing quietly near Abdulwaheed Omar who in a terse and ambiguous statement told the world that the street protest was over. Near him Peter Esele looked old, confused, frightened and was quiet. Some of those with me shouted “Say something Peter!” But alas that will not be the case. Since then he has been silent.

The last time I took real notice of Peter Esele after the N65 naira protest was a few days ago when he was passionately and incoherently defending himself and the position of his union. I have seen two of his interviews in the last 48 hours and in both, Peter Esele seemed a confused condescending conformist. I strongly advise every reader to watch those interviews as they are self explanatory. After watching those interviews, I asked around “How old is Peter Esele?” He is clearly not part of that generation that against all odds is still full of hope and courage. In his interviews, he talked about notions like strategies and tactics, pragmatism and negotiations, hierarchy and loyalty but he said little or nothing about vision and passion, principles and ideals, change and courage, hope and determination.

Peter Esele had a chance to make history and he blew it. Now I wish he is way older than he looks. Unless something dramatic happens like to Paul on his way to Damascus, Peter Esele can never be part of the New Nigeria that will inevitably come. How old is Peter Esele? He needs to make space for others.

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