IBB: Letter from a Nigerian Youth

Because we have seen signs that [Nigerian youth] are not capable of leading this country and so we feel we should help them. I have spent 17 years since I left office.” –

IBB to the BBC Hausa Service

Your Excellency, I am writing this in response to the quote above, which was part of an interview you had with the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) in which you passed an unwarranted vote of no confidence on a whole generation of young Nigerian achievers of being incapable of leading this country in the 21st Century at a time when the countries are looking up to the youth population to help drive and shape a path to brighter future.

This unfortunate statement is also coming at a time when the most powerful nation on earth is being led by a youth who has shown so much promise that the future indeed belong to the youth in a fast changing world. I have also followed the barrages of anger and criticism that followed your very unfortunate and caustic criticism of the Nigerian youth who are blazing new trail and charting a different course for a country run aground by your generation. If your “consultations” and subsequent confirmation of interest to contest elections in 2011 have provoked outrage in many of our compatriots who were witness to the eight years of your reign in the mid 1980s through to the 1990s, your unwarranted attack on the youths of our country who remain the only hope of rescuing this county from the mess your generation plunged us has indeed added insult to injury.

When you took power under a very hazy and controversial circumstances in 1985, I, like many of my generations were just entering our teenage years. But I was young and knowledgeable enough to know that Nigeria was only a pawn in the military power game which you headed in those locust years. And those were the critical years our country could have made serious progress. Those were the important years when countries that had looked up to our country to take a leading role in Africa and as a future economic giant made steady progress that has transformed those countries into what they are today.

The decade between the mid eighties and 1990s should have transformed our county into an important country in the comity of nations had we a leader imbued with the vision, selflessness and intellectual capacity to see the future. But those were the years we wasted under your tutelage. Those were the years when the patriotism of the Nigeria youth boiled over. It was those years they needed a leader in the mode of Lee Kuan Yew who presided over the transformation of Singapore from a fractious and squalid colonial backwater into one of the shining jewels of Asia.

Through complex and ingenious economic and social engineering, he melded a multi-ethnic, multi-racial population into a thriving, safe and incredibly productive society that boasts the world’s #1 airline, the busiest maritime port, nearly nonexistent unemployment, and a lower infant mortality rate than the United States. We needed such a leader to drive our patriotism but those were also the year’s country had a captain and drunken sailors as military administrators who were all too happy to wreck the rudderless ship of state. At that time in our political-economy history, the story would have been different today had we a leader who had the nationalist fervour to harness those potentials of the Nigerian youth that you are castigating today. But your economic policies and anti-intellectual disposition triggered off a chain of reactions that led to a massive brain drain ever witnessed in Africa since the beginning of slave trade. A crop of the best and the brightest of Nigerian professionals and youths in various fields of human endeavor left the country in a massive brain drain ever witnessed in the history of mankind.

What could inform such a vote of no-confidence on hardworking Nigerian youths who have continued to surmount all obstacles placed on their path by your government and the ones that came after you is intriguing? If anything, your statement on the international news network of BBC demonstrated the disdain your generation has for the new generation of Nigerians and further reveal while those who have the reins on power continues to recycle old hands who has run Nigeria aground and pretends to have faith in her future.

Your government destroyed the education system at all levels. Our universities, which were rated as some of the best in the world became hunting ground for cultist. Tertiary institutions became a battle front for strikes and counter-strikes in opposition to your harsh and selfish policies that were driven by the vile quest to perpetuate your self in power. For most of the years you spent in power our universities were closed most of the times because you saw the academia as a threat to your self-perpetuation.

May it interest your Excellency that most students in the university at the time you were in power stayed at home due to incessant strikes more than any government that had come since you left. I spent seven years for a four years course and so were many others. At the time you took power, our country was on the verge of greatness, we only needed a true and visionary leader to steer the ship of state to greatness and a bright future but your own brand of leadership wrecked our common destiny and set us on the path of mis governance, institutional corruption and a label as a pariah state.

If indeed you were a true leader, how come you annulled a free and fair election? Recently, you have spoken and like to claim the success of organizing one of the truest elections in our country but it was not because you wanted the elections to be free, it was the disillusioned ordinary Nigerians that wanted to get rid of your rudderless leadership that ensured the June 12 election was free and fair. If you were such a great leader that your “followers” are making us believe, how come you left in such a hurried and chaotic manner and left amidst national confusion and a vacuum that was latter filled by one of the crudest dictator to have ruled this country?

If you were such a great leader why did you annul the best elections you claimed to have organised? If MKO Abiola was not good enough for the Presidency, did the Late Head of State General Abacha that came after him had the qualities to lead a potentially great nation like Nigerian? If you were such a great leader, why did you leave such a mess at the centre, destroyed the middle class, wrecked the economy and drove Nigerian youth to extreme hopelessness and wrecked our collective psyche?

Why did 419 or advanced fee fraud thrives so much in during your leadership? But now that the generation of Nigerian which you claim your generation did not properly educate (an indictment of your leadership and generation) have emerged from the ruins of an educational system your government and the ones that came after you so bastardized do you have a moral high ground to denigrate this generation?

Now you denigrate the generation of Professor Pat Utomi, a world renowned political economist and entrepreneur who is running a business school that is among the fifty best in the world. How about other young Nigerians in the arts, media, entertainment and financial sectors who have established and run successful ventures comparable to any, globally? How about upcoming Nigerians who are passionate about this country and its future?

Now you cast aspersion on the generation of Jonathan Goodluck, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rotimi Amechi, Adams Oshiomole, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Okonjo Iweala, Chukwuma Soludo Nuhu Ribadu, Nasir El Rufai, Professor Dora Akunyuli, Lamido Sanusi, and scores of others in politics, public and private sectors who are making a difference. Your statement has rubbished the generation of young Nigerians achievers in the Diaspora and we y

ounger ones at home.

Your statement has demonstrated a lack of faith in the ability of the Nigerian youth. Your statement is also a vote of no confidence of the present leadership headed by Acting President Jonathan Goodluck, who would still be in the university by the time you took power in 1985. Now they are saddled with job of undoing the rot of the past thirty years your generation was in power that has resulted in the destruction of the Nigerian state.

Now what do we have to boast of? In existent infrastructures and an educational system where youth have turned to the acquisition of foreign certificates because of a decayed university system which destruction started during your time. No matter what your generation thinks of Nigerian youths, the future of Nigeria belongs to her youths. Ambitions should be made of sterner stuff. But must your Excellency rubbish the youths of our country because of your ambition to runt the county again.

I have followed your personal trajectory since you “stepped aside” in 1993, and unlike most elder statesmen we know who have one cause to champion after they leave of office, I have not known you to be a committed advocate of a cause. Jimmy Carter Foundation is committed to eradicating guinea worm in your part of the world. Bill Gates came in 2009 to spend his hard earned money on malaria. Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush have been fighting HIV/AIDS since they left office and have recently relocated to Haiti to help fight the devastation of a natural disaster.

Back home, former Head of State Yakubu Gowon advocacy has been Praying for the many ills that beset the nation. So many other leaders all over the world are committed to a cause to rescue man kind from its present malaise by supporting one cause or the other. .I would recommend sir that rather than consulting and declaring interest in running Nigeria again, you can use your vast influence, estates and goodwill to start a Foundation to fight the scourge of underdevelopment in your state through community development. You could help in putting millions of Almajiris in school, more help and funds are still needed to combat the scourge of malaria, guinea worm, infant mortality rate, your Foundation could help in building more classrooms and provide books for deprived communities in the North and the country in general. Your goodwill could also add to the mediation efforts in Jos which has been consumed in crisis recently. These are my recommendations of what life in retirement should be. Had you been doing all these in the last seventeen years since you left office, it would have added to development efforts in Nigeria. You would have given a lot back to the society and help heal some wounds of underdevelopment we are now faced with.

A lot of young Nigerians are involved in life changing causes already in the rural areas. They will sure need some funding from your Foundation in undoing some of effects of our horrible past. With due respect sir, you do not have to be in Aso Rock to make a difference that you failed to make after eight solid years in power. If anything, your conformation of interest to rule the country again is heating up the polity. We hope that for the sake of Nigeria, her youths and the future generation, you will use your enormous resources to make a difference, not in Aso Rock, but outside of it, in 2011 and for the rest of your remaining life.

Written by
Bayo Olupohunda
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