The crowd of Young People had gathered at Eagles Square and with placards they chanted “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and marched towards the National Assembly Complex but they were cordoned off by fierce-looking Policemen. Many of them had travelled all the way from Lagos and other cities in Nigeria at their own expense to protest against the political logjam in Nigeria, and the deplorable state of socioeconomic life of Nigerians. Not ready to relent, they staked their lives and pushed through the human barricade of Policemen and made it at last to the National Assembly.
For all their efforts, no top ranking member of the Senator or House of Representatives addressed the young Nigerians. Some of them felt bad over this indifference by the legislators, but not a few felt they had made a statement. Indeed the statement they made echoed across the world and made newspaper headlines in Nigeria. Graphic pictures of young people breaking through police resistance circulated through the internet and served as facebook profile pictures. At last the “future of Nigeria” was speaking!
But weeks before then, the Young People of Nigeria made news on internet spreading the news of the yearly Future Awards. While many of the awardees and their admirers enjoyed the glitz of being on the spot light and the flash lights of celebrity photographers, some of the invited guests began to fan the embers of rebellion in the young people. Their speech steered the young people to the point that they began to know that they can do something about the nation’s situation. Realizing the power of numbers, it was obvious that since young people are in majority they truly can influence a positive change in Nigeria.
And in April, the protest march berthed in Lagos and once again, Young People made their voices heard as they made headlines once again, chanting ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”. As a follow-up to the protest marches, the Young People have began another initiative to promote participation in the 2011 election to make sure out ‘Votes Count’, and with the faces of Young Celebrities we now know it’s ‘COOL TO VOTE”. It seems at last young people are concerned about nation building, and this is most commendable to say the least.
“But is Enough Really Enough?” one is tempted to ask considering that protests by Young People have always been with us. In the past, Nigerian students under the aegis of NANS used to organize protests against the military governments in the past, but have become spineless in recent years. The NLC used to be a firebrand group, but today seem to dance in cadence with the ruling government, except to press for Minimum Wage or raise their muffled voice when rumors of fuel increase loom loud. Pro-democracy groups held protests during the military era but the democracy they fought for got hijacked by same anti-democratic forces that opposed them. The same military Generals that trampled on the rights of the people are now the seeming custodians of democracy.
The reality is that the emotional high and enthusiasm stirred by the “aluta continua” protests will likely die down and not generate an optimal social pressure of political importance if the protests end on the streets. The protests and marches for sure are commendable and noble but are they enough to correct the in gross inefficiencies in the formulation and implementation of the government’s programs and policies?
Ibrahim Babangida in recent times was quoted as saying that Young People are incapable of ruling Nigeria. And in fairness to him, what he said was not farther from the truth in some way. The reality is that not too many young people have been given the opportunity to serve in government to gain experience and expertise in the art of governance. But whose fault is this save the ruling class who recycle themselves to the detriment of coming generations to whomse the burden of leadership will eventually rest upon. He might have spoken with the power of hindsight and experience as a former military leader. In his heydays as a military dictator for instance, he uncannily knew the apparent inadequacies of ‘social critics’ and ‘freedom fighters’ and devised one simple strategy to silence and/or humiliate them.
The score card of those he appointed into positions of power and authority and who couldn’t deliver for various reasons didn’t measure up well. And many of them lost their face before Nigerians: Prof. Tam David West, Dr. Tai Solarin and countless others. One might argue that it was IBB himself that undermined the efforts of those progressives and reform-minded Nigerians. However, the fact is, they were not able to deliver the goods as expected. At least people like Prof. Olikoye Ransome Kuti performed creditably well as the Health Minister where he instituted the most lasting reform in Nigeria’s health sector.
To prove IBB wrong, the Young People of Nigeria need to strategize on how to make the votes really count, if they indeed get to mobilize wildly and vote. As it stands today, there’s little Young Nigerians can do to influence who becomes President, Governor or elected Senator or Representative in 2011. My pessimism is not without cause going by the recent developments in our political landscape. We might say ‘NO to IBB” but do we have the political wherewithal to stop him from picking the Presidential ticket for the PDP where he has solid political structures? And if we can’t say ‘Enough is Enough!” in PDP, where else can our “Enough be Enough!”
We have witnessed not to the chagrin of many the final collapse of the organized opposition with the strategic cross-carpeting of Governors and Legislators into PDP from Labor Party, Action Congress and All Nigeria Peoples’ Congress. Now that Atiku Abubakar and his political acolytes have returned to PDP, what has remained of the coalition of opposition parties has ebbed away. Gradually, the hope of PDP turning Nigeria into a One-Party State is becoming a daily reality. So what strategy can the Young People adopt to checkmate the negative political powers that hold Nigeria under siege?
It’s a welcome development that many Young Nigerians are now concerned about who us elected into positions of governance in our country, but how many of us are ‘card-carrying members’ of any of the political parties? And if we can’t influence internal party democracy in PDP, ANPP, or AD and Labour Party, how sure are we that those we will vote for in 2011 are credible leaders we can trust to steer the nation out of the doldrums of underdevelopment? If PDP can impose Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the February 2010 elections in Anambra, against the protest of other contestants, how sure are we that such won’t be the norm in the 2011 elections?
But should we despair in the face of these negative political forces at work against our collective dreams? Our history as a nation shows that Young People like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Ahmadu Bello, and the rest fought to liberate Nigeria from the forces of colonialism. They had a dream for a liberated and free Nigeria where the citizens will develop and realize their full potential as a nation.
When that dream became truncated post-independence by the greed of corrupt politicians, a set of reform-minded Young People led by Nzeogwu struck in a coup d’état. Though their effort at reforms failed, the nation felt the pulse of their hearts. Young Nigerian students in the 1960s ,70s and through the 80s have been on the case of corrupt politicians and some of them like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe are still not relenting in their activism, supported by other human rights activists like Femi Falana and Gani Fawehimin of blessed memory.
While Young People perfect the art of agitation and mobilization of forces against the enemies of development in Nigeria, there is the need to strategically begin to build the capacity, skills and expertise in the business of governance, social policy, administration of justice, socioeconomi
c management and much more. My fear is that if Young People of Nigeria are handed the baton of governance anytime soon, they might repeat the same mistakes, if not worse than those currently in government, if we don’t develop our capacity for governance and expertise to manage such a complex nation like Nigeria!