7 October 2009

Nigeria: Youths, Arise!


Lagos — My dear Nigerian youths, this indeed is your country- the only one you can proudly call your own. No matter the seemingly intractable problems of poor political leadership and the attendant problems of weak institutions spanning our electoral system, social service delivery of qualitative education, healthcare and, of course, the decadent infrastructure that has seen millions of you out of job, all hope is not lost. Here, virtually everybody knows our monumental challenges but few can proffer workable solutions and fewer still, put those ideologies into concrete action. Simply put, the elders have failed you.

They have been unable to translate our God-given potentialities in human capacity, oil and gas, solid minerals, agriculture and tourism to elevate the quality of life of the vast majority of people. But this is not the time to pontificate, castigate or bemoan our wasted opportunities, which I must admit are many. Rather, now is the moment to reappraise what you want this country to look like, decades from 2009 because the future belongs to you.

Now is also the golden opportunity you have to rewrite the many wrongs of the past. To do that, you must make the conscious efforts to re-invent your mindset. You must muster the needed will power to distance yourselves from greed, corrupt tendencies, ostentatious living, selfishness and nepotism, all of which became the ruling passion of the elders that brought us all to this sorry pass. But where do you start from? That is the million naira question.

The answers, I dare say, lie in continuous education, knowing the nation's past history and heroes, the ability to choose your heroes wisely, being more interested in the political affairs of this country and networking with patriotic minds. You must, as a matter of priority, canvass for thorough electoral reforms that would ensure we have the right politicians in sensitive positions of authority. And you should be ready to put those people to task over their actions and inactions because, ultimately, power belongs to you and not to the self-seeking political elite. That was precisely what the United States(U.S.) President, Barrack Obama, told the African continent at Ghana. This is possible.

For instance, a new phase of nationalism was ushered into the country back in 1934 with the birth of the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) by Professor Eyo Ita. The Efik-born educationist and philosopher had returned from the US after a brilliant academic performance. Inspired by Dr. J.B. Danquah of Ghana, who had initiated a similar movement, Ita based his five-fingered action plans on health and economy, beauty, knowledge, patriotism and religion. His fecund imagination was fired by the soul-lifting sights and sounds of America and London, where he obtained his master's degree.

Ita dreamt of various economic projects to absorb the energies of youths; to develop the mind and body through songs, literary activities and building scientific knowledge. All these led to the formation of the Lagos Youth Movement with Dr, J.C. Vaughan as president. Assisted by the likes of Ernest Ikoli, Samuel Akinsanya and H.O.Davies as the moving spirits, Nigerian youths of different ethnic colouration became politically aware of the need for a mass movement against colonialism.

Between then and now, their counterparts in the mass media, human rights groups and even as students have fought assiduously to see to the end of colonial rule, military dictatorship and the enthronement of civil rule. Therefore, now is the auspicious time for them to see to the realization of constitutional democracy where the people's votes count, as in Ghana and South Africa. And where the elected representatives are made to account for their stewardship. They should be at the vanguard of ensuring that state resources are judiciously applied to strengthen both infrastructure and institutions.

If things have not changed, in spite of our enormous human and material resources, it is because the true owners of political power have folded their arms for far too long. They have been made to erroneously maintain the self-made distance of 'them' and 'us'. Such a position is antithetical to the norms and ethos of servant-leadership and rule of law, which, incidentally, President Umar Yar'adua advocates.

Our youths should be so politically enlightened as to say an emphatic 'no' when the politicians offer them bags of salt, sugar or 500 naira pittance to trade their heroes for their foes. They should never again allow themselves to serve as cannon fodders or political thugs to subvert the democratic process while the candidates send their children outside our shores, to the comfort zone far from the theatre of political wars. As individuals, the youth should utilize relevant educational attainment to identify their talents and latent potentials to actualize their dreams.

They should listen to what Cobhams Asuquo, the blind music producer who won the 2009 best producer in the Future Awards has to say about the country: 'I wake up in the morning I see possibilities, I see opportunities; I see a country where its youths can survive, just like me to conquer the natural and man-made difficulties that surround them. That is the true Nigerian spirit.' That precisely is the positive mental attitude I want our youths to imbibe, to seize the moment and shape the future, which rightly belongs to them.

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