12 December 2018

Nigeria: The Youth, Apathy and Spurious Arguments

Wednesday comment2

There is no excuse for non-participation in politics, argues Jerome-Mario Utomi

... The good news is; we have the overwhelming support of youth votes... .The bad news is; the youth never bothers to vote-Anonymous

As the 2019 presidential, gubernatorial, national/state Houses of Assembly elections come into view, the out-of-the-ordinary behaviour demonstrated by various gladiators has exposed two major concerns with the first and most radical being the political players' failure to give Nigerians a systematised/issue-based campaign with outlined manifesto placed in a well-defined order.

Again, the 'strategic' political interplays, conflicts and considerable uncertainties of the past weeks have not only exposed the underlying 'civil but cold' relationship between politicians and Nigerians particularly the youths, but underscored the usefulness of the attachment theory as propounded by John Bowlby, a British psychologist in 1958.

Essentially, Bowlby, in that theory pointed out that 'if a primary caregiver responds inappropriately and/or inconsistently, the infant learns to assume that he or she is powerless to affect the larger world and that his or her signals have no intrinsic significance were the universe is concerned." A child, he added, who receives really erratic and inconsistent responses from a primary caregiver, even if those responses are occasionally warm and sensitive, develops anxious resistance/indifferent attachment.

The above, like in the generality of mankind, describes the current disposition of the youths towards the leaders they ones considered as caregivers. Experience from the previous broken political promises and erroneous indoctrination that they lack the means to act independently on their own initiative has left the youths active on social media without interest in, or enthusiastic about any aspect of political activities.

Adding context to this discourse, it is important to state that political participation is a broader category of political behaviour and consists of those voluntary activities by citizens that are intended to influence the selection of leaders or the decisions they make but largely depend on the possession of such resources such as time, political knowledge and money.

While the above is acknowledged, it's however important to state that the political challenge confronting the Nigerian youth is not limited to inadequate finance or time but goes to include a deep-seated range of spurious arguments that revolve chiefly round political ignorance/ illiteracy- a factor that consistently dampens political appetite to monitor political activities in order to grow in factual and conceptual political knowledge.

Though, I sympathise with the awkward position Nigerian youths are politically placed by our leaders and their lack of opportunity to enjoy the economic and social progress that flow from the democratic arrangement. That notwithstanding, political apathy among Nigerians should be of great concern for some crucial reasons.

First, aside from the fact that 'power concedes nothing without a demand, listening with real curiosity to some of the arguments by these youths for embracing political apathy, one will be genuinely dismayed as most of the reasons are spurious.

For example, youths at various fora expressed frustrations that the nation is governed by people that do not feel the pinch of the common man; some alleged that their feelings/opinions are not regarded by the government-resulting in lack of confidence in the leadership.

Admittedly, the above captures our political space but despite these scenarios, one point our youths fail to remember is that when majority of the citizens fails to participate during an election, unpopular and unqualified candidates may win the election. And when unqualified candidates win, it will not only hinder political, socio-economic developments but democratise poverty.

Similarly, in their attempt to defend the present political posturing, some youths argue that the vast majority of Nigerian politicians/public office holders in their effort to secure their positions have politically disarmed the youths, kept the country divided and fostered animosity among the people.

But contrary to this belief, the truth is that no leader/politician in the writer's view disarms the youths; rather, when they find the youths unarmed with positive political interest/ideas, awareness or activities, they (politicians) are left with no other option than to equip them for illicit political responsibilities as nature abhors vacuum.

Put differently, the qualities required for success are the same that undermine success.

Until the youths realise that 'human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable', they will not appreciate that 2019 general election is not the appropriate time for complacency or apathy but a period for enthusiastic and positive action.

And without minding what others may say, the major factor preventing Nigerian youths from making political progress is primarily their inordinate love for instant gratification and inability to creatively form a productive collaboration that will turn them to a force that cannot be ignored.

In the same token, as someone who cannot support a position based on sentiment or allowed sentiment to becloud his judgment, the youth's refusal to use their population advantage to change the nation's leadership is saddening as their reasons are illogical.

A point that they failed to remember is that allowing political indifference flourish will translate to endorsement of the agonising moment the nation currently faces and stands as an emblematic demonstration of their unbelief in the time-honored saying that "when purpose is present, nothing can block the determined soul from his rendezvous with destiny'.

Indeed, political apathy in whatever form is not just antithetical to development but likened to neglecting what is actually done for what should be done. And as we know, any man who does such, moves towards self-destruction rather than self-preservation'.

Significantly, one looks at these challenges and asks how the nation can have these problems solved? The major response points at the door-step of the government as the chief source of the solution to this dreadful situation.

Glaringly, this time is auspicious for our leaders to understand that 'silence by the youths via apathy doesn't smooth things over. It merely pushes differences beneath the surface and can set in motion powerfully destructive forces as when people stay silent about important disagreement, they can begin to fill with anxiety, anger, and resentment as long as the conflict is unresolved'.

To also make 2019 general election bear the targeted fruit, Nigerian youths must realise that whoever would be too secure in the time of peace will often be found dejected in the time of war'.

This fact no doubt points at the urgent need for Nigerian youths to develop a pragmatic collaboration which will represent a set of values that encourage constructive views as well as provide support for candidates with the interests of moving the nation forward.

Jerome-Mario wrote from Lagos

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