The belief that there should be a “generational shift” in the age of our political leaders has been gaining ground for some time. At a recent press conference in Abuja the United Nations Secretary-General’s envoy on youth Jayathma Wickramanayake urged the Nigerian Government, on behalf of the UN, to make greater room for the participation of youths in policy making saying she was convinced that “they have what it takes to become valuable assets in the governance process”.
What convinced her is another matter altogether. There is no disputing that Nigerian politics is dominated by overaged leaders who don’t appreciate the liberties, freedoms, dynamism and aspirations associated with modernity. Their fondness for the trappings of colonial or monarchical power and antiquated views indicates that they really have nothing to offer in terms of defining the future for generations yet unborn. Their habitually globetrotting to seek alms while failing to provide citizens with basic amenities has made the majority of Nigerian youth agree with the US President’s categorisation of Nigeria as a “sh**t hole” nation.
There is little doubt that Nigerian youths are angry and fed up with the failure of leadership. They express it every day in the social media. Kaduna State Governor El-Rufai has warned them that no amount of ridicule on Twitter or “hate” posts on Facebook will transfer power to them and they should join political parties and fight for change from within. Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigner Oby Ezekwesili correctly surmises that this would be a waste of time because political youth leaders are all over-aged. It’s painfully obvious that aged Nigerian leaders simply do not have what it takes to modernise the nation, however there are serious reservations about youths in leadership.
During the pre-independence era, the First Republic and the bulk of the military era, political office holders who entrenched corruption and coup plotting were relatively young and they failed miserably in governance just as the current crop of elders have also failed miserably. Before anyone supports youth taking over in Nigeria, they should think twice. Through no fault of their own Nigerian youths have not been prepared for governance and this perhaps is the nation’s biggest failure. Even if past leaders feel that they have been successful, success without a successor is no success at all.
Nigerian youths cannot be blamed for their unpreparedness for honest patriotic leadership. They may be poorly educated and ill-informed but they aren’t blind. Tragically they have learnt from observation that honesty doesn’t pay in Nigeria. They see that their parents who worked with honesty and integrity all their lives suffer in old age because pensions aren’t paid and government doesn’t give a damn. They see that that while the honest suffer, treasury looters, 419’ers, and political fraudsters prosper, and enjoy armed police escorts. They have learnt from examination malpractice, government recruitment, and election rigging that life in Nigeria is a racket, and that racketeers prosper.
The end result is that their aspiration isn’t how to take over political power to better the nation, but how to end their suffering by engaging in some sort of racket, or better still escaping these shores to live a decent life in a country where basic amenities are taken for granted, there is official compassion for the poor, human rights are observed, and constraints on the wielding of political power are the order of the day. Any expectation that the stream of young Nigerians risking their lives trying to exodus through the desert will end soon is mere wishful thinking. Nobody should blame them for their unpatriotic mind-set.
History as a subject was foolishly removed from the secondary school syllabus and as a result our youth have little idea where they are coming from let alone where they are going. In the old days young Nigerians were politically conscious and consumed with national development. Prior to the coming of Internet, they used their spare time for debating, political activism, arts and culture shows. Now with WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and the rest, they are pre-occupied with activities totally unrelated to making the Nation a better place.
The Big Brother Nigeria (BBN) TV show is a clear example of the idleness, lack of focus, and intellectual poverty amongst our youth. Years back when BBN first started, those who watched it were written off as people who have nothing to do, watching other people doing nothing! Now participants no longer do nothing, rather they engage in immorality of the highest order, and discuss the most mundane unintelligent issues. Instead of being reprimanded for it, the winner will receive an outrageous prize of 25million Naira.
Contrast this with a serious student who wins a mathematics competition in school and receives a carton of Cowbell milk as his prize! This is not to castigate the likes of Cowbell and Coca-Cola who should be applauded for sponsoring school excellence, but rather it’s a condemnation of organisations sponsoring BBN who condone this indecent behaviour. Contestants who enter the BBN house and act in an intelligent, moral, focused and decent manner stand no chance of winning the prize. Encouraged by BBN participants shamelessly carry on as if exposing private parts to the public and engaging in sexual immorality on TV is something to be proud of simply because it brings money. Intelligent and ambitious young Nigerians who will eventually contribute positively to national development as role models aren’t the sorts who apply to BBN.
It’s not surprising that the program is so popular amongst our youth because all it requires to keep abreast of the show is a minimum of intellect and a lot of free time! What is surprising and indeed disappointing is how and why the sponsors are allowed to get away with massively rewarding bad manners, poor English, idleness, and immorality. BBN is a disservice to our youth because it simply promotes and rewards small and shallow minds and in no way prepares them for either leadership or the realities of life.