THE ROLE OF THE YOUTHS IN THE FORTHCOMING GENERAL ELECTIONS; WHAT WE MUST KNOW AND DO
BEING A KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY AIC AKWARANDU, FOUNDER, AIC AKWARANDU FOUNDATION, AT THE 2018 DIOCESE OF MBAISE ANGLICAN YOUTH FELLOWSHIP BROTHERS FORUM, HELD AT ST PETERS ANGLICAN CHURCH, ITU, EZINIHITTE MBAISE LGA, IMO STATE, ON SATURDAY, 23RD JUNE, 2018.
Let me start by appreciating the leadership of the ATF Mbaise Diocese, for the opportunity given to me to discuss this timely topic. It’s indeed an honour for me to address my fellow youths in an issue that affects us.
I have no doubt that today will offer us an opportunity to change the narratives for the youths.
At the fall of the 20th century, renewed clamour on youths as leaders of tomorrow simmered to the fore of growing national concerns. This development is an eloquent testimony to the indispensability of the youths in any nation that intends to lay serious claim to greatness. A nation needs the creative ingenuity and agility of her youths to remain democratically viable and economically competent as an independent state in the comity of nations.
Africa as a continent is an enviable instance of the can-do spirit of the youthful zest. One quickly recalls the impeccable heroic roles played by African youths in their various countries during the continental struggle for Africa’s freedom from the colonial grip of overbearing White Lords. Names like Ngugi Wa Thiong’O and Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya); Oliver Thambo and Nelson Mandela (South Africa); Patrice Lumumba and Tchicaya U’ Tamsi (Congo); Kwame Nkrumah and Kofi Awoonor (Ghana); Kenneth Kaunda and Stanley Samkange (Zambia); Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, JP Clark etc (Nigeria). These names resonate with a piercing familiarity and will forever enjoy honourable mention and reference each time historical issues about Africa’s independence springs up. This is because, they and innumerable others devoted their youthful strength and time to the Africa’s struggle of that era through the framework of campaigns, town hall meetings, seminars, media and literary activism. By so doing, they brought to bear, the dangers of the continued colonization of Africa and its attendant exploitations. Their worthwhile engagements helped to arouse national/continental consciousness among African masses and engendered the various thought processes that informed our freedom and subsequent nationhood.
The above is only but a thin veneer of the indisputable importance of the youths. Naturally, the youths are the link between the passing and forthcoming phases; the middle person between the old and the new; the conduit for handing down society’s norms and values from the older generation to the sprouting ones. The youths hold the baton in the relay race of life, thereby filling the yawning gap of procreation and existence.
It was Frantz Fanon, who in his seminal work, The Wretched of the Earth, asserted that “Every generation must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil or betray it”. This presupposes that every generation must confront its problems and tackle them headlong. To achieve this then requires a level of active participation in the governing processes of any nation.
It is saddening to note, that despite this important position the youths occupy, or, at least, expected to occupy, the youths have surprisingly, for reasons best known to them, decided to relinquish their seat to the elders who have been in power since Nigeria became a nation. We all know, or must have read somewhere, that most of the current crop of leaders in Nigeria nay Africa today were the same young nationalists who wrestled power from the white lords. They achieved all these in their twenties and early thirties. The question therefore is how come most of them are still in power and even seeking for more, some sixty years after? For me, leaders above 70 should only play advisory roles and not active leadership roles.
The Core Issues
The answers lie in, first, the youths’ unawareness of their worth in a democratic dispensation like Nigeria. Secondly, a sense of acute inferiority complex. Thirdly, poor political education, and lastly, a disturbing and shameless love for quick money. Let us see how these four factors culminate into a non political participation experience among Nigerian youths.
Lack of self awareness and poor knowledge of one’s role in life can diminish one’s common sense and his or her eventual role in a given community. When you fail to understand that you’re part and parcel of the society, with a role to play, how then can you be politically active, since politics is society’s fibre? The second factor of inferiority complex comes very close to lack of self awareness because one who is unsure of his or herself cannot, in essence, have a strong complex in life. Inferiority complex makes one hide his or her real talent, his real ability and capacity to do work or create, because he is not sure about how good he or she is. So when, for instance, there is need for such youth to go for councillorship (where it is obvious that he will do well), he will renege and say “owu ihe nde ukwu, owu ihe nde ji ego” and so on. How then is the society going to move forward with such defeatist mentality?
Poor political education is about one of the most devastating of the aforementioned four factors. Lack of good knowledge of the happenings in politics is one of the reasons why Ala Igbo is seen to be the home of the most apolitical youths in Nigeria. It is no longer news that political disinterestedness is rooted in Ala Igbo more than any other part of the country which is why, despite the purposeful design to short-change Ndi Igbo in PVC distribution by INEC, it is also true that our people, especially the youths, are also not even interested in collecting the available ones. While some of you may argue that the reason is because of the Biafran agitation, I argue that while we wait for Biafra, let us participate in Nigeria’s politics for now because her policies affect us whether we like it or not. We are still Nigerians till we become Biafrans.
The last factor which is even more worrisome is the major reason why we have little or no youthful participation in politics. Our few youths who dare to participate are more interested in politics of “oji ego ole?” They are not coming to sincerely campaign and work for a desired candidate; rather, they are coming to know how much they can get from such candidte. This is why our politics have become a sort of bazaar, where the highest bidder becomes the leader no matter how undeserved he might be. We the people frustrate politicians by being too demanding on them, especially in the time of elections for it is when we see them as being too vulnerable and too susceptible to giving. To meet up, they borrow money to satisfy the people and do all they can to win and when eventually they get in, it is only normal that they would shut the doors and pack as much money as they can to be able to pay off the huge debts they incurred while trying to get in.
When we the youths stop playing such dirty and petty politics and start giving the real politicians and leaders space to come in, we will then possess the moral latitude and uprightness to judge them when they do wrong in office and even call for their impeachment when their excesses become unbearable. We can’t do this when we give them the space to pay in their way in. The future is ours for the taking, let us go for it.
The Way Forward:
The way out is a reorganization and reorientation of societal ethos and priorities, a reconstruction of our mentality to identify and follow the right path, know what to celebrate and what not to celebrate, because we cannot continue to remain indifferent in a pool of deadly misery that has already crossed our waist regions, threatening to reach the neck within the shortest of time to begin its suffocation. To swim against this tide is a call for active participation in politics, let us support ourselves and encourage the good and reasonable and capable ones among us to occupy some of these sensitive offices which our youthful age allows. Let us also note that playing active role in politics and leadership does not require that one must only contest for an election. A strong followership is as important as those who wish to aspire. To be a leader, you must at least be a good follower for a while.
While we celebrate the signing of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill into law, let me quickly remind us that the Nigerian constitution have always had a provision for such, it is just that we simply forgot that we can do it, no matter how expensive the process may be, it is not totally impossible for us, where there is a will to participate. We can even push for an easier process to allow for more youthful participation in politics but the sad news is that we don’t even believe in our strength to move such motion through media campaign and other pressure tools that are legally acceptable. An attempt to remain indifferent or cynical as usual is like one signing up to be caught up in the snare of an imminent death. For me, this is not the time to wait for an individual activist, whose lone voice could be mowed down like an unwanted grass. The level of misrule in Nigeria and Imo state in particular has reached alarming heights and as such requires all hands to be on deck to fight off the imposing hawk off our collective sky. Yes, we must all be active participants in politics because it is our exclusive right. And let nobody deceive us by telling us it is ungodly. Politics is not ungodly because even heaven recognizes a people oriented government that is why there is a hierarchy up there. It is just that the good among us have remained apolitical for so long that the bad men saw the opportunity to take over the whole place. Those who are sincere are most times tagged arrogant, strict while those dancing makosa with our commonwealth are voted in all in the pretence of being “men of the people”.
The Igbo hypothesis of Igwebuike should serve as a recurrent chant to remind us of the need to fire up ourselves in the positive light where no water of discouragement, money politics, disunity and inferiority complex can quench. Igwebuike is a reminder of the need for a collective effort, it is a reenactment of the Ubuntu spirit- I am because we are, and since we are, therefore, I am. Umunnem, gidigidi bu ugwu Eze, maka na agbakoo aka nyuo mamiri ya agbaa ufufu. It is possible to right the wrong policies of any government when we have the major say in politics. Like we all know the popular saying that “politics is a game of number.” My fellow youths, it is possible to remove any tyrant where there is unity, and that’s the reason why oppressors dread unity from the masses they oppress, that’s why they use the factional method of divide and rule, and by so doing, the hegemony and their stranglehold on our commonwealth continues unchecked and unchallenged. But we can sacrifice a little personal comfort, turn a blind eye to their gimmicks and, like the spiders, come together to craft cobwebs which in turn will surely bring the elephant to its sprawling knees.
The enigmatic writer, Dan Brown, is adamant that “the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who remain silent in troubling times”. Wole Soyinka even gave momentum to the above assertion when he said that “The man dies in those who remain silent in the presence of evil”. Claude McKay in his poem, “If we must die”, also counsels for the need to speak up and avoid “anonymous death”. And like the late Black American rapper 2Pac said “if we can’t find something to live for,” we should at least “find something to die for,” because “an unexamined life is not worth living,” said Martin Luther King Jnr. We the youths must rise and speak up by being politically active in the positive direction with our senses intact at all times. History will not judge us well if we finish living in this world with nothing worthwhile to show for our existence. Politics is worthwhile, for it is the determinant factor of our collective existence as a living people. Umunnem, we can’t keep waiting and praying for miracle to happen. We need to back our prayers with enough political actions because we have entered the stage where only prayer is not enough.
Let me ask, are we going to keep talking and yelling and wailing of the unpaid salaries, pensions, gratuities and other entitlements? For how long are we going to continue to murmur over the poor state of our roads that have become poorer than this current government met them? Should we perpetually continue to decry the numerous abandoned buildings and projects; funds of which our Kiliwi Nwachukwu cannot account for? What makes us think that our continued grumblings will make our new Adolf Hitler to stop the destruction of our markets and other sources of income? We all know that apart from trading, transporting and teaching, there is no other plausible means of survival in our “rescued” Imo. Are we going to remain silent and watch one family render our State useless? Are we going to remain silent and watch our educational system collapse? Are we going to pretend like we are not aware that LGA elections have not been conducted in the past 7 seven years, leaving the State in total control of the LGA allocation for years? What about the bailout funds, Paris Club refund monthly allocations, etc? Are satisfied with what is on ground? If the answer is no, why then do we sit idly and watch in utter helplessness, the brazen destruction of our meagre sources of income? Or do we have plans to evacuate Imo for the Okorochas, their in-laws and associates? It is my thinking that Ndi Imo are comfortable in their chains or else, a serious activity to stop Gov. Okorocha’s third term bid would have been engineered by the youths who are the mostly affected negatively in the government. The call for this should go beyond party politics, the liberation of our people should be placed above selfish interest.
It is important to state it clear that I am not calling on us to hate or kill anyone. I am only calling on all of us to resist unsolicited death by instalments. I am calling on us to say no to undeserved death by economic hanging by a government whom we cleared the road for their entrance into our administrative power house. Let us make sure that our PVCs are safe and let us commit them into good use come 2019. Let us use our senses and vote wisely and even contest wisely. We must do away with emotions, it makes us act without thinking. Above all, we must resist the lure of money, especially that aimed at buying our conscience and vote.
Are you a student? Civil Servant? Motorist? Trader? Artisan? Unemployed or Professional from Imo state and in Imo state? Are you a youth? If the answer is yes, then here is an opportunity to turn out enmass and register our various disaffections with this government. We must identify with a political party and take active participation in its activities; we must dominate the political space and bring the desired change we all yarn for. For me, change is not a change until it is a positive change. My fellow youths, enough of the talks, weeping, grumbling, etc. It is my belief that God has not destined us to perish at the same time. We must endeavour to join the political movements existing at the grassroots and contribute positively to their growth.
The time is now to stop the talk and begin the long walk to freedom. The wait is over, the time is now. Are we ready? I am.