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A stunting sense of entitlement (1)

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YOuth SpeakIt was John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States who said: ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’. This is a statement laden with meaning and one we Nigerians would do well to adopt and live by. The bizarre sense of entitlement enshrined in every aspect of our socio-political and cultural life is threat to the peaceful and prosperous development of this entity. It frustrates every opportunity we have for growth. In fact, this attitude, which is demonstrated in every sphere of our public life, has made it difficult for people to see clearly what their duties and obligations are. It has equally led to the conversion of privileges and opportunities to personal entitlements. President Kennedy saw that for a people to move their country forward, they must be willing and ready to move outside of themselves to seek and find where they can contribute to national harmony and growth. Only then can they benefit from the country at the expense of no one because when everyone contributes, everyone benefits.

One of the clearest indication that our psyche as a people is collectively damaged is seen in the way we drive on our roads. It continues to beat my imagination why someone would think that jumping the traffic queue is a right. He or she pulls out of the queue, stops beside me or ahead of me and demands to be let into the queue. I gave up on trying to resolve this riddle when I had a shocking traffic experience recently. I refused, as is my practice, to allow someone ‘shunt’ the queue ahead of me and I ended up having my car ‘brushed’. I came out of my car to demand, at least, an apology. To my greatest shock, I not only received none, but the driver of the car right behind me admonished me for not allowing the ‘queue shunting’ vehicle to get in front of me! Then I began to understand that we are all in this together. Everyone feels entitled to something at the detriment of another and everyone accepts that this is normal.

The drama that plays out every day in our national politics continuously assaults our sensibilities with various shows of shame where individuals have an over-bloated belief that because they occupy certain political positions, the country owes them something special. How they got to occupy these positions is a story for another day. It is amazing how state chief executives entrusted with the collective mandate of the people to ensure the just and equitable dispensation of their commonwealth, strut around bumptiously like peacocks as if the benefits of the office are a personal right. They put up their pictures beside every streetlight erected and declare that themselves the ‘messiah’ of the people. They demand all sorts of special treatment and sit snugly above the law. One begins to wonder what this is all about when it is so obvious that most of them only receive allocations from Abuja and mismanage the same allocations to the detriment of their people. A host of them, having left office, sit presently in the National Assembly while white elephant projects, the stinking evidence of their gross mismanagement of the people’s resources, stand ubiquitously in their various states.

Nigerian youths have recently become obsessed with the call to be given opportunities to serve in government. It is now a widespread campaign that ‘the old men keep recirculating themselves in power’. As much as it is in order for youths to want to be part of governance, the question is: What do we have to offer? What will we do differently? Clearly, the ‘it is our turn’ syndrome is one of the results of the attitude engendered by a false sense of entitlement. In different countries of the world, youths contest for political positions alongside the so-called older generation and sometimes the youths go ahead to win, not out of sympathy but based on clearly superior antecedents and clear presentation of acceptable action plans. Granted that a whole lot of ‘sit-tight’ politicians in Nigeria are also infested with this wrong notion that ‘the youths should wait for their time’, it is clear that the youths need to do more than request for inclusion by making an audacious statement of intent. At the moment, there are a number of youths in political positions in the country. There are also a number of prominent youth organisations in the country like the National Association of Nigerian Students. I daresay that the conduct of these ‘youth ambassadors’ are not, in the least, promising. This is also, no doubt, a reflection of the kind of education provided at home by parents. A lot of young people, who have passed through the university system are still at home, fed and clothed by their parents and they are not in the least ashamed of their situation.

Many of them actually demand and receive everything they want from their parents, go to the movies, drive the latest cars and go on holidays, at the expense of their parents. Some are patiently waiting for the parents to die so they can possess the heirloom. And to some of them, the heirloom is beyond the family: It is Nigeria.

This mentality seems to be very deep rooted in our internal security and law enforcement systems. The roadblocks are back. Our policemen have resumed asking for ‘something for the boys’ or ‘something for the weekend’. The way they drive on our roads, literally pushing other road users off the streets and breaking all established traffic rules leaves one bewildered. They do not stop there. They feel entitled to use their guns on helpless Nigerians and, as a community, they ensure any of their own who kills an innocent Nigerian is ‘protected’ from any form of justice. They are entitled to live in barracks, safe from the hounding of criminals and also exempted from paying utility bills, because they don uniforms that elevate their status beyond that of the ordinary Nigerian.
•Nwobi (08083271111)


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