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 #EndSARS: Govt’s multiple lies against the youth

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A protester holds up a home-made Nigerian flag with the date October 20, 2020 written on it. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

The constant lip-service among Nigerian political leaders that seem to preen the nation’s youth down and allow them to hope till eternity that they are the leaders of tomorrow has finally been exposed. Under the covers of darkness on a day popularly referred to as ‘Black Tuesday,’ October 20, 2020 at Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigerian youth emphatically and glaringly read the hand writing on the national flag with their blood stains on it that tomorrow is no longer theirs as leaders. Poor Nigerian youth, even in so easy a task it is to tame protest by speaking to the protesters directly or use the global standard operating practice of water cannon, tear gas or rubber bullets among others, the ruling government had to settle for live bullets on its own youth. Therefore, if all youth in Nigeria were to be shot, or shipped out from the country permanently, would public authority leaders such as the ones currently running the affairs in the country for any reason really miss them? I doubt it. For in this land, the youth are always and notoriously put on a difficult path, never allowed to be independent or to voice their disadvantaged, oppressed and displeasured circumstances. Nigerian youth are constantly made to struggle and fight for everything that ordinarily is supposed to be a social amenity for the people.

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The Nigerian youth, unlike their counterpart abroad, put extra-ordinary effort before they can achieve any goal. Take education for instance, from cradle to the tertiary level, students develop grey hairs before graduation due to unnecessary stress from the harsh system. Of course, as an undergraduate, the Nigerian youth only know the year they gained admission and cannot tell when to graduate because of incessant Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) strike over Federal Government’s nonchalant attitude towards education. Millions of those who manage to graduate only help to increase the unemployment market as there are no jobs anywhere both in the public or private sector. Over the years, government has made it a hobby to appear saintly and cajole the youth to believe its empty speeches about job creation and the promise to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty. The Nigerian youth are frequently challenged by public authorities to be self-employed rather than seek for employment. Yet, the government is not in any way helping to design an enabling environment for small scale businesses to thrive.

As it were, the government past and present are firmly persuaded that Nigerian youth are not ripe enough for political leadership. In fact, President Muhammadu Buhari could barely take his seat after being sworn-in, during his first term that he labelled the Nigerian youth before the entire world as lazy bunch of people.  Every government in Nigeria has felt the compelling need to abuse, humiliate or give a bad name to the youth in order to make them look irresponsible. Thereby, the youth become a prey to law enforcement agents who brutalised and arrest them for either a haircut style, or driving a car perceived to be stolen or acquired through yahoo yahoo, or in possession of a computer or an android phone among others. However, judging from its complacency, the ruling government has failed to find out what the youth really wanted just to meet their needs. It is a most distressing state of affairs for Nigerian youth hence many among them take the dangerous risk of travelling either through the deadly Sahara Desert or the Atlantic Ocean in search of greener pasture in Europe. It is indeed unfortunate to be a youth at a time such as this and particularly so for being a Nigerian. This is because no Nigerian government has ever taken the youth seriously except when it is election period; and the youth must put an end to this phenomenon. More so, government does not consider the youth’s opinion, definition of reality confronting them, and their innovative ideas in clear perspective to create an opportunity to support them. Hence, when the government makes polices and after taking all relevant circumstances into account, none touches on youth welfare that could change their status for better.

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Of course, that leads to another shortcoming of the Buhari government: Its blazing arrogance and insensitiveness to the plight of the youth (people) among others, even when confronted with conclusive evidence of its government impotence. President Buhari did not disappoint that he lacks democratic principles when he finally decided after over 48 hours to address the nation on the unfortunate incident that ensued from the EndSARS protest. The broadcast rendered everyone speechless because the President’s speech was devoid as it showed no emotion or empathy about the shooting of peaceful protesters waving the nation’s flag and singing the national anthem.The argument by some political leaders that the youth EndSARS protest was politically motivated is absolutely laughable. Somehow, it is hard to comprehend the twist of events and reactions among political leaders in their response to the EndSARS protest aftermath. In a way, public authority leaders tend to place more emphasis on the cost of what was destroyed or looted than the young lives that were cut short. The Lagos State Government quantifies the destroyed assets in billions and lamented how and where it could get the fund to rebuild both private and government assets. For Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, whose rigid stance remains: “My position is that any facility that I have built and destroyed, I will not rebuild it…”. The Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu desires to engage the youth directly in the repair or renovation of the damaged infrastructure. Of course, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila maintained that: “As Speaker of this House of Representatives, let me say now for the records to reflect….I will not sign off on a 2021 budget that does not include adequate provisions to compensate those who have suffered violence and brutality at the hands of the police in Nigeria in the last two decades. I will not sign off on a budget that does not meet the reasonable demands of ASUU to which government has already acceded…’’

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In spite of the political leadership’s negative opinions about the Nigerian youth and government desire to use maximum force to address a peaceful protest, the youth will not wither away neither will they be forced to seek shelter in their shells. It is unfortunate that the youth has a long walk to freedom, but the EndSARS protest has definitely made the journey seem short. Our political leaders should swallow their pride. It is not how old you are that counts, but how well you can perform in this 21st Century and beyond. Therefore, political leaders should not only listen to the youth but drink copiously from the clean, pure and inexhaustible fountain of ideas and innovation that is the youth. Only then can Nigeria come out of its economic comatose and develop. Again, despite the ugly Lekki toll gate experience, we the youth should remain vocal, agile and above all united to achieve the best for this beloved country of ours, Nigeria.

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