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#Project-2023: Great lessons from Zambia 

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President elect Hakainde Hichilema gives a press briefing at his residence in Lusaka, on August 16, 2021. – Zambian business tycoon and veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema scored a landslide victory on August 16, 2021 in bitterly-contested presidential elections. (Photo by Patrick Meinhardt / AFP)


As we continue with the debate on whether the scoundrels who brought down our Air-force planes, desecrated the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and killed some soldiers, should be called bandits or terrorists, we need to make a quick trip to Zambia that has just been set free by the political sagacity of the youth in the southern Africa country. Let’s allow the political and military authorities to continue to probe into what happened the other day at Nigeria’s apex military institution (of learning). After all, our leader has assured us that the curious attack on the NDA, Kaduna surrounded by so many other military institutions has set the tone for working on strategy on how to end insurgency in Nigeria. But instead of lamenting on why terrorists have not been technically defeated, after all in our dear country, let’s begin to draw attention of the young ones who are not part of the Soyinka’s ‘wasted generation’ to begin to find out how to take back their, sorry our country from the power elite who have brought down our country to this despicable nadir. It is beginning to look like despite a recent promise of our leader that he would not end his tenure as a failure, there may be no redemption songs, after all. Every week, there are reasons to ask, where is our commander-in-chief? Every day, we the people continue to ask, how will barely eighteen months into the end of an eight-year tenure, lead to finding some architecture in the ruins of more than six years. 

So, it is high time we began to encourage the young ones to be of good courage to regain the paradise their great grand fathers lost since 1914 when strange bedfellows were made to be unequally yoked. I mean again that we their grand fathers who ate some sour grapes since 1966 when we lost the majesty of democracy to the ‘militricians’ have made the children’s teeth to be set on edge. In 1999, the soldiers of fortune in civilian garbs were very artful. They came quietly and peaceably with their guile and gospel. They asked us to invest our hope in ‘a man we can trust’ again. We did. Regrettably, the glimmer of ‘Hope 1999’ began to turn to anxiety by 2011 and by 2015 that anxiety turn to fear Alan Paton hinted at in his classic, ‘Cry, The Beloved Country’. Where are we now that we are asking: where is our commander-in-chief they told us was the ‘New Sheriff-In-Town’ whose integrity-laced body language would automatically wipe out corruption and even produce hundred of thousands of megawatts of electricity in a twinkling of an eye?  People are now freely talking about the most populous black nation on earth as a mere ‘…walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more… People are now quoting Shakespeare’s classics that governance in our dear country can now be likened to “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Yes, people are no longer afraid of government as 2023 approaches. People now want to rise to a plane of consciousness where they want to say, ‘enough is enough’ of docility, enough is enough of rampaging corruption that has also technically defeated war against corruption. That is why it is pertinent to tell our young ones, please, be not discouraged by arrests and harassment by state actors who don’t want to answer questions on the state of the parlous nation where money now ‘answereth all things’, where you can now acquire wealth without work. 

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We want our youth to make trip to Zambia where they can learn, unlearn and relearn the discipline of execution of strategic planning – to defeat wickedness in high places.     

Here is the news from ‘Zambia’, their Kenneth Kaunda told them ‘shall be free’ since 1962. 

This is headline from a world-class newspaper: ‘Young Zambians hope for brighter future as Hichilema wins vote’. Here is a fitting excerpt from the news of a new Zambia:

‘Zambia’s youth largely backed the new president-elect, and now they expect him to ease repression and economic crisis’. As Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was proclaimed victor of the presidential elections held on August 12, 2021, the Zambian capital, Lusaka, erupted in celebrations that lasted late into the night of Sunday, August 15, as supporters sang, danced and waved his party’s flags. Hichilema, 59, of the United Party for National Development (UPND) won by a landslide 2.8 million votes, trailed by incumbent Edgar Lungu’s 1.8 million ballots.

The turnout in the August 12 general election was the highest since the 1991 ballot when Zambia held its first multiparty elections, with those below 40 years of age constituting more than half the electorate. After the celebrations, street sweeper Joseph Phiri, 28, collected rubbish at the independence roundabout and scraped away tattered posters of outgoing president Lungu from walls – on which he didn’t read any imminent defeat.

Like many younger Zambians, Phiri hopes the election of a new leader would see an end to growing authoritarianism in the country and to better economic prospects. Under Lungu, who came to power in 2015, when Nigeria’s leader too was elected, the authorities were often criticised for the suppression of freedom of expression, assembly and association. 

According to the contextual reporting of the end of Lungu, Phiri remembers the running battles between the police and protesters when he became a street cleaner in the capital, two years ago.

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“Whenever people came here to protest they would be quickly arrested, there was no peace. Everyone would be chased by the police even if you were working, it’s like we were being controlled by the police and there was no freedom for anyone. I hope it will be different now,” he told Al Jazeera. As the sweeper cleared away the litter of an intense presidential campaign, droves of motorists whizzed past hooting and chanting

“Forward! Forward!”, the slogan of the UPND. Many of the red-clad supporters hope Hichilema, popularly known as HH, will usher in an era of greater freedom and prosperity.

Lungu as it is typical in Africa, our Africa, has rejected the result, saying the election was not free and fair and alleging electoral violence in three provinces, which culminated in the alleged murder of a candidate for the ruling Patriotic Front.

But international election observers said the polls were transparent and peacefully organised, but criticised restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement during the election campaign. Hichilema, a businessman who contested the presidency for the sixth time, promised democratic reforms, a “zero tolerance” approach to corruption, and economic reforms including debt management. As Zambia’s youth celebrate the new president-elect, a myriad of challenges awaits Hichilema.

Under Lungu, the Public Order Act – a legacy of British colonial rule decreed in 1955 – was frequently used to limit civic freedoms under the pretext of maintaining peace. In an act that further constricted the democratic space, the Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act, drafted into law earlier this year, was enacted to regulate digital media and online activity. Bloggers and broadcasters were controlled by the cyber-legislation with several bloggers and media houses suspended on grounds of behaving in an “unprofessional manner”.

For Sailas Ahmed, 27, a blogger, the increasing digital surveillance has forced him to resort to using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) each time he posts online on Ancient Ink, a weekly social commentary blog that receives up to 10,000 hits a day.

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“As a blogger, I was targeted just for producing content because the cyber-laws control what someone says online. The Public Order Act restricts meetings in person, but the enforcement of cyber-laws makes it feel like the Internet is invaded,” Ahmed said. “I feel like there are eyes constantly watching me and the Internet is no longer the safe space it was meant to be. I hope this will change now with Hichilema’s win,” he added.

What the young ones in Nigeria should learn from the Zambian school of politics of the youth who successfully managed change in Zambia is that if you want revolution, you should not be afraid of suppression of freedom of expression. If you want your country to develop, you should not be afraid of the power of the scoundrels and criminals in power. You don’t have to join any political party to make a change. Just study the characters and the profile of the candidates. Be discerning. Don’t follow certain media organs, which seem to be doing business as the State House Gazettes. Don’t join the business-as-usual bandwagon. If you desire a post-Buhari better Nigeria, you should read journals about Nigeria and what the aspirants are saying. It is not about oratory of those who seek to lead Nigeria. It is important to research where the contestants are coming from: are they part of the members of the old set-up Soyinka deconstructs in his Trials of Brother Jero?  The state controls all instruments of violence. They will come after the youth as they did during #ENDSARS protest in 2020. Those who want Nigeria to remain as the only centre of poverty and corruption in the world have begun their corrupt consolidation with the rejection of electronic transfer of election results in the electoral act amendment bill. But this INEC appears determined to be INEC of the people – for their redemption. The last deliverable is that the youth should stop agonising on the social media.

They should start organising as a Movement-for-Change like, their Zambian counterparts. The youth in Zambia didn’t depend on the power of miracles from heaven. They all registered to vote. They went out to vote and they defended their vote. Please, Nigerian youths, don’t pontificate. Don’t procrastinate. Go and register online. Keep your voter cards. That is your first weapon against tyranny, corruption and underdevelopment. Elections have consequences: President Barack Obama once told you.  It just happened in Zambia the youth just set free. Nigeria too can be set free in 2023 though a clean democratic process, if only the youth and those who want change can believe. 

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