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That clarion call to nation-building ‘rebels’ 

By Editorial Board
16 March 2022   |   4:10 am
The word ‘rebel’, the other day, made an inroad into the public discourse – though on a positive note. Indeed, in a society literally ruled by general despondency, dissents against the status quo are the gadflies required to...

Obasanjo

The word ‘rebel’, the other day, made an inroad into the public discourse – though on a positive note. Indeed, in a society literally ruled by general despondency, dissents against the status quo are the gadflies required to sting the sluggish horse back to life. Such is the dialectics of changing the narrative, and a positive perspective in societal development that Nigerians should take to heart.
 
Indeed, development in nature is a function of the contradictory dynamics of nature itself and these can be extrapolated to the history of societies. The motion of society is determined by the component social forces in their struggle for scarce resources for the advancement of the well-being of the people, and to establish a just social order. Rebels constitute an important stratum in the dialectical continuum of society and its development. To be sure, the idea of the role of rebels in society is rich in the literature on social movements. 
 
However, former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave some currency to the concept of a rebel when he observed at the occasion of the presentation of a book titled: Footprints of a Rebel, authored by Babanla Adinni of Egbaland, Chief Tayo Sowunmi, who made an inroad into the Octogenarian circle as he clocked 80 years. Obasanjo reflectively noted that “Looking at the title of the book, I ask myself, why would someone call himself a rebel, but it is good. The truth is that if you have to live a life of honesty and integrity, you have to become a rebel. There would be some time you would be asked to do something, but you would say ‘no, this is not right.’

And when you say that, you will become a rebel. You may even become a persona non grata…(in) our country. There is no country that we can call our own except Nigeria. Our country, Nigeria, needs more of rebels. Those who would look at things straight in the face and say ‘this is not right’, ‘this, I will not be part of’, ‘this is not good for Nigeria’.” In his remark at the event, Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, also called for inter-generational reintegration between older and younger generations, as part of efforts to rebuild Nigeria. He further bemoaned the absence of progressives and youths in the political space and blamed the older generation’s closure of the political space.
  
These are good thoughts. Many in our clime don’t seem to appreciate the importance of dissent in the political system. With alternative views, social order becomes monotonous and stale. Alternative views often open up new vistas for the advancement of society. Societies with institutionalised opposition are making progress. For example, the British parliamentary system with a robust institution of opposition in the parliament points the way. Opposition constitutes a shadow government, and subjects the Prime Minister to accountability, especially during the PM’s question time. Opposition and dissent provide for society a broad range of choices on how to move society forward. This is certainly not the case in Nigeria today. Plagued by political instability, the country lacks even an abiding national creed to be the basis of what political scientists call loyal opposition that is key to functioning democratic process.
 
That said, Obasanjo’s message is good for progressive society even though he missed the opportunity to mainstream what he now advocates with hindsight while in a leadership position. As military head of state, he came down heavily on the education sector that he sought to commercialise and consequently became perpetually underfunded.

    
The point must be stressed that the youth know the Nigeria they want. The 2020 #EndSARS protests symbolise that. The previous protests of the students’ movement in the country all indicated the content of the country the youth seek. They have always desired a country with equal opportunities for all and life abundant. They want a secured country, in other words, a peaceful atmosphere to realise their God-given talents. Nigerian youth deserve all the encouragement to unleash their productivity and contribute to nation-building. It is a challenge that incumbent state actors must rise to.
  
Nevertheless, some scholars of Nigerian politics have argued that the youth have had the opportunity to govern the country taking a cursory look at political leadership. The bogeyman currently in the political landscape is what they have termed elite closure, a situation in which those who had access to power at a younger age stay on till death. Instead of vacating the stage for the youth, they have remained tenacious in power, thereby denying the youth the opportunity to contribute to nation-building.
  
Elsewhere, leadership prepares the ground for successor generation. In the United States, the post-war leadership was determined not to let their children go through the pains and suffering that they encountered, and took steps to develop their country. Unfortunately for our country, the governing elite is so warped, short-sighted, and corrupt that a forward-looking approach, in other words, perspective planning does not feature on their agenda. All they intone daily is that youth are welcome but are unwilling to vacate their position despite the absence of creativity and innovation on their part. In their refusal to give way to the younger generation of our population they perpetuate the rotten political system and sink the country deeper into the abyss of political irrelevance and underdevelopment. Given our peculiar predicament, succession management becomes a desideratum at the moment of our historical march as a nation.