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Youth rage and the Nigerian state – Part 1


The political parties are busy preparing for the 2019 general elections. They should. There is a lot at stake in 2019. There would be vacancies in Aso Rock and the state government houses across the land. It is the ambition of the political parties, through means fair or foul, to displace the incumbents from rival political parties or retain their own trophies. Whatever anyone might say, and despite the endorsement of some state governors for a second term two clear years before the electoral empire blows its whistle, I tell you this would be much harder than dealing with a steaming plate of pounded yam with bitter leaf soup.

Politics is about power. Or more correctly in our own system, it is about capturing or retaining power for its own sake in a non-inclusive way. It is all that matters to the political parties and their leaders variously known as stake holders, party moguls and party godfathers. Capturing or retaining power is a tough business. It is so tough and so rough that our politicians can dispense with the intellectual necessity of forging political ideologies and marketing their vision of a better country to the people. It is more useful to concentrate on the pragmatic wisdom of capturing power because once you do, all other things shall be added unto you. And you can also indulge in the luxurious somnolence of non-thinking.

We do not support political parties out of principle; we support them out of necessity. Our party politics is characterised by flocking into the winning party today and deserting the political party whose sun has suddenly dipped behind the dark clouds. Then, of course, we flock back again and desert again tomorrow when the political wind turns the face of political fortunes. Every election circle witnesses the swinging of the pendulum.

But as the party leaders oil their guns, as they align and re-align forces towards the very desirable objective of capturing power in 2019, they do so against the background of a country struggling mightily to stay afloat on the murky waters of consuming challenges of good governance, the increasing absence of the rule of law and pockets of dictatorship in the states, rising crime rates and the discordant drums of ethnic jingoism. I wonder if they are giving some serious thoughts to the kind of country they are killing and maiming in order to put their hands on the levers of power. I wonder if they give a thought to the sane and patriotic use of power for the greatest good of the greatest number of our people.

I have looked hard but I see no evidence that the present and the future of our country mean much to our political leaders. They pretend not to know that we are confronted on all sides by the insidious challenges of youth violence on a scale never before seen in this country. Beyond the politically correct reaction of condemning this violence each time it is visited on individuals and communities by the important people, I see nothing to show that our politicians and their political parties appreciate their enormous responsibilities in rescuing our country from the nightmare to which it and we have been sentenced to at least since the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-eastern parts of the country shattered our complacency in 2009.

Have the party leaders and their parties given some serious thoughts to the new heady crime of kidnapping? Or the Badoo and other cults? Or the lingering crimes of drug trafficking and armed robbery among others? I see no determined effort on their part to address these and other problems and crimes. They are happy enough to capture power and they are happier in corruptly misusing it to the detriment of the larger society. Our country is fast sinking in the cesspool of our collective failures and indifference – and yet our politicians give little or no thoughts to building a country in which the lucky few with their hands on the levers of power would no longer assume the divine right to oppress the many.

Do they expect these problems to solve themselves? Magic or miracle? The solution cannot drop from heaven with the singing of hymns or the chanting of invocations to whatever deity on whom individuals place their hope.

I state the elementary fact that before you look for the solution to a problem, you must first of all know the problem and establish its cause or causes. If you do not know the why, it is a given you would not know the how. Our first enquiry must begin with the questions: why are our youths sold on crimes and mindless killings? Is it to get rich quick through the barrel of the gun? Or is it to vent personal anger and disappointment in the system on innocent people?

With our moral compass askew, it would not be easy for some of us to suggest that violent crimes guarantee a short cut to the good life – and the youths are drawn to it. But that would be simplistic and would in fact miss the point. I believe it is easy to see that we are dealing with one critical problem with serious multiplier effects as it specifically affects our youth. This problem gradually crept up on them over the years through the inability of the Nigerian state to respond to a problem it knew only too well would move from the tractable to the intractable with appropriate ugly consequences.

And the problem? It boils down to one word: unemployment. It is the source of youth rage, their anger, their disappointment, their restiveness and their murderous resort to self-help solutions that solve nothing but only compound the problem.

There is nothing strange about unemployment in a capitalist economy. But there is something truly peculiar about our unemployment. Young people who have people at the top are not usually found in the unemployment queue. Whenever there is a vacancy in a government establishment, those who have powerful people at the top easily get the job. When a young man who has no one at the top, sees his middling former classmate get the job he does not deserve were merit the yard stick, he weeps, wipes off his tears and gangs up with other disappointed and frustrated young men, gets the gun and declares revenge time on the system.

Can we hold the politicians responsible for the rather dire straits in which we and our country find ourselves? Yes. This is not a blame game. The politicians and their parties represent the face of the Nigerian state because after all, they are the government. A country’s development is driven by political parties. For them to do that, political parties must have programmes for national development. These are not wishy-washy political statements. They are not about building roads and schools either. They are much more fundamental than that. Building roads or schools or markets really benefits no one unless it is part of the programme for national development. Without a well-articulated programme, a country merely floats in the nether world. This, sadly, is the case with our political parties and our political leaders.
To be concluded.

In this article:
Dan Agbese
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