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Youths arise to fatherland’s rescue!

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Nigerian youths seen waving the Nigerian national flag in front of a crowd in support of the ongoing protest against the unjust brutality of The Nigerian Police Force Unit named Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos on October 13, 2020. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)

Many of Nigeria’s problems raise questions, which range too far or too wide for any one chronicler to span. All that is possible is to focus on a number of perspectives which have kept their vitality for one reason or another as symbol of the metaphor which distinguishes Nigeria in a paradoxical way. She is, for instance, a land of promise that does not offer hope, a land of plenty that wears the badge of global poverty and of abject lack, a land where heroes are unsung but villains are feverishly adulated, a land where Lilliputians are assigned the roles of giants, etc. The paradoxes are un-ending even as the motif of the country as a crawling 60-year old sums up her tragedy.

The youths in Nigeria have come to conceive of themselves as objects in a sacrificial procession for a civic or religious festival. The youths themselves are paradoxes of a kind–strong but feeble in matters that affect their future, skillful but unable to demonstrate ingenuity to reverse their plight, many of them superbly educated but unable to apply learning to outwit pervasive official shenanigans even as they allow themselves to be fooled round the clock; all the time.

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There is no gainsaying that the romantic idea of Nigeria as a nation envisioned at the beginning as a land of promise, of youth energy, of toleration, and of freedom has fallen into recondite or inexplicable antiquity. The youths have understandably become restive as they feel shortchanged or restricted to the short end of the stick. Their grouses are legion. In the determination of the relations of production and distribution of resources, for example, the youths have been donned the dubious accreditation of leaders of tomorrow who have yet to wait interminably for their turn as old or antiquated state actors employ antediluvian methods for resolving contemporary issues or challenges.

Even though the youths are endowed with attributes, which aptly define progressivism –uninhibited interaction, freedom, hard work, etc. –, their active participation in the task for cultural, political, economic and social renaissance is circumscribed. The values of youths need be recognized as central to a proper conception of growth and development. Hard work, for example, coupled with new techniques of production and organisation is sure to eliminate poverty and ignorance. The educational system which should encourage the spirit of inquiry, humility and the requirement to value people for who they are is an important mix regarding the educational syllabi. The youths who are the immediate beneficiaries of a proper educational order, have largely been ill-equipped with the relevant tools for self-reliance. Large swathes of young men and women have been made ill-equipped for the tasks ahead by reason of improper education. So it is wrong to discuss the role of youths or the alleged non-performance thereof in abstract, a-historical, sense. Youths in Nigeria ought to insist first, on the creation of conditions appropriate for the development of a sufficiently high standard of education and training. The education of youths ought to occupy a central position in society as a means of correcting the failures or weaknesses of the past and for making practices or programmes congruent with cherished ideals.

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The-Not-Too-Young-To-Run stratagem for officially enlisting the participation of young people into the political process was unfortunately not identified by the youths as not being the proper method of political acculturation. In other climes, young people are courted and incorporated into the mainstream political order, depending on their ideological temperament. It is important to learn the ropes and be positioned to identify the pitfalls in the system. However, the extreme monetization of the political terrain in Nigeria makes it difficult, if not impossible, for any up-and-coming young person to find favour with political godfathers except as a lackey or Man Friday. The blossoming of both society and the individual requires a special balancing act, which, as one cannot give what one does not have, prospective principals of the youths are unable to provide in terms of guidance with respect to their political growth and sustenance.

It is debatable how the full salutary development of the individual youth can co-exist with the conflictive mores of a rabidly ravenous and corrupt leadership. The youths who offered themselves for service under the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bait merely tried to do more than was historically possible. Thankfully, there was no effort they put up to show that they were not serious. Their strenuous but futile efforts are recognition of a demotic inscription regarding the historical constraints of a pseudo liberal democratic setting.

The charge before the youth is the democratic mobilization of the peasantry in a way it had not been done before. At the beginning, it may be necessary to forge an alliance with a radicalized petty bourgeois formation. This kind of union must unify theory and practice because mass mobilization is possible only by connecting with popular ideas and aspirations which may be modified and developed along the line to suit the exigencies of the ultimate goal of capturing or wresting power from its present traducers. The youth must ideologically distinguish populism from mass mobilization. Populism may not be able to produce the necessary democratic structures, reflect the changes in popular thought patterns, or measure the strength of commitment and resistance.

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It is often said that it is futile to battle against the forces of an entrenched system; that the tide of the times, the Zeitgeist, is setting in a particular direction too strongly to be stemmed. This should not be the philosophy of the youths of Nigeria. But the youths must be ready for battle. The pro-establishment press will ridicule their efforts; the political class will denounce and frustrate them; parents too will be afraid for their wards’ lives and so may restrain their noble rage. The encouragement of education, industry, commerce and agriculture must be the banner or the essential principles of youth advocacy. They should be unflagging in their courage, candour and perception. Many of Nigeria’s youth have been cowed and conditioned or socialized into a culture of timidity or pusillanimity as special task forces in the form of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and their ilk pursue, harass, intimidate, extort, and violate their rights to free movement and the possession of tools of business and of leisure like phones, laptops and other electronic gadgets. The recent nationwide protest code-named #EndSARS is indisputable proof of the power inherent in the collective action of young people to end un-speakable mediocrity and inelegance in governance.

We close by identifying as patriotic the action of certain persons in the mould of our youths who when the U.S. was faced with a moral choice of re-electing or rejecting a particular party at the polls, spoke through their spokesperson “… (This party) has done the country politically, materially and morally – especially morally – harm to an extent that far outweighs any meritorious action on the other side…”
Our present state actors have done so grave a harm; they ought to be halted in their tracks.

Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos.

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