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Can the Nigerian youths be the heroes – yes, they can!

By Kingsley Ogbonda
07 October 2022   |   2:55 am
In the aftermath of the ENDSARS protests in Nigeria in October 2020, the head of Anglican Communion worldwide, the Most Reverend Dr Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote an article

In the aftermath of the ENDSARS protests in Nigeria in October 2020, the head of Anglican Communion worldwide, the Most Reverend Dr Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote an article to Nigerians titled, ‘Time for heroes’.

The Archbishop, writing as a friend of Nigeria sent out an invitation to all Nigerians, inviting those who have the capacity either as individuals or as groups, to step up and help in healing the festering wound of injustice and anger in the country.

Following the message, I humbly wrote an open letter to you, the Nigerian youths published in a national newspaper, in February 2022 to become the key change agents. Unlike the Archbishop who was generous in his expectations of where the heroes might come from, I was specific in pointing to where I thought the Nigerian heroes are to be found – in you.

Watching your current political activities in the country has given me the cause for yet another open letter to you. The main purpose of this is to encourage you to ensure that the hope in you should not be a misplaced one. From your voter registrations drive, voters’ education campaigns, your unprecedented information-sharing activities especially on the social media, and the huge peaceful political rallies that you have been freely and voluntarily organising across the major cities in Nigeria; you are demonstrating that you are now willing to become change agents and that you are no longer content with being onlookers in the nation’s affairs. If this newfound enthusiasm and energy are maintained, you would be rewriting the country’s political history for good in 2023.

However, your surprising political engagements have prompted a number of comments and questions from both political commentators and observers in Nigeria.

Firstly, they ask – what has flipped to push a notoriously willing election rigging machine that is easily seduced with measly sums of money to become interested in the struggle for political emancipation? I cannot provide the entire answer to that particular question. For an answer, I feel that most of you have gone through a personal, even a collective conversion course on the benefits of living in an ordered society. Also, I think that twenty-three years of civil rule characterised by unrestrained plundering of public money, inflicting hardship on ordinary Nigerians, is bound to elicit a reaction.

Secondly, doubt is being expressed about your ability to translate your impressive streets rallies and social media activities into actual votes on Election Day for your respectively obvious candidate and party, Mr Peter Obi and the Labour Party (LP). There is no way of knowing the answer to that question until after the elections. Going on the bases of the current evidence of your involvement and the soundings of most political observers in Nigeria, Obi’s candidacy is the one that is gripping not just your (the youths’) imagination, but that of most Nigerians.

The other questions being asked, which some belief might make your dreams unrealistic are on:

Lack of structure
SOME political commentators echoing the forces of resistance question how your chosen candidate can possibly succeed without structure. I can help in answering that question by inviting people to study the organic nature of your END SARS protests. The framing of your protest’s message, its sustenance and civility were exemplary.

There were things to be admired in your planning and execution of those protests. With digital technology, you are proving a match for your counterparts across the world in political organisation and mobilisation. Sadly, what most of the commentators fail to say is that the referred political structure is a euphemism for election rigging and in truth, a labyrinth for funnelling stolen money to oil elections rigging machines, which enables the maintenance of a disastrous grip on power.

Take away the PDP and APC’s access and ability to circulate ill-gotten money, and watch how quickly their so-called structures collapse. Perhaps, in turn, you may ask those who think that your lack of “structures” will inhibit your preferred candidate’s progress in the elections this – what positive and credible messages do the PDP and APC hold that really resonate with Nigerians? Can there really be structures, if they are not actually sustained with resonating messages? You should continually retort that the people are the structure. If you are prepared to pound the streets and get out the votes you would have proven that indeed you are the structure. Yes, you can be the structure.

Lack of money
THE popular wisdom is that your preferred candidate Obi lacks the fund to run for the presidential election. The question asked is, with Nigerian elections being notoriously money driven; how is he going to navigate that hurdle? It is true that elections require the spending of money on the essentials, which aid the conducting of fair and transparent elections campaigns. But, where are the election monies mostly spent in Nigeria? They are spent on enticing people to attend campaign rallies, buying the electorate, on election monitoring officials to inflate the figures, on security officers to guard and supervise ballot box snatching, on senior election managers to authenticate false results and on the judges in the courts to pronounce pervert judgements.

A large proportion of the public resources stolen in Nigeria are for election purposes, with those who have stolen the highest amounts becoming the kingmakers. You are watching this play out as some of the state governors who have unabashedly snatched their states’ treasuries for their political ambition are now the alpha and omega of Nigerian politics.

For the things that others spend monies on, you are already freely providing for your candidate. For instance, you are freely organising rallies to drum support for Obi, sensitising the public on the value of voting without financial inducement. In the process, you have been reminding Nigerians that vote selling and buying has stymied the country’s political development.

Obi and you deserve applause for saying that he wouldn’t give shi-shi and for you, to be willing to work without receiving shi-shi. If Obi gets elected, he would have changed the nature of Nigerian politics and you would have greatly contributed to giving politics its proper definition in Nigeria. The Nigerian notion that everything done in the name of politics is politics is baloney.

Politics is actually etched on key fundamentals. These include: providing service for the people and holding enduring principles and values that contribute to the overall well-being and happiness of all in the society.

If it were not so, then democratic societies would be governed by gangsters, thieves, hooligans and downright fraudsters. Your honest earned shi-shi is all that Obi needs. And, yes, with your shi-shi he can win. Ask former US President, Mr Barack Obama – the cents he received from the army of American youths helped to send him to the White House. Yes – if American youths can, with Obi, you can, too.

If this is a fad – you are regarded as a group that is unreliable in sustaining the long-term progressive activity they embark on.

For an answer, you should remind people again to study your ENDSARS protests and the organic nature of your support for Obi. It has been four solid months since you have been organising for Obi, and there is no evidence that you are about to relent. Unless you are about to commit the greatest political fraud visited on Nigerians, it is difficult imagining that you leave Obi politically dry in 2023.

I can’t profess to have a huge knowledge of youths’ political movements, but the few that I know suggest that whenever the youths decide to change a political order, they usually succeed. In 1990, Apartheid South Africa crumbled due to the youth’s protests. Obama went to the White House on the strength of the youth votes. Before they were betrayed, the youths were responsible for sacking the old oppressive regimes in most of the Arab world in the spring of 2010. In France, President Emmanuel Macron rose to power on the back of La Republique Em Marche, a largely youth-led movement. For the role of the youths in political emancipation, Franz Fanon charged that, “each generation must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it”. It seems that your generation have discovered its mission, which is to reclaim Nigeria. Please don’t betray it.

If they can protect their votes – this is an important question that you must answer by ensuring that you have appreciable numbers covering all the polling units. It is a known fact that the polling units are where all manners of unsavoury activities are initiated. Your presence and visibility in all the polling units and your ability to capture illegal activities on your phones and cameras would forestall funny games. If needs be, that evidence would be required to annul challenged election results cases in courts. A necessary warning for planned election riggers – Nigerians, especially the youths, are creating the impression that they are tired of bad governance and desperate for a change. Therefore, it is highly likely that election results that are not freely and fairly secured would be strongly resisted.

The INEC factor
APART from the suspicions that INEC electronic systems might be susceptible to sabotage by hired hackers, the Nigerian electoral umpire has a reputational challenge. They have a history of being disorganised, having inadequate voting materials, arriving late at polling stations and closing the voting exercise early. For those reasons, it is incumbent on all well-meaning Nigerians and friends to support and encourage INEC to rise up to the challenge of delivering very credible and transparent elections.

In summing up, I return to the article by the Archbishop, Reverend Welby to leave you with his quote ‘’no nation can be built without heroism.’’ Please be the heroes of Nigeria, yes you can.

Ogbonda contributed this piece from London