A Question for the Nigerian Youth
In the days of spirit (youth), thoughts grew till they over topped my head, whose offspring they yet were.
Which of these do you think is the reason Nigerian youth are so completely disadvantaged politically, socially and economically in the country today?
1. Lack of opportunities
3. Under representation
5. All of these
The quote that begun this article is a line from Max Stirner’s 1910 contemplation on the follies of youthful idealism. He went on to contrast the fickleness of youth against the subtle selfishness of manhood (adulthood). Currently, this line is a reminder to me not to get carried away, as we are prone to do by youthful ideals such that I forget to take action in my interest.
If you answered the question above but were concerned that the options may not have covered all possible answers to that question, you are right. They were compiled based on the most recurring themes after interviewing a handful* of Nigerian millennials (I know, this term sometimes makes me cringe too). Stay with me as I briefly examine them all and please share your views.
Lack of opportunities
Nigerian youth have a knack for blaming the previous generation for every situation we find ourselves in today. “They took everything and left us with nothing.” “They have run the place to the ground.” etc. While these allegations are not out of place, we have to admit that assigning blames is a convenient substitute for action. Blame throwing, more often than not, takes away the burden of responsibility from a situation. Yes, these statements are true; our leaders have failed us — what next? I doubt that there was ever a time when opportunities were easy to come by and even if there was, that time is clearly not now — it simply means we have to work smarter to create our own. I don’t know if that’s what Dr. Kayode Fayemi meant when he urged Nigerian youth to, “Quit whining” because “no one owes you anything”. While he may have been the wrong person to have conveyed that message, he may have been on to something.
We are a generation already notorious for wanting things easy without having to struggle for it. Many of us have not accepted that we might have to make sacrifices for it, but we all want a better country. Although activism on social media might be a clever way to start one, a revolution cannot be won on twitter. Outside, the real work begins. Retweets are good for raising awareness, but highly unlikely to influence a change of economic policies. Take for instance, the recently passed #NotTooYoungtoRun bill — it was a result of persistent action. The truth is, the only thing that can bring about the stable change we want is our involvement in politics, social development and in business and financial markets. Sometimes, this may involve championing causes that do not immediately benefit you or anyone you know. What sacrifices are you willing to make for the good of people who may never know you or hear your name?
Foster The People’s “Are you who you wanna be” is the official soundtrack in my head to this post. Is your life true to your beliefs? Under-representation of the youth in politics and society simply means we are not getting out there enough. Even if we claim to have nothing else, as a generation, we have all the tools at our disposal to make ourselves heard not just in the highest parts of the country but across the whole world. In this age of ‘disruption’ it shouldn’t be so difficult to find our voices and use them in all spheres of our lives, in areas that matter to us. Build new systems if the old ones don’t work, infiltrate already existing ones with a new voice.It’s not a case of “Where are the activists now?” where everybody thinks everything is the next man’s job. Think: If not you then who? What is nobody’s job is often everybody’s business.
noun op·pres·sion \ə-ˈpre-shən\
1: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power
Going by the Merriam Webster definition above, I personally think that the Nigerian youth is an oppressed demographic in our society. For obvious reasons, the previous generation currently occupy most positions of power, and it is definitely being unjustly exercised. But what is the remedy for oppression? The answer is determined confrontation–refusal to be oppressed. Nelson Mandela didn’t sit in a South African suburb crying about the unfairness being dished out on his race. Over time, he probably decided he’d had enough and just wouldn’t have any more of it. It’s been the same way with every person/group of persons who have successfully fought against oppression.
Maybe I should add that this is not a call for violence or civil unrest as there are many more effective ways to expose or resist oppression. The unpleasant fact remains that if we are currently being taken for a joke, it is likely because we have not yet shown that we can be taken seriously.
Then we come to the most probable option — that the answer to the question is a combination of all these factors and even more. Special country that we are, all our challenges are multi-layered; which makes them that more difficult to address.
If you picked none of the above, I’d really like to hear your answer to the question. Perhaps it could help get conversation moving in the right direction.