It gladdens my heart seeing the youths of Nigeria occupy some top diplomatic positions in global bodies, while also calling the shots in development of affairs on the world stage. However, talented Nigerian youths are being celebrated abroad, it is disheartening that these same youths of ours helplessly relegated to the background in the scheme of political and socioeconomic affairs of their own nation.
Nigerian youths, by no fault of theirs, are often made to watch the political and leadership affairs of our nation from the political gallery. This lopsided architecture of our political theatre and onslaught against the youths was never by accident. But was perfectly drawn by our past and current crops of leaders this nation has been blessed with right from independence.
Youths on their parts have visible but ignorantly endorsed this underground plots through their actions and inactions. The continuous silence and feeling of comfort in the face of political leadership deprivation authenticate this position.
To sustain the above, the political class employs different strategies to ensure that the doors leading to the ‘’power arena” remains perpetually shut against the youths thereby making attaining leadership position a mirage.
A very typical and topical strategy that our seat tight politicians are resting firmly on is the asymmetrical and unbalanced provisions of the 1999 constitution. The smuggling of an entry age to seeking any political position in the country at 35years and above could be best described as defective, anti youths and retrogressive.
A glance through the 1999 Constitution shows that, for one to be the president, a Nigerian aspirant has to be at least forty (40) years and above while senators and state governors has to be aged 35 years and above. This is a very big impediment to the political and leadership voyage of the Nigerian youths.
The above positions our Constitution enshrined without recourse to the fact that whoever that is old enough to vote, should be considered matured enough to be voted for. This provision alone has positioned Nigerian youths as politically endangered species.
Gladly, though, the hope of attending leadership position as a youth was recently rekindled with the recent trooping of young Nigerians marching to protest against age barriers on political posts in Abuja, on July 25, 2017. This is a sign that our youths have woken up from their political slumber and are now ready to access the political window provided by the ongoing amendment of 1999 Constitution by our parliaments. This to me is a very welcome development on the parts of the youths and it is quite commendable.
But, if you think that the defective constitution is the only hurdle kept on the part of the youths political emancipation, wait till you take a look at the fallen standard of our educational system. The political class knows that providing a sound education to the youths will get them empowered since knowledge is power; hence their decision to kill our education system.
Because of the deficiency in knowledge occasioned by the above plot, the youths are made to swallow whatever information they are fed with. As they are made to believe that political leadership which ought to be participatory is meant for a select few.
As the Nigerian youths make good efforts to set themselves free from this political and educational bondage, our political adults are using all their strength, strategies as well as a resource to end the youths at political Golgotha.
Closely related to the above factor is the act of deliberate mismanagement of our economy A very good case in mind is the very high unemployment level which the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in their recently released unemployment and underemployment index noted that the chunk of people affected by unemployment in any nation are the youths. Being unemployed make them disempowered and present politics as a game that demagnetizing.
All these are happening because our nation is unfortunately been blessed with a huge number of ‘coercive’ and selfish leaders as against truly ‘democratic, pacesetting and coaching’ leaders. Because of this arrangement also, you find our political space filled with leaders that cannot accommodate, coach or invite the youths to start learning leadership via a sincere political apprenticeship. They do not believe in groaning of the youths, they have no idea of community organizing and also lacking in emotional intelligence that is needed for good leadership.
In all these, our leaders must remember that ‘there comes a time in life when the oppressed cannot remain oppressed forever.’ The youths are like emerging market which must emerge definitely with time. What the youths need from our leaders includes support, direction, and provision of opportunities to undergo political apprenticeship and not oppression and suppression.
To the youths, they should remember that ‘freedom has always been an expensive thing. History is fit testimony to this fact that freedom is rarely gained without sacrifice and self-denial.’ This is a call to action. This is a holy invitation to the youths. This is a call to the youths to crawl out of their shell and build the nation by becoming patriotic in seeking leadership. Let them be guided by the age long dictum that ‘a patriotic youth is a nation builder.’
Doing the above may seem difficult at the beginning but little and persistent push will perform the miracle. Let the youths roll the camera to record change by first making a demand. Such a demand as in the examples above made before our parliamentarians. This must be peaceful, objectified, consistent and persistent. Let the youth network to form a very formidable team in order to be taken seriously. Let our youths record all the youths giant strides the world over in order to replicate them here in Nigeria.
Even when the above is not easy at it requires whole lots of sacrifice and self-denial, the youths should be consoled by the fact that ‘human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even in a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability.
‘Steps towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggles, the tireless exertions and passionate concerns of dedicated individuals,’ remarked Martin Luther King Jnr. To this end, let youths be well aware that this is not the time to show apathy or complacency, but the time for vigorous and positive political action.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is a public affairs commentator. He writes from Lagos