Nigeria

Adekunle Akinyemi: Between youth involvement in governance and change of mindset

It has been quite a while since my readers last read from me. This in part, has been deliberate and in part caused by my state of mind, of being disillusioned over the Nigerian related complex problems or shall I say discouragement that these ugly things are happening before our very own eyes. People in my age group cannot believe all these can happen in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, I had never stopped trying to tag and string along with the myriads of issues and problems with the strong determination not to let them disturb me, beyond my conscious control.

My good friends and fantastic co-writers on the Nigeriaworld had no doubt, kept the flag flying and for this I salute them. The E O Ekes, Yahaya Baloguns, Moshood Fayemiros, Eric Teniolas, Amos Dadas and etc etc. had never relented, even if their enthusiasm in certain directions may have waned and who can blame them?

In recent times I read so many beautiful writeups and forwarded materials on WhatsApp and I salute those indefatigable writers as well.

Today’s reading from an anonymous writer really touched me and caused me to get up and write this sort of rejoinder and break the ice after over one year of my last article in the various print media.

This forwarded message was anonymous, untitled and short. I will present modified extracts of this message in this rejoinder later. Additionally, I listened to an audio recording of a matured Nigerian woman on the recent unfortunate Lekki Saga. That was also a well-articulated and straight to the point message to the Nigerian youths. She started off the blast by saying:

“… OPE (maybe, she was talking to her son) what is this gra gra gra nonsense you youths think you are doing?……….We hailed and supported you when it all started …. We, as elders were quick to foresee that a new and undesirable turn was coming……. We pleaded with you to retreat to forestall untold calamity for the nation. You refused. Ma ja ma sa was not in your dictionary!” That ‘noble woman of virtue’, who recorded that fantastic award-winning audio predicted the events of wanton looting of innocent entrepreneurs (public and private) and killings by hoodlums. Did this not happen? Oro agba bi ko se l’owuro titi ale a ase. Youths of nowadays always think of elders as “Old school”. Look how many precious lives were lost! Mama Ope, please get in touch with me, you deserve a medal for your well-articulated audio presentation on our Nigerian youths.

This is a good audio message to listen to and a good counseling material for our youths.

A careful study of this my classic audio recording reference revealed that afterward, our youths may not be the Messiahs which Nigeria needs at this time! Rather, what we need is a massive reorientation and CHANGE OF MINDSET.

Truth is always very bitter and I have no doubt in my mind that the only thing that is constant is the truth and this is what we need as Nigerians at this time. We need not deceive ourselves we have to repair our value system.

Going back to that forwarded article, which sparked off this rejoinder, I want my readers to objectively read the extract below:

Do we need youths to have a better country? Sadly, our current leaders started leading as youths. Check their respective ages and subtract the last twenty (20) years of democracy from it and let’s see what we have.

Rotimi Amaechi is 55 now. He is 6 years into Minister. That means he became a Minister at 49. He was Governor for 8 years. That means he became Governor at 41. Prior to that, he was Speaker for 8 years, that means he was 33. How else youthful can a man be? Do the maths for all of them and you will see that youth has brought us nothing.

Fashola is 57. He was in Tinubu’s Cabinet. Tinubu became Governor 21 years ago. If we remove 21 from 57, we have 36. How else youthful can a man be?

Wike is 53. He has been in power for the last 15/20 years. That means since about 33/35 years of age!
Dimeji Bankole was freaking 37 as Speaker in the National Assembly.

Ahmed Lawan is 61. He has been in the NASS since 1999! That was 21 years ago at the age of 40.
How old is Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State? He is a youth and perhaps one of the youngest Governor of his time! (sic)
See what we have.
What did we gain?

We don’t just need the youths. What we need is a change of mindset and attitude (sic) both young and old. Else, it’s the same story. Youths have always been in power! They become old in power. Yet we are here! Let’s ask for the right things o. I come in peace.
(Above Extracts are relevant WhatsApp materials)

Apart from the above examples cited, please be reminded that the First Military Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowan was 29 when he ruled Nigeria.

Many of the Federal Commissioners and Governors at that time were very young (youths) as well.
Prof Pat Utomi, former Federal Minister, was very young when he got into political limelight.

Dr Omololu Olunloyo, the former Governor of Oyo State was a youth when he was made Commissioner in the era of Majekodunmi, Western Region of Nigeria.

Chief Anthony Enahoro was one of the youngest delegates who negotiated for Nigeria’s Independence from Britain.

Governor Duke was a youth and he performed very well as Governor, in the Eastern part of Nigeria at that time.

These are just a few of the examples of youths in governance in Nigeria. Everyone who is familiar with the Nigerian terrain will tell who and which of the above-mentioned individuals (past and present) performed creditably well! Are also these not our youths who ride the Okadas in our cities? We all know how they get into careless accidents and kill/maim our fellow Nigerians!

Further, if you take a good look at the wave of disturbances in Nigeria today, no one is in doubt that the youths are at the crux of it. These youths are divisible into two distinct groups namely the Developed and Cultured group and the undeveloped and neglected group. Who is to blame? Yes, we (the elders and parents of youths) are to be blamed for the second group of youths. We faltered in our educational policies, economic inequalities, absence of welfare packages for the less able citizens and our (gross neglect) inability to care for the children of yesteryears, now youths of today.

The elders and leaders of today should tender our unreserved apologies to our children and youths because we have failed them! We have caused them to lose confidence in us, hence the ENDSARS movement.

We have also provided the wrong signal and bad ‘initiation’ to them that corruption and lack of accountability are the ways to go. What a warped value system! This is the foundation for the title of the article “What does Nigeria need now, Youth involvement in governance or Change of mindset of the entire population?”

The entire population of Nigeria need to push our Reset Buttons and get reprogrammed for a new Nigeria, where peace and justice will reign, where tribalism will be jettisoned, where meritocracy will be the order instead of tribalism and nepotism, where accountability and transparency will be entrenched in our value system.

As a matter of fact, the agelong lyric of the song “Yoruba ro’nu” by Chief Hubert Ogunde can now be adapted and extended to read “Youth ro’nu” or “Gbogbo Nigeria eje ki a ro’nu” ! Our beautiful nation is about to be rubbished. We need to be rebranded as a matter of urgency. It starts with you and me and in the words of Onyeka Onwenu – “Change begins with me”. The easiest place you can repair is your immediate environment. The rebranding Starts TODAY and it must start with you, wherever you are and in whatever position you find yourself. In the words of Jeff Bridges, “The way to change the world (Nigeria) is through individual responsibility and taking local action in your own community”.

If we want to change attitudes, we need to start with changing our individual behaviours. We can make it if we try. God bless Nigeria.

Professor Adekunle Akinyemi writes from Oluyole Extension, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

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