An Open Letter to Nigerian Youths By Bayo Olupohunda
Dear young Nigerians, I am writing you this letter with a deep sense of responsibility knowing that we are the future generation of our country. This letter, coming at a critical point in our nation’s history, is in recognition of our potential in relation to what we can contribute to nation-building and the socio-economic development of our country. As I ponder on the theme, I am saddened to have reached the conclusion that we have all failed woefully, or rather that we have grossly misconstrued our place and the role we can play at this critical time in the history of our nation. Just like all patriotic citizens, I am worried about the state of our nation today.
like every patriotic Nigerian, I am deeply troubled about the intractable national conundrums that have held our country down since Independence. Many of these crises are, of course, created by our leaders but we cannot absolve ourselves from the tragic aftermath of their visionless leadership. As I write, a few questions came to mind: Who are our role models as youths? Is it those leaders who seek to permanently divide us by playing the ethnic and religious cards or should we draw our inspiration from patriots whose vision for a prosperous Nigeria transcends primordial sentiments? Should we continue to wallow in self-defeat or should we take our destiny in our hands as we have seen in countries where the youth have been the agent of peaceful, social change?
Dear Nigerian youths, if I am worried about the Nigerian condition or what I prefer to call the Nigerian dilemma, I am more saddened by our contributions to the making of our present impasse. We have both consciously and inadvertently created a no-hope situation for ourselves and our country. Since the years of our adolescence to the age of awareness when we are expected to be agents for change, we have become complicit in aggravating the symptoms that have made Nigeria a sick nation. We have either watched the older generation as they run our country aground or joined them as they exploit our fault lines to further divide us. It has been said that the Nigerian youth constitute a significant part of our population but we have deployed our strength in ways that are inimical to the development and progress of our country. In recent years, we have complained about how we have been shut out from playing any meaningful role in governance by the older generation. At the beginning of this democracy, our country was largely led by men and women who had played roles in leadership since independence. The politics of the first and second half of the Fourth Republic was dominated by the older generation of Nigerians. Many of them are still calling the shots today.
Personally, I do not share in the sentiments that had blamed the older generation for alienation of young people from leadership. While I believe that political leadership is not the only way a youth can contribute to nation-building, I have observed that today’s youths are beginning to behave like the older generation in their words and actions. Now, we have imbibed and even propagate the same ethnic, tribal and primordial biases that have long polarised us. We have not also demonstrated the vision and patriotism to take our country to the desired future. Rather than being the hope of our nation, we have become the hopeless generation. Rather than being the hope of a united Nigeria, we have allowed ourselves to be recruited by the older generation in their divisive and self-serving agenda. We now acquiesce to the machinations of those before us who use ethnic politics as a tool for political survival.
Rather than make a difference, those who have had the opportunity to be in leadership positions have also joined the mess. Thus, we have rendered ourselves powerless and become tools to the perpetuation of the status quo. Some years ago, the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, referred to his generation as a wasted one. The literary giant is 80 years old this year. Then, the revered professor was lamenting the missed opportunities of his Independence era generation; those who inherited power from the British. But during his time, Soyinka is on record to have fought and spoken against the ills that still bedevil our country. Even in the Fourth Republic and at his old age, Soyinka has been at the forefront of campaigns to rid the country of injustice and incompetent leadership. Dear Nigerian youths, it is a shame that we have become so docile and irresponsible to play our role as agents of change. In our docility, we even encourage our leaders by wilful complicity of their incompetence. We defend, praise and support leaders who are corrupt because they are of our ethnic stock. We attack frontline Nigerians who are patriotic enough to defend the common good. Yes, Soyinka may have considered his generation as wasted; ours is a lost and confused generation! Our country is breeding an army of youths who champion sectional and religious interests. So, where lies the future?
This generation does not seem to have what it takes to move Nigeria to a great nation “where peace and justice reign”. With this generation, the future of Nigeria looks bleak indeed. What hope do we have when youths are the ones championing ethnic hatred? In other climes, the youth are the hope of the future; countries depend on their patriotic youths to act and speak with one voice in times of crisis. In our country, we have partisan youths who are being manipulated to create chaos. Where is our patriotism when we are always ready to be used to further agenda inimical to a united country? Why can’t we rise above our ethnic worldview like the youth of Egypt who massed on Tahir Square to demand an end to the Mubarak rule in Egypt? Or like the youth of Tunisia who demanded an end to Ben Ali dictatorship? Why do we always recoil to our ethnic cocoon when our voice is needed to end impunity, corruption and incompetent leadership? Why have we inherited the bile of hatred that has brought violence to our nation? On social media, Nigerian youths are being recruited to insult notable Nigerians who offer the way forward on our current crises. It is shocking that some Nigerian youths could hurl personal insults at patriots like Oby Ezekwesili and her group’s campaign to keep government on its toes to bring back the abducted Chibok girls.
How can our country move forward when we defend corrupt leaders just because they come from our parts of the country and castigate others who dared to be different? Are we not all suffering from the ineptitude and incompetence of our leaders at all levels of governance? Can we proudly say that we are satisfied with the state of our nation? How have we become so comfortable with mediocrity?
Look at the state of education, health care and even power? With the state of our education today, can we compete globally? Can we get the right medicare for our health problems without visiting India? Why can’t we question the situation where Nigerian students are forced to attend schools abroad because of the decayed education system at home? How many Nigerian youths hope to secure employment after graduation with the increasing unemployment figures? Why are we not concerned about the deepening poverty in our country after 15 years of democracy? Nigerian youths, where is our collective outrage?
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