“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing, takes no part in political life. He doesn’t seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines all depend on political decisions. He even prides himself on his political ignorance, sticks out his chest and says he hates politics. He doesn’t know, the slowpoke, that from his political non-participation comes the prostitute, the abandoned child, the robber and, worst of all, corrupt officials, the lackeys of exploitative multinational corporations” – Bertolt Brecht
One of the biggest political lies making the rounds is that Nigerian youths are not too young to occupy public offices. The #NotTooYoungToRun bill initiated by the National Assembly could be likened to a situation whereby a toddler is being offered his father’s nipples in the absence of his mother. No matter how hard he tries to extract milk from it, it will amount to a futile mouth exercise designed to distract him from crying momentarily.
First of all, the Nigerian system itself is designed to sideline youths and credible people. Preliminary studies have shown that most people acquire the Permanent Voter’s Cards for the purpose of currying cheap favours from politicians. The motives are never about the general interest of the people which is the essence of governance.
In my first three months in the field of journalism, I observed our company’s driver then was so eager to obtain his Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC. His level of determination and enthusiasm baffled me and I was forced to ask him if it was the quest for a ‘change’ that was driving him as we experienced in the year 2015. To my greatest shock, he said;
“I need the PVC so that I can sell my vote to the highest bidder. On a normal day, my vote could cost N4,000 or more depending on the heat of the election”.
I swiftly ended the inquiry in order to save my ears from more vile details. Election time is a money-sharing period in Nigeria where people mortgage their futures and destinies over a mesh of porridge just like Esau in the Holy Bible. Unlike the American political system where voters engage in fundraising for the candidates of their choice, the ones in Nigeria will put cotton wool in their ears during the electioneering campaign pending when their palms are greased with some coins. This has given politics an outlook of business investment and actors tend to recoup their ‘production costs’ at the expense of the poor masses as soon as they win political power.
But against all these challenges of dealing with recycled and tired leaders trying to run the latest computer software of the 21st century with a Windows 95 Operating System, what are the youths doing to make a difference in a failing country dominated by them? The bitter truth is that we youths are doing nothing. We are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat monitoring celebrities and celebutantes living a lie to impress us; we are constantly scrolling through the profiles of some cleavage-bearing and twerking ladies on Instagram with a sure plan to slide into their DMs, following comedians online and being engrossed with their skits, monitoring sensational news, social media dramas and gossips to enjoy the moment, we are glued to our TV screens watching Big Brother Naija for the next housemate that would engage in a sensual activity with the opposite sex.
The level of apathy for politics among youths is unprecedented and nauseating; even the so-called social media warriors making the loudest noise about the mysterious snake that purportedly swallowed N36 million Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB money have no PVC. This accounts for the reason why a gubernatorial candidate in Anambra State Osita Chidoka won the election on social media and abysmally lost in real life despite his impressive debate on Channels TV prior to the governorship election.
One of the reasons is that the youths who dominate the social media space don’t have voter’s cards. They gladly talk the talk on social media amid all manners of frivolities while most of our rugged brothers from the northern part of the country walk the walk; they boldly put action to their words.
In the buildup of the 2015 general elections, I noticed there was a mass exodus of northerners from Ibadan, Oyo State where I resided at that time to their respective states in the northern part of Nigeria. They knew the value of power and the importance of a Buhari Presidency. Most of them expended their life savings in making those long trips and the resultant effect was Buhari’s rout of the northern part of Nigeria while some South-westerners either showed apathy or waited for ‘mobilization fee’ from politicians and political parties to exercise their franchise.
While the youths slumber at the driver’s seat, it now hurts more that the underaged folks have gone ahead to obtain PVCs without the slightest idea of its essence. The incident of the Kano State Local Government elections where pictures and videos of minors freely participating in the electoral process has supplied us with the robust evidence to buttress this claim.
I have understudied the mind-boggling passion of Nigerian youths for the Big Brother Naija reality show and I have tentatively reached the conclusion that there might be a spiritual undertone to it. Some Nigerian youths stay glued to their TV sets and make recordings of romantic moments between Tobi and Cee-C, Miracle and Nina, Teddy A and Bambam, Bito and Ifu Ennada and other emotionally-confused people to share online regardless of the large internet data consumption. Reactions just never stop flowing like woman with the issue of blood. One can only imagine the kind of positive results we will attain if those energies are channeled into political consciousness towards demanding accountability from our leaders.
Attacks by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, high-profile kidnappings, exposure of gargantuan fraud in the political circle and others have failed to gain the kind of buzz generated by the BB Naija which gives viewers a mere masturbatory feeling. One imagines the economic advantage Payporte, an e-commerce platform and other sponsors can generate if they convert the 3-month reality show into a workshop to train programmers & Information Technology enthusiasts. At least Nigeria could have our own version of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos.
The same old leaders were are bad-mouthing are still the ones pleading with us to avoid being distracted by the reality show and endeavor to participate in the electoral process and appropriate political discuss via available channels.
On the 3Oth of January, 2018, a concerned People’s Democratic Party chieftain and Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo took to his Twitter account to appeal to Nigerian youths to keep their eyes on the ball.
“#BigBrotherNaija is good and I commend the ingenuity of our youths but the future is not #BBNaija3, it is in your hands dear Nigerian youths. Go and get your #PVC” he posted but this has fallen on permanently deaf ears. We will rather prefer to storm religious centres for fasting and praying when the Shylocks and other political sharks hijack power in 2019 and increase the tempo of economic hardship.
The Senator representing Bayelsa East, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, also reiterated the stand of Governor Dankwambo.
In his words:
”I urge Nigerian youths not to be lulled by #BBNaija and forget to get their PVCs. 12 million Nigerians have lost their jobs since President Buhari assumed office two years ago.
”Most of those 12 million are youths. The power to change this equation is in your PVC and not BBNaija!”
Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), recently went hard on Nigerian youths describing the dreams of political leadership as a mirage as well as dangerous journey.
According to him, there is no evidence that youths were better than elders in leadership.
“They (youths) will be fooling themselves if they think they can sit on their back-pedal and somebody will hand over power to them. That is a pure delusion.
“Speaking generally, there is no evidence whatsoever that the youths are better.
“In fact, the preponderance of evidence is that it is riskier to have a youth, at least in this country, at the helm of affairs.” he emphasized.
His harsh words have attracted hasty and emotional reactions from youths who feel the legal luminary might be acting controversial as usual but he is only speaking the bitter truth.
We can only admire young world leaders like Emmanuel Macron of France (41), Justin Trudeau of Canada (46), the infamous Kim Jong Un of North Korea (34), Kim Yo Jong of North Korea (30), Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (32), Sebastian Kurz of Austria (31) and George Weah of Liberia (51) but we might never produce them with our poor level of political consciousness, lack of coordination and obsession with frivolities.
The Nigerian youths are dominated by proud side-chicks of married men parading themselves as Nollywood actresses, models, Make-up artists, video vixens and other flexible jobs associated with showbiz. Among the youths, we have ill-mannered ladies posing as feminists looking for rich men to date and marry; we celebrate internet fraudsters and others with unfounded wealth; we give support to musicians who preach societal decadence, immorality, drug abuse, internet scam, and living in the fast lane.
The school libraries have become empty with the Big Brother Naija craze, the unprofitable gist has dominated the media space and the truth is that no matter how entertaining the show might be, it will take us nowhere as youths. At the age of 24, President Muhammadu Buhari had participated in the second military coup of July, 1966, at age 33, Yakubu Gowon presided over the civil war and kept Nigeria as one. Late chief Obafemi Awolowo at 40 founded the Nigerian Tribune – the oldest surviving private Nigerian newspaper to prosecute the nationalist movement. Lawyer, politician and diplomat Matthew Tawo Mbu, from Okundu in Cross River State was appointed Federal Minister for Labour at age 23 in 1953 and he is the youngest Minister Nigeria has ever had in history.
At 25, former Nigerian military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida had become a key player in most of the military coups in Nigeria (July 1966, February 1976, December 1983, August 1985, December 1985 and April 1990). At 44, he subsequently became the President. What about Chief Olusegun Obasanjo? At 39 (going by his date of birth – 1937) he became a military ruler at 39. The list is endless, but what are people of that age doing today? The answer is simple, they are doctoring their pictures taken at exotic locations to showboat on social media as well as doing intellectual analysis of the Big Brother Naija show while the organizers rip them of their funds through text messages and coast to financial success. They are busy online sharing memes, flirting with ladies and making jokes out of all scenarios. This is really sad and it portends a grave danger!
We have to wake up from our slumber and snatch our lives from the alleged political cabal ruling the country using the President’s face. Power can never be handed to us on a platter of gold as the diminutive governor of Kaduna State, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai opined on social media.
We need the dedication employed by one of the most successful countries in the world – South Korea where the citizens once donated their expensive jewelries and other golden personal effects in 1998 to the state to sell them off and recover from economic crisis. At that time, it was estimated that South Korean households held roughly $20 billion in gold, in the form of necklaces, coins, bars, trinkets, statuettes, medals, pendants, military insignias, trophies and more. It was an emergency situation that demanded for an uncanny approach. That act of self-sacrifice stunned the world as the citizens came as a formidable force to salvage their debt-ridden country. The real change starts from the mindset and from there; we can put actions to our words.
We shouldn’t be deceived by the development that 25 Houses of Assembly have passed the #NotTooYoungToRun bill. Youths will soon realize we are #NotTooYoungToLose. Enacting the law is not the challenge but the feasibility of contesting in a faltering system. What is the essence when the structure is closed and youths are selfishly aligned to the old leaders causing us to sing in discordant tunes?
Written by Osayimwen Osahon George, a Journalist and a Political Scientist based in Lagos State.