By Jerome-Mario Utomi –
The Nigerian’s version of democracy shares common features with the human brain and immune system. The two in my views had something important in common. First, medical professionals believe that neither the brain nor immune system is fully formed at birth, but continues to develop rapidly during infancy. Humans have the longest extended period of infancy of any creature in nature- with profound implication/ tendency for absorbing vast amounts of culture, tradition and belief into the operating system of our brains.
Likewise, democracy in Nigeria has recorded over two decades of unbroken practice, yet, like the brain and human immune system, it is far from being fully formed, but continues to develop slowly. Presently, it will not be characterized as an overstatement to conclude that Nigeria’s democratic experiment is among the world’s longest extended period of infancy- with profound implication/tendency for absorbing vast amounts of undemocratic culture, tradition and belief into the operating system.
Take as another example, in this clime, “youths are the leaders of tomorrow” has become a form of a mantra, a sermon by our leaders that we can describe as a gospel without the truth. They preach this without taking pragmatic steps to develop or design strategies that will help it see the light of day. The youths in particular are also beginning to view it as a one sided narrative especially when it is coming from our present crop of leaders. It has become an epigrammatic tale that revolves around a particular plot constructed around the electioneering, with the sole aim of achieving electoral victory.
In most cases this becomes more of a slogan or anthem for the political parties. It lasts as long as the electioneering period and fizzles out as soon as the winners emerge. Youths are never assured again that they are “the leaders of tomorrow” till the next electioneering campaign. And the cycle goes on and on. This has been the grim fate and burden which successive generations of Nigerian youths have grappled with since 1960.
However, it is of considerable significance to state that, apart from the above concerns, there exist other factors preventing the youths from achieving political/public offices despite their demographic advantage or the glamour that graced their much celebrated End SARS campaign recently embarked on.
Take as an illustration, a friend recently argued that the present crop of Nigerian youths cannot get to the next phase of the nation’s political project or achieve their leadership vision without a grander mind-set.
To quote him; never mind the huge excitement of the excited youth, power lies in the hands of the eminent fathers of Nigeria, though the youth has the noise. I understand power, not noise, in politics. That’s why it appears I am not as agitated as the average Nigerian youth in my quest. Politics is power; it is not noise or mere youthful exuberance. This is the reality everywhere, including Canada and the entire West. Politics is not straightforward anywhere like Nigerian youth fantasize it to be. Everything is not based on ‘competence.’ Favour must back competence for competence to be relevant in politics. Sometimes this plays out behind the scenes, away from the impressionable eyes and ears of the gullible youth’.
To support the above idea, the need for a shift in the nation’s leadership structure has in my view, become inevitable and eminently desirable to accommodate young technocrats who can take responsibility for their actions and results, be accountable where previous administrations were not, and tell the truth about their failures without blame games.
But, one fundamental obstacle that will in the opinion of this piece, prevent this from coming to fruition is the subjective view of the electoral process/positions by the youths as a right which must be given, even in the face of obvious inabilities, and gross absence of planned programmes and pragmatic strategies to making a positive impact by the power-seeking youths. To Nigerians with discerning minds, electoral exercise as practised the world over is both programme and strategy based and a keen contest where the candidates with the best programme and realistic strategies for achieving that programme is given priority/favoured by the electorates. The youths at the moment, have neither been programme specific nor strategy concerned.
Also, from investigations, seeking an elective position with the aim of effecting political and socioeconomic change is synonymous with fighting for emancipation from captivity which is never voluntarily given without personal sacrifice/ self-denials; as the beneficiaries of the old order will do everything to thwart the moves. Very objectively, Nigerians are yet to see such sacrifice, be it ideological or material from the youths. The situation is even made worse as some of the youths for pecuniary benefits work across purpose while others have settled for political crumbs that fall from ‘the masters’ table.
It will, however, be antithetical to support a movement based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine our actions. What the youths currently projects in my views is well-intentioned but pragmatically vague, variable and ungraspable to be taken seriously as their actions and strategies are masked in ambiguity with unclear vision and blurred goals.
For the youths to be taken seriously, therefore, what Nigerians expect is a development of potentials that are politically new, something that is not yet known and not in existence, which will establish new political configurations. This is an imperative demand as their political survival should not be left to chance just as anyone that fails to search for his potential leaves his survival to chance. Very instructive also, the argument for a generational change from the head and the placement of our fate in our youths who had integrity, energy and the drive to recognize that extraordinary conditions call for extraordinary solutions is indispensable but must be accompanied by a reassurance from the youths.
Another contentious challenge that may in the estimation of the vast majority scuttle this ambition is the belief that electoral project in Nigeria is capital intensive while Nigerian youths are financially placed at the base of the pyramid.
The assertion about the huge financial involvement in my views is in order but may not be completely correct, as the argument was not only sophistry but antithetical to building a nation devoid of corruption and goes against the global warning on corruption as succulently pointed out.
‘A precondition for an honest government is that candidates must not need large sums to get elected, or it must trigger off the circle of corruption. Having spent a lot of money to get elected, winners must recover their costs and possibly accumulate funds for the next election as the system is self-perpetuating.’
To make an impact in the forthcoming general election, therefore, what the youths urgently need is the creation of innovative ideas that electorates can buy into, building of alliances/coalition with various pressure groups and being ecumenical in movement with already existing coalitions or political parties.
Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.