My fellow Nigerian students! Great Nigerian students whose uncommon patience could pass as the “sacrifice” that has kept this behemoth of a Nation on its rail! Great Maidites, Lions, Buksites, Abusites and so on and so forth, it is to you that I bring these words which is borne out of a necessity of which I cannot help but ventilate through thus medium. Great potential heroes and the would-be drivers of our nation’s socio-political affairs in no time to come, it is your indulgence I crave while you go through this epistle, hoping it meets you in sedate and imperturbable minds the sad development in the last 73 days notwithstanding.
The prevalent exigency in our Ivory towers in the last weeks which has led to our being consigned to a life akin to those of a hermit while our citadels of learning are under lock and key, no doubt, is enough to force a sensible government with the least modicum of sympathy and remorse to curse itself and vacate the seat of power as nothing else could be the litmus test or criteria for showing that it is incapable of ruling or of what use is leadership without a smooth system of conflict resolution?
But on the contrary, the people who ascended the seat of power with our mandate, the people whom we entered a social contract, with our allegiance as the consideration for their care and dividends of governance have either consciously or unconsciously shown to be incapable and are rather interested in holding on to the reins of power as a baby would to its mother’s breast. what Chinua Achebe captured 30 years ago in his lean book, “The Trouble with Nigeria” has continued to reverberate even to this day and that is why after close to 100 years of this entity, the attainment of uninterrupted power supply has become a mystery, good and motorable roads scarce as an elephant’s ivory as a result our highways are metaphorically death traps, unemployment has defied all economic policy, security is a no go area, our leaders have instead found justification in the words of the Good Book to the effect, that “if God does not guide the city in vain does the night guard watch”, and as for Education, you and I know why we aren’t seated in some classroom attending a lecture or in an academic group discussion and other pastime campus activities. In fact the sector is the most hit. Great Nigeria students; I will not go further in this roll-call of the many ills of our society,the many miscarriages and botch of governance as it meets one in the eye even when you don’t want to. May we then hurriedly get to the business of the day?
I had expected Mr. President to address the totality of Nigerian students vis-a-vis why the 73 days old strike by ASUU has not been met with a solution and the steps taken if any, to nip the crisis in the bud but to my utter dismay, the president seem to be interested in other political businesses. In reaction, I reached for my blackberry device earlier this week and quickly composed a broadcast message. My words: “So Mr. President doesn’t deem the present crisis rocking the educational sector a hoopla worthy of a national address to Nigerian students and Nigerians at large? Am sure he would have done so were our banks and other revenue generators of government have been under lock and key for the past 72 days. It is unfortunate how we profit Naira in this country and push career to the corner.#Height of cluelessness”.
It generated lots of comments. While some were logical, others were banal and odious. But it was the one by a female colleague that led me in to scampering for my writing desk to offer this address to us in lieu of those of some man who at a time had no shoes but whose patronage for Italian brogues today, could land him an endorsement immediately after he leaves office. And back to our discussion, the female colleague said and i quote “i wonder when we will become a priority in this country?” My answer was straight and direct-‘we will become when we begin to realize that we are also stakeholders in the business of this country. For now, i think we are carried away by little and unnecessary things’ she couldn’t help but be in consensus ad idem with me. But her question kept begging for more answers and I thought it wise to give the whole of this column to it and here is what we got.
Great Nigerian students, there is one very powerful fact that many of us don’t seem to give much cognizance; that fact is that all government in Nigerian history were brought to power by young people of between 15 and 35 which very much captures the demography of students, but we have coyed away from power and have allowed gerontocrates who hardly understand our problem and are every now and again shuttling between here and America/Europe for medical checkups forgetting that they have at different times told us that they have built state of the art hospitals and medical centers.
Young Nigerians have played powerfully at the round table of political power over the last 60 years. Youths have acted as coup plotters to seize power, the major actors of the civil war were youths whose blood yearned for the succor of power. The power of the youth votes have either made or marred too many a political ambition, but I am pained at the sad reality, that we do not even know what we want today. Even when we know our right, it has been very difficult for us to assert same. Is it so hard for us to realize that on our hand lies the tool for political success and genuine transformation? We have been carried away by ineptitude and misplacement of priorities, and we must forthwith wake up to reclaim what is rightly ours. I have been inspired by the Igbo adage which says “Onye ji ihe Nwata, Nweli aka elu, mgbe aka ji fu ba ya ufu, owe tuo ya” loosely it says, an old man or anybody who dispossesses a child, of what belongs to him when his limbs begin to ache, he will drop what rightfully belong to that child. But in our case,we dont seem to be perturbed niether have we made any preparation or permutation to reclaim what is ours and hence the reason why we have been written off like toothless dogs and that is also why ASUP went on strike for over 90 days and ASUU immediately followed suit yet our political waters have been calm. Who are we to upturn it? We, like the biblical Esau have unconsciously sold our rights to the Jacobs in our numbers.
Great Nigerian students I am appalled that despite our youth constituency boasting over 70 percent of our population with clearly the brightest mind on the continent, our massive resource base has not been able to organize itself effectively for sustainable nation building. What then could be the reason for our failure? Is it unpreparedness, as I earlier canvassed, is it poverty and the struggle to survive? Whatever could be the reason, I don’t agree that any excuse is germane enough. The Nigeria youth have at different times been called a ‘disgrace to the nation’. What pity! It is as a result of the actions and inactions of you and I.
Great Nigeria students, it is time for us to start sharing a big part of the responsibility for the sea of wrongs with this country or how can we explain the inability of the youth constituency to rescue Nigeria with all the power at its disposal despite the fact that it is the hardest hit by the rot in our political, economic and social system?
There is enough evidence in the world to show that every nation eat from what its youth constituency cooks. If it cooks right the nation eats right and when it cooks unpalatable food, the nation eats unpalatable meal. By inference then, if this nation has not been eating right, is it because we have struggled to cook good food? A food for thought I suppose that should be.
My fellow Nigerian students, despite these shortcomings of ours to organize and design a selfless vision, we still have what it takes to re-invent Nigeria. I see it. I feel it and i am in no doubt what will happen eventually. I believe we shall rise to the occasion in no distant time with a little more commitment on our part.
There is a fire coming, a new time is approaching, new interests are aligning, the bells of true reformers are already chiming in the youth constituency. All those who take the Nigerian student for granted will have a lot to regret in the new coming order.
What we need is a new big-thinking, a will of steel, very high perseverance coefficient, competence, dedication and a thick political skin and some real shock absorbers.
We must abandon the illusive search for saints or Gandhi’s to take up political leadership. No one is going to drop from heaven for Leaders are not born, rather they are made and the responsibility of building such leaders lies on our shoulders. What we need is a new leadership that has discovered the power of selfless service and glory that comes with its administration. Great Minds, we must put our hands on deck and collectively define a new time.
The time is rife for us to lift our country beyond the depth of cynicism, mediocre and despair and launch her upon the stables where she should be. It is time to close the doors of shame, want and smallness of thoughts.
These are times for big ideas and big commitments; it is the time for big decisions and sacrifices that will shape the destinies of generation of Nigerians to come.
Now is the time to push our government to invest massively in research and innovation that will break new grounds that the world can be grateful for in technology, green energy, healthcare and economics.
The time has come to begin the fight against corruption from within our homes and social groups before we point fingers at thieves outside our comfort zones.
Now is the time to reconnect ourselves to the power of selflessness and foresight and rid our communities of hate, acrimony and all forms of self deceits that has acted as an albatross to our progress all these years. Now is the time to fuse the energies of all ethnic nations within our country to show the world that Nigeria is ready to lead Africa to a new time of collective responsibility and prosperity.
The time has come for US to be factored into the affairs of this country and where youth leaders will be persons captured in the age range of youths and not where a minister for Youth and Development will be a fifty or sixty year old. We must hand in hand open a new page in this country’s history and usher in a new era of good, competent and responsive leadership that connects itself to the aspirations of its people.
Great Nigerian students, great Nigerian youths, this is our time. Let us embrace it with vigor and unyielding faith. Nobody will do it for us, the job of building any nation lies on its citizens. We must not be resigned to fate as to do so, is to be crippled fast. We must accept every difficulty and challenges that comes with this struggle deriving satisfaction in the goal of building a Nigeria where her peoples will be united and where leadership will be by service.
Let us look ahead of our current problems,but instead derive lessons from them which over time will become stories that we shall tell to the next generation of Nigerians. In doing this, we do not excuse moments where we may want to give up as it is with any human struggle and how great is our distress until it is over?
The writer is a Law student, a public affairs commentator and academic freelancer. Find him on twitter as @yung_silky