Democracy and the 9ja Youth. YouWIN?

On 29 May 2012 Nigeria celebrated 'Democracy Day' to mark the date in 1999 when power was transferred from a military regime to a civilian democracy. Never mind that it was a serving general handing over to a retired general, the fact was the new president had been through a democratic process which ought to pacify the West, motivate the populace and enshrine more legitimacy to governance. Since the onset (and some people would refer to this as the "onslaught") of democracy the pact between the leaders and the followers is similar to the comraderie between two friday night drunks supporting themselves and arguing about the best way to get home.

As usual the disefranchised took to the social sphere to commemorate the occasion. Most of these messages in the social media chose to decry the helplessness and angst of the citizenry particularly the youth. My favourite was, "in 1979 Bamanga tukur was the governor of the defunct Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba) and 33 years later he is the chairman of the ruling party, the PDP. Dr Bello Haliru was commissioner in the old Sokoto (now Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara) state, still yet 33 years later he is the current Minister of Defence. Major General David Mark (rtd) was the military governor of Niger state in 1984 and 28 years later he is today the Senate President. Governor Muritala Nyako was governor of Niger state in 1976 and 36 years after he is governor of Adamawa state. Ogbonnaya Onu was governor of Abia state in 1992 and 20 years after he is the national chairmn of the ANPP. Governor Jonah Jang was the governor of Benue state in 1985 and 27 years after he is today the governor of plateau state. Meanwhile Martins Elechi is over 80 years old and the current governor of Ebonyi state".

A few thoughts came to my mind in no particular order. Could this recycling of old hands in the annals of power be due to their excellent achievements? The myriad of problems bedevilling the country and indeed Africa put a lie to such notion. Or perhaps there are no other Nigerians who are capable of taking Nigeria to the promised land? The exploits of Raji Fashola, Nuhu Ribadu, Nasiru El-Rufai, Ifueko Omogui and even Dele Momodu suggest that high quality Nigerians with the right character, temperament and vision exist. So then which way do the youth turn? Violence? Education? Thuggerry? And most importantly why has it been impossible for the Nigerian youth to penetrate the fortress of leadership and governance? The revolution in the African entertainment industry despite the lack of government support surely proves that if given the opportunity the youth of Africa can hold their own.

The same entertainment industry moguls in a sense have shown the way. Rather than gripe about what government or the society can and may not be doing, they have gone ahead to blaze their paths and create something out of nothing. My brother who is a medical doctor and an artiste in his own right would always say, "in life you must play the cards you are dealt with". Indeed the Nigerian youth must rise above the excuses and finger pointing and seize their own destiny. We must play the cards we have been dealt with and bloom where we are planted or else we risk becoming the forgotten generation. We must pool our resources together and channel our creativity, time and capital to succeed where previous generations failed. The petty chase for money and riches must give way to sustained actions on education, infrastructure and development. To set about change that others can believe in, we must believe in the possibilities then become the change ourselves.

Elections are about 3 years away and yet the current battle cry is if the incumbent president will run or not run for election. He is not yet half way through his term and has essentially not done anything noteworthy since good things do take time, however the polity is currently heated up by questions of his ability to seek another term. It will be difficult for "we the youth" to rise and take our place when we are not properly educated and lack decent wages for decent jobs. We must look in to our own ranks for solutions as no doubt some already do but we should also be ready to hold the leaders to account. They themselves understand the danger in having young, hungry and idle youths which is why several schemes are in the pipeline, from the Youth Enterprises with innovation programme (YOUWIN) to the Public Works Women and Yoth Empowerment Programme. We must seize the opportunities as they come. Not grovelling but with dignity and the mindset to create more jobs, to feed others and not merely ourselves. Regardless of who does or does not gain political advantage, we must always remember that together we are more powerful than we imagine. Indeed one thing is certain, our country must develop. If we do not develop then we will experience violence within the nation and despair without. Development must be the reason behind every decision whether personal, private or public. There may yet be hope for the the two friday night drunks to get home safely but they must first agree that development is the common destination else we all lose.

And Three Other Things

Terrible Accra to Kumasi Road. When President (Professor) John Atta Evan Mills of the National Democratic Congress defeated the candidate of the ruling party barely four years ago, it was seen as the beginning of the new era in West African politics. Having contested twice unsuccessfully in 2000 and 2004 he understood the pain of defeat. Most people believed his education and experience would come in handy. His was an unusual example in sacrifice and ultimate achievement. You can imagine how surprised I was to hear that the usual Accra to Kumasi journey of 3 hours using the VIP bus now takes 6 -7 hours due to bad road. This is an election year Mr President. If you have run out of ideas becareful so that ghanians do not make this the year you run out of time.

South Africa's Spear. The recent painting by Brett Murray depicting South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in a Lenin-isque pose with his manhood dangling has literally exposed the naked underbelly of democracy in South Africa. The divisive public debate has focused on racism since Mr Murray is white and the President is black. For the rest of us watching this unfolding drama, we hope that principles of freedom of speech and artistic expression remain untainted in Arica's economic superhouse. Presidents will ultimately come and go, but the country and its culture must remain.

Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth. I wonder how the British queen (and her subjects) will feel as she celebrates her 60th year on the throne. Imagine "what her eyes have seen" as they would say in Africa. From the Allied invasion to end the 2nd world war through the rise and fall of presidents and prime ministers all over the common wealth. When she was not playing her part in making history she definately had a front row seat watching as history unfolds. The average life expectancy in sub-saharan Africa is below 55 years. That means the British monarch has reigned longer than most Africans have lived. Need we say more?


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