Thursday, 11 January 2018

Dear Fellow Nigerian youth: An Open letter to Nigerians

|11th January, 2018| Eugene Upah 

Dear Fellow Nigerian youth,

Compliments of the season. I trust you are fine.

First, agree with me that we are young, we are strong, we are brave, we are also resilient. We are savvy, we are entrepreneurial, and unlike the generations that have come before us, we are much hungrier for success. We call our ambition, “our hustle”, and we have several of them because we are tireless and eager to achieve financial independence – no matter how elusive it appears – we keep believing and keeping our faith. We are optimistic but we are also anxious. We have seen others toil long and hard for economic security in vain, decades of labour without fruit. Some of our friends may have discussed emigrating with us – legally or illegally, and some have lost their young lives crossing the Mediterranean in search of a future overseas where their talents are recognized and rewarded. A combination of these factors has left us disillusioned and disconnected. We may not believe too much in politics. Because to some, there is obviously no need getting involved. We have seldom experienced worst governance, so you think, “What’s the point?” But despite the gloom, there actually is indeed a need to reconsider our thoughts.

Our generation and the ones before may have failed us, and the infrastructure for our success glaringly absent – a persistent darkness in place of electricity, a stifling business environment that discourages enterprise and innovation, debilitating bureaucracy, inaccessible public officials who remain oblivious to our needs inspite of our collective efforts amidst fighting each other to get them elected, our institutions of higher learning is built on ramshackle and very shoddy structures, dwindling sports and no quest for serious professional pursuits– and the list goes on, but, if there’s anyone with the power to transform our Nation and reshape our economic and social trajectory, it is US. There is formidable power in our intellect and creativity, our talent and ingenuity are quite rare, and our resolve and determination against all odds, can drive great change. But most importantly, the greatest force is in our numbers. Together, all 124.5 million of us that are under 30 years old, have the potential to be the most influential bloc in our country. The indescribable influence that we can collectively wield, I hope that we soon fully understand and hopefully, deploy our expertise.

The root cause of our nation’s underlying failure to pull the majority of its citizens from the unyielding clutches of poverty is poor leadership, so then why do we continue to tell ourselves that politics exists in a realm outside our own realities? Why do we refuse to engage in the political process of identifying and supporting youthful visionary candidates? Instead we remain at the mercy of political leadership committed to putting selfish interest ahead of collective public interest. Leaders who are beholden to the ideology that political parties/personal interest come before citizens. Leaders who are private gain-seeking actors.

How can a country of over 180 million people be held to a ransom by less than 1 or 2 million persons? What we desperately need at this time is a nation-wide awakening. We must grow to become active citizens who are committed to getting involved in the processes of choosing/electing our Leaders. The system is not self-correcting, there are no market forces at play to ensure that it corrects itself. It will require human actors – me and you – to identify and dismantle the structural impediments that fuel the status quo of the bad leadership we have suffered over time. We must address this issue both functionally and systematically. Our democracy has become very disconnected from being democratic, we must bring power back to the people. We must reform the rules of our electoral processes to inject more transparency. We must transform politics from being an industry for a few interests, to being about the people and addressing the public needs. The barriers to entry are high in politics, and very often, our best brains and talent are discouraged from running for (public) office. We must dismantle these systems that keep away talented individuals from joining the race. The primary motive for this agitation is love of country and the intense desire of the youths to succeed and become future leaders of tomorrow.

We must open the door for generations knocking after us. We must take advantage of our demographic dividend, millions of young people who are ready to make a change. We must welcome this new generation of new ideas and we must democratize access to opportunity for all. Structural reforms mean that no one individual can make this change alone, but with our collective voices and the realization that this is our time and that no one but us can save our dying nation, we can achieve change. We can no longer outsource politics or governance to people we do not trust. We must understand the inextricable link between governance, economic growth and national security. To pretend that politics does not influence the entirety of our lives harms us more than it benefits us. Experts have estimated and known that Nigerians have one of the best brains in the universe…what else are we waiting for?

We have been tricked and deceived with the #NotToo Young to Run# Bill – a bill that is in its self non-existent. It is only a way of diverting our collective attention (interest). Personally, I was brought up in a very humane and disciplined Catholic background and my Parents were very apolitical but after spending years in the University, student’s unionism changed my orientation about politics and I do bold to say that if we remove ourselves from the electoral process we give room for our destinies and that of the generations after us to be delayed or even changed.

We must change the rules of the game. We must put up a coordinated front to reorient our values and bring power back to the people- the youths, as it was in the days of a Gen. Gowon becoming Head of State at Age 32, a Dr Wayas becoming Senate President at age 29 or so, a Donald Duke becoming Commissioner at age 27 and the list is endless. Our leaders must be the best amongst us - those with the most transformative ideas and the capacity to deliver (at all times). It should be the best amongst us leading us in government, in technology/ICT, in the military, in our judiciary and of course the corporate sector. We must instill accountability in our processes, but also hold ourselves accountable. Great Leaders must be mentored and supported on a continuous basis to move up the age group ladder and eventually replace the ageing elites. Like a well-oiled assembly line, the process must be deliberate and the results predictable. We must continue fine-tuning and improving our model and at that pace we may dominate Africa for very many years to come.

We must play our own role in identifying and empowering those amongst us best placed to make this difference. To abscond from this duty is to be negligent of our responsibility to our continent. To achieve this, we must approach our destiny(ies) like business from our youthful age, work hard, make sacrifices when and where necessary at all levels and stay focused on these goals. Through it all, Nigerians can imbibe the unstoppable spirit in this endeavor and nothing can stand in our way any longer.

This initiative can only succeed with partnership and close collaboration between youths across boards, irrespective of our political divides. We must invoke genuine patriotic fervor in earnest to realize our dreams. Population figures indicate that 65.71 percent or 124.5 million Nigerians are less than 29 years old. This is the catchment age bracket for fruitfully engaging the youths in this vital national reform.

It will be herculean task, but nothing good comes easy. We would face challenges, we would be mocked, laughed at. We would even be tagged “not serious” but in the end, we would get the job done and get the lifeline for ourselves and the generation unborn!

Warmest Regards.