Home Essays The Helpless Nigerian Youth by Oluwatimilehin Folarin

The Helpless Nigerian Youth by Oluwatimilehin Folarin

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Introduction and Definition of Terms

“While Osinbajo might be my favourite candidate, I still do not trust anyone of them. The Bible says that the heart of men is deceitful, and truly, Nigerian leaders have come to fulfil this prophecy over and over.” These are words of a close friend of mine whose name I would keep anonymous. She spilled out nothing but the heart posture of most Nigerians although, while to some, “Osinbajo might be replaced with another ‘name,’ but the remaining part of the statement stays valid.

Social discourse involves communication revolving around social events (not limited to entertainment, parties, fashion, etc.), or some kind of distinctively social aspect. [1] Political discourse, on the other hand, is a representation of discussion centred on political structure within a nation, especially how power is transferred, exercised, and the results produced by people vested with such power. [2] UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs) defined youth as “a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood independence. [3] However, in Nigeria, the National Youth Policy of 2009 defined youths as those between the ages of 18 and 35. [4]

Nigerians have lived a larger share of their lives believing in the future of this dear country by consciously and in most cases, unconsciously eating the words of Jackson Brown which says, “Let perseverance be your engine and hope your fuel.” However, day by day, it seems the oil in the engine of perseverance is getting dry and the hope driving the faith in the future of Nigeria is disappearing into the thin air. Truth be told, many Nigerians want to see the nation flourish, but the majority are getting disappointed by factors beyond their control. Hence, the only way to save their mental state is by engaging in social discourse.

After more than 61 years of independence, Nigeria is saturated with innumerable challenges not limited to corruption, bad leadership, poor healthcare delivery, poor quality of education, insecurity, and constant devaluation of the Naira currency, to mention but a few. Year in, year out, these problems are getting out of hand and rendering the nation vulnerable, thereby leaving us with the question, “Who will save us from these continued declined status quo of the nation?” Perhaps, not the old citizens who have been passing the baton of leadership to one another for years. However, it is high time the youths stepped out en mass in leading the path of transforming the country into a new Nigeria we have all been envisioning in our minds.

Jogging down the memory lane

Nigeria’s political history will be an incomplete narration without appreciating the roles that youths played in the nation. Most of the pre-independence political parties involving the likes of Anthony Enaharo, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, and many others, were all youth movements in the anti-colonial struggle. These people highlighted above were youths when they played pivotal roles that finally led to Nigeria’s independence in 1960. For instance, Anthony Enahoro was only 30 years when he submitted a parliamentary motion for the independence of Nigeria in 1953, after which he was regarded by scholars as to the father of “Nigeria State.” Similarly, Nnamdi Azikwe was just 33 years in 1937 when he founded the West African Pilot which was used to promote Nigeria nationalism. Aminu Kano was also 30 years when he founded the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) in 1950 which was the first political party in Northern Nigeria. The list of how youths have been instrumental cannot be exhausted.

“It is without gainsaying that if we had witnessed an era where youths were the key figure of leadership in the nation, then it should not be ruled out too soon that a new Nigeria will be seen where such feats by the youths will surface.” With deliberate efforts over time, the emergence of young men and women in the political space in Nigeria will gradually gain limelight.

Why social discourse is displacing political discourse amongst youths

Social discourse includes all open discussion and argumentative talks regarding various subject matters in the society. The emergence of social media led to an observed rate at which people can conveniently talk about the latest trend in the society effortlessly for hours. This can range from comedy to several others. After a long day, battling traffic to and fro your workplace, if you aren’t watching a comedy skit on YouTube, then you would likely be a comedian on the Twitter space, or you are found engaging in funny conversations on a WhatsApp group or having relaxing talks that will send your lover to cloud 9. Also, the ease at which youths cloud their heart with religious activities or football events could be the only way to be happy about their existence in a country like Nigeria. They just want to engage in talks that will bring peace to their inner man, and shield them away from the storms of life the nation’s political atmosphere presents.

WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THE DEGENERATED INVOLVEMENT OF YOUTHS IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE?

1. Failed electoral processes

One of the top factors influencing the collapsed participation of the leaders of tomorrow (youths) in political discourse is the constant disappointing electoral processes. Many may want to argue this, but I need to remind us that the electoral process involves the different phases of activities before, during, and after elections. It also entails the procedure of getting political parties and eligible voters registered, and reviewing voters’ registers, among others. In Nigeria, it is unfortunate that democratic competency and credibility have gone under water. Running for a political position is now more of money politics than good intentions. The two major parties in the nation increased their nomination form sales exponentially in the run-up to the 2023 general election. APC projected presidential form (nomination and expression of interest) from 45M for the 2019 election to 100M naira for the 2023 election, while that of the Peoples Democratic Party rose from 12M to a whooping 45M naira. [5] Only a few Nigerian youths are financially buoyant to pay for the form to become the next president, governor, senator, or even house of representative. Although in theory, ‘the youths are not too young to contest for this positions,’ in reality, they find themselves Too-Poor-To-Run and entangle in the gridlock of how to gather adequate funds to be ‘eligible’ for representation.

It is very pathetic that most youths have gotten to the peak of their hope in our dear country. Quite a number have experienced economic retardation, poor education system, and so on. Despite their strong desire that all will get better soon, they have realised that the ‘soon’ do not exist yet. To save themselves of the choice of committing suicide or being tied down in the cage of depression, they will prefer to discuss the trending comedy skit, the latest fashion, the upcoming world cup, or the biggest wedding in town. They will comfort their mind with things that can give a relaxing effect or make them laugh. At least, laughter they say is the best medicine. Maybe the medicine to heal them of the miserable thought that they might lose their life to the economic hardship facing the nation.

2. Political Thuggery

Another factor worthy of note is the incessant case of political thuggery which is an aspect of social violence that is devastating in Nigeria’s political discourse. It is a menace that has become detrimental to democratic sustainability in Nigerian politics. During the heated periods of elections in Nigeria, thugs move mostly in groups, victimising, terrorising, intimidating, and injuring innocent individuals, politicians, and even voters before, during, and after elections. Consequentially, raising the fear in innocent youths. If political processes are criminalised through thuggery, the right people who are the observers of good values tend to be scared and keep away from political processes. In the real sense, sponsoring thugs transpires because Nigerian politics is characterised by rigging, violence, and the manipulation by the few elites to get political power by all means. Nigeria has now portrayed herself to be a nation where your life can be endangered if what you pronounce does not resonate with the interest of the ‘fathers’ in politics. This has made many youths have heart-to-heart chats on which attire to put on to sweep a lady off her feet or discuss how to get the form for the next Big Brother Naija show, rather than staring at the hope of grabbing 100M Presidential forms with the belief of changing the political structure of the land.

3. Godfatherism

Another constellating factor is godfatherism. The overwhelming influences of political godfathers in the electoral process pose an incredible threat to democratic survival. Normally, the voters should be the kingmaker and determine the outcome of the election, however, in Nigeria’s democracy, there is a clear contest between voters and political godfathers. Beyond doubt, it is obvious that the latter holds the ace to who is elected into office. The masses are tired of this current political trend in which the godfather is the kingmaker far before voters cast their votes. South Western geopolitical zone of Nigeria has presents herself to be the godfather of godfatherism politics in the nation. A politician who knows how to play his cards well, popularly known as Jagaban has gained prominence among his followers and even fellow political allies. He has so much masterminded the act of politics in the nation and if you are aspiring a political office in his territory, you dare not go against his instructions. Else, you will be treated like a lost soul. [6]

A widespread example was the case of the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode. Judging by his good works and achievements in the state, he deserved to be given the flag for a second term, but he was forced to be the only one since 1999 never to use two terms in office, thanks to ‘the Lagos mafia Godfather.’ It has become a tradition that even the youths cannot help despite being tired of this act. We (the youths) have identified this harbinger of success in political participation of the leaders of tomorrow, sadly, our cries and lamentations fade off on the street of Twitter or other social media. Why won’t the youth grab a cup of popcorn in the nearest cinema and enjoy themselves? Why won’t they love to talk about the epic transfer in the world of football, or why won’t they want to talk about the like of Davido, Wizkid, and Burna Boy that are being worshipped in the world of entertainment. Moreover, it took Micheal Charles a.k.a OGB Recent few years to gain prominence in the comedy space. If the youths can’t be given the room to make Nigeria better, at least, they will make their lives gain recognition in the public space.

Prioritizing social discourse: The helpless Nigerian youths giving in to political apathy

As Nigerian youths are embracing social discourse more than political discourse, the most evident manifestation is the growing rate of political apathy. We now have low voter turnout during democratic processes which speaks less of Nigeria’s quest for credible elections and the strengthening of democratic structures. This creates loopholes for the elder politicians to creatively redistribute unused votes to their advantage. As an essential element of liberal democracy, elections are a fundamental means of ensuring the appropriate representation of citizens’ interests and the legitimacy of the political system. However, both the structure and the process of elections in Nigeria are largely perverted.

Since the year 1999, when democracy gained full ground in Nigeria, there has been a proliferation of multi-party elections in the nation. Despite great hopes, elections and political competition did not produce democratic accountability and peace. From the viewpoint of normative theory, political participation is the main pillar of democracy, as it is the mechanism through which citizens’ preferences and interests get transferred into the decision-making process. If this mechanism is fallacious in any way, the gap between the citizens and the rulers can be widened. If the youths do not engage in democracy, are their preferences and interests transferred into the decision-making process, can the representatives hear their ‘silent voices’? From research, it is evident and axiomatic that democracy in Nigeria is gradually losing its prominence, as participation is seriously predisposed towards those who are more affluent, highly educated, and few politically-involved ones.

In Conclusion

Regardless of the state of the nation, youths in Nigeria should never let their guard down to the elderly ones in the political spaces. Many youths nowadays have been deprived of having hopes in their potentiality, capability, or functionality to be leaders, thus making them to be seen in a state of passivity, inactivity, or gross irresponsibility towards mounting the influence of power in years to come. While this might not be completely attributed to the youth’s fault, we must however note that it is a result of youths’ actions and inactions over time. The alarming rate at which Nigeria’s youths are mediocre in the contemporary democratic process is worrisome. Not only do we see youth electoral participation in Nigeria spiralling down at a much faster rate, it is even more worrying that the youth electoral engagement is also systematically unequal when compared to the levels of participation of adults, which ought not to be so. This is unhealthy to the democracy of the nation, and this is shown as the two major flagbearers vying for the presidential position are above 70+.

While few citizens are actively engaged in political activities, many are without interest. And as such, they see politics as a non-issue that is not worthy of expending their energies, time, and resources. Rather than expending energy on social discourse, we must rise to the challenge as youths and create the great future of Nigeria we want. No amount of tweets on Twitter or discussion on social events will take the place of good leadership. Getting our PVC is the first step, then, we back it up by strategizing actionable approaches toward ensuring the positive transformational change in the land that we all desire. God bless Nigeria!

 

REFERENCES

[1] Retrieved on June 1, 2022, from https://www.languagehumanities.org/what-is-social-discourse.htm#:~:text=Social%20discourse%20is%20speech%20or,humans%20communicate%20with%20each%20other.

[2] Elena Kitaeva (2019), “Intertextuality of Political Discourse.”

[3] United Nations, “Definition of Youths. Retrieved on June 3rd from https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-definition.pdf

[4] National Youth Policy (2019), ‘Enhancing Youth Development and Participation in the context of Sustainable Development’ Retrieved on June 4th, 2022 from https://www.prb.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Nigeria-National-Youth-Policy-2019-2023.pdf

[5] Retrieved on June 4th, 2022, from  https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/2019/11/27/nigerian-youths-poor-political-office-activism/

[6] STANLEY ALIEKE (2022), “The menace of godfatherism in Nigeria politics.” Retrieved on June 4 from https://www.thecable.ng/the-menace-of-godfatherism-in-nigerian-politics

 

About the Writer

Oluwatimilehin Folarin, is a Civil Engineering student of University of Ibadan. He is passionate about exploring various ways of using technology to make tasks easier for the benefit of mankind. He also designs structural drawings of iconic standards and can be reached via oluwatimilehinfolarin@gmail.com

 

 

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