Dear Nigerian Youth, Welcome To Nigeria

By Ikenga Chronicles October 25, 2020

Dear Nigerian Youth, Welcome To Nigeria

— Vitus Ozoke

You will have to forgive me, but I keep returning to this issue of the need for the ongoing youth-driven revolution in Nigeria to coalesce around some form of leadership. In the absence of leadership, a revolution is just a convolution. It lacks structure. But every time I have raised that issue, I have noticed that the youth have been strangely dodgy about it. I have heard such response as their lack of leadership being their leadership. What kind of lousy crap is that? It doesn’t even make any sense.

But I think I have finally figured out what the real problem is. I think I have put my fingers on what is keeping the protesters from organizing under some form of leadership. They have hit the Nigerian reality. They have hit that unique but embarrassing Nigerian reality. The reality that has ensured that the best of Nigerians are ruled by the worst of Nigerians.

Otherwise, how do you explain that in a country with the highest Ph.D per capita in the world, digital aliens and dinosaurs, some with questionable and doubtful grade school certificates, somehow float up, and emerge as leaders? If you can unpack that mystery, then you can understand the reality that has hit the protesters. It is not that the protesters don’t recognize the strategic need for leadership and structure. No, they do. But how do you select leadership for a group that embodies the Nigerian diversity?

It has always been a fight. It didn’t start today. Nigerians have always struggled and stumbled when it has come to leadership for any pan-Nigerian groups. In my student days, it was always the bane of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), and I suspect it still is. Political movements in Nigeria’s first republic, arguably the best we have seen, struggled with nominating their national leadership.

Well-intended movements, including youth movements like we currently have in Nigerian streets, split and splintered when it came to nominating leadership. A prime example is the Nigeria Youth Movement (NYM). Nnamdi Azikiwe resigned from the NYM in the early 1940s, accusing the majority Yoruba leadership of the NYM of discriminating against the Ijebu-Yoruba members and the Igbo. Zik broke away from the NYM, and with Herbert Macaulay, formed the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944. He took with him some Ijebu members of the NYM, thereby splitting the movement along ethnic lines.

Today, the greatest challenge that Nigerian political parties face is the selection of their leadership and the choice of their presidential candidates. They have always got it wrong. PDP’s choice of Olusegun Obasanjo, a felon straight out of prison, over Chief Alex Ekwueme, the founder of the party, as the presidential candidate of the PDP in 1999, was PDP’s original sin, one that will forever hunt it. And so was its choice of then 72-year old Atiku Abubakar as its candidate for the 2019 elections. For a party that made President Buhari’s age the central mantra of its change campaign coming in, you would think it would have the elemental sense to choose a much younger candidate than Buhari. It did not. It nominated a septuagenarian to run against another septuagenarian.

You see, Nigeria is too complex a society. Nigeria is an eclectic assemblage of ten separate and disparate nations into one country. Nigerians are total strangers to fellow Nigerians. We are not united by anything; instead, we are separated by everything. We are separated by language, religion, ancestral affinities, value systems, and temperaments. We are held together by just one thing and one thing only. We are held together by one lousy colonial document of 1914. That’s it.

So, to the protesting youth, good morning, and welcome to Nigeria. Welcome to the difficult dynamics of a deeply divided society. You think the generation before you sucks? I hope you are gradually learning why. I hope you are learning it firsthand. You think the generation before you are mindless looters? Well, as you can see for yourselves already, you are doing a better job of it. At least the generation before you had the decency to erect the statues and city landmarks that you are wantonly setting on fire. The cowards and bastards that are inciting tribes against tribes in Lagos and elsewhere, while hiding away in the U.K, do not belong in the generation before you. They are you.

So, be honest enough to admit that you have hit the Nigerian reality. Be honest to admit that the reason you have no leadership is because you can’t have leadership. And the reason you can’t have leadership is because you can’t navigate the faultlines of ethnicity to select your leadership. You have hit that Kainji dam of reality that has been the perennial bane of those who have come before you. If my haunches are right, you have your eyes set on 2023. You should, because thinking that General Buhari can be protested out of office is wishful at best, and delusional at worst. Prove me wrong and form a political party that can harness your vibrant energy and serve as the vessel for change in 2023. I doubt that you can do that. I suspect that 50 political parties will emerge out of your movement, and we will remain the way we are.

Flavor, Phyno, Davido are your celebrities, but they are not your leaders. They can put up a show for you. That’s what they know how to do, but they are not leaders. Making music videos of dancing naked women is hardly leadership. They have done the only thing they know how to do. They have got you excited. They have got all of you excited, including the looters and the arsonists among you. Now they are off the streets and back to their studios, composing their next songs. They will sing about your protests, and you will buy their songs, and they will smile to the banks – except that you have broken and looted the banks.

Guys, it’s time to wind it down. Looting is hardly protest. You have put on two shows. You have gallantly protested the atrocities of the Nigerian police SARS. The world has watched you in awe and admiration. But they are also watching the looting and the burning that have since taken over. They are horrified by it all. I predict that Abuja and government houses across the country will be moving in to quell the looting this week. Don’t make your bodies shooting targets for anybody. Get out of the streets, it’s about to get ugly.

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