Nation Building: What Role for the Nigerian Youth?

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Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress

 

By Evelyn Dan Epelle

In a second youth-focused webinar on nation-building, following one which highlighted Nigerian Youths and the Issues Arising, Sologic Group put together a range of leaders, policymakers, and intellectuals who debated the role of Nigerian youth within the context of nation-building. Hosted by the Chief Executive Officer, Sologic Group, Abayomi Bello, the event held virtually on Thursday, February 4 at 12:00 PM (WAT) and had over 100 guests in attendance.

Amongst the discussants present were; Public Affairs Analyst Segun Showunmi,  KAFTAN Media Group President Adewole Adebayo Esq., Political Scientist Tonye Isokariari, Chairman/Founder BEN TV UK Alistair Soyode, SSA Hon. Tade Oshaloto, Women Leader Princess Olayemi Joledo, and Radio Personality Jacqueline Adebija amongst others.

TIME AND POLITICS WAIT FOR NO ONE

Opening with a quote by Abhijit Naskar in his book Mad About Humans: World Maker’s Almanac’, the host recanted; “A government fails not because of governmental atrocity but because of the citizens’ indifference to that atrocity.” The webinar lasted 2 hours and challenged discussants with direct questions about deliberate actions the youth can take in order to participate in nation-building. By prioritizing good language and mutual respect for all, the discussants covered a broad range of topics and embraced diverse perspectives, without reechoing known variables like “obtain your PVC” or “join a political party.

In his opening remarks, the host Abayomi Bello summed up the tenets of nation-building for the Nigerian youth population, especially those with a keen interest in nation-building. “We must be able to harness desire and strategy into a potent power, through the synergy of purpose. We must organize political consciousness into political structures. The feat pulled by Stacey Abrams and her cohort in the last US elections was through desire, strategy, and the hard work of organizing,” he stressed.

WHO IS A YOUTH?

Discussants took turns to answer questions after a brief introduction and housekeeping. The opening questions sought to clarify vague descriptions about who qualifies as a ‘Youth’ in Nigeria today, and also inspire new ideologies for nation-building, other than solely calling for active participation in politics.

“There’s a great agitation to have younger people in government…but what is stopping younger people?” discussant Segun Showumi quizzed the audience while giving context on the definition of ‘Youth’ in Nigeria. He noted various socio-cultural aspects of youthfulness that place strong limitations on attaining true political consciousness among the existing youth demographic. “I just removed 40 years from those ruling the country now, so that places the youth age in Nigeria at 55,” he said. Without the political dynamics and complexes inosculating the Nigerian experience, the African Youth Charter (AYC, 2019) recognizes a Youth as ‘any person between the ages of 15–35’.

Looking back at our history of Nation Building, we can conveniently say that the youths then played a prominent role. From those who led mass movements like Micheal Imodu, to many more who eventually occupied positions of governance, like Yakubu Gowon, we can say they (the youth) were instrumental to our current Nation-State,” discussant Adewole Adebayo Esq. emphasized in his opening comments. “I don’t know if we are asking the right questions,” he responded when asked what factors have placed limitations on the youth of today, to play the role of nation-building successfully.

Barrister Adewole Adebayo took a philosophical approach in elucidating why having youth in government is not the reason for the governance problem in Nigeria. According to him, materialism, and an unfortunate decline in the quality of our culture, are the bane of Nigerian society.

WHAT IS NATION BUILDING?

The discussants were asked how Nigeria might address meager youth participation in nation-building, and the feasibility of taking steps towards legislation (to help tackle corruption) and driving change by harnessing the hidden qualities in Nigeria’s youth as they ascend elective offices.

Political Scientist Tonye Isokariari, who was a candidate for the position of Chairman, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) under the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2019 FCT elections, told participants to reflect on available statistics. He also disagreed that having youth concentration in government is insouciant – a viewpoint shared by discussant Adewole Adebayo who said: “quality should override quantity.

Given Nigeria’s political climate, the few Youth who make elective offices are converted to foot soldiers, and subsequently repressed. Discussant Tonye Isokariari put this into context; “Let’s reflect back on the #EndSars Protests…At the beginning of the protests, we can argue that we saw a glimpse of unity, coordination, organization, and maybe even patriotism, amongst the protesting youth.” Instead of focusing on the youth population, the speaker drew his conclusion to a bigger problem; “those who are there (in elective offices) are disastrous” he said.

Data provided by Mr. Showumi, Spokesperson for the 2019 presidential campaign of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (PDP Presidential Candidate) gave new life to the discussion. “On average, there are 505 elective office positions in a nation of approximately 200,000,000 million people.” He stated that being aware of this statistic should empower anyone to effect change, but by refusing to punish corruption, Nigeria has created an illusion that elective offices are for impunity and largesse.

The first woman who spoke at the event, Ms. Jacqueline Adebija, challenged the organizers of the webinar on the visible exclusion of women in its line-up of discussants for the day. More women from the audience supported the points raised by the Radio Personality and called for the involvement of women in decision-making and political deliberations, not just for the day, but in Nigeria as a whole.

At the same time the webinar concluded, one was held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja where Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, spoke with youths of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), according to reports from KAFTAN Post. In the meeting dubbed “President Buhari urges youths to participate in politics, shares APC vision” the President was quoted to say, ‘‘Tell your colleagues to go back to their constituencies and join in party registration, attend party meetings, pay your dues, make contributions and bring your youthful energy and zeal to bear on the development of the party right from the unit and ward level up to the national level.

The webinar on nation-building ended with extensive audience contribution and follow-up questions for discussants. By availing themselves for an event such as this, participants showed good support for the cause of nation-building.

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