Dilemma of the Nigerian Youth

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These past weeks, I’ve had reason to reflect more on the place of the Nigerian youth in politics and public service. The inspiration for this was the hypocrisy I witnessed all the times our gerontocratic political establishment opened its door for the young join to them. The strangest dilemma is this: the youth advocate inclusion in governance and participation in politics yet any time a young person is offered an appointment, the first argument is over his or her “lack of experience”. Further, how an “experienced” person ought to occupy such an office. “Experience” has always been a code for age, it is gotten by years and not competence or experience. Just be old enough, ergo, you are garlanded with “experience” as well.

This near predictable trend of reaction was witnessed most recently with the appointment of Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman as Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority. The loudest and, to me, the only known, critics of her appointment were members of her constituency: the political youth. She was portrayed as not only a creation of opportunism, but one lacking requisite experience and age to manage an organisation that complex. 

One may then wish to know what our generation means by advocating inclusion in government. How is that a logical demand when one of us is suddenly seen as unqualified, by us, on the basis of her age? One may also wish to know whether those older were chosen based on track records earned in an extraterrestrial world. I mean, whether those older have always been older. It didn’t matter to them that Hadiza has had fair experience working with the current Governor of Kaduna State, and has been involved in some of the nation’s most effective administrative reforms and political and social advocacies. This is what some of her detractors chose to miss—that she understands the architecture and intricacies of the Nigeria the same youths have been furiously asking for. 

Some of us who support the “Not Too Young to Run” bill and campaign aren’t doing so in agreement with the view that the youths are (potentially) smarter administrators or possess extraordinary traits no longer exhibited by the older generation. A friend of mine, in the period running up to the 2015 presidential election, promoted Candidate Muhammadu Buhari as the most qualified, citing age as his reason. I dismissed that as an affront to younger Nigerians, because such insidious and dangerous thinking only justifies the very gerontocracy our generation is allying to demolish. One may be tempted to ask the youths to come together and form a strong political alliance or a party in a bid to restate their relevance, size and actual capacity to govern. The youths, according to a National Bureau of Statistics data, make up 70% of the nation’s population. But the same youths that ought to champion a campaign for good governance, inclusion and relevance are divided in defence of their oppressors on social media and various fora, virtual and offline. The same youths are betting to meet at Sofa Lounge for fisticuffs!

It’s hard to determine the ratio of conscious youths to the nonchalant. Our problems require strategic and gradual alliance and inclusion to eventual correct this systemic exclusion. The advocacy shouldn’t be that the youths are smarter, but that they are capable, and shouldn’t be wasted as inconsequential errand boys, which is what some of these PAs, SAs, SSAs are. Because if youth comes with exceptional vision to lead, the newly independent Nigeria, managed by youths, would’ve been a good foundation for us. Similarly, if old age means a thing in governance, Nigeria would’ve been a model nation, from the youths who took over from colonialists to today’s grandpas.

We may allow the idealists to go with their divergent theorisation of the youths as sharper visionaries or as symbols of new new idea. What we know for a fact is, past attempts to unify the youths and establish a strong force in our political equation have failed. Woefully. Today, we remember promising youth groups and advocacies we once embraced as our salvation, with troubling nostalgia. From 20MillionYouthsFor2015 campaign to Generational Voices, the hope was high, and down it came crashing.

Dazzled by the composition and vision of Generational Voices, I wrote then: “I’m happy that I was not a distant witness of Generational Voices. Having been closely involved, and in deep thought, I see a movement about to be built on the foundations of OccupyNigeria, that deferred revolution. But as beautiful as its grand visions are, we have to resist ideological indoctrination and correctly understand that GenVoices is not OccupyNigeria. This is where our task commences.”

Unfortunately, like all before it, it didn’t go as anticipated. Perhaps we were too hungry to recognize its essence. Perhaps our partisan allegiances frustrated its growth into required force. Whatever, we need to restate our political will by overcoming this seemingly genetic political skepticism. Affirmative action from the Establishment may be frowned at by some, but that, and not our polarization, is really what we need, to defeat perceived marginalization of the youth. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@GimbaKakanda On Twitter

Nigeria Army’s Three Wanted Friends


Last week, the Army declared three people it suspected of having “links with the Boko Haram” wanted and this became a subject of intense debates especially as the trio—Mr. Ahmed Umar Bolori, Mr. Ahmad Salkida and Ms. Aisha Alkali Wakil—promptly expressed their shock. The military institution, they wrote, knew them and how to contact them yet they hadn’t been informed or invited in any way before the public notice.

On Facebook, not long after the declaration went viral in the online media, stirring up divisive interactions on social media, Ahmed Bolori published a screenshot of his SMS correspondence with a top military officer. “Salam General,” read the text. “This is Amb Ahmed Umar Bolori. I got the news that I and other 2 are declared wanted (sic). I’m bringing myself. Where do I come to? Thanks.” 

The General asked him to report to “Provost Marshal Army (sic)”. His next Facebook updates, later that day and the following day, was of his 10 AM appointment and struggles to be attended to by the Army. It’s amusing that someone declared wanted, purportedly a threat to national security, was literally pleading to have an audience with his supposed hunters. 

Ms. Wakil released a statement to confirm her relationship with the security agencies, and that she had had meetings with the Chief of Army Staff and had even given the Army conditions for her involvement in any dialogue between the terrorist group and the Federal government. “(T)hey know where to find me,” she wrote in her own expression of shock at her declaration as wanted person, and then “but wonder why I had to be declared wanted on national news even mentioning my husband’s name alongside (sic).”

The most popular of them is the journalist Ahmad Salkida who, for fear of his safety, has long been in exile. Salkida had reported extensively on the activities of the terrorist cult, being a witness to their emergence and evolution into the nation’s deadliest group. Some of the nation’s exclusive reports and breaking news on the Boko Haram were presented to us by Salkida. His publication of the Boko Haram’s video of the abducted girls of Chibok instigated the hunt.

Writing from his Dubai base, Salkida noted his contributions to reporting terrorism in Nigeria. “Clearly, my status as a Nigerian journalist who has reported extensively, painstakingly and consistently on the Boko Haram menace in the country since 2006 is an open book known to Nigerians and the international community,” he stated.

This got us to the obvious question: why declaring citizens who weren’t on the run wanted? What’s wrong with an invitation being sent first before, if declined, publishing such damaging notice about people who were previously not tried for a crime in question? This and similar unprofessional conduct by our security agencies are piling up, day by day, and it was the same recklessness that got the EFCC operatives going after the blogger Abusidiq without notice. They are yet to even publish what exactly he did wrong. The risk of declaring somebody wanted without any established evidence of his culpability or invitation to hear from him or her one-on-one is grave in a country where jungle justice is an everyday tragedy. I’m sure the Army itself is aware of this, and yet it went ahead.  Somehow, it has succeeded in putting the lives of these people in danger, and somehow a misinformed mob might spot them and move to lynch them in their own understanding of patriotism. All for a “crime” yet to be determined.

Our security agencies need to restore professionalism in their dealings with civilians. Showmanship seems to stimulate them, but obsession with this approach to crime prevention and control will only embarrass them and ridicule what they stand for. The two home-based citizens have already submitted themselves to the military, and inferring from the Channels TV interview of the Spokesman of Defence Headquarters, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, the declaration was hasty and misleading. 

“Declaring them wanted was not our intention,” he was reported to have said on Channels TV. “We are inviting them to come and shed more light on Boko Haram so that collectively we can achieve the desired goal.” 

This is the essence of civic vigilance. But this retraction isn’t enough. Their hurriedly prepared and dispatched blunder has already jeopardised the lives and prospects of these people. What’s expected is a clarification through the very medium it employs in damaging the trio. Seeking partnership, which is what the spokesman means by “collectively” by declaring your would-be partners wanted is akin to publicly harassing a woman and then asking for her hand in marriage. 

One is tempted to agree with the conspiracy theory drawn by the popular public affairs analyst, Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde. He sought to see a link between the media trial of Ahmad Salkida and General Tukur Buratai’s Dubai property scandals. When the Army said the Boko Haram were responsible for the leaks of Buratai’s ownership of properties in Dubai, he pointed out that the convenient inference was Salkida would be roped into it. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter