By Charles Kumolu
COMRADE Michael Tidi, an activist, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State and Itsekiri National Youth Council,INYC, presidential aspirant, says he will ensure that the Itsekiri youths are repositioned for the development of Iwereland and Nigeria. Tidi is hopeful to emerge the President of the INYC, . He also speaks on other issues.
You are aspiring to be the President of Itsekiri National Youth Council, INYC, but you will agree that the association was barely heard of before you made your aspiration public. Does it mean that INYC is new?
Not by any means. The INYC is not a new organization as its origin can be historically traced back to the unfortunate Warri crisis, during which Itsekiris, Urhobos and Ijaws who had hitherto lived harmoniously together, were set against one another as a result, dirty political games. This unfortunate situation almost led to the extermination of the Itsekiri race and it is a testament of the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we are well and alive today.
It is also a testimony to both the resilience and cultural disposition of the Itsekiri nation that we have fully keyed into the process of fostering inter-ethnic harmony and cooperation in Warri. As for the fact that the body was barely heard of before now, it is the unfortunate result of structural and philosophical challenges besetting the body.
How do you mean?
INYC is a child of necessity occasioned by the Warri crisis. Unfortunately it has failed to adapt to the realities dictated by present day challenges. As such it has not evolved into an organically functional body for the formulation, articulation and protection of Itsekiri interests. Be that as it may, progress is better late than never and consensus has already emerged to the effect that the INYC must now be overhauled into a formal, legally operated organ for the projection of Itsekiri youth goals.
Can we know what the INYC sets to achieve as a socio-cultural organization of the Itsekiri nation?
Perhaps due to the present state of the body, it is rather difficult to apprehend a coherent vision and mission for the INYC. Nevertheless, its aims and objectives can be encapsulated within the context of the propagation of the welfare of Itsekiri youths for the purpose of contributing their quota to the progress and development of Itsekiri land.
Some communities in Itsekiri land have always been in crisis at various times and the youths are usually major actors in the crisis; how do you intend to address this challenge that has become a challenge to youth development?
Crisis is by no means peculiar to Itsekiri communities. What people must understand is that poverty, greed, insincerity and an unwillingness to share the blessings from the bounty of God will inevitably lead to crisis. You might add to this, the concept of inordinate ambition whereby unqualified persons unreasonably insist on occupying roles they are not suited for or enjoying privileges they have not earned.
Furthermore, the sit-tight syndrome which induces people to insist on remaining in a particular post forever, thereby converting their position into a quasi-monarchical post is equally responsible for much of the crisis we are presently witnessing. Be that as it may, we the Itsekiris are more known for our peaceful, progressive, accomodating and scholarly disposition than for pointless conflict or endless conflagration.
At any rate, His Royal Majesty, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame, Atuwatse II, together with his eminent chiefs, have been working tirelessly to address the various issues and it is now up to all Itsekiris to come to their senses, sheath their swords and listen to their king.
Can we know the major challenges confronting the average Itsekiri youth and how you intend to address it?
Our challenges are legion. Apart from the fact that we are generally beset by the seemingly intractable problems confronting the average Nigerian youth, we equally suffer from the after-effects of the Warri crisis and a political culture that elevates raw power above merit and potential. The youth of today require reorientation, inspiration and direction.
They require a new template for social engagement in a fast evolving and critically challenging world. We must all come back to our senses, show undiluted love for one another, uncompromising respect for elders and an unwavering commitment to progress and peaceful co-existence.
Contemporary precedents have shown that organizations such as this end up being hijacked by politicians. How do you prevent the INYC from becoming a tool in the hands of politicians?
This is precisely the problem. Youth activities must never be bastardised on the altar of politics. While youths are qualified to vote and be voted for as long as they are 18 and above, their participation in politics must be guided by a commitment to social progress as leaders of tomorrow. Is it not shocking that the INYC lacks a secretariat which any Itsekiri youth can approach and its exco is only convened on a haphazard basis?
What makes you think you are the best man for the job?
It is low mentality, crass ignorance and empty pride that makes any man insist that he is the best man for any job. It is morally reprehensible to come to the conclusion that you are the only man qualified for a particular post. Such unfortunate sentiments can only lead to a superiority complex whereby you downgrade the very people you are leading or are aspiring to lead.
At most, you can say you are qualified for the job but to go further to insist that you are the only one Itsekiri land has to offer is simply going too far. Apart from the fact that a cross-section of youths, elders and stakeholders are urging me on, I am hungry for the welfare, progress and development of Itsekiri land and that is fundamentally what is driving me to vie for the Presidency of the INYC. The Itsekiri nation is desperate for the induction of a new generation of leaders to be mentored by the present leadership crop.
I am glad that there are significant players in leadership positions among the Itsekiri who are desirous of opening opportunities for aspiring youths. We need a fresh vision and require a new lease of life for our ethnic nationality. It has always surprised me that most people I encounter come to the conclusion that I am a solid, responsible, dependable and intelligent young man. That is what people say and I thank them for having such an opinion of me.
What I can however say for myself is that my love for the youths and my respect for my elders are non-negotiable. These are the values I have imbibed in my upbringing as an Itsekiri and I’m proud to say that if I die and return to this world I would be pleased to be an Itsekiri man once again. We are all Itsekiris and are all in the struggle together. I wish to state for the avoidance of doubt that the fact that I have wisely decided on my part to tow the part of peace, democratic norms, caution and decorum should not by any means be misconstrued as cowardice.
Having been well tutored by my elders, I am only applying a common African precept to the effect that the wisdom of the sage is stronger than the strength of a lion. No one has a monopoly of violence nor is anyone entitled to appropriate the collective patrimony of the Itsekiri race as personal property. The current leadership has played its part and should now quit the stage for the younger generation.