By Ochereome Nnanna
I DON’T know what has got into some of our youths these days. Of course, many of our young men and women are still breaking barriers and putting their names and the glory of Nigeria on the world map in the academics, inventions, information and communications technology, music, films and others. Our youngsters occupy a commanding height in ivy league education across the world more than any other black people.
But in the area of social activism and political leadership, they have failed to impress. While youngsters like Phyno, Davido, Chimamanda Adichie, the Imafidon “smart” siblings and Anthony Joshua, to mention just a few, are catching the world by storm, their peers who have ventured into local politics and leadership appear to be swimming in the sea of confusion with little to inspire us to hope for a brighter future.
Our former British colonial masters were able to raise sound young people from our villages and hamlets to inherit leadership after independence. Some of them were in their early and late 20s when they made the marks which defined and have sustained their greatness till today. The late Dr. Sam Ikoku was 23 when he defeated his father, the great Alvan Ikoku, to become a member of the Eastern Regional House of Assembly.
Maitama Sule was 26 when he became the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives in 1955 on the platform of the Northern People’s Congress, NPC. Matthew Mbu was also 23 when he became the youngest Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in 1959. In the arts, both Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka wrote their best literary epics while they were in their late 20s.
The trend extended to the military. The chaps who took over leadership of the country after the coups of 1966 were in their 20s and early 30s. Unfortunately, (contrary to the erroneous assertions of lazy historians), it was the military wing of the post-independence Nigerian leadership that destroyed the system with military impunity. Thus, they had no sound institutions to hand over to successive generations, including today’s youth. That is why we are stuck with them even now they are in their middle 70s and 80s with nothing positive left to contribute.
Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari and others who emerged as young men over 50 years ago are still occupying the spaces that should have gone to our foundering youth of today. Yet some of us still see them as the people to lead us into the 2019 elections, despite the fact that these expired gerontocrats have taken us back to precolonial times when conquering, slaughtering people and grabbing their lands were fashionable and heroic.
It was under these living fossils that a group of Nigerian “youths” of Arewa extraction issued a “quit notice” to fellow Nigerians whose younger elements sought self-determination, convinced that Nigeria will never be fair to all its citizens. They even sang songs calling for genocide against fellow Nigerians and not one of them was brought in for questioning by the security agencies, let alone being tried. Even if the Biafra agitators were wrong, how did the “quit notice” amount to a correction? How can anyone pretending to possess a functional brain regard suicide bombing (which the “quit notice” signified) as a solution to complaints of alienation?
Another display of poor judgement by another section of the Nigerian youth, the Ohanaeze Youths Council, OYC, featured in the news today, Tuesday 13th February 2018. Its President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, was quoted as asking the Governors of the South East zone to “ban” the consumption of cow meat as a means of ending the Fulani herdsmen attacks in the zone. According to him, the people of the zone should “look for alternatives”.
I have heard this call in several discussion circles but I never dreamt that a group purporting to lead a major tribal constellation would adopt such asininity. How I wish I could meet Isiguzoro and his colleagues in person. I would ask them what magic they think the governors could employ to implement this “ban”? Is this the kind of brainwave to expect from these chaps who have been calling for a transfer of leadership to the youth? How can you give an order that cannot be implemented? The same people who gave this order, I bet you, will go home or to the next restaurant and ask for Fulani cow or goat meat, precisely because for now there is really no readily available alternative.
When a real man has a problem, he faces it squarely until he solves it. You don’t run away from Nigeria because you are being cheated. You don’t run from something you co-own just because some criminals from the other side have cornered it. You fight the cheaters until they restore your full rights to you. Assuming that you successfully boycott Fulani beef, it won’t stop the armed herdsmen from running their herds through your farms. They will fatten their cows on your crops and take them to the next zone to sell.
There are only two ways out. Keep the pressure on President Buhari until he does the right thing or risks turning the Nigerian populace against his tribe in a massive counter reaction. If he remains adamant, join hands and get him out of power next year. Bring someone who will do the job properly. Second step: put pressure on the South East governors to set up ranches with superior livestock varieties. These would be manned by Igbo youths who would be trained in the best practices of modern livestock farming. Within a short time, it will be possible to successfully boycott the Fulani cow meat.
Our youths should think constructively and not react based on empty-barrel emotionalism. We expect a lot from our youths. Not these!