By Caleb Adebayo
Marlians: TOWARDS the end of 2019, a new movement began to emerge in Nigeria, primarily among the young adults. This movement was characterised by a ruthless disregard for authority, morals or acceptable behaviour and a keen inclination towards taking of drugs, advanced fee fraud, societal disobedience and uncouth language.
They called themselves “Marlians”, apparently in support of the popular musician, Naira Marley, who had gained remarkable fame during the year. In no time, the Marlian movement had gained ground, with students of all levels and other young people identifying themselves as Marlians who had “No Mannaz”.
The musician’s songs could also be heard playing everywhere on the streets and his disciples grew at a rapid rate, giving him a cult-like following from millions of Nigerians. In fact, he has been attributed as the president of the Marlian movement. It is also during this period that Nigeria marked 10 years of bloody attacks by Boko Haram, with over 37, 500 people killed since 2011. It also marked five years since the Chibok girls kidnap by the group which has at least 100 of these girls still in captivity.
Things continued to escalate in the North-East, until July last year when Boko Haram unleashed terror in Nganzai and killed at least 65 people, with about 10 people hospitalised. Various other Boko Haram attacks continued throughout the year, and in December they returned to a town near Chibok to both kill and abduct.
In October, we had the Onitsha market fire from the explosion of an oil tanker. The fire which started about two hours after the oil tanker spill raged for hours and killed five persons, including a mother and her baby and destroyed billions of naira worth of properties due to the ineffectiveness of the fire service in the State.
A few months before, we had the unlawful arrest and detention of Omoyele Sowore for alleged treason. In November of the same year, we had the Social Media Bill, seeking essentially to unnecessarily regulate social media free speech. In December, we lost Moradeun Balogun because of the incompetence of the healthcare system. We had various cases of police brutality and so many ills that rocked the country. Towards the end of the year, Fisayo Soyombo, a journalist went undercover to Nigeria police stations and prisons to reveal the endemic corruption that went on there as well as in our courts.
Sadly, this did not trend. Very little youths engaged this as with the other incidents I have mentioned. For most who engaged, it was for the slightest while, and it was in a bid to jump on a moving train merely to enjoy the wind. Might I also mention the exodus of Nigerians to Canada and other countries in search of green pastures?
There is no doubt that there is widespread apathy for the country, especially among youths. The average Nigerian does not care about the government or what it does. They do not believe in the sincerity of elections, the independence of the judiciary or the workability of any Nigerian systems.
To the average Nigerian, law enforcement is a rabid dog whose leash can be held by anyone as long as the money is right. Education leaves much to be desired, healthcare is non-existent, and the young Nigerian merely wants a way out – a quick means of making money and enjoying his/her life.
The rise of ‘yahoo yahoo’ and other fraudulent practices is on the rise; more young people are resorting to drugs and crime and many more are being used as political thugs. There is hardly any compassion for the country or willpower to fight for whatever remains of it. Instead, a selfish desire to live free and disregard any existing norms is what fuels the youth. Reality TV shows provide some respite from the problem-riddled life the country creates; so we have millions of youth poring over these shows and disregarding the sad occurrences of the Nigerian state, because the occurrences have become almost normal.
It is heartbreaking, however, because, how can we lead as young people when we do not even know the problems that beset us and how to fix them; how can we hold the reins of the country when we do not care about her?
I was speaking to a group of students at a university event last week and after their wonderful presentations, I lamented at how many of them will leave the room forgetting the grand ideas they proposed, because Nigeria will hit them, and when made to choose between being a Nigerian – and fighting for these ideas, propagating solutions on their social media – and being a Marlian, they will choose the Marlian way because it is just easier, more fun, more in vogue and they figure that perhaps Nigeria is not worth that much trouble.
Today, moral decadence is very prevalent in Nigeria, and with it, the numbers of solution-thinking, change-making individuals are dropping. With the already crippled education system we have, the Marlian movement has further encouraged people to be school dropouts, to explore illicit sex and drugs, to engage in crime and get-rich-quick schemes and to disregard law enforcement.
This is what our children are growing up into and this is why our youth cannot challenge the status quo.
It is alarming how a country with so many brilliant, talented and skilled people will continually be led by the worst coterie. This will never change as long as we choose to be Marlians rather than Nigerians-patriotic, angry Nigerians. I do not make a case for the Nigerian government or its agencies – not in the least- I make a case for Nigeria.
Caleb, a lawyer and commentator on development issues, wrote from Lagos