March 29, 2021

ANAMBRA 2021: Imperative for youth in emerging leadership calculation

Anambra Tribunal

By Ejike Onuogu

As the Anambra State election of November 6, 2021 approaches, youth empowerment must be our mantra and imperative; and must re-define our body polity if we must take our beloved State to a new level of global competitiveness. The people of this state, like their Brethren in the Sister states of Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia have a shared heritage and history.

Their journey over time has been captured in the reflections of Elizabeth Kubler Ross, when she said “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”

Since the end of the civil war, the Igbo nation has struggled to formulate a cohesive bargaining chip formatted and championed by unadulterated representation with a nationalist vista. The failure to bridge the gap between the old and the new explains why our current ambassadors have not projected the unified agenda of our pre-colonial nationalists, who invested heavily on youth empowerment in keeping with the doctrine that the child is the father of the man.

Youth empowerment is not a grandiose delusion; rather it is sine qua non in the existential pursuit of regular order in our body polity. In other words, it is the foundation stone of the re-birth of a broken nation where there has been a cyclical endurance of pouring new wine into old skin until the latter gives up the ghost.

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This has been the challenge of many African states where most of our leaders are wheelchair-bound, some sleep with one eye open, some have forgotten the names of their spouses, and yet they continue to preside over the affairs of their state, making sensitive decisions that could have dire consequences.

Youth empowerment is not about the emergence of a ragtag army of hoodlums, usurping the affairs of a nation by hook or crook, and holding a generation hostage by invoking the power of clandestine tactics and other dark practices. The unfortunate end result is a society in stagnation, with no strategic agenda, a society bereft of effective policies and practices designed to lift itself out of a hell hole of bureaucratic ineptitude.

Such a society comes first in fanfare, pomp and pageantry, and bombastic expletives and platitudes, but ranks the lowest in food production index, ranks highest in unemployment, infrastructure decay, environmental pollution, a faulty education system that cannot match the challenges of the twenty-first century; a moribund health delivery apparatus that explains our current exponential rise in patient mortality index.

The suppression of youths has been the repertoire of many African nations. Despotic leaders have used this as a way to perpetuate their stay in office. Indeed, this practice has historical antecedents where states adopting feudalistic hegemony have consistently suppressed the voice of the people and promulgated laws limiting group associations or the emergence of town unions. In this regard, the opportunity for dissenting views is permanently lost.

When elections were first conducted in 508 BC in ancient Greece, the people voted on which political leader or officials that should be sent into exile for the next ten years. These votes were cast using segments of broken pots called Ostraka from which the word ostracize emerged.

Unfortunately, these votes were limited to only male landowners and excluded women and young male adults. The threshold was 6000 votes! And you are exiled for ten years. In reality, elections are designed for people to cast legitimate votes to support the emergence of a representative government of the people at local, state or Federal level.

Elections are designed to be seamless with an electoral commission overseeing the process. The electoral process is about a debate of ideas and character with the people given a free hand to choose from amongst a myriad of candidates, whose ideas fit public expectation and whose character carries decorum and profiles probity as a modus operandi.

Nigerians have watched with awe the systematic erosion of clarity in this process and the deviation of the electoral commission from being an independent umpire to being an extension of one political party and more specifically the party in office.

Unfortunately, for decades now, the Nigerian electoral system has been turned into a charade filled by men and women with no scruples, individuals who put the self first and the people last, men and women who have no iota of love for their country but would rather pledge allegiance to a sectional ideology just to come to political attention.

We churn out engineers every year: chemical, agricultural, electrical, mechanical, electronic, petroleum, yet we cannot harness their expertise in nurturing a Project Development Institute that lays the foundation for small scale industries, and so pave way for a vibrant “made in Nigeria” technology that is appreciated by the rest of the world. Could this explain why Nigeria is in darkness year in year out so that clandestinely will continue to flourish?

The healthcare delivery apparatus has decayed to a level where its resuscitation is a national emergency and requires a task force approach. The current healthcare apparatus is not only lacking in inventory, it is lacking in infrastructure, accessibility and sustainable personnel. The answer lies in the fact that no nation has achieved meaningful and sustainable growth without carrying the youth along.

Youth empowerment is a form of leadership and a time-sensitive revolution in the pursuit of a virile and vibrant state. To awaken the consciousness of the youth is a call to duty. It is a call to the inner self to reveal itself and awaken to new responsibilities and new challenges.

When this consciousness becomes established, our society will be free; and yes free from the unseen hands that have for years chained “Prometheus” to the rock. When this consciousness becomes established, our youth will understand their relevance in every election cycle and that every single vote can make a difference in determining who leads our people on the path to victory and self-fulfillment.

When this consciousness becomes immortalized, it will galvanize an army of youths marching to the polling booth to elect a leader who will carry our banner and our aspirations. In short order, we shall no longer accept parcels of food and money so as to mortgage our conscience and sell our votes to the highest bidder.

As Peter Drucker put it, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked. Leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”

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Therefore, the upcoming November 6 election in Anambra State will be a referendum on the survivability of youths all over Nigeria. The youths of Anambra will once more be provided with an opportunity to take their destiny into their hands and use the power of voter franchise to change the trajectory of governance in the State.

Short of using the power of ostraka to send into exile, all the bad moles that have eaten up our society, they should adopt the positive dimension of introducing pragmatic Leadership. One that will welcome the youth aboard the new ship that once at sea will carry the people of Anambra and by extension, the Igbo nation, across a void of ocean of opportunities for a new beginning and a predictable future.

Indeed, this would be the moment that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India spoke about on the eve of independence of the State of India: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge…At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”

And in the same vein, may it be said that on November 6, 2021, when our youth decide that the day has come to take their destiny in their hands, Anambra State will awake to life and freedom.

Dr. Onuogu lives in New York, United States of America

Vanguard News Nigeria