Porridge, Birthrights and Nigerian Youths

Olufemi Oluwaseye

My generation has obviously been bewitched. I’m sure of that because everyday, I keep seeing reasons to believe it. It’s a huge shame that despite the fact that no generation of Nigerians has ever been more exposed to opportunities for self and leadership development, no generation is as unprepared for leadership as this generation of youths in Nigeria.

We all claim Nigeria is not well governed. Yes, it’s true. But replace leaders at all levels and in every sector with our present set of Under-30s, and watch the society collapse like the Berlin Wall. Strange and sad. Vocal, but without principles; vain, loud-mouthed, arrogant, like empty vessels: high sounding, but often emitting little sense. My generation is consumed more by English football and music than any serious composure can cause a positive change. My generation is so feeble, highly impressionable, hardly thinks for itself, moves quickly with a bandwagon, finds what’s trending, and thoughtlessly joins the chariot, is easily used, and hardly sits down for any serious reasoning.

My generation is given to idol worship. Rather than seize the future and make what it wants out of it, we rather look for old men we can attach ourselves to like parasites, and like glorified praise singers- that’s actually what we are-, sing the praise of our idols to the high heavens, even dream of them, and sheepishly derive (as much as) orgasmic pleasure in seeing them ride over our heads, and that of our parents, into their own fiefdom.

Our generation is the ideal “playstation” generation. While the real men are out on the field of play, with real spectators and REAL money, a person can sit behind a computer, and play a simulated version of a football game, nay, even an entire tournament. Somehow, he feels fulfilled and often transports himself into the frenzied world of glory and achievement. He sits behind a laptop, maybe hungry, as he goes on the journey of illusion. When he returns from probably winning the “champions league” or maybe even the “world cup”, he has no prize money to show for it. Only wasted time. But thoroughly enjoyed wasted time. The enjoyment prevents any serious reasonings and soul searching.

I see the elders, who have seen the unfortunate pursuit of vanity our generation has chosen to pursue, as the REAL football players. They attract REAL fans, and make the REAL money. They haven’t left our youths empty handed though. They have offered them “playstation”. Where they can enjoy glory in their world of illusion.

At newspaper stands, daily, they are out early. More often out of job, they passionately debate people. Whereas it has been said that “great men discuss ideas, average men discuss events, while ordinary men discuss personalities”; our youths are not just ordinary. They are ordinary of ordinary. Every day at newspaper stands, they form two parallel lines where they pitch their tents with favourite politicians. Like football fans (the word is unfortunately cropped from the word “fanatic”), they blindly attack opponents and support their men, regardless of how well or poorly the men have done. These old men our youths are ready to die for, are often those who have been their since eternity, and are only going to be separated from our national cake by death. Take a certain Abubakar Audu for example. He was governor of Kogi state in 1991 and 1999; contested in 2003, 2007, 2011, and would contest later this year. And his case is even mild. A certain Audu Ogbe, recently confirmed a minister had been in government since the 70s. Before most of our generation of youths were born.

But rewind to 1960. We had Major Generals below 30 years of age. Yakubu Gowon was a General before he was 30, was head of State at 32, and ruled for nine years. In the meantime, he executed a war that kept Nigeria together, and instituted the NYSC. At 32! A typical 32 year old “boy” today is all about twitter, Facebook, Arsenal, and music download. He hardly even leads himself aright. Hell no! He won’t lead a nation. The generation of men that fought for, and got independence for Nigeria were in their 30s. President Buhari WAS a military governor, and a minister of petroleum in his 30s. And we know these men did well. How many thirty year Olds can handle such today? Where did our generation miss it?

First, it’s in the value system. Maybe because we were born during the worst spell of Nigeria’s existence (Babangida-Abacha era), we grew up pursuing the wrong values. Blinded by greed, the love of money beclouded our sense of reasoning. We were not configured to serve humanity, but merely survive. And whatever would fetch money, as long as it won’t fetch us jail time, is OK. So people study programmes at Universities, not for what they intend to do with it, but how much they hope to make out of it. People are dumping their certificates for whatever is the latest money spinning thing, from comedy, to (often meaningless) music, from sports to licking politicians’ boots. Whereas the only way to becoming leaders is by serving.

We have a great problem with values. Someone told me of the lucrative value of blogs. And told me of how a certain Linda Ikeji was able to make hundreds of millions from blogging. I quickly reminded her that there are countless blogs online already. But that the problem was WHAT Linda was blogging- gossips. So, because someone made billions from gossip doesn’t make gossip right. Guess what? I was called a hater. Whatever.

What happened to smart invention. What happened to literature. Who is developing softwares that can cure the endemic traffic crisis in Lagos, or is developing a system that would solve the problem of flooding? Who is thinking of making education really accessible to northerners, and who has developed a better idea to the current unsustainable and no-brainer NYSC scheme? Who is looking for ways to impact the society beyond what money can offer them? Rather, they are listening to dirty lyrics from Olamide and Wizkid (whose picture I recently saw openly smoking WEED), searching for their names on coke bottles (really?), and joining in every debate about how Jonathan and not Buhari should have won, and vice versa.

When the greedy old generation (which plundered Nigeria and won’t apologize for doing so) saw the vanity in the minds of the youths, they saw them as nothing but tools to be used as long as money is involved. What’s more, since idolatry is our favourite pastime, they only need to elevate a few of us, before we start worshipping them too. We idolize them, and become zombies. We do what they want us to do. And we hardly sit down to think, “Where am I heading with this?”

We need to snatch back our future from two sets of persons. First; from ourselves. As young men we must deliver ourselves from vanity. There’s nothing wrong watching a football game to relax. But for crying out loud, all the passion and energy we expend on supporting Arsenal and Chelsea can be better utilized in searching for answers to myriads of problems bedeviling us. We don’t want to die as the generation that sold their birthright, which is leadership and dominion, for mere porridge, mere cash that has little value. Then we have to take back our future from our fathers (and grandfathers!). We need to say ENOUGH! We need to take back our future, or walk back into it. But in any case, we form the highest bloc of people by population. We can decide to take chart our own future, and lead ourselves there.

My major challenge is that the old, wasteful generation is dying out (some of them would have to practically fall down dead in their posts), but my generation is unfortunately unprepared for leadership. Visit our twittersphere, where they hold sway. Often an intellectual discourse degenerates into an exchange of fiery and bitter insults that makes you wonder whether it’s a boxing match they are preparing for. Motivated by whatever idol he worships, a youth online would go into any length to defend his territory. And that example of playstation and a real football field is apt on twitter. There, there are imaginary presidents, governors and ministers, who by the number of their followers, rule. Unfortunately, except we radically change our values system, the only place our generation will lead and rule from would be their smart phones.

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