By Francis Aubee
Injustice to one is an injustice to all. When fundamental human rights are grossly abused, a fight for survival is bound to happen. This has been the case in Nigeria over the past few weeks and in other African states. It is time for the status quo to change. Time and time again the youths have been told that they are the “leaders of tomorrow” but that is one of the most futile, nonsensical, and implicitly repressive statements. The youths are not even afforded a chance to live and succeed. There is so much potential in the African youth, and this is something that cannot be ignored as an African leader.
Few macrosystems are self-correcting and governments are not one of them. There has been a great distrust for states and their self-serving institutions and that is not changing anytime soon. Many public institutions across Africa are filled with crippling inefficiency, negligence, and brazen corruption. From Nigeria to Zimbabwe, Namibia to Congo, Cameroon to South Africa, citizens are demanding two things — their right to life and justice for the slain. The right to life ought to be sacred and protected, instead, men, women, and children now have to demand and fight for it from the state, police, exploiters, and oppressors. The bloodied social contract must be torn apart. Governments in Africa do not uphold their own side of the bargain — to protect lives and properties.
Humans are irrational; states aggregate that and act with greater irrationality. States are amoral and largely interest-driven. Though power comes with responsibilities, our leaders often ignore most of their fundamental responsibilities and for this, the people are saying — ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. If ever a curse was placed on African countries, it must have been in the form of our governments. Only when we unite do we begin to realize that our political elites cannot be separated by ideology regardless of the political party. But remember this — power is transient, no single man or woman has a monopoly on it for life.
We have a lot of work to do as Africans to uplift our countries and eventually our dear continent out of the shackles of poverty, exploitation, human rights abuse, corruption, and lackadaisical governments. Currently, meaningful economic, political, and infrastructural progress remains elusive.
For poverty to be eradicated in Africa by 2030, “more than one person would need to escape poverty every second’’ (Kharas et al., 2018). This is sad and frightening. By the time you finish reading this article, approximately 300 people should have escaped poverty, but that will not be the case. The constant romanticization of Africa should stop. Africa in its present state is underdeveloped. The presence of numerous natural resources does not equate to higher standards of living or substantial development and until it is transformed with value-added, it remains in its present state. Do you know why countries in Africa with an abundance of resources (Ghana, Botswana, Congo, etc.) don’t lead in global GDP? GDP accounts for “final value.” Is Africa rich in natural resources? Yes. Is there exploitation? Yes. Stopping exploitation is paramount but what you do beyond that with the available resources determines a lot. This is where responsible and forward-thinking governments flex their muscles. Having a coconut tree in your compound simply means you have one. Taking the coconuts, making juice out of it, and then selling it makes a difference. The same applies to crude oil, raw diamonds, gold, cocoa, etc.
The current #EndSARS protest in Nigeria could be a remarkable turning point for the most populous black country in the world. At face value, the protest might be revolving around police brutality, but make no mistake because this movement is much more than incessant police killings. The protest which has spread rapidly across the globe is unique for three reasons: it is youth-led and well organized, leaderless, and social media driven. But why is this protest different from others before it? The simple answer — the youths are FED UP. Now mind you, Nigerians are some of the most resilient set of people you will ever come across. But decades of dealing with mediocre leaders has in effect become the norm for many generations, until recently. This juncture where the youths challenge the status quo will be a critical point in the future of Nigeria. It is no longer a case of the sleeping giant.
In Africa, you are simply your own government partly because you shoulder the very duties of the state in one way or another. For decades, many Nigerians have had to provide for themselves the same amenities their counterparts in other parts of the world enjoy from their governments. That is to say, the average Nigerian has to provide alternative sources of electricity, water, security, healthcare, and education for themselves, simply because the state has not held its end of the social contract. Affording the very basics for a decent life in Nigeria comes at a premium and is often glorified. As such, millions of youths are locked out of opportunities simply because they lack resources. Despite that, the resilience of these youths has kept them going, allowing them to thrive in hostile environments while pursuing entrepreneurial ventures to make ends meet.
Now, multiply the plight of Nigerian youths across Africa and you have one frustrated generation tired of hearing the same old story from their leaders. The truth is, African youths want a better future. One where they don’t have to risk their lives across high seas in search of a better life (as is the case in the Gambia). A conducive and dignified life is a must for future generations, otherwise, more youths would prefer to die on the high seas in search of a better life abroad, than wallow in perpetual backwardness. So, what you see in Nigeria at the moment is simply beyond police brutality, it is about comprehensive change.
Francis Aubee is a Public Policy Analyst.