By Abachi Ungbo
In effect, authorities failed overtime to harness the energies, the risk taking and inquisitive nature as well as inventiveness of its burgeoning youthful population. They were busy twiddling their thumbs while danger lurked.
It was regrettable that the protest was hijacked by hoodlums. However, #EndSARS was a vehicle for stating in no uncertain terms where government got off concerning the parlous state of affairs of the country. There’s no running away from the fact that a well intentioned idea birthed the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) with record of resounding successes in their operation across the country.
Soon, the squad became inebriated with naked power and impunity. Then, gained notoriety for intimidation, extra-judicial killings, corruption and arbitrary arrests. Accordingly, exposing itself to public opprobrium. The #EndSARS campaigners easily assembled youthful sympathizers for the cause owing to the greater exposure of this segment of the population to the squad’s brutality.
The youth bulge is real. It has the potential to make or mar any Nation. The United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed that the population in Nigeria rose to 201 million in 2019. The age distribution of 15-64 years is the highest population composition with 54 % of Nigerians falling within the age range. 44 % are within the age distribution of 0-14 while 32% of the population is between 10-24 years and the least falls within 65 years and above comprising 3%. This affirm that Nigeria has one of the highest youth demographics in the world.
However, the youthful population is unengaged and suffers extreme unemployment in a country that is stuck in socioeconomic doldrums. In truth, unemployment steals dignity, plunges its victim into psychological pressure. It opens the door to despair and allowing desperation to settle in. Then, turns the victim to a ticking bomb.
Citizens grin and bear atrocious living conditions created by an uncaring system. Hunger and poverty runs so deep, so much so that the country has supplanted India to assume the unenviable status of poverty capital of the world. Education is hardly given a pride of place. And, we continue to languish at the lower rung of the Human Development Index (HDI). The lingering ASUU-FGN impasse is a shameful case in point of our disposition towards the development of the future of the country.
The Health sector is decidedly a nightmare and a collective shame. Budgetary allocation to the critical sector remains paltry. Quality health care is inaccessible to the poor. While, the country significantly contribute to the global health tourism which eloquently typifies the sad state of the sector. The country has become a clear reflection of the Hobbesian State of Nature where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
Corruption continues to fester like a bad sore while the government makes light of the campaign against it. The fight against the monster is not blind. Those in the good books of the government of the day gets a slap on the wrist making the fight against corruption lose trust.
The maelstrom was a safety valve for the suppressed energies, pent up anger. Anger against a system that have treated them unjustly and without empathy. Effectively, pushing them down the totem pole of our priorities. It was a struggle against entrenched social injustice and against cavalier leadership that promotes self over the rest.
We saw an army of youth flushed with anger and frustration. They were the products of a dysfunctional system that has left them to swim or sink while the privilege few display obscene ostentation. They are as good as cannon fodder. And, have been weaponized for political gains.
Today, in the country, unity exist on the lips and not in the heart. Patriotism is non-existent and allegiance is to parochial interests. Our leaders display tunnel vision and view things through ethno- religious coloured spectacles.
Again, ethno-religious chauvinism remains active and stand in the light of our progress with merit made expendable in the pursuit of primordial ends.
The leadership production chain is fraught with anomalies that is prejudiced against qualified candidates. Basically, the system is made to spawn political office holders who are beholden to their principals effectively leading to reckless impunity. It goes without saying, that the electoral process have been compromised to upend popular wishes.
Without a doubt, the protest enjoyed not a few covert and overt cheerleaders owing to the betrayal of the social contract by the country’s leadership. It is a telling leadership failure across board except for few notable exceptions. We have seen leaders abjectly failing the minimum test of leadership. Our diversity and collective wealth effectively mismanaged.
If the unity of the country really matters. Then, there is no auspicious time to begin the reordering of our priorities and reinventing the old, creaky and unproductive system that have stymied our progress. Well, government may not be barking the wrong tree, if it revisit and sift through the many recommendations of the 1994-95 constitutional conference, National Political Reform Conference, 2005 and the 2014 National Conference for some workable solutions. The youth need to start throwing themselves into the political fray.
The reset button needs to be activated in ushering the country into a new world of equity, good governance, security, stability and accelerated socioeconomic development.
Abachi Ungbo can be reached at email@example.com