Youth, leadership and the future of democracy in Nigeria

By Muhammad Muntasir Adamu

Today’s world, everywhere you look these days, from books to seminars, conferences, magazine stories, someone is trying to peddle his version of tomorrow. Historians, economist, demographers, businessmen etc embark upon long range planning by looking at dates, detecting trends and estimating from the facts already known so as to tell in advance what is expected to happen. In fact in some part of the world, the year 2000 is practically over for the futurist, they now have their minds on the year 3000 and beyond.
In the history of the world, change often starts with the young. Young people look at the world with fresh eyes. They see the world as it is and ask “why?” and imagine a different world and ask “why not?” George Bernard Shaw and Robert Kennedy asked these questions long ago, but young people today are asking them again.
As it is today there exist a certain degree of tension between what the youth of this nation has already achieved and what it should become. As far as we can see the people are unanimous in their conviction that economic and socio-political performance of this nation is far below its potential and expectations.
As one of my political mentors Late Sen.G.N.S Pwajok opined, Nigeria is a compelling paradox. On the other hand, a nation endowed with vast natural and human resources. But, on the other hand, a nation that has consistently, yielded to the curious paralysis of the will when it comes to judiciously harnessing the resources for her good. The Nigerian condition suggests a history of raised hopes and unrealized expectations; of want in the midst of plenty; of poverty in the midst of affluence and ‘doom’ in the midst of ‘boom’. There is today in Nigeria a conflict between the past and the present as well as between the present and the future.
As a nation, we have experienced years of civilian government and military rule through coups and periods of intense political strife. When there was increasing in oil earning, we witnessed influx of the petro-naira. However, the huge inflow of financial resources has not come close to solving the basic problem of mass—poverty. But unfortunately as we speak now, we don’t have such petro-naira anymore due to the fall of crude oil in the global market. In the present Nigeria, most States can’t even afford to pay salaries talk less of embarking on infrastructural projects.
Professor Chinua Achebe in his book “The Problem with Nigeria” has insisted that “the problem of Nigeria is simply and squarely the failure of leadership”. Thus beyond the past and present leadership, Achebe’s x-ray also posed fundamental questions about the potentials of the so called “new breed” or younger politicians to transform Nigeria into an economic prosperous country.
Young people have a major role to play in all of these by ensuring that democratic politics is not played along undemocratic lines so that the hope of political freedom and economic betterment does not continue to elude the people. In addition to their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilize support, young people must maintain unique perspectives on issues bordering on the survival of Nigeria. This is more so in a situation where the capacity of democratic institutions has continued be whittled and citizens are turning their backs on politics. It is only a matter of time before the little advances recorded become consumed in the waters of unfolding contradictions if the youth are not oriented on the importance of peaceful coexistence, social growth and development. How our communities progress is determined to a large extent, on how much the youth are involved in building and designing the future. As Senator Pwajok observed, as we prepare for the future to avoid failure we need to take consideration of the following:
We must realize the future is rushing on us as breakneck speed A leader’s concentration must not be on the past nor on the present but on the future Vision is an effective leader’s chief preoccupation This country can be reinvented with new generations of dreamers.
It was Malcom X that said “…they got to be a changed. People in power have misused it. A better world has to build and for it to be built, it has to be with extreme measures. I for one will join with anyone. I don’t care who you are, what colour who are or where you are from, as long as you are ready to change the miserable condition we found ourselves on this planet”. This is a call on my fellow Nigeria youth for us decide the kind future we want to see ourselves and generations to come. The future is now and it is far becoming yesterday.

Muhammad Muntasir Adamu is a Public Affairs Analyst.

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