…I am indeed concerned by the seething anger among the urban youths of Lagos and other state capitals, especially those who voted en masse for the Obi-Datti ticket, which is anchored on those three principles I described above that I don’t believe is sustainable or even appropriate for the development of Nigeria… There must be a way to reach the angry Nigerian – especially the youths. There must be a way of engaging them and selling a positive vision to them.
In the recently concluded elections, the Labour Party has ridden on the anger of youths – and, of course, a lot of adults – around the country, to post a very impressive first-time performance for Mr Peter Obi. Admixed with that – perhaps as a foundation – is also the quest by Igbos to have a shot at the presidency of Nigeria, after decades of what many describe as deliberate exclusion or conspiracy against them. The performance of the Labour Party – which has eaten away considerably at the opposition power of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – is one helluva complex phenomenon to unpack, but try I will. The ethnic fervour is surely a factor, and a valid one at that. Add to these two, Mr Obi’s appeal to Christians around the country. This last part was not taken on board in the rather religiously-liberal South-West, where people seem not to be cowed by their many fire-spitting pastors. But this may have been a major factor in states like Taraba, Nasarawa, and Plateau. So, Peter ran with three emotional forces – youth anger, ethnic assertion, and the very deep-rooted and powerful Christian persecution mentality. As a Christian myself (even though of the very liberal hue), I grew up in the middle of Pentecostalism and I am very aware of the stories they tell about the fierce and often deadly ‘God-ordained’ competition with Islam.
This is a powerful combination. At the end, Mr Obi had a mishmash of followers, many of whom refused to see whether the basis on which they had formed a quick alliance will augur well for the country, or even if such a platform was in their enlightened best interest. There were Muslim youths who were ‘tired of the status quo’, who were in that alliance with fierce Pentecostal and even catholic preachers, whose pursuit was in detriment to Islam – and vice versa. And there were no umpires within that setup who could call a truce, in case they found power. There were millions of non-Igbo people in that alliance who had signed up to drink from the same chalice as active members of separatist groups and who were just moonlighting as nationalists for a purpose.
The Senate candidate who was killed in Enugu, in a very gory massacre, Barrister Oyibo Chukwu, in his lifetime was also a fierce Igbo nationalist who really didn’t believe in the entity called Nigeria. I have viewed a video in which, two years ago, he addressed a townhall meeting somewhere in the east of Nigeria, explaining to young men how the Igbos could liberate themselves from Nigeria. One of the key strategies he mentioned was that they should get an Igbo person to be president. Brimming with what could be termed as a superiority complex, he averred that an Igbo president will dismantle Nigeria very quickly ‘without firing a shot’. He also urged Igbo youths to become suicidal in the hue of the Japanese Kamikazes who dove their small planes into huge American warships during the Second World War. I was more than alarmed. Allegedly, he ended up being murdered and roasted by the same elements he fought for. Most unfortunately. This was why I refused to join the Obidient camp, no matter how many insults, accusations, name-callings and impugnments I received. I just don’t believe in queueing up behind a bunch of negative emotions.
I am a live-and-let-live guy. I don’t believe that my Yoruba ethnic stock is better than others. Or maybe we are better at some things and worse at others – like everyone else. I don’t believe in the war between Christians and Muslims. I saw how that played out for my father as a teenager. The Pentecostal pastors took everything he had as he struggled through financial problems, even when we his children had no clothes on our backs. We prayed and prayed and prayed. But things never improved for him until we started taking care of him. He’s gone now but I remember him expressing some bitter skepticism about the Nigerian brand of Christianity and their focus on money, close to the tail-end of his time on earth. I couldn’t believe my ears that day. My Dad, the prayer warrior, expressing anger at the way the church had turned out in Nigeria. Perhaps that was why I was glad to marry into Catholicism. I saw they were less meddlesome and didn’t enslave members by demanding money from them all the time. But in this political season, the Catholic Church in Nigeria went into overdrive. In the parish where I registered but rarely attend, someone called me to ask where I was one Sunday as they had called my name out to charge me and others to support Obi – by force, by fire. I was afraid and have avoided that parish since then. We have seen other priests and Bishops threaten their members about the election, invoking curses on those who refuse to vote for Peter Obi. Now, I don’t play that. I believe rather in the God of second and third and fourth chances. I believe in that God that sometimes uses those whom the world has condemned, for great things; the kind of God who can use a Bola Tinubu, condemned and hated by many, dismissed for several reasons, deeply disdained, and all that, for greatness in the society called Nigeria.
I think I have fairly explained why I couldn’t and will not join the ‘Obidient’ group based on the first two passions – religion and ethnic fervour – even though I believe in equity; so I understand where the ethnic angle is coming from, and it needs to be redressed, even though the whole story needs to be told. You see, I believe that we cannot achieve that equity by force, or by telling a one-sided story. We all have to commit to telling the truth and making some sacrifices. We certainly cannot achieve this by holding on to deep prejudice, or by repeating sentiments that belittle others with whom we share the same national space. What do I mean by this? There had been recorded killings of Igbos up North, even before Nigeria got her independence. These had already created tension between the two groups. Then the first coup happened and targeted mainly Northern leaders. Unfortunately, this coup was masterminded by mostly military men from the then Midwest (today the Igbo-speaking parts of Delta State). The retaliatory coup happened shortly after and was bloody. Eastern military men were taken out. Soon Nigeria would be going into a full-blown civil war for three years (1967-70).
The civil war was costly in terms of human lives, especially in the East of Nigeria. All these happened in seven quick years after self-rule started in Nigeria. Just seven years! Truth be told, many of the leaders were in their 40s and early 30s. Some were even in their 20s! We were short of personnel and inexperience was rife. Many had just come over to the big cities from their villages and were naturally ethnic champions who were worshipped by their people. They were the best among their people. The brainiest. The smartest. Imagine then that they were wasted in the goriest of manner at the peak of their careers! So, as we engage the subject of Igbo exclusion from the highest office in the land, there is need to be very truthful about all that happened in the past and begin to heal. That will take some maturity to achieve. The Nigerian government should also recognise a holiday for the civil war. But for now, what many of our young people who don’t even know the history do, is to twist the hot knife in this wound from time to time, especially on social media.
I strove hard to tell those children that day that they have no right – as yet – to think that way about their country because it is they who should fix this country. There are many reasons why we should never despair about our country. You cannot fix a country you do not love, because you lack understanding and knowledge about how other people built their countries; you are only interested in the glitz and glamour and neat ambience of those countries you are privileged to visit.
My main concern in this article is actually the youths. I was recently at an event organised by the DailyTrust Group in Abuja and they had invited some secondary school students. When it was question time, a few of the kids got up and expressed the loss of hope in Nigeria. They were the private school types, raised by DSTV and the internet, who often thumb their noses at their country because they are used to summer travels and white Christmas abroad. But I couldn’t blame them much, because almost every adult who spoke that day, also expressed loss of hope in Nigeria. So, the kids also echoed the adults. This is where I don’t get it. I have quite a number of friends who must have good account balances in Lagos and elsewhere in Nigeria, but they still express bitter anger at their country. I am beginning to think that they don’t have a real cause for this anger but need to look inwards. I strove hard to tell those children that day that they have no right – as yet – to think that way about their country because it is they who should fix this country. There are many reasons why we should never despair about our country. You cannot fix a country you do not love, because you lack understanding and knowledge about how other people built their countries; you are only interested in the glitz and glamour and neat ambience of those countries you are privileged to visit. Some of those reasons include:
- Every country that is successful was built by its own people. In fact, the correct response to a bad Nigeria is that we should remain here and fix this place;
- It takes time and great effort, sweat, tears and blood, to build a country. Nobody will do it for you;
- Nigeria is really a great country in terms of opportunities – especially for those who are open to hard work and sacrificing for motherland;
- Nigeria is a beautiful country with great weather, great assets and incredible topographies that needs to be discovered;
- Being abroad often looks better on the surface but you will never be fully accepted there. Also, there are many frustrations that come with life, and it differs from place to place. For example, we have many friends who complain of oppressive tax systems, racism, the chokehold of the credit system, and other vicegrips in those beautiful countries. You can japa now, but may regret this later;
- You have to think forward ten, twenty years because there comes a time when making money does not give you that fulfilment. By then, it may be tough to reintegrate back into this society. And you may not have made much. In fact, whatever you make abroad, stays abroad. We therefore have millions of frustrated but stuck emigrants in those countries today – slaves to the system;
- Honestly, there is no respect abroad. I know 65 year-olds who wash their own cars in the cold. And money is incredibly tough to come by;
- You cannot suddenly make it big abroad unlike here. Ask yourself why Caucasians, Chinese, Lebanese and Indians never leave here. Just as you are leaving, they are coming. Is there something they know that you don’t?
- Don’t be deceived by the exchange rate. There is something called Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). It basically says that if you earn say N500,000 per month here (which is like $1,000 just for ease of calculation), you may live better and more comfortably than someone who earns $5,000 per month in America. So, if someone tells you you could come abroad and earn $1,000 per month, don’t look at it as N500,000. Divide that by at least five. Could be worse. Someone earning $3,000 monthly in the US is actually a poor person, even though that is like N1.5 million per month here. Someone earning £2,500 monthly is also quite poor.
So, still on the youths, I once tried to do extensive work on cognitive bias or dissonances. These are psychological terms that refer to some beliefs that we hold to be true and with which we operate daily. They are ideas inserted deep in our minds, which we don’t even think about, but about which if we paused, we would realise they are false. As we grow, we tend to have more of these biases. Age and experience should grant us wisdom so that we outgrow these dissonances, but we hardly do. They are:
- That the grass is always greener on the other side. It usually is not. And if it really is, it’s because your neighbour probably spends more time tending his grass and investing in it;
- That yesterday is always better than today. Many times, it is not. Many of the youths complaining about Nigeria and Lagos today and speaking in such depressing manner, would have been more frustrated if they were teenagers a couple of decades back. But we grew up then, in relative want, but never derided our nation the way they now do. It was the military days anyway. Everyone knew their bounds;
- Money and things do not bring happiness. We just end up trying to fill an unfillable void. The Nigerian youths who organised EndSARS were mostly children of very rich people, who were themselves very rich. Still, they complain a lot, and bitterly too. The question is; why? Boredom? Rootlessness? Did their parents throw money at problems that require something else? How come the angriest youths in Nigeria are the most-privileged? And they aren’t angry because they want a better nation for all, necessarily. It’s more about them comparing Nigeria with abroad. We are talking about the generation that wants success without a story. And the disconnection from, and ignorance of history is now proving to have disastrous, existential consequences on our nation. I typed this article sitting between students of Day Waterman Secondary School, returning on a flight to Lagos. The girls were kitted in mini-skirts, showing generous laps, ready to tempt the male world into insanity. This is one of the most expensive schools in Nigeria. These are the children of Nigeria’s uber-rich. I could bet that they are not being trained to love Nigeria, to see through history and understand the sheer backbreaking work that results in national development. They are trained to speak up, and many – most – end up being adept at speaking up about other people, never introspecting that they may be the problem, or feeling a bit contrite that they may have been beneficiaries of the largesses that left Nigeria crippled. Leave Nigeria in the hands of these ones, and if we don’t start to ground them, they will ruin the country and sell it off in another 15 years from now. Or they will go abroad and start throwing barbs that lead to the disintegration of the country;
- Nigeria is a useless, dirty country. This is another rife belief and oft-repeated statement. But in cleaning it up lies the money that is to be made. Also, the best way to find happiness is to give of yourself – your time, money, excess clothes, properties and so one. Everything you see as being chaotic in Nigeria is indeed an opportunity;
- It is the end of history. This is often the attitude we get. Nigeria is 62 years old. They say we have killed the country. That we have wasted 62 years doing rubbish. But recall the first 10 years of confusion that I described above? Then came about 30 years of military rule. We’ve only had a fair stretch of 24 years of civilian self-rule since 1999. The experiment so far has shown that we are yet immature. Politicians mostly fend for themselves, and a lot of looting goes on. But it is not the end of the world and the solution to a headache is not self-decapitation. We are still writing history. History is not about to end. But many people always have that foreboding feeling that time is ending, and things must immediately change and if it does not, they believe in tearing the system down. Many youths have been threatening that they will burn the country down if their candidate is not declared a winner.
In pursuit of this goodness, however, the young Nigerian should also look inwards. Ensure you have a good attitude to life and that that positivism shows through in your outlook, actions and thoughts. People with positive attitudes will see the world gravitate to them, even though they will also see their own fair share of tribulations, disappointments and betrayals. They will get jobs, and their businesses will thrive. They are also likely to find good partners.
So, I am indeed concerned by the seething anger among the urban youths of Lagos and other state capitals, especially those who voted en masse for the Obi-Datti ticket, which is anchored on those three principles I described above that I don’t believe is sustainable or even appropriate for the development of Nigeria. Some people don’t want to entertain the idea of a united Nigeria (and I’ve started to see, just as it appeared during EndSARS, hashtags for EndNigeria, just because their candidate did not win an election), but I see that as a task that we can achieve; indeed a task that we have been saddled with. There must be a way to reach the angry Nigerian – especially the youths. There must be a way of engaging them and selling a positive vision to them.
One thing I will advise is that we all delve into as much history as possible – young and old. The more I read history – of Africa, of the tribes of Nigeria, of Britain and America and just about everywhere else – the more confident I became that we can make Nigeria work and that though the progress may be slow, we need not destroy the country out of anger when we could have bided our time and ‘take off’ like Chinese bamboo at some point. The more I went into history, the more I saw that other countries had gone through this stage that we are (in slightly different ways), and many were worse. And I saw the kind of hard work they went through to get to where they are today. This is why I have been harping on hard work for all. We seem stuck at a point where everybody is seeking comfort and enjoyment with the littlest of effort and value-addition. This is why we are permanently stuck with importing everything, while producing nothing. Many have become mega-rich on the back of our import addiction and so should show some contrition. I put out a long article on the history of American democracy which I believe could be of help to our restless youths. Nigeria is an open sesame, a clean canvass, a great opportunity for anyone who would like to add value. We should be careful not to leave this space to foreigners, at the mercy of a disconnected generation of entitled Nigerians, or ne’er-do-wells, only to be complaining about how bad things are from abroad.
In pursuit of this goodness, however, the young Nigerian should also look inwards. Ensure you have a good attitude to life and that that positivism shows through in your outlook, actions and thoughts. People with positive attitudes will see the world gravitate to them, even though they will also see their own fair share of tribulations, disappointments and betrayals. They will get jobs, and their businesses will thrive. They are also likely to find good partners. Nigerian youths should stop going around with the idea that someone somewhere is cheating them or about to cheat them. They shouldn’t imagine every leader as a thief. This kind of thinking limits their potentials. For Nigeria to get forward too, our youths must develop a spirit of magnanimity. Nigerians used to be very generous but the realities of economics has made the current youth generation into selfish lots. Also, prejudiced stories passed down by parents have reduced the kind of cohesion we could have had among our youth. I am preaching the right spirit and attitude that Nigerian youths need to have today for a better society; the kind of attitude that makes them see good where others see bad – like the two Biblical spies who brought back great news from where a dozen others had brought back tales of woe. For as many as understand, so also shall it be good for them.
Lastly, is humility. Humility conquers all. Humility is actually for those who are really proud of what they have inside, but know that what they don’t know or have, is far more than what they know and have. Humble people don’t wear their wealth on their sleeves. They appreciate the little things of life and are not into comparing their own achievements with others.
I hope that with the little I have written today, someone else can expand it to many young people in our society today. Patriotism is what we are missing. And patriotism is about loving your nation even when she disappoints you sometimes – like your child, your kin. Patriotism is valuable and is the key ingredient required for national greatness. We just must get there as a people.
‘Tope Fasua, an economist, author, blogger, entrepreneur, and recent presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), can be reached through email@example.com.
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