By Ruth Omorodion
As a child, I remember the catchphrase: “Youths are the leaders of tomorrow”. In fact, as kids we chorused this so often that our antennas were attuned to it. And we hoped for a better future. However, as we grew older, reality dawned on us that it was all a charade.
Over the past decades, we have seen individuals who were in government when our parents were youths still in the corridors of power, generations later; individuals who promised a safer and better country doing the exact opposite.
I was shocked and heartbroken by the violence that marred the 2019 general elections, what with the countless number of youths (and Nigerians generally) who died in the course of it. The country shed innocent blood just so that a few persons could win at all cost. I was in despair seeing the extent the foot soldiers were willing to go to snatch ballots for a politician.
Every election cycle since 1999, the polity has seemed to thrive on rhetorics — empty, shallow pronouncements and slogans. Prior to elections, the typical Nigerian politician would promise everything under the sun, portray himself as the better, more serious candidate; but as soon as he wins the votes, the ‘beast’ in him manifests.
As a youth myself, I wonder how another youth would put his life on the line for these breed of politicians, whose only badge of honour is self-centredness. We are all now familiar with the usual pattern of the Nigerian politician: when it suits him, he simply plays the ethnic card, pitching one against the other which in turn heightens existing tensions, all for his own gains.
Just before the elections, I read a social media post where a youth was appealing to people from his part of the country to vote for a particular candidate because he hails from his region. According to him, If the said candidate won, it would be for the greater good of his people — not the general population. For him, voting was based on the tribe of the individual rather than taking a cursory look at the individual’s antecedent. That made me wonder when we would grow beyond tribal sentiments as Nigerians.
Democratic governments usually do not wield absolute power over the people. In fact, in saner climes, it is the citizens that have authority over the government, because they voted them into power. So as citizens, we should clamour for a responsible and responsive government.
As the common phrase goes: It takes two to tango. Therefore if politicians know that the youths will not dance to their fatal tunes every election season, they will desist from their wicked ways, and it will be a wake-up call for them to be more responsible.
Election rigging will continue to thrive as long as someone somewhere is willing to do the dirty job of subverting the process. Without a doubt, these self-serving politician will continue to trample on the youths as long as the latter continue to do their bidding. Building a formidable country that the younger generation will be proud of is a collective responsibility. When we begin to hold government accountable for their actions and inactions, then they will know that they have a duty to the people.
Parents also have a role to play in educating the younger generation to eschew violence. They need to let them know the perils of engaging in political thuggery and election rigging, as well as the advantages of political participation, unity, and coherence.
While we eagerly anticipate and hope for a day when a youth will take up the mantle of leadership to rule this country and actualise the age-long saying that, ‘youths are the leaders of tomorrow’, the government of the day needs to have a rethink knowing fully well that it was the citizens that appointed them in the various positions; as such, they owe it to them to fulfill their campaign promises and formulate policies that will improve the well-being of the citizenry.
It took the vision, determination, resilience of Lee Kuan Yew, a Singaporean leader to turn Singapore around from being one of the poorest countries in the world to becoming a country with one of the best economies. Today, Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers and has become a huge force to reckon with in the global space.
In the resounding words of Peter Drucker, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” Therefore to get Nigeria working again, we need result – oriented leaders, not merely men or women with impressive manifestos.