Youths, Wake Up Smell The Coffee! ~ By Emmanuel Onwubiko
As a young school leaver still deciding what to do with my young creative life, I encountered a political journal from the rich collections of books in my elder brother’s law library which spoke to the issues of America’s contemporary politics. My elder brother, who is almost 40 years post-call as a lawyer, is one person that I closely followed because of his unique love for books.
By that time I only just left the Teachers College in Kafanchan, the United States held a unique fascination as a political Eldorado whereby there was a regime of free speech and fundamental freedoms. This was in the late 1980’s.
I do recall reading one of the juiciest political pieces published in that journal known as Dialogue which specifically dealt with the peculiarly fascinating topic of “The American talent for disorder”.
The writer of this piece is James Fallows described as a foremost United States widely travelled journalist.
He affirmed in that piece as follows: “America’s culture is America’s greatest potential strength. Something about American values has enabled ordinary peoples, assembled haphazardly from around the world, to build the largest, richest and freest economy in history and to do so mainly through voluntary actions rather than state direction. The essence of this approach, the true American genius, is a talent for disorder”
He delved into the comparative study of what American society is put side by side with one of the most prosperous nations on the planet Earth- Japan.
Mr. Fallows says: “Japan, for example, gets the most out of ordinary people by organizing them to adapt and succeed. America, by getting out of their way so that they can adjust individually, allows them succeed. America opens its doors and brings the world’s disorder in. it tolerates social change that would tear most other societies apart. This openness encourages Americans to adapt as individuals rather than as a group.”
He then stated that only but few other societies could endure the unsettled conditions that have always typified America.
Many nations he said would be shattered by the threat of substantial immigration.
Few other western societies have seen women’s roles change as dramatically as in United States, he stressed.
Historically, he affirmed that in 1980, one American family in 30 moved to a different state. Only one of 90 families in England and one of 80 in West Germany made similar moves.
He submitted correctly that America not only can tolerate these disruptions, it needs them.
Ceaseless internal change is good for the country; he suggested and added that this causes America to bring out the best voluntary efforts of its ordinary people by offering them the constant prospect of changing their fortunes, their identities, and their roles in life.
Americans are most likely to try hard, adapt and succeed when they believe that they can improve their luck, that the rules of competition are more or less fair and that if they take a risk and fail, they won’t be destroyed, he asserted.
James Fallows then showed the stuff he is made up of as an objective journalist when he affirmed that although these conditions have never been entirely met –the competition has never been completely fair; some people have been permanently stuck; many have been ruined when they took a chance – they have been closer to realization in the United States than anywhere else.
In a country cobbled together from so many races and religions, the belief in playing by similar rules is the source of such “community” as America can have”, he asserted.
Hear his core arguments as follows: “America’s talent for disorder allows it to get surprising results from average people by putting them in situations where old rules and limits don’t apply. That’s the meaning of immigration, of the frontier, of leaving the farm for the big city, of going to college or night school to make a new start. No other society has managed disorder so well in the past; none of its competitors need to keep promoting disorder, by endlessly rotating establishments, as much as America does.”
These facts are self-evident because there is hardly any Nigerian community whereby someone who is from a humble background has not travelled and settled in the United States of America and worked hard that has not attained phenomenal heights.
Nearly three decades down the line, I have found a new perfect correlation between what this American journalist wrote about in 1986 to the dominant theme of conversations actively engaged in by millions of Nigerian youths who can be said to be enormously endowed with talent for disorder but in the same mindset as posited by the American journalist but most of whom have accidentally projected these talents towards doing those things that lead inevitably to self-destruction.
These talents of most of Nigerian youths are being put into negative disorder. This is hardly a debatable fact.
I have therefore decided that the only way the Nigerian youths can take their rightful position in the Nigerian context is for them to decide to deploy some of these talents for disorder into constructive positivism.
The Nigerian youth must now wake up and smell the coffee. This is because, there is an ongoing generational threats erected to slow down their march towards occupying their rightful positions as leaders of today in all aspects of Nigeria’s national life.
Today, the youths of Nigeria more than ever before, are subjected to systemic and systematic profiling as criminals by those who control the machinery of law enforcement who are doing these dirty jobs for the old brigades who are bent on holding on to the different layers of control in politics, economy and all aspects of our national life. If you flip through the pages of newspapers always, you would always read about the convictions of dozens of youngsters by the courts over issues that border on what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) calls advanced fees fraud. These youths are paraded globally as crooks even when the establishment could have used lawful means to obtain non-custodial transformation and get these youngsters to refocus their talents into creatively constructive ventures.
On the average, the nation’s prisons receive at least one dozen Nigerian youth per week as inmates and when you analyze their alleged offences and put them side by side with the gravity of monumental financial crimes committed by the old brigades and old breed politicians who control political powers, these petty crimes pale into insignificance.
I then ask myself why are the Nigerian youths been selectively targeted by the Nigerian state whereas big politically exposed individuals in their 60’s who have soiled their hands by stealing our commonwealth are consolidating their control of the political and governance machinery of the Nigerian state.
The answer to this line of inquiry is for the youths to transform their talents for disorder into some meaningful purposes and begin to reclaim their proper positions in Nigeria.
The Nigerian youths must wake up and smell the coffee.
Drop the life of crime, use their talents well, galvanize these talents and mobilize to retire the old brigades sooner than later. Drop drug addictions and forget about suicides.
Professor Wole Soyinka has just told the Nigerian youths to be prepared to take over government in 2023.
The way to achieve this goal is for the youth to realize that the older people who are waging a class war against them cashing in on the involvement of some of the youths in petty crimes to tag all Nigerian youths as criminals will not voluntarily quit the political stage as they will continue to forge their ages and certificates just so they remain in political offices.
There is really no doubt that Nigeria has been messed up miserably by older generation.
But sadly, as the class war is being waged against the youth by the remnants of these old breed politicians, the youth themselves are yet to rediscover the essence of their central role as the real deal in the new Nigerian project. The youths have let themselves down by bastardizing all the platforms that should be used to launch them properly into frontline positions.
The students’ unions and the national council of youth society have all been hijacked by agents who are on assignments to enslave the younger Nigerians in perpetuity. It has even got to a stage whereby two evils have been set against the youth such as running away from Nigeria to God knows where just so they can survive and few who stay back are profiled as criminals even as some are committing suicides.
Also, the youths of Nigeria are now reduced to the level of beggars who would need crumbs from the master’s table to make ends meet.
What is in vogue now among the older generation is to bring up certain policies they call economic empowerment of the youth just so the older persons can continue to dominate the polity.
The economic empowerment needed by the youth is the type Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to the UK; Dr. Christopher Kolade called the capacity to learn effectively; this he said is a proviso to bringing up successful leaders and ensuring a better society.
Kolade, who said this at the silver jubilee lecture of Olashore International School, Osun State with the theme ‘Leadership and Social Change: Developing 21st Century Leaders for Africa’, in Lagos, bemoaned a situation where the country keeps doing the same time year after year and expecting a change.
He said “unless we apply the things that we learn, we may not be able to change our society the way it ought to be.
“One of our problems in this country is leadership. We lack the capacity to learn effectively and we keep doing the same thing year after year with an expectation that things would change. Our role is to see what we can do to solve the existing problem through a capacity to learn.”
The youths must wake up and smell the coffee and tell the government that the only way to achieving lasting peace is for those amongst the political class who destroyed the economy of Nigeria to be prosecuted and punished rather than the current shadow chasing fight against corruption which is nowhere near a good fight.
Adeyemi O. Oluwatobi wrote exactly why Nigeria is economically crippled and from his courageous analysis, it is clear that those who made Nigeria a laughing stock are not these youths been selectively profiled by EFCC as fraudsters but the real fraudsters are the older generation who call the shots in the corridors of political power.
Oluwatobi wrote thus: “Nigeria is rich enormously in natural and human resources, with a population of over 150 million people; the most populous country in Africa at the time of her political independence, on 1st October 1960. Nigeria excelled in production of agricultural produce such as groundnut, palm oil, cocoa, cotton, beans, timber and hides and skins.”
He continued: “Then, during the oil boom period of seventies Nigeria made headlines with her oil wealth, as a country richly endowed with oil and natural gas resources capable of financing a number of important projects to meet basic consumption and development needs (Salisu, 200:2).
He then stated historically and statistically that with per capital income of around $1,100 during the late 1970’s Nigeria was regarded as the fastest growing country in Sub-Sahara Africa (Salisu, Ibid).
He lamented that yet it remains predominantly underdeveloped due to the scourge of corruption that has corroded it.
Hear him: “Corruption denies the ordinary citizen the basic means of livelihood, it worsen unemployment and erodes our image as a nation and as individual… It has undermined Nigeria’s economic growth and development potential, with a per capital income of $340, Nigeria now ranks amongst the least developed countries in the World Bank League table (Salusi, op.cit).”
Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).