GEJ And The Angry Nigerian Youths by Magnus Onyibe

GEJ And The Angry Nigerian Youths by Magnus Onyibe

Never has the power to determine who becomes Nigeria’s next president been at the behest of Nigerian youths as it is now.

Let me explain why: Nigerian demographic records indicate that over half of Nigerian population, perhaps 60% is comprised of youths (18-35) so the bulk of voters are the youths. In this new age of social/new media, the youths matter because they are the most adept and savvy at using it to mobilize support for or against a candidate and available records indicate that over 40% of Nigerian youths are unemployed and hungry. As the saying goes ‘A hungry man is an angry man’

Goodluck-Jonathan
Goodluck-Jonathan

 

With so much political power at the beck and call of youths, any presidential candidate who rubs them off the wrong way is in political hot water, so to speak.

To understand why the youths are angry, all we need to do is cast our minds back to the unfortunate incident that led to the stampede and subsequent loss of the precious lives of some youths when the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, under President Goodluck Jonathan’s watch, invited them to a botched job recruitment exercise in several stadia nationwide.

Add that to the January 2012 increase in petroleum pump price, which the youths goaded by opposition political  parties, resisted thereby compelling a roll back of the price by some percentage, then you need not search further for the reason the youths are really ‘mad’ at president Jonathan .

youth
A cross section of young Nigerians

 

In what appears like adding ‘salt to injury’, instead of courting the aggrieved youths with a bid to retaining them as Jonathan’s foot soldiers, presidential spokesman, Rueben Abati, in a vicious 2012 article, ostensibly  in defence of Mr president and titled “The Jonathan They Don’t Know” castigated the youths who were already seething with anger because Mr President whom they believed they helped against all odds to transform from Vice President into President in 2010, betrayed them.

In that article where Abati claimed to know Jonathan better than everybody else, even though he was not with Jonathan when the youths fought the system on his behalf, he unflatteringly labelled them as ‘idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts , the BBM-pinging soap gossips of Nigeria who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan.’

As things stand today, that article was a big mistake by the presidential spokesman and l said that much in a subsequent article entitled ‘Abati, The President They Don’t Know and Prophesy’ which was published in the Vanguard newspaper of September 9, 2012. My argument in that piece went thus: ‘engaging in emotional outbursts against the very nimble social media matadors who are the main butt of Abati’s ire is begging the issue and the fact that President Jonathan, like Obama, is an avid user of Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry, makes the option of courting the social media supremos more compelling than carpeting them.’

As they say, to be forewarned is to be forearmed but apparently, the presidency failed to be forearmed hence the erstwhile friendly social media has now become president Jonathan’s albatross.

Having been literarily shut out, derided and treated as outsiders, the youths had to find another group that they can connect with and Buhari and APC seem to have provided a veritable alternative platform which is why they seem to be ‘in bed’ with APC and Buhari.

This perhaps explains why you hear the youths chanting the ‘change’ mantra, but if you ask them change to what? They simply sneer “change from Jonathan to anything or anybody other than Jonathan.”

The anger of the youth is so ferocious on social media that one never ceases to wonder how it could have panned out on February 14th if the presidential election had held on that day. Thankfully, the election was postponed for another six weeks but after a reality check, it dawned on me  that most of the social media gladiators are not likely to be based in Nigeria so they may predominantly be resident abroad hence their anger might not have materialized as votes against Jonathan especially since there is no provision for diaspora voting. l may be wrong.

Disappointingly, the critical role of youths in elections in Nigeria is not being taking seriously by them. They seem to be treating the election of the president and other political office seekers in Nigeria like one of those tv reality shows they tweet about like  BIG BROTHER, NIGERIAN IDOLS,WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE etc where they vote out house mates based on their whims and caprices.

Clearly absent is the critical thinking and vigorous consideration which such civic responsibility of voting for new leaders deserves. As we all very well know, decisions made in anger are never rational, so the youths may end up regretting choices of leaders made in anger if they don’t put their emotions in check.

To further highlight the enormity of the power wielded by youths in politics, consider the effect of the protest march (occupy Hong Kong) by the youths in Hong Kong when they were trying to put pressure on the Chinese government to democratize and reduce their influence in that country. It was such an unprecedented affront against the repressive Chinese regime considering the tragedy that befell protesters in Tianemen square in Beijing not long ago. Unlike the Tianemen square crackdown which saw the brutalization of protesters which was ingloriously crowned by the Chinese army tanks rolling over a protester who refused to back-off, Chinese authorities are now compelled to listen to the voice of the youths by negotiating with them.

Another demonstration of the awesome power of youths and the critical role of new media is evident in the unprecedented election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th and first black president of United States of America in 2008. It is settled, documented publicly and acknowledged universally that it was the strategic enlistment of youths and the savvy deployment of social media that propelled the relatively unknown and youthful black man from Chicago , Illinois to the office of the president of the United States of America.

The general narrative is that American youths (Caucasian and colored) who are devoid of the burden of their parents who harbor memories of black men as slaves and their dehumanizing experiences in the hands of the infamous, Ku Klux Klan,KKK, voted for Obama whom they adjudged to be the best candidate for the job based on his positive antecedents and vision as opposed to primordial sentiments of discrimination and slavery harbored by their parents.

Coincidentally,most of the youths in Nigeria currently supporting Buhari were not born (by virtue of age) when he ruled as a military dictator some  thirty (30) years ago. No wonder references by PDP to Buhari’s brutish policies when he was head of state are not negatively swaying their opinion of him as it should.

The scenarios captured above perhaps underscores President Jonathan’s parley with some youths in Lagos recently and also justifies his  of Obi Asika as Special Assistant, New Media. Asika possess the DNA required to bring Jonathan’s campaign back into the loop leveraging on his experience as a foremost social media entrepreneur and having been the first to bring Big Brother tv reality show and Social Media Week amongst others to Nigeria.

While applauding president Jonathan’s new initiative to woo the youths by turning a new leaf in attitude towards them, the campaign should focus on issues of development, past, present and in the future and quit assaulting the sensibilities of Nigerian voters with tales of how APC paid $5m to Chatham house for the recent presentation by candidate Buhari; how APC has infiltrated oil marketers hence the current fuel scarcity and that Buhari has been flown to the USA for cancer treatment.

From the other side of the aisle, APC should also spare Nigerians the international embarrassment of whether or not the King of Morocco snubbed President Jonathan. Instead of celebrating such an insult from a declining desert kingdom, APC should put Nigeria’s dignity first and be miffed by such effrontery. These energy sapping, time consuming character assassination and unnecessary evocation of integrity related issues about key political umpires like INEC’s Atahiru Jega as well as the filing and counter filing of libel suits by both the PDP and APC presidential campaign spokesmen against each other amount to mere red herrings.

Rather than engage in such chicanery, both parties need to embark on charm offensive not a war of attrition as is currently the case.

The need to espouse vision and mission applies more to the PDP which is facing its stiffest challenge in its near fifteen years at the helms of political affairs in Nigeria. It is preposterous that after all these years, PDP lacks a research and development (R&D) department. That in my considered opinion is a major flaw. No serious organization, private or public operates without such a critical component which should serve as its engine room.

It is not by sheer happenstance that the Sage, Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory successfully organized the UPN (which had firm control of western states for decades) with a very strong R&D department under the leadership of the famous Ebenezer Babatope who incidentally is still alive and an active member of PDP.

Had there been an R&D department, PDP would have identified current challenges such as the rebellion in the  House of Representatives which elected their principal officers in spite of the PDP arrangement and the outgoing governors, five of home later ‘ported’ to APC and youths disenchantment owing to perceived high handedness by some top public officials.

By proactively addressing the aforementioned issues as opposed to the current situation whereby such incidents literarily blow up in the faces of PDP leaders like the Aminu Tambuwal and Emeka Ihejioha ‘coup’ at the House of Representatives and the walk-out by some stalwarts led by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar at the PDP mini convention at Eagle square, Abuja, PDP would not be going through the present agonizing re-election pains.

Fortunately, PDP controls more states in the federation than their main opponent, APC which is now suffering some headwind arising from the postponement of February 14th original election date.

Conversely, PDP in addition to having a wider foot print and foothold, has been propelled further by the tail wind of the postponement as it has notched its campaign up in the past few weeks while APC’s campaign machine has virtually run out of steam apparently owing to paucity of funds to sustain their vociferous attacks against P resident Jonathan as opposed to marketing  superior new governance ideas to Nigerians.

All said and done, if PDP’s loss of dominance in the House of Representatives due to recent defections to APC  is anything to go by, the ruling party has every reason to buckle up because clinching the coveted presidency is still within its grasp provided the party and its candidates do the needful by ramping up on their current charm offensive, especially towards the youth.

Magnus Onyibe , a development strategist and futurologist sent this piece from Abuja.

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About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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