Recent times have ushered in a legion of media unfriendly reports on our corporate image as a people and citizens of the largest black nation. Sadly, the youths have been fingered to occupy the position of the lead actors in these internal and foreign disgraceful acts.
This writer’s previous interventions have largely centered on improving the lots of children and youths, equipping and getting them involved in leadership roles and harnessing their energetic potentials for nation building. This is predicated on the firm belief that our young ones are agents of prosperity and any society in short supply of younger generations is on a fast lane to extinction. Fortunately, our dear nation Nigeria is blessed with super intelligent and talented young men and women who have distinguished themselves in various parts of the world, raising our nation’s flag high in sports, entertainment, technology, ICT, commerce and industry, medicine, economy and other fields of human endeavour.
Incidentally, at the conception stage of this piece, a call came from a colleague, Joy Imisi, inviting me to a workshop organized by Young Journalists Forum (YJF) in Abuja which x-rayed the involvement of youths in fighting corruption and in contributing to nation building. Among those who spoke at the event was the national president of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Chris Isiguzoro who arguably is the only youth, in the real sense of the word to have occupied the office since inception. Citing the instance of a certain North central governor, Isiguzoro was of the opinion that the youths have not done anything different from what their ancestors who are still in the corridor of power today do, a point most of the participants couldn’t have agreed less.
Whatever thing that is in African leadership positions that transforms occupants from humans to lords of manor in a short period of time remains to be known. They build the proverbial wall of Jericho and make themselves inaccessible, if not totally alienated from the people they lead. They intimidate and scare the owners of their mandate with legion of stern looking, gun-toting security agents at homes, offices, around their vehicles and anywhere they are. Regrettably, the younger generation of leaders, full of vigour, energy and dynamism have patently failed to demystify this occultic practice. They have refused to provide a template to stand them out from their grandfathers in political positions. They carry on as if they are in a fierce battle to lift the trophy from the octogenarians in corridors of power, not having in mind that power comes, power goes while the people remain.
This does not only apply to political offices such as governorship and senatorial offices. In your small trade union, does it take somebody that knows somebody to book appointment several months in advance before you see your leader? You as a community leader, how accessible are you to your people? As a student union leader, do your fellow students have access to discuss their plights with you? As an editor in the newsroom, how often are you available to give your reporters an ear? As a clergyman, how much of the state of the welfare of God’s flock entrusted in your care do you know? While the over bloated ego of some men and women in pulpit will be a discussion for another day, suffice to say that some of them have lost the moral compass to provide a good example to their followers. Their preaching is not in tandem with their lifestyles. They engineer and benefit cronyism, regionism and ourownism. They are miles away from the humility, moderation and fairness they harp on.
Concomitantly, the damaging effect of this gulf and visible disconnect between leadership and followership usually births era of shenanigans, palpable distrust, underhand dealings and open corruption trade. The chief of staff to the chief of staff who will eventually link the citizen to the governor, senator, House of Representative member or general overseer will demand a “kola” either in cash or kind before such moves could be facilitated. If it happens to be a contractor, the principal will get assured of his own kickback before pen is put to paper. Where the principal does not trust his middlemen, he goes for it himself, like we saw in the case of a certain Gan-dollar in Kano. Like Ken Saro Wiwa depicted in his The Wheel, corruption is a wheel, rolling top to bottom and back up. It is a baton passed from one individual to the other to the damaging effect of our dear society.
Inextricably, the recent mass harvest of our citizens who are involved in various crimes, especially cybercrime in Los Angeles, United States can be traced to the gene and umbilical cord of corruption back home in Nigeria. These are individuals who would have in one way or the other found themselves in leadership positions, deploying their flood of ill-gotten wealth to further enrich themselves with their purchased positions, plummeting our common patrimony and looting us blind with impunity. Their proximity to power blocks as we later learnt speaks volume to the characters who are today presiding over our collective affairs. The notorious kidnapper, Hamisu Bala Wadume through whom our agile and ebullient policemen were gunned down in Taraba would have been a legislator, making laws, representing and embarking on oversight function on behalf of the rest of us. Interestingly, there is army of Hamisu Balas in sensitive leadership positions in the three arms of government at state and federal level.
The youths are at the centre of the octopus insecurity challenges of banditry, forceful abduction, kidnap for ransom, robbery and internet fraud currently holding us by the jugular as a people. Hardly is there any day mass arrest of suspected internet fraudsters are not recorded across the nation. Even though there is no justification whatsoever for criminality, this again raises pertinent questions as to the kind of upbringing our youths are exposed to in the family which is their first point of socialization. Morality, decency and contentment have been cast to the dogs and replaced with unbridled desire to “hammer” through the backdoor.
The era when parents raised their children in fear and admonition of the Lord is gradually fizzling away while the rat race for stomach infrastructure has become the order of the day. The aggressive pursuit for meat and fish has dealt a heavy blow on decent parenting. Hardly do many parents spare time to truly pay a pinch of attention to what their children do and the company they keep. The hope as to whether there could be a paradigm shift to basis grows dimmer by the day with parents accelerating the gear of pressure on their children to “hammer”. The unnecessary comparison of Paul with John and Peter, a trait common to most parents today have landed most of our youths in serious trouble.
At a time when no fewer than 23 Nigerian youths are in death row in Saudi Arabia for drug related offences, about 77 arrested for cybercrime in US, including the celebrated CEO of Invictus Group, Obinwanne Okeke for multimillion dollar fraud, the young people must have a sober reflection on the kind of leadership our dear country will witness under them in the nearest future.
Even though you may have not been opportuned to preside over a common patrimony, in your little domain, how much of exemplary leadership have you shown? As a driver, do you usually under-purchase that fuel to cheat your principal or organization? As pump attendant, do you under-dispense that diesel to have extra profit in your pocket? As a contractor, do you convert some of the Naira mapped out for cement to personal use? As a media worker, do you allow a mess of portage affect your sense of reportage? For each act of corruption perpetrated, someone pays for it. For each wood or cement under-purchased, someone’s life is being seriously endangered. This is aside the fact that developer risks a collapse of all what he has laboured for for a greater part of his life. For each cup of garri meant for orphans and IDPs you diverted, someone is groaning in hunger.
The religious organizations must do more to foster moral re-orientation among our young ones. They should use their good positions to bring about a mind renewal among the youths. It is not enough to preach prosperity without struggle or fanatism. It is not enough to preach abundant harvest where you have not sown. They should lead the campaign for young people to abstain from acts capable of bringing international disgrace to our dear nation and get ready to contribute to nation building.
Enemanna writes from Abuja