(By Ezukuse Nkemchor Jeremiah)

We have been told time without number that ‘’the youths are leaders of tomorrow.’’ But have we asked those that have said it to us when does our ‘’tomorrow’’ begin? Events undertaken and still being taken by those that have kept saying it to us seem to clearly indicate that the ‘’tomorrow’’ they claim belongs to us is something the old are not ready to relinquish. We may ask, the present moment, which time, which day, which generation does it belong to? The old, or the youth?

I REMEMBER when I was a kid; I can’t remember precisely how old I was then but I was still a kid who had started putting letters together to produce words of my own creation and to identify and read other group of letters wherever I found them.  There was this particular day I went to a provision store close to my parents’ house (in the village, of course)  and I saw  an inscription written above the door leading to the shop:  “No credit today, but come tomorrow.’’ Why ‘’tomorrow?’’ Though I was still a kid, it didn’t take me long to decipher its latent meaning.

‘’Tomorrow’’ seems to be the mythical ‘’time’’ that solves and or clarifies the moment, which the future must always look forward to. “Tomorrow” is when the dawn has come following a dark night. Well, we may ask: When does ‘’tomorrow’’ begin? If it begins, when does it end? Or does it end at all when it eventually comes? One is wont to ask these questions following a series of events that have become our daily worries as a nation, but of greater significance to us as youth. Of course, we have been asking questions pertaining to the mirage of worries that bemoan us, and we have continually been placing the panacea in the hands of ‘’tomorrow’’. Our visions and aspirations seem not for today, but for ‘’tomorrow.’’

   We have been told time without number that ‘’the youths are leaders of tomorrow.’’ But have we asked those that have said it to us when does our ‘’tomorrow’’ begin? Events undertaken and still being taken by those that have kept saying it to us seem to clearly indicate that the ‘’tomorrow’’ they claim belongs to us is something the old are not ready to relinquish. We may ask, the present moment, which time, which day, which generation does it belong to? The old, or the youth?

    If we must be fair to the future generations, we have to take these questions seriously, otherwise, very soon we may be accused of ‘’occupying’’ the ‘’tomorrow’’ of the youths yet to come. They will ask the same questions which we now direct to the old. But we must ask if it is really the case that the old have failed the youth, or the youth have failed themselves? Or it is the case that the youths lack the wherewithal, the resources to wrestle their ‘’tomorrow’’ off the hands of the old, who seem to bestride the length and breadth of the said ‘’tomorrow?’’ Or is it that the youths of our time simply lack the zeal, the determination and dexterity our founding fathers deployed in wrestling their ‘’tomorrow’’ off the hands of foreign domination and colonialism? Perhaps we could rationalise the difference and factors of their time and ours, however, what remains intractable is that our founding fathers demanded and fought for their ‘’tomorrow’’ and they got it.

  As youths we may do well to ask if we are demanding for our ‘’tomorrow?’’ Or have we chosen to delude ourselves that ‘’ tomorrow’’ will always come? We have to be careful that we do not idle our ‘’tomorrow’’ away because we do not just owe it to ourselves alone, but to posterity. Posterity will judge us not by our actions alone, but our inactions. It will not suffice to say, by way of rationalising, that we were not allowed to demand and lay claim to our ‘’tomorrow’’ by those who have lived their own ‘’tomorrow’’ in their youth. Already, we are seeing the consequences of allowing the old to rule our ‘’tomorrow’’.  Our youth in power are serving the interests of the old. These youths in question dance to the tune of their godfathers who they rationalise put them there in the first place. Thus, even when we have some youths in the corridors of power, they are stuck to the old paradigm of doing things which unfortunately are detrimental to the ‘’tomorrow’’ of our today and posterity. Just recently we were dumbfounded when some senators deemed it fit to slap our face by deliberating on an issue that we thought belonged to the days of yore when amorous men found sexual pleasure in the hands of underage children with the belief that the sampling of such unripe lass rejuvenates their old and tired blood.

  We may ask ourselves again, which tomorrow belongs to an underage, physically and sexually immature girl that is given away to a man that may be as old as her father or even grandfather? Are we as youths being alert to protect ourselves and the generation that is to follow by demanding for our ‘’tomorrow?’’  It seems we fail to understand the dynamics of power. It seems we fail to appreciate the strength of our voice. It seems we undermine the logic that requires no computation that the strength of any nation lies in its active population. We may ask ourselves again and again: To what or whom do we owe our ineptitude?

  Demanding for our tomorrow does not only or necessarily consist in being in the corridors of power (we may not all find ourselves in that corridor), but subsists in demanding accountability, transparency, opportunity, equity and fairness by those who represent us or who are in the corridors of power. Our demanding of our ‘’tomorrow’’ connotes that we should always position ourselves in such a way that we are never sidelined when it comes to decision taken at the centre or at the grassroots. It requires agitating where agitation is required. It requires consultation where consultation is needed, and it requires lobbying where lobbying suffices.    Our actions should be confident and fear-inspiring to our leaders in such a way that whatever action they intend to take, they will first of all have to ask: How will our youths take this? Is it to their own interest? We need not remind ourselves that whatever that is consider to be of interest to the youth automatically translates to the interest of the greater number.

   In demanding for our ‘’tomorrow’’ we must do away with the mentality of fighting for the sake of ‘’settlement’’. Perhaps this has been our worst bane. Our founding fathers did not shortchange their ‘’tomorrow’’ by asking the colonial masters for crumbs. They knew what they wanted and their message was precise and clear. Some of our once promising youths have derailed and have lost their voice in speaking out against those things they once abhorred. Instead of using their position(s) to consolidate and pursue with vigour those visions and dreams they once had for our ‘’tomorrow’’, they have become accomplices to the old that are stealing our ‘’tomorrow’’. This set of youth who has been inducted into the old ritual of the old paradigm, unfortunately, has become model for most of our youths who build their aspirations- aspirations geared toward selfish ends and parochialism.

   Selfish and parochial underpinnings seem to characterise the motive behind the way some, if not most of our youths confront challenges they perceive as unjust. Thus we have various militant groups like MEND, Boko Haram whose fight against the powers that be, cannot be said to represent the aspirations of the majority of the Nigerian youths. Whereas some schools of thought hold (and could be rightly so), that the activities of the dreaded militant groups we have in our country today stemmed from the ‘’eating’’ of the ‘’tomorrow’’ that belongs to the youth of today by the old and their cronies, we must maintain that as youths, we need not shed any blood to demand and implement our ‘’tomorrow’’. We need not wipe the innocent, nor kill the foreigner to drive home our point. We have non-violent options that if carefully and efficiently organised and utilised, we can have that which we ask.

  Some options were adopted in the past that yielded positive results. Lobbying and in some cases, demonstration and protest were applied in the past to seek redress and upturn decisions considered to be inimical to the majority of our people. Those options can be effectively brought to bear to demand from our leaders our very ‘’tomorrow’’. We can do better as youths in demanding of our ‘’tomorrow’’ when we are more proactive and pragmatic; when we need not necessarily wait to always react instead of engaging. We can call our representatives and leaders to give us account of their stewardship and can even make outright demand from our leaders to execute programmes and policies that are geared toward development and prosperity. We can ask and demand for explanations why some important projects are abandoned. We can ask questions and get results. We can do so only if we are true to ourselves and course.

  We have been asking questions pertaining to our ‘’tomorrow’’. We should, however, realise that questions in themselves may not always suffice. I think in our case, questions should be seen as mere preambles, means to an end and not end in itself. We need co-ordinated and thought-out plans and execution of such plans if we must realise and attain our ‘’tomorrow’’.  Some youths are already at the twilight of the ‘’tomorrow’’ they await. But it is never too late to make amends and correct the mistakes of our past. We need not tarry anymore. J.F. Kennedy once observed, ‘procrastination is the thief of time’’. Our ‘’tomorrow’’ is now!

• Jeremiah, B.A Philosophy, University of Benin

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