(By James Ogunjimi)
“Today, the younger generation has continued to tread the path that the elders trod. Today’s youths will rent not just their voice to the highest bidder, but will sell their pen and youthful energy to the highest bidder. Unlike the older generation that grew into active engagement, today’s youths hardly participated in any major struggle, they were born at a time when we were being sold the lie called democracy.“
The older generation of Nigerians were born into an ‘active’ situation. They were young in the days when Nigeria was fighting to break loose from colonial masters. After gaining freedom from the colonial masters, they had the military to battle with; coup after coup threatened to tear the nation apart and dictator after dictator meant there would be no shortage of ‘comrades’ and the prison will always have inmates. Africa-wide, African leaders were experimenting with various forms of governance. Most African countries were toying with socialism, albeit a modified one. Nigeria was not left behind in this regard.
They didn’t need to read The Communist Manifesto, Das Capital or hear about Castro, Sankara, Cabral, Mandela, Nkrumah, Che, etc, they only needed to see how fierce the dictators were and how stringent their decrees were to get into the streets and fight. They didn’t need to be taught the effects of capitalism and imperialism; they lived and breathed it. They didn’t need to read about the workings of neocolonialism, they experienced it. As such, they belonged to active groups, they sometimes became outlaws, they gathered in cells and planned to overthrow the enemy; some succeeded. Some did not.
As a result, today, hardly will you see someone from the older generation that hasn’t participated in a protest. Hardly can you meet someone from the older generation that doesn’t have a tale of arrest and imprisonment. Hardly will you see someone from the older generation that hasn’t in his younger days been an active participant in politics.
After they successfully broke free from the colonial masters and successfully ousted the military, the different colors started showing. Freedom fighters dumped their guns, activists forsook the streets and joined the race to establish democracy. Even those who went on exile came back with their ‘struggle CV’ in order to get their names written in Nigeria’s liberation history.
Gradually, divisions began to occur; those who fought side by side during the colonial era and civil wars, those who marched together on the streets in defiance of the military’s threat of arrest, imprisonment and death; they suddenly started seeing their ‘comrades-in-arms’ exhibiting traits they collectively fought to eradicate. It was hard to bear. Democracy began its maiden journey to distortion; it became a term that could be changed to suit the actions of a few people. George Orwell’s Animal Farm exemplifies the manner in which they began to embrace things they once held in contempt and how their boot-licking followers fabricated excuses to cover up their flaws.
Eventually, they had to return to the streets; this time, not to fight the foreign powers or the military; it was to confront the people they once fought with side by side. Protest after protests, strike after strikes and surprisingly, their one-time comrades met them with the same brute force which they confronted together in the era of the military. Haven fought together, haven planned together, haven drank from the same ideological well, having confronted societal ills collectively, haven slept in prison cells together and seen their friends and comrades felled by the bullet of the oppressors; they now faced similar fate at the hands of their own former comrades. They had a choice: Join the bandwagon or continue to shout themselves hoarse in the streets. Some joined the bandwagon. Others did not.
Those who joined the bandwagon grew everyday into an advanced evil version of those they once fought and evolved more cruel ways to deal with dissenting voices. Those who chose to remain on the part of the majority had to battle with people who knew how they thought, how they planned and what steps they would take. Then gradually, some of them began fabricating excuses on why they had to join the status quo. “We don’t have enough firepower to stop them. We don’t have enough tools and machinery to match their methods of propaganda. We don’t have enough money to successfully prosecute struggles not to talk of starting a revolution. We have too many divisions among comrades that we can’t unite to present a unified front. We are not losing focus, we know where we are from, we come from a solid ideological background and cannot forget our roots, we are only joining them to get enough money to start a revolution, etc.” And so comrade after comrade ventured into the world of bourgeois politics and joined forces with those they once despised; but they never came out the same; those that survived the ordeal came back with their reputation in tatters.
Today, the younger generation has continued to tread the path that the elders trod. Today’s youths will rent not just their voice to the highest bidder, but will sell their pen and youthful energy to the highest bidder. Unlike the older generation that grew into active engagement, today’s youths hardly participated in any major struggle, they were born at a time when we were being sold the lie called democracy. Today’s youths are content with being people’s sidekicks and living life on the safe side without taking initiative. Today, youths continue to delude themselves with the old slogan “We are tomorrow’s leaders” without checking their history books to see how wrong their assertions are.
The world over, those who changed the course of history didn’t do it when they were old, gray and close to the grave; they did when they were young, agile and full of life. Today’s youths must take cognizance of that fact and stop living a life of delusion thinking they would ever be offered a chance to lead; they must wake up and realize that in this game of life, history has taught us that no one is going to hand you the baton; you’re going to have to wrest it from them. Today’s youths are just tools and they will continue to be just that until they step away from the sidelines straight into the tracks and wrest the baton from the old and worn runners.
Today’s youths must stop trying to suck up to those who have chosen to join the bandwagon of the oppressors. Today’s youths must stop defining progress according to the definition of those who sold out their own people for a morsel of bread. There can be a new Nigeria and the youths will champion that move; but it has to be a set of youths who have resolved not to sell their voice and youthful energy.
Remember, a new Nigeria is possible, we must never give up on that dream.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”