JJ Omojuwa: The ‘Youth Party’ Thing and Change in Nigeria

I was at the local airport in Lagos waiting to board a flight to Abuja when a social media friend I was meeting for the first time told me he was going to reach out to me and some young people he mentioned by named about us forming a “Youth Party.” If you are used to social media, I can bet you must have either participated in or at least observed conversations around the idea of young people coming to form a ‘Youth Party.’ The ‘Youth Party’ thing is one form of idealism amongst young people that refuses to give way to reality. We genuinely believe that because a group is made of ‘youths,’ it’d somehow do much better than all the PDPs and APCs of this world.

It is very easy to say, take a look at most of the youth organisations and how they are just as bedeviled by the vices that are the norm in the conventional political parties, they are fruits of the same seed. There’d be no need to even mention once serious and thriving youth organisations that are now more about their divisions and factional issues than about the value they are contributing to their primary constituents. The National Youth Council of Nigeria and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) are potentially two of the most important youth organisations in Nigeria. Those who pay attention to both bodies will tell you that they are often led or at least ran by people who are closer to their 40s, even older than that, than those in their 20s or early 30s. You should not be shocked to see people who have spent as long as 15 years or more still hanging around those organisations, still claiming ‘youth’ after some 15 years of belonging to a ‘youth organsation.’ A simple question would be, ‘if we haven’t led the organisations that are primarily or at least supposedly made up of our age group, how can we even be trusted with the big leadership roles?

How many young people, apart from those whose parents are beneficiaries of the current order of power, can call on N200million, order it on a table and then tell it to go jump into a campaign fund?  One thing anyone who intends to change society, especially the Nigerian society must never lose sight of is the need to face reality as it is, before you begin to project your ideas of how to change it. For instance, you have to admit, before anything else, that money plays a major role and will play a telling part in our politics for a long time to come. Denying this reality will not change it. According to OpenSecrets.org, $1.3b was raised by the presidential candidates in the U.S elections. According to the Federal Election Commission, then Senator Barack Obama raised $778,642,962 averaging $10.94/vote for his total 69,498,215 votes. These were at the time unprecedented numbers in terms of money raised for an election. The simple point is, like Nigeria and America and most other political systems around the world, money is as essential as any other factor when it comes to winning elections. Hillary Clinton outraised Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. elections but according to campaign finance disclosures, Trump spent $66m of his own money during the campaign. That’s about N30b today.

Forget the money debate for a minute. Where is the scientific proof that being young makes one or would make one a better leader? Most young people have this false assumption that Nigerian politicians are mostly dumb and uneducated. Major error. Dumb people cannot perpetuate themselves in or around power for decades while keeping a large section of the masses rooting for them, irrespective of their performance. Nigeria is the way it is today essentially because the way it is advances the interest and profit of those who kept it that way.

No one is a good leader or bad pleader based on his or her age, no one has more competence based on his or her age. Young people naturally have more energy than their older counterparts, but they generally have lesser experience. It is not a question of one age group versus the other; it is a question of always looking to blend the best of both worlds.

It is to Nigeria’s disadvantage that all the current ministers are on the north side of 50. There are just some ideas they are incapable of generating on account of their age. The imagination of an average 18 year is not the same as that of a 28 year old and it is certainly not the same as a 58 year old. It is the reality of nature, as we grow older, our capacity for imagination changes. It would also be a disadvantage if we were to have a cabinet with everyone on the south side of 40. The ability to build a team of varied experiences, capacities and natural abilities is what would work for Nigeria. You cannot design the right future in a room full of those who are not likely to not even exist in that future on account of their age.

After about 4 hours or so of flight delay, we were finally called to board. Through out the waiting period, not a single soul rose to challenge the airline on why they delayed the flight. The carrier did not even bother to announce the delay until after one hour of delay. Then it announced another thirty minutes delay about 70 minutes after announcing the one hour delay. There was no compensation whatsoever. I have been in airports abroad where passengers were offered as much as $200 to skip impending flights to a travel in subsequent ones. It often happens when flights are overbooked. The airlines are never short of volunteers. It will always be a great deal for passengers who aren’t in any particular hurry to miss their flight for $200 to arrive their destination say 2 or 3 hours later. When our flight was finally called, you could touch the relief in most of the passengers. Not a single soul complained. They were used to it and had come to accept it as normal. It was an opportunity to tell my friend, ‘what you just saw is the microcosm of the Nigerian reality. What just happened is why Nigeria is the way it is. There is almost zero demand for good governance.’ Every time Nigerians have spoken in unison, they almost always got what they wanted e.g. the consensus opposition to the Third Term Agenda, the common voice that demanded that then Vice President Jonathan be made acting president, the near consensus agreement that the same Jonathan had failed and had to go in 2015, the social media consensus against then Governor Oshiomhole and the ‘go and die’ brouhaha, the latest Governor Ajimobi and his ‘constituted authority’ rant, amongst others, all produced almost immediate results. Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH) now resumes on the 27th of January, its closure was the crux of the matter in the viral video of the governor. Is the resumption an effect of the uproar generated by the video? I don’t know but I certainly brought the issue to the fore and must have catalyzed things.

Ultimately, what needs to change before anything else is that we must start out by demanding for good governance if not at all times, at least, on the most pressing issues. Until then, whether largely made of youths or just another club of geriatrics, there will be no change until the people insist on it. But how can that happen in a world where there are people defending bad governance on a daily basis? How can that happen in society where rogues who already returned stolen properties are being excused under different guises that simply look to muddy up the argument? How can we do that when some believe that voting for a candidate who ends up winning the election is the same thing as handing the winner a form of immunity from criticisms when things go wrong? If you don’t remember to ask for your ‘change,’ you getting it depends on the Lagos bus conductor, not you.


© JJ. Omojuwa