By Rayyan Umar
I AM 24 years old; I hold a BSc. as well as an MSc., from a reputable business school in England; I am well on my way to making the transition from “student member” of the ACCA (Association of Certified Chartered Accountants) to full membership; I am a couple of months away from finishing up my Youth Service in a government agency. In an ideal world, I would be the poster boy for optimism with regard to my future, yet I find that this is not entirely the case.
I am Nigerian, you
see, and that tends to mean life for me is never quite as
straightforward as it is for… say a South African or Canadian of the same age and similar academic qualifications. I find that as often as I dream about my amazingly bright future, I am equally tortured by torrid visions of a future devoid of any brightness. I find this state of
affairs unacceptable; after all, one of the joys of youth is the ability to dream dreams, and dream unencumbered.
That is what makes a Youth.
I have asked myself on many occasions how and why my country finds itself in such a sorry state today, why I cannot be boundlessly optimistic about my future like my Emirati or Canadian counterparts. The answer is not so much complicated as it is vast in nature. Friends, classmates,
colleagues and books have offered bits and pieces of this answer ranging from the colonialists and their act of entrusting Nigeria to the “Northern feudalists” at independence to a supposed gene that all Africans possess that renders our ability to lead and administer sincerely, selflessly and effectively impossible.
imaginative people insist that the devil is to blame… who am I to disagree with any of them? I however feel like the answer is rooted in one phrase, “moral depravity” i.e. the impairment of virtue and moral principles.
It is worth noting that this phenomenon is not
exclusive to Nigerians or even Africans, it is global in nature. From
Wall Street to Onitsha the symptoms of our diminishing sense of morality is rampant in the actions of people and institutions from Bernie Madoff toying with the hard earned money of American citizens to the mechanic in Ojuelegba that would think nothing of charging N10,000 (Naira) to replace your worn-out brake pads for an even worse set, in full knowledge that they are endangering your life by doing so.
underlying issue of moral depravity is ubiquitous in Nigerian society; the symptoms differ depending on what area of society one chooses to examine, and the justifications are just as varied. “The government isn’t doing anything for me, I might as well take my share of the money that should be used to provide the basic amenities for me”, “The money is going to be misappropriated anyway, what harm is there in ensuring part of it is misappropriated in my direction?”
Two out of an
endless supply of justifications one is likely to come across. One will find that the concept of “two wrongs don’t make a right” or “just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it acceptable” hardly registers as good enough arguments against such behaviour. But enough about the problems, where and what is the solution?
for me is quite simply a change of attitude. Mind you, not in the obvious sense, in that only a portion of Nigerians needs to embark on this change of attitude.
The youths, the TRUE youths of Nigeria,
are the people who need a change of attitude. We are young, energetic, brimming with ideas and exposed like no other generation of Nigerian youths before us, yet we seem to have already resigned ourselves to the fate our current leaders would have us entrapped.
For the most
part, we are distracted be it by drugs, girls, living a false life, plotting on how to fund the said false life, you name it (some will suggest that these distractions are necessary as without them, we would
surely go insane as a result of the endless list of challenges we face. I agree, but suggest that there are less hazardous ways to distract one).
The change of attitude I advocate is not necessarily in the moral sense
alone like you would expect. This is so for two reasons, the first being that we don’t need to be angels to rule effectively, and the second, it would be foolhardy to think that anyone reading this will go ahead to
fight the immense personal battle that is necessary to change the course of our diminishing sense of morality.
Yes, personal uprightness
is a substantial part of it because uprightness and dignity are unstoppable force as exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle.
The change I suggest we make has to do with one aspect of our attitude. That is the “sit and watch” attitude the majority of Nigerians (most especially the youths) have adopted in the face of the impending doom our country faces.
We feel helpless, like we can do nothing to
influence the sorry state of our fortunes, this is categorically untrue, especially for the youths. Unlike our parents, not only do we have the
energy and numbers to make an impact, we have (generally speaking) fewer responsibilities, how much more the great incentive to ensure that this change occurs.
We don’t have children to feed, clothe and
educate, so we are not putting any dependents at risk by embarking on the treacherous task of rising against the system in the non-violent manner of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, nor do we have jobs with substantial enough remuneration to dissuade us from bringing about change, especially when we look at the fact that should the change be successful, it will translate to a better standard of living for both ourselves as well as the dependents that will come down the line.
It is imperative that we realize, sooner rather than later that this is
the only chance we have to rise up, for if we let this opportunity pass, we will wake up one day to find we are too compromised (by the same system we are unhappy with) to fight for this change we need, thus
sentencing another generation to the same problems we were born into and have watched get progressively worse.
Having spoken at length
about the problem(s) and examined what we need to change in the process of embarking on this process to engender a change of sorts, it is
necessary to present the steps we need to take within the context of the impact we need to make.
Every single Nigerian that falls under
the designation of “youth” needs to become politically active. Politically active in the sense that we need to align with and provide
our services to the political party that we believe has the most promise (with regard to changing the course that the country is treading right now) with a view towards inheriting the machinery of the said parties within a decade, give or take.
It goes without saying that being
politically active also means that we all have to go out, get registered to vote, and exercise that right when the time comes.
here is to take responsibility for our own future, as opposed to leaving it in the hands of the jokers in charge right now.
As I said
earlier, we have nothing to lose, if we succeed, we find ourselves with the opportunity to influence our future as well as that of our unborn children, if we fail, we can take whatever the future brings knowing we didn’t sit back and let it happen.
Chances are, if 50 per cent of
the people who read this article heed my suggestion, we will be an unstoppable force and failure will not be an option, let alone a possibility.
By Rayyan Umar