Many wonder why the nationalists were able to return from London or America, lead political movements or parties and took over Nigeria in their 30s or 40s while four men in their forties – 2 from southwest, one from the southeast, and one from the north – have offered themselves today and have been dismissed by nitpicking Nigerian youths as inexperienced.
The nationalist generation returned from study abroad to a different set of circumstances. They inherited colonial subjects eager to become postcolonial citizens of an independent state. That’s a fundamental condition for the emergence of the broad critical masses they were able to mobilize.
The citizenry they inherited was poorly educated but in a different sense than today’s notion of poor education. The colonial state was interested in enough basic education to turn you into a more useable material for empire. The colonial state was not interested in miseducation to manufacture consent because the District Officer or the Governor-General was not going to come campaigning for your votes. Your consent was a given, secured by colonial violence and racist condescension.
Nigeria’s postcolonial elite, in the military and civilian phases of their conquest of the Nigerian, quickly understood that they needed to manufacture consent and also to actively miseducate the citizenry as a path to secure elite capture of the Nigerian state and the Nigerian mind.
In fact, the educational institutions that the colonial state had set up to manufacture a citizenry with just enough basic skills and enough elementary intellectual formation to be serviceable to colonialism became a threat to the Nigerian elite who took over from the nationalists. They thus took cutlasses and axes and went after the Nigerian educational system, its foundation, its philosophy, its bases, its infrastructure.
They have spent the last 30 years destroying education and performing a form of social engineering that would manufacture precisely the sort of mentalities dismissing the candidacy of every youth who offers himself or herself today.
The destruction of the university through criminal under-funding, the systematic destruction of public education via the rot of public primary and secondary schools in the last thirty years, are all purposed and deliberate expressions of the master plan of the Nigerian elite to produce a massively miseducated citizenry that could be purposed for mass consent – the foundation of their class security.
As they destroyed public education, they came up with enabling narratives to lobotomize each generation of Nigerian youth they had to contend with – you are not ready, you are merely leaders of tomorrow (that tomorrow would conveniently never come), you have no experience, etc.
This, in itself, is cruelly and bitterly ironic. The military wing of this devious Nigerian elite was the loudest in helping their civilian fellow criminals to brand the Nigerian soul with this insidious narrative: the delegitimization of youth.
Thus, military adventurers, who seized Nigeria in their 30s, began to build this architecture of youth demonology. The politicians of the Second Republic continued that sing-song until Babangida turned the demonization of youth into the sole purpose of the existence of the Nigerian state.
You are not ready! Repetez apres moi, you are not ready!
And the Nigerian youth chorused: we are not ready!
You have no experience! Repetez apres moi, you have no experience!
And the Nigerian youth chorused: we have no experience!
Of course, those performing this drill had destroyed the social sciences in every University in Nigeria so there was no effective counter-narrative. Nobody to narrate what the combined experience base of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, etc, was when they were in their 30s and early 40s.
Thirty years of miseducation and manufactured assault on the self- confidence of the youth is what these youthful candidacies have to contend with and figure out how to effectively puncture today.
One funny irony is that those who manufactured the delegitimation of youth to secure class and group interest now understand that it has run its course. They are frustrated with the vision and philosophy of society they constructed and are now at the forefront of youth advocacy.
Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida spent the better part of their productive decades constructing the myth of the unreadiness and inexperience of the Nigerian youth. Now, they are the two strongest advocates of youth political agency.
Unfortunately for Obasanjo and Babangida, it is not easy to unlearn 30 years of rote learning. So when these two old men scream today:
Youths, you are ready!
The youths chorus: We are not ready!
Youths, you are experienced!
The youths chorus, we are not experienced!
That is why a man like Sowore could have an undergraduate degree from the University of Lagos, a masters degree from a US Ivy League, Columbia University, teach as a contract lecturer and contract instructor in the same Ivy League University for more than 10 years, while building a global media brand, one of Africa’s first online media brands that CNN and Al Jazeera reference for Nigerian news, run a parallel career as a global social movement leader who is solicited annually by social movement organizations in South Africa, Canada, Europe, Senegal, etc, and be dismissed so casually by the youth as inexperienced and deserving only of starting as a Councillor.
If the youth think that all there is to Sowore is student unionism and Sahara Reporters (and what by the way is wrong with that?), it is of course Sowore’s fault and the fault of those who rolled out his candidacy. It is your responsibility to market your multifaceted self and cosmopolitan skills and experiences to the electorate. I told a youth yesterday that Omoyele Sowore has been a contract lecturer at Columbia University for the past ten years and his jaw dropped. He had no idea Sowore combined an academic career with running Sahara Reporters.
However, what I am getting at is the mental block which has prevented the youth from even examining Sowore’s and other youth candidacies beyond knee-jerk and default setting rejection.
You are not experienced!
You are not ready!
Start as a local government councilor!
They are saying the same of Fela Durotoye and even Kingsley Moghalu who was born in 1963!
That is the route, the cliche that Obasanjo and Babangida taught them to repeat like the colonial chant, apes obey when the two generals were in the youth demonizing phase of their careers.
Nobody will help you, Nigerian youth, overcome this mental block. You have to overcome it yourself by thinking of other ways in which it affects you.
Consider this scenario:
If you hear that one of you, children of ordinary peeps, has an appointment somewhere in Nigeria’s technocracy or bureaucracy, you are up in arms screaming he is too young or inexperienced.
Then the elite will do the kind of corrupt hiring they have been doing recently in places like the Central Bank, etc. They will parachute in their 20 something-year-old children who have only just graduated from Britain or America. In fact, you saw your Governor or Senator or Minister beaming at the graduation ceremony in London or Washington only yesterday because their aides posted the photos on Facebook and Twitter. You even congratulated your “amiable Governor” or “amiable Senator” and abused those asking if he traveled to his child’s graduation ceremony at public expense.
Then that same boy or girl who graduated yesterday is parachuted in and offered a senior position at CBN or any of the Federal parastatals like they have been doing with breathtaking intensity under Buhari.
You scream about nepotism.
You scream about favoritism.
I have never heard you scream that those appointed children are too young or inexperienced.
You have been conditioned to apply that cliche only to yourselves and fellow children of the poor.
Examine and scrutinize these youth candidacies.
Stop apes obey, default setting dismissal.