For so long the Nigerian youth has suffered neglect from those entrusted with catering for their welfare. The youths have only served the purpose of prolonging the life of their fathers. Everywhere the old have set up cults to mislead the youths into obedience to their perverted ways. Some of us started this struggle to liberate the youths from this bondage as youths but today we are adults with a difference because we bear the wounds of our generation. We have remained peaceful because we did not want to be blinded by the deceptive simplicity of our task. We wanted to succeed. We have waited for the right time to strike while the iron is hot. So today is the time. The April Elections in Nigeria will give the Nigerian youth including the 'wasted generation' from 50 years down the opportunity to execute a truly peaceful revolution through the ballot box.
Our strategy has been to participate, not necessarily to join them but to learn from them those tricks we would utilize this time around to heal the wounds perpetrated on our generation. We have learn t enough. It is time to act aright. This in itself is predicated on right knowledge of the strategy itself. I am privileged to have been through the planning stages. I have been mercifully granted life when my colleagues have fallen and now participate only in spirit. Some of the little group are still around and now work for the same goal in their own without connecting it to the whole. Others have newly joined the various splinter groups but work tirelessly for the goal without being clear about it. Each person now has a duty to do but what remains is what I am going to do today-joining together the various pieces to show that they remain one whole big picture in time.
This whole movement started in 1986 with the first real public opinion mobilization under the military rule in Nigeria. It was the IMF debate. It was heightened during constituent assembly process and hit a peak of awareness for Nigerian youths who felt left out of these stirrings by the military afraid of awakening the youths. So when the then unending military disengagement process involved nationwide political debates, we the then student leaders selected ourselves and decided that as representatives of the then majority as at then and similarly today 70% of the Nigerian Population was aged below 30 years and below. So while they spoke of taking Nigeria to the moon in order to avoid pressing issues as today, we organized a parallel political debate where we spoke about how to mitigate rising unemployment amongst school leavers. The military panicked and they suppressed our opinions through the then chairman of the political bureau who warned that our debate was illegal. But we had achieved something by coming together to strategize over our common problems. From there we agreed to form the new Nigeria Youth Movement to carry on from where Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awolowo etc stopped in their quest to build an egalitarian Nigeria. I remember Abdurrahman Black, Femi Oladele Falana, Charles Adigun, etc. We decided to participate in all levels of politics to push for the youth agenda. We decided to create awareness by writing in the media since we were not moneybags. We decided to work with role models. Our strategy was to push our electoral weight behind those young leaders whose pedigree we could identify with and we wanted to persuade them to run for public offices to push the youth agenda.
In the late 80s we had failed to convince any of our selected role models to join politics for us. We only managed to convince Ben Murray Bruce to speak against drug use by youths in few gatherings. From all indication the reality was not what we envisaged. We couldn’t reach Prof Wole Soyinka.But we reached out to Steve Rhodes. Politics was not what anyone of them considered as descent for them, yet we needed to raise awareness here on the short run. In the course of this struggle we had been invited by Ben Bruce to work with his Silverbird Production. Charles Adigun had other ideas but I was determined to convince Ben Bruce to run for President. It was a long shot; instead I ended up as night club Manager of his Fantasy Club in Yaba then later as Silverbird Publicity Officer. Everyone believed it was a joke, and sympathized by offering a job. By 1991, the Presidential primaries gingered us to more action when we saw that youths problems were not on the agenda and that the old soldiers were going to speak for us again for another span. During the University of Lagos last meeting Lagos, we were indeed fewer than before and already transportation cost was telling on our pockets being mostly underemployed school leavers. It was then I offered to run and at the age of 29. The rest is history. My running opened the way for new breed participation in Nigerian politics. Silverbird produced and donated my television giggle but it was not aired before we were disqualified for not paying N500,000 gate fee. While student unions contributed to produce and distribute my radio jingles, traders unions handled the mass production of my posters nationwide. Journalists published my press statements without charge and the union supported my candidature. Each Student union sponsored my trip to their state for campaigns campaign and took care of my welfare. The campaign spanned one year until August 1992 when my party the Social democratic Party SDP earlier pleased to utilize my popularity awoke to the fact that I could win it if not checked. So the party and the military overlords decided to change the rules midstream, swallowing their earlier policy of “no gate fee” for Presidential Aspirants. That was the real beginning of money politics in Nigeria.
Today I note the progress of Wole Soyinka as the conscience of the Nation. I am pleased with the progress of Ben Murray Bruce and his Silverbird group. From his performance managing NTA, down to last Lagos governorship television debate; the class that perhaps only Silverbird can bring to bear in our collective quest to purify the Nigerian Polity. What remains now is to collectivize the efforts which has cost us all so much sacrifice so that another generation does not pass in ignorance of the collective agenda and their role in it.
Our purpose for participating in politics is to seize it and work together to achieve the important goal of leading Nigeria to the nationhood truncated by military advent into Nigerian political system.
This goal must be understood by every “youth’ offering him or herself for elective office today. We are not in politics merely to enrich ourselves and thereby become an object of manipulation by the same military rump determined to keep us away from true nationhood which is the only acceptable organization of the Nigerian state for growth and competitiveness in a global world.
Nationhood cannot come after development but always the route to it. So you will notice two directions already amongst politicians persuading the two dominant directions. Some out of ignorance some just for ego trip. Those who tell you Nigeria can become one of the world’s 20 best industrialized nations in 2020 without settling the issue of citizenship is working for the military agenda. On the other hand those who see the restructuring of Nigeria through constitutional changes leading to the resolution of citizenship as the basis for development leading to harmonization of the goals of our forefathers are on the right path. There are still challenges ahead to determine of which of the two directions will prevail in the coming dispensation. Much of the battle will be fought in the National assembly that is why the election of representatives was fixed first to remove it from too much influence of the corrosive system. All the upsets in this election will come from the first ballot and the idea is to elect an independent Assembly to begin the dismantling of military decrees that bogged down the others. These people must know from the outset where they belong and must not allow the lure of money which has been raised by the anti democratic elements as a strategy to keep Nigeria deeper in bondage and prevent fundamental changes from happening. But if we can constitute a more democratic Assembly by voting in only credible and visionary members, then we can already constitute an assembly that can help us push through credible structure changing bills within the next 4 years. If on the other hands we get other office holders who are aware of the National direction and wish to support it, we have only a bonus.
So go out on Saturday knowing the national direction and choose your candidates based on the above criterion. This time is ours-no one can take it away! There is still time for every voter to vote knowingly. Do not vote for the old Nigeria but vote against it. Remember this strategy is pan Nigeria not sectional or religious or based on mad financial ambition. It has no particular party in mind but just credible people. You will know those going the opposite direction that will approach you promising to pay ten thousand naira or more for your votes. You can decide how you handle the situation but don’t fail to vote your conscience so that you do not regret your action for life.
*Mr. Nworisara aspired to be President of Nigeria under the SDP in 1992