TAMING THE ELDERS*

Tribune Nov. 4, Daily Time Nov 10, Daily Trust Nov 15, 2000

 As one of those teeming Nigerian youths, with the uncertainty of our union staring us in the face, I find it extremely difficult to remain nonchalant in the face of the obvious betrayal, deceit and disappointment the youths have had to contend with today through the unwholesome actions from you, the so-called elders.

Just as I was ruminating on the plight of my generation, my four-year-old child, Gidado, walked in with his nursery school mate, Damilola whom he proudly called his sister. They were coming from a birthday party of his best friend, Chukwudi, who is also in nursery two. I reflected on the innocence of this troika and unconsciously prayed that the three children, under five years, from different tribes and religions, would not witness the kind of rivalry and vendetta amongst the present crop of elders.

As I tried to scribble this piece, I looked at them playing happily and teardrops trickled down my visage. My hand shook and my lips trembled. I felt downcast and hopeless on the fate of the nation and the coming generation. How, for goodness sake, do you elders derive satisfaction and contentment from perpetuating the hegemony of your group, whose age bracket starts from fifty years and above, and who witnessed the country’s independence from the colonial masters? I kept wondering on what your intent was in forming associations based on primordial lines and ideals. What has been the benefit of your so-called elder groupings of the like of Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Arewa Forum, apart from instigating the youths to take up arms against one another? The day we discover the jinx that enables you to control the gullible youths among us, by the strings like robotic machines, considers yourselves a collective write-off.

On several occasions, I have thought that all of you elders are bloody liars, folklore storytellers as you recalled your youthful days which were incredibly blessed with unimaginable prosperity, that someone could buy a brand-new car from the savings of half a year’s salary; that a time existed in the country when university students, towards their graduation, were wooed by employers for automatic employment, with good remuneration packages; that there was a period in the past when you dined and wined together with people from other regions, regardless of ethnic, religious, tribal and political considerations. As a young man, I still marvel at how our forefathers brought up the present elders from earnings from their farm produce, which were enough even for export to other countries for foreign exchange earnings that sustained our emerging economy.

But now, take a look at how the Chief, the Alhaji, the honorary doctorate degree holders, have bastardized our economy. I read in history books, that the colonial masters taught and advised you on how to harness our abundant resources, which they also exploited, to better their economy. Instead of maintaining the position of Nigeria as one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa, palm kernel, groundnut, animal skin, cotton and rubber, our today’s elders ignored this profitable agricultural sector and solely depended on the lately discovered oil revenue. Like drinks to a drunkard, it blindfolded your gumption as you indulged in a reckless and extravagant display of opulence.

Oil, a rare natural gift from God, was made the only source of our development, ignoring the fact that our forefathers, the guardians of our present elders, used proceeds from agriculture to feed, clothes and bring them up. The same black gold, which ought to unite them, then became the genesis of senseless civil war where many of my contemporaries were mercilessly slaughtered like Ileya rams. Those who miraculously survived the extermination were rescued to foreign lands like the world computer genius, an Igbo, who, with others, excel tremendously in their present endeavours. The rest of us, left at their mercy, are made to wallow in abject poverty with the persistent unemployment syndrome, which you exploit to encourage us to fight your cause of disintegration.

See how you have exacerbated the labour market with your systematic annihilation of the youth from ordinary employment, not to talk of holding public office. You should remember how you and others of your ilk instituted a law and legalized unnecessary requirement that, after all relevant qualifications, fresh or even unemployed graduates are mandatorily requested to acquire some years of working experience, which are realistically not feasible. As the citadel of learning yearly churns out large numbers of graduates into the unemployment market, you exploit their vulnerability and desperation to recruit them into political thuggery and other such condemnable criminality.

You force the unemployed to worship godfatherism and indulge the pretty ones, who may be the age mates of your grand children, in illicit and indecent carnality before they become employable. This is not fair. We are watching you. Remember how you perpetually nominate yourselves at your several stage-managed national conferences, and exclude us from holding public political and sensitive offices, ignoring the fact that one of you, a former Head of State, performed exceedingly well at his youthful age while in office. We know you must have advised the present Nigerian leaders not to consider youths for such positions as ministers, ambassadors and other relevant posts so that you would not be shamed by the youth’s ability to perform better than you. It is no more news that many young leaders abound throughout the world, performing creditably in all spheres of socio-political and economic fields.

And with all your schemings to benefit more from the system, you now expect me, at my youthful and useful age, to desert my friends from across the Niger and to remain primitively and absurdly attached to my tribe. You can’t stop us from befriending and marrying from other tribes. I am proud of taking Emeka, Tunde, Efanga, Osa, Yusuf and others as my companions and they would forever remain my natural and national brothers, whether you like it or not.

For your information, we youths have come of age. We will forever remain united, strong and vibrant to fight those of you who portend danger to our oneness. The anti-youth postures which resulted in the deliberate exclusion of youths from the decision-making structure of the society, either through convention, decree or through the scheming of the elders, would not be condoned anymore. Why wouldn’t you give us the chance to contribute meaningfully towards the development of this nation, by advising your age-mates in government to regard the youths generally as a constituency which must be represented at all levels of governance, with a minimum quota of position allocated to them?

We have realized how you created classes to deliberately cut across ethnic, religious and sectional differences so as to perpetuate your hegemony as a class, to put the youths in place and checkmate their “encroachment” into your agenda. But the youth are now mature enough and would remain resolute and stand against being used again as sectional chauvinists and bigots. We will fight to protect the interests of our fatherland, rather than killing ourselves.

We must not be infested with the corruption and bribery viruses. This infection has inclined our elders towards primitive accumulation of capital, to enable them to attain their selfish political agenda. If you as elders fail to eradicate poverty by encouraging us to develop interest in agricultural practices, we can initiate other ways and means to develop ourselves, to enable us to break the myth of money politics that has been the root of gangsterism and violence.

While this letter is warning of what the youth can do, based on our population strength, I call on you, elders, to note that for genuine economic transformation, our country needs people like you to be committed and patriotic to the cause of one Nigeria, under one destiny, at moving the country to the level of developed nations.

 

*Please see a response in page 173