For more than three years, I have restrained myself from commenting on President Buhari’s administration .However, the latest backlash on the “lazy youths” comment by the president has forced me to break my silence. Unfortunately, the ongoing debates among the supporters and antagonist to the statements of lazy youths have shown that we are about to ‘mis-diagnose’ the cause of Nigeria’s problem. Although, the ‘lazy youths’ comment is not an alien phenomenon to some of us, in particular, to those that were very active in student’s unionism between the 1990s and mid-2000s.
The recent verbal attacks on youths and young Nigerians as lazy, unserious, immoral, full of entitlement attitude just to mention a few, by the older generation is a testament to the brewing CLASH OF GENERATIONS, a contest for the soul and heart of Nigeria. A clash orchestrated by the difference of opinions between the older generation which I will henceforth refer to as the ‘BUHARI GENERATION’ and our generation regarding beliefs, leadership, work ethic, politics and values. It goes without saying that, the ‘Buhari Generation’ became more hostile to our generation the moment we found our voice to challenge the status-quo and how they have ran this country wastefully for more than five decades.
Before President Buhari’s statement in London, his generational compatriots have used every opportunity, forum, and gathering to berate the capacity of the Nigerian youths to lead this country, downplaying in particular the “Not Too Young To Run” movement. We have heard compatriots of the ‘Buhari Generation,’ the likes of Obasanjo, el-Rufai, various Senators and MPs, top civil servants, Ministers, religious leaders including captains of industries oozing out unprintable labels on our generation due to their conservative mindsets. There is a straightforward explanation to all these coordinated attacks on young people, the ‘Buhari Generation’ is so scared to lose the benefits they have held onto for more than five decades, and if they are going to leave the podium, they would rather leave it for the kind of young people they groomed by themselves to look after their interest and continue the culture of waste and plundering which this nation have suffered since independence.
I want us to be guided as a people and we have to settle it in our thinking that the international community is not stupid and gullible. They deal with facts, and the statistics are there to show that Nigerians as hardworking people, particularly the youths. That is why you will see Ivy League universities granting admission to young Nigerians with 3rd class degree and in some cases second class lower with scholarships because past experiences have shown that Nigerians are a brilliant set of people that can take on every opportunity to excel in their various fields. We are naturally problem solvers, which is one of the reasons why we don’t bother the government and hold them accountable. We provide for everything ourselves; from water to housing, from food to security, from health care to power supply among other essential amenities.
So if the international community asks our President questions on what assurance can be given to investors because Nigeria just opted out in signing the first Africa Free Trade Treaty that other 44 countries has just signed, and his response was to say the youths are unwilling to work, why worry? The people that asked the question already know who the problem is between the ‘Buhari Generation’ that has everything given to them on the platter of gold and have repeatedly squandered it and this our ‘Young Generation’ that met nothing on ground but have had to improvise against all odds to survive.
The international community is aware of the fact that more than 2 million Nigerian youths seek admission into tertiary institutions every year for admission space that less than half a million and not just that youths don’t want to acquire education. Besides, they are aware who is responsible for not providing enough schools that can accommodate the 2 million youths every year. We don’t need to bother about our generation image that the Buhari generation painted black to the world because the international community have been doing business with their generation for decades and they are dammed sure of those that operates Swiss Bank and offshore Banks accounts for looted funds. After all, I don’t see any of our generation names in the PANAMA paper.
It is somewhat unfortunate that, the British handed over a resourceful Nigeria to the Nigerian youths within the age range of 25 and 40 years old in 1960 and they messed it up. The youth who received Nigeria from the hands of the colonial masters and messed it up are today the compatriots of the ‘Buhari Generation.’ The problem of Nigeria right now is beyond one Buhari; it is a generational ambush that cuts across all sectors of the country. From health to agriculture, from education to security, from public sector to the private sector, the generational compatriots of Buhari’s ilk ensured that everything was bastardized.
I think we should not blame them. It is normal for somebody that failed a task on multiple occasions to have a view of failure about others. This ‘Buhari Generation’ in their youthful days could not manage and maintain anything; they were unapologetically wasteful and prodigal. For example, they destroyed the several national legacy, assets and investments such as Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Company, Nigeria Railways, Nigeria Airways, National Oil Companies, Specialist Health Institutions, the Nigeria Army which ought to be the best equipped on the continent, the Police and even Nigerian Universities which ought to be in the top 200 in the world just like those in South Africa and many others infrastructural facilities that would have secured the future of our generation. We should by now understand why they are so hostile to the narrative that our generation can do better. They are reactionary because of their established failure to secure and sustain national legacies.
To be fair, commendation should be given to some sports and entertainment legends in the ‘Buhari Generation,’ they had nothing but ensured that our future in the entertainment and sports sector to some extent is not as miserable as the other sectors. It takes extraordinary qualities to accept failure in one’s actions, but what is regrettable is how some certain elements in our generation are blindly defending and supporting the failed ‘Buhari Generation.’ They are quick to give examples of a tiny percentage of our generation that have managed to climb the leadership ladder only to perform woefully more than the ‘Buhari Generation.’ Don’t forget as I said earlier; the ‘Buhari Generation’ only gives opportunities to groomed young people that will lick their boot and defend their interest. What do you expect when a failure grooms a failure? The outcome is indisputable, a failure.
My advice to the ‘Buhari Generation’ is that it is high time they understand we are not in competition with them, what makes us different is that we are in a seamless technological age. The traditional definition of noble work and employment as changed from you must be a lawyer, engineer or medical doctor to being a “Youtuber”, “Instagrammer”, “Entertainer” and “Video Vivien.” In fact, there is now a Grammy Award for the most famous “Youtubers.” While the ‘Buhari Generation’ sees playing videos games regularly as lazy work populated by unserious youths that cannot face their education, they need to know that video gaming in our generation is now a skill that has transmuted into a career with its own leagues valued at some hundreds of billions of USD. The ‘Buhari Generation’ may label our young girls dancing in music videos as irresponsible and in some cases prostitutes, but truth is, today, in our generation, dancing has since become a professional career that parents now enroll their daughters in dance schools and companies globally.
We are in a generation where you can sit down in the recess of your room and rake in millions of naira by merely posting some useful stuff online. We are in a season where the number of subscribers, followers, and likes connected to your social media pages and handles brings in cool money. This new form of employment has no rules other than your own rules to attract followers and likes on your social media page and trust me; it is hard work to build a social media account that can be monetized. Lazy youths don’t embark on a suicidal mission to first cross the desert to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe for greener pasture. Your values are not our values because following your values will mean we will not have a country to call our own again. Your generation introduced secret cultism into tertiary institutions, election violence (operation wet ee), political assassination, corruption, nepotism, reward for mediocrity, underpayment of workers while the elites among you live an affluent lifestyle. Your generation destroyed everything for us and we are just settling down to make something out of the rubbish you left for us.
It is high time you realize that when we were young, and you told us to shut up, we dare not ask the question WHY? But we are now in a season when and where all questions must be answered, and that is why you see us explaining to our own kids when they ask the “Why?” question. Those managing educational institutions must understand that the world have moved on. Universities admission abroad is now done online; the idea of sending transcripts to the universities is no longer in vogue.
It was our mistake to keep quiet for a very longtime to ask you questions that challenge your illogical argument to development because we don’t want to be seen as rude to elders. Trust me, we are tired of the fake stories your generation told us about India beating Nigeria in a Football match with the 100-0 score line or the Thunder Balogun myth (use your Left Leg) after using his wife to bet in a penalty match where the white man already saved four out of five and was forced to use his killer left leg shot when his wife screamed “Use Your Left Leg.” Unfortunately, the white goalkeeper, died trying to save the killer left leg shot when the ball was said to have passed through his stomach. Your generation has misled us for a very long time, telling us stories of how beautiful you were in governance. How you paid the striking workers of Indonesia salaries for three months, how you assisted Malaysia to become the largest palm oil producing country. Will you pardon our manners, if we start to doubt you now because all that we saw is the hardship, destruction, and calamities upon calamities?
But can we say that we have some uninspired and lazy youths among us, the answer is affirmative. In fact, they are all over the world, but the Nigerian case is peculiar because it is the ‘Buhari Generation’ that made them lazy. A youth that has three brilliant elder siblings with good grades roaming the street looking for a job for more than five years will not want to end up like them. A youth under 30 years that witnessed how her graduate sister raised N10,000 to start selling fried plantain and food to the working people on the street or how her brother while selling stuff in the traffic and in a twinkle of eye lost everything to LASTMA, YES-O or O-YES and was even asked to pay a fine to be released as a result of anti-poor policies geared at turning places like Ibadan, Akure, Lagos, and other cities to a “elite megacities” only for the privileged will think twice about how noble it is to emulate his or her siblings hard work orientation. It is arrant nonsense to blame the youths that you destroyed their sources of income (farming and fishing) through environmental degradation (oil spillage) in south-south lazy. What of thousands of our generation that have ventured into farming but to loose everything if not their lives to the marauding Fulani Herdsmen. To add salt to the injury when we attempt to defend our farms, the security operatives which are under the control of your generation will arrest us for possession of illegal weapons.
Your generation must blame the high level of illiteracy in the North on our generation despite that Leaders in the North, the ‘Buhari Generation,’ believe that the life of a female child is only best for marriage and will blame these girls and say they didn’t want to go to school and they are lazy when we all know they were at some point helpless and had to obey the norms of their society for survival. You can’t just blame it on the northern youth as a child that was denied attending school because there is no school or the available schools are far from their homes or their parents religious and cultural beliefs prohibit western education.
The scary part of it is that you are adamant in the continuation of imposing your societal values that have not helped this country in anyway. At any attempt to resist your unprogressive proposals, you label us with all kinds of unprintable names. I almost lost my cool at Premier Hotel, Ibadan about two months ago during the Yoruba Youths Assembly lecture on Restructuring Nigerian which was delivered by a former Minister of Housing Development and former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko on this ‘lazy youths’ argument. The event was graced by eminent Yoruba and Afenifere elders as well as personalities that have held strategic leadership positions in Nigeria both at national and state level. After the lecture, two youths were asked to react. In reaction, both made a case and directly opined that the Yoruba elders should be more open to step aside, be accommodative and let the youth take over. This however triggered an alarming barrage of negative responses from the high table well dominated by Yoruba elders. In fact, in comparison, Buhari was even prudent with his choice of words in describing our generation as “lazy and unwilling to take risk.”
Fortunately, I was able to let them know that they were just a privileged generation because we were teenagers when some of us fought side by side with them against the Military in the struggle to entrench democratic governance. We were victimized, jailed, threatened, and many of our friends are still struggling to get their certificates in from the various institutions they attended even after the courts have ruled in their favour. In defiance to the rule of law, these older acclaimed generational compatriots want to muscle the younger generation not to ever challenge their authority. To tell the truth, it is working, the generation coming behind us is now so demoralized to the extent that it is difficult to make any of us a role model other than privileged ‘Buhari Generation.’ Since then, I have come to live with the fact that we will be perpetually at war with the ‘Buhari Generation in this Clashes of Generations
What I will say to young people is that removing President Buhari from office is not the major problem, in the worst case scenario, he may be re-elected under the ‘use of might’ and secure his way to rule this country for another term of four years. His generation is still very active and greedy, and they have already groomed a few people from our generation to take over from them when they are through with their game of dominance and power-sharing. If you like continue shouting PDP, APC or Coalition Movement, from my own understanding, the ‘Buhari Generation’ are so determined to use all means necessary, whether conventional or unconventional, to remain in control of the soul of Nigeria. It is high time for us, the post-independence and post-civil war generation to rise up, take the bull by the horn in all sectors and challenge the unproductive, wasteful and lazy co-travellers of the ‘Buhari Generation.’
Written by Ropo Egbeleke