By Babafemi Ojudu
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the presentation of the book Politics That Works and the bringing together of the old and aspiring politicians to discuss the future of politics in our dear nation.
Nigeria is ripe for transitioning; the appetite of the nation is sharply changing and craving more youthful, innovative and genuine governance. The future we desire for our dear nation is anchored on the mobilization, equipping and positioning of more youthful minds in positions of power to transform our political space and to creatively upgrade our public sector, to the point where it can rub shoulders with first-world nations. This is why we are here today.
The future of politics is one that is driven by young people, organized by technology, and fired by a competitive pursuit for world standard excellence.
The underlying motive behind the argument put forward by this book is a better future for Nigeria and that future can only be made possible by a new kind of politics. In our political history, since the formal creation of Nigeria, there have been three major eras. Each new era was the result of the toil, sweat and blood of a generation that chose to stand out.
First, we had the colonial era. The age of the British rule, where men- the likes of our grandfathers and fathers- Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Micheal Imoudu, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Bello Ijumu, Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Madam Margaret Ekpo fought in their time for independence and came out victorious. It was this generation that handed over to us an independent nation.
Next was the era of military rule. The ones who seized power and rode roughshod over us and took away our freedom to choose. The next generation, those currently between ages 40 and 70, threw themselves in with everything they had and fought them really hard. Some were slain, others were incarcerated for many years, while some others fled the country to stay alive. This was a fight that had me arrested about 15 times, and on one of those times, locked up in solitary confinement for eight months, wearing only a single piece of clothing.
Those days are still fresh in our memory. The harrowing tales of the experience of fellow comrades linger in our thoughts, a sad reminder of the dark days.
That was a fight for freedom that had our newspapers and magazines operating in the dark, shifting base from pillar to post, as they were declared prohibited and the operators declared wanted by the military government.
The newspaper operations became a mobile enterprise in what has come to be known as Guerrilla Journalism. It was a fight that had my colleague Kunle Ajibade and Chris Anyanwu jailed for life for a coup they knew nothing about; a fight that killed many of my comrades and colleagues, including my enterprising correspondent in Kaduna Mr Bagauda Kaltho.
The list is of the victims of this epoch is endless and the harrowing cries from the cells of fellow inmates sometimes still keep me awake. That fight also had people like Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Wole Soyinka, Dapo Olorunyomi, Bayo Onanuga, General Alani Ipoola Akinrinade, Dr Amos Akingba, Chief Anthony Enahoro and a host of others, ran for their lives and take asylum in other countries.
We eventually came out victorious and democracy was put in place but unfortunately, we were too angry, tired and in some cases shy to make a bold bid for power. Imagine if elements such as Olisa Agbakoba, the man who made human rights a household issue in Nigeria, had returned to the East to take over power; Owei Lakemfa and Abdul Oroh had gone with other of our Comrades to South South and Femi Falana and several activists of that period from South-West had held sway in politics. Imagine if it were the elements like Salihu Lukman , Tony Akika who were the deciders in the North. The story would have been different today. We all were looking for purity of circumstance and as a result of this dropped the baton and let evil elements in our generation take over the mantle of leadership. It is that realization that the nation is endangered in the hands of those clueless inheritors that brought General Muhammadu Buhari out of his retirement. You all could see the hell he went through before he could wrestle power from them. Even now they are still vicious and not relenting in their opposition to him.
Now, it is the turn of the new generation to fight! You are fighting hard on social media. Yes, we can see that. Many of you are full of anger that you have almost been consumed by abusing everybody and throwing tantrums. Many of you have even gone as far as denigrating, hating and cursing your country Nigeria. Some have lost hope completely and talking about the ‘second option’. A number of others are withdrawing to their ethnic cocoon , brewing hate, and weaving lies, sowing seeds of discord, manufacturing fakery, reaching out to the depth of the sewage to look for heroes.
This cannot be right. Anger solves no problem. It will only lead to despondency and frustration. It is time to take a new approach. A positive one that will be beneficial to all.
It is time for today’s youth to take the right tools, with the right understanding and strategy to chart a course for their generation. We believe the struggle, after Independence, after Democracy, is a struggle for Development! The responsibility is on the young generation, the incoming leaders, to hand over a developed nation, in the league of first world countries, to their children.
You can only do that by getting involved, and participating meaningful. You have the energy, you have the intelligence. The internet, thank God, has exposed you to myriads of information and developmental options. What is left, is for you , to have the right compass to enable you to take over the politics and governance of our country.
Time is not on your side.
The bad, as well as the crooked elements among your generation, are hankering for power and they have amassed wealth from all manners of dubious means. God forbid, if you don’t make haste and make the right moves today they will, using their ill gotten wealth, shut you out of governance and that will be very dangerous for you and for the future of our country.
Not long ago the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East. It was driven by a crop of educated youths with a deep understanding of their terrain and a sound vision of liberal politicking with developmental principles, derived from social networking. They used innovative means to standardise their public service. It is time for you, the Nigerian youths, to deploy your enlightened minds, your ingenuity, your creativity and exposure to rebuild our nation.
Some will say but your generation and the generation before you are holding tightly to power, how exactly do young ones take over? How would the angry youth get in the political ring with old, experienced, resourced and powerful politicians and win?
This is the gap myself and Alex Adekunle James, a member of your generation , have collaborated to fill through the book we are presenting and the mentorship program we are launching today.
The Politics That Works book, first of its kind in Nigeria, is a step-by-step guide that answers the many questions limiting youth dominance of our political space.
This book makes an attempt at providing a strategic way for young people to play around with the current obstacles and attain political office without compromising their values.
We seek, through this book, to bring the new generation of politicians out of their confusion and hand them the take-over baton. We will help the youths understand what politics that works entails. We have in the book unveiled the superior grassroots strategies you can employ to beat the odds whilst holding tightly to your values.
This initiative does not stop with the book, we have also put together a continuity and sustainability plan for the Politics That Works community called MOP Nigeria – where interested youths can sign up onto the mentorship program to learn real politics, be mentored by the grandmasters and get support to participate, run and get into office. We have set a target to put 500 young Nigerians in positions of power by 2031.
Thank God today we have with us as Special Guest of honor, the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, a youth-friendly leader, a man who is schooled in the past , active in the present and willing to be a bridge to the future. His speeches and actions has indicated that he is willing to hold your hand and lead you to be masters of your destiny.
You have also watched our leader, President Mohammadu Buhari and his partners in progress, built the foundation and put in place the German floor of that edifice of the future. The one who will come after him will lay the blocks and put a solid roof. The finishing will be that of your generation to do. It is our hope that you will come up with a beautiful, enduring and long lasting edifice. What you therefore need to realize is that no builder build well without undergoing a period of apprenticeship and preparation. It is time for you to sign on and learn.
Once again I welcome you to this historic event – The Politics of the Future conference; a long overdue conversation between three categories of political stakeholders; The old and established politicians, the fresh and young politicians and the aspiring politicians, to chart a course for the future of Nigeria politics.
It promises to be the most insightful conversation on politics you have been a part of.
Thank you and have a great time.
* Senator Babafemi Ojudu gave this welcome address at the Presentation of he book ‘Politics That Works’ on 4 October 2021.