Sunday, March 27, 2022 5:00 pm
By Bayo Adeyinka
Last Saturday, I went to a gas station to buy some diesel. I had checked almost 5 gas stations before I finally got one that had the product. However, the queue for diesel was quite long. I got down from my car, brought out my kegs as we call them and put them on the long and winding queue. I would eventually wait for more than 2 hours before it got to my turn.
I waited with so many other people under the sun and as you would expect in such a gathering of people, a conversation ensued. It started from people stating how the suffering was becoming too much, the irresponsibility of people in government and how bad the economy had become. All of a sudden, a young chap who looked like he was in his mid-twenties looked at me and a few elderly people around and said, “ Your generation failed us”. As if on cue, other younger people around the gas pump picked it up and stated how it was the elderly people who ruined the country and how during the endsars riots, they left the younger generation to do all the protests.
Before then I was largely quiet but at that point, I couldn’t hold it anymore. I looked those young fellas in the face and told them what I’m writing here now. I’ve read and heard many young people complain that the older generation failed them. They called them cowards and all manners of names. Some, suffering from deep ignorance coated with a warped and misplaced sense of superiority, even said this generation is better than the ones before.
Every generation has their demons to fight. We fought our own demons. Our fathers fought their own demons. It is now your turn to fight your own demons. Just like I told those fellas around the gas pump, my generation fought the June 12 battle. I recall how I participated in many struggles during those dangerous days. I told those guys how a soldier pulled a gun on my chest on Ogbomoso-Ilorin Road when we practically blocked that major road for days as I led a major protest. Some were killed and others were permanently maimed during those protests. It was as a result of the struggle of those bloody days that we have a semblance of the democracy we enjoy now- even if it seems like a farce.
The generation before mine had their ‘Ali must go riots’. Some of them fought the colonial masters through deft organization and mobilization. The type of battle dictates the kind of weapons to be used. They gave us independence without shedding blood but through a lot of struggles nonetheless. Through sheer guts and with no one to rely on as models or examples, they blazed the trail as much as they could. They laid the foundation even if we now complain that the foundation is shaky. They gave us Cocoa House, Liberty Stadium, the first TV station in Africa, beautiful University campuses like OAU, UI and UNN.
They produced freedom fighters and activists like Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Kanmi Ishola-Oshobu, Alao Aka-Bashorun and many others. Some students activists were rusticated from their campuses. Others, like George Iwilade Afrika who was the General Secretary of the Obafemi Awolowo University Students Union, were brutally murdered by secret cults. You should read what happened on the night of July 9, 1999 and you will understand that each generation must pay their price. We paid ours. You must pay yours.
Stop living under the delusion that your generation is better than others. No generation is better than the other. Yes, each succeeding generation should be an improvement on the previous one but that doesn’t make them more superior. We lived and fought based on the knowledge available to us. You have more access to knowledge so you should do better. But are you?
Each generation must build on the works of others before them. Not tear them down. Nations thrive on collaborations and partnerships. When a generation stands on the shoulder of the generation before them, they can see farther. No one can move far by blaming others.
The older generation was not perfect and neither are you. I am not excusing their weaknesses in any way. They had flaws- big ones. You have flaws- huge ones. Learn from our failures and don’t repeat them. When you play the blame game, it shows you learnt nothing.
It is your turn to take the baton and now fight the new demons in your way. You can’t fight them by complaining about the older generation. We paid our dues. Each generation has their own peculiar problems and challenges to solve. You must chart your own path. Stop behaving as if anyone owes you anything. Or is that why you’re always asking people to ‘do give-away’?
Watch out nevertheless- you will soon be a accused of what you are accusing the previous generation of. I recall the song of Ebenezer Obey who belongs to the older generation, “ A child that accuses his father of lack of money or success, let’s see how he will turn out”. You’re at a serious risk of being worse than all previous generations put together. Enough of that talk. There’s serious work to do.