By Promise Adiele
The title of Chris Anyokwu’s play, Stolen Future, is an apt metaphor that describes the future of Nigerian youths perfectly tucked away in the dark chambers of a remorseless demagogue. Pushed to the wall by a social space stripped of responsible leadership, empty promises of employment by those in positions of authority, a victim of abysmal lack of infrastructure during her national youth service, frustrated endlessly by ebbing youthful life, and confronted with an urgent need for survival, the beautiful Agbon, unfortunately, embraces prostitution to remain relevant under emasculating social conditions. Agbon, in the play, represents millions of Nigerian youths whose future has been stolen and pulverized by successive, corrupt, rapacious leadership.
Faced with hollow existence, these youths embrace various vices for different reasons – some out of the need to survive and some simply to get back at society in a retaliatory affirmation of the law of retributive justice.
The question to ask is – is the future of Nigerian youths stolen? Who stole that future? What is the evidence to prove that the future of Nigerian youths is stolen? Is the current youth revolution across Nigeria for the recovery of that future timely? In Nigeria, the reality of a stolen future now carries with it ominous reminiscences of a pervasive past which are currently provoking a revolution, unrestrained anger and rebellion to recover that future. While growing up, our puerile sensibilities were patronized by such platitudes as “youths are the leaders of tomorrow”. Of course, we had no reason to doubt that declaration which we tenaciously held unto. It became a motivating factor for many of us. But unfortunately, as we grew and meandered through the vicissitudes of life, the superfluity and deception of that declaration stared us in the face – there was no future.
It became obvious that those who occupied the present had little regard for the future of Nigerian youths except for their immediate families and those of their cronies. To be sure, some Nigerian youths, through resilience and a dogged determination to succeed, pull through but the greater percentage still wallow in unpropitious, backward conditions.
While growing up, our puerile sensibilities were patronized by such platitudes as “youths are the leaders of tomorrow”. Of course, we had no reason to doubt that declaration which we tenaciously held unto. It became a motivating factor for many of us. But unfortunately, as we grew and meandered through the vicissitudes of life, the superfluity and deception of that declaration stared us in the face – there was no future.
Right from 1960, when Nigeria achieved self-rule, the country’s leadership has remained in the hands of those that never had any regard or care for the country. First it was about ethnic loyalty and the need to enrich private pockets. These two vices became a culture in our country promoted and sustained by successive leadership. Then stealing and siphoning of public funds became the order of the day. Corruption in high places perpetrated by politicians, public officers, military regime, and an inconsiderate capitalist class all combined to stymie the future of young people. The Nigerian exchequer has been serially purloined. NNPC became a private estate. Nigerian universities bled from neglect. Hospitals, roads, and other social amenities stewed in the juice of abandonment while leaders maintained a steady economic interest in various countries abroad.
Electricity in Nigeria collapsed. Companies fled from the country due to the harsh business climate. Unemployment rose to abnormal proportions and youths wallowed in the labyrinth of deprivation.
Our local currency suffered severe pummelling due to economic ignorance by power potentates. Any new dispensation was immediately hijacked by the same people responsible for youths’ collective misery. They ferried billions abroad, spent dollars with reckless abandon and encouraged a government of the old and for the old. Our leadership corridors brimmed with recycled old men who have benefitted from the political industry for many years.
Nigerian young graduates roamed the streets empty. When they tried to exercise their ingenuity, the police harassed them. Innocent boys and girls were detained, arrested or killed by law enforcement officers. Criminal public officers that embezzled humongous amounts of public funds walked free while Nigerian youths became the target of the law. Then, many of the youths sought livelihood abroad where they wash corpses, sweep the streets, and are involved in different subhuman indulgences because their future is daily stolen back home. When Nigerian youths try to rise and reclaim their future, their tormentors drew the knife of religion and ethnicity to cut them apart. That ploy has been effective over time. You are Hausa/Fulani. He is Igbo. They are Yoruba, North, South-West, South-South, South-East, this and that…all became mechanized instruments for dividing Nigerian youths.
Those guilty of stealing the future of Nigerian youths are not foreigners, they are with us and we know them. In this category, you find those that became billionaires after a short stint in government. They are those whose only claim to fame and wealth is in politics and governance. As former governors, they have their former states in their pockets and earn almost half of the internally generated revenue. As former Presidents and Vice-Presidents, they have many companies, estates and other multi-billion dollar investments abroad. As former DGs, Senior Civil Servants, they embezzled colossal amounts of funds meant for the development of the country. All of these people spend dollars and not naira. While the country is suffocating under the stranglehold of poverty, some of them spent millions of dollars to bribe delegates to emerge as their party flag-bearers in next year’s election, yet they are willing to spend more billions of dollars to emerge as the next occupant of Aso Rock. Those guilty of stealing the future of Nigerian youths are above the law. They never quit government because it is their private estate. They are always happy to use disoriented Nigerian youths as thugs to advance their nefarious ends. They promote ethnic strife – daily inaugurate kidnap, banditry, and terror industries. Even though they are not in office, they earn outlandish benefits like pensions and monies that they don’t need.
It is inconceivable that some politicians could generate billions of naira to buy presidential nomination forms while Nigerian universities are shut down due to demands by their lecturers. If indeed these people boasting to spend billions of dollars to become the next president or governors of different states care for Nigerian youths, they can single-handedly meet ASUU demands and have millions of youths return to school. Certainly, it is not their responsibility to do so but a caring, concerned democrat that has fed fat from the surplus of the land should willingly do so. Giving back to the land is not a sin at all.
It is called social responsibility. There is no reason under the earth why Nigeria should not have electricity. Nothing under the sun justifies our decayed Medicare when leaders use public funds for medical tourism abroad. Recruitment into various government agencies is commercialized.
The quota system is the youth’s greatest enemy because it promotes mediocrity and undermines excellence. Every law in Nigeria protects the rich and implicates the youths.
At last, Nigerian youths have woken up from their slumber in the most determined way. They have risen to say NO MORE. They have realised the dubiety and chicanery of the recycled ruling class. The current youth revolution in Nigeria is real. Of course, the enemies realize this fact and are afraid. To be sure, not all Nigerian youths have come to the present realization – this radical awakening sweeping across the land. There are some Nigerian youths whose heads are still buried in the sands of ignorance, grovelling drudgery, peonage, and servitude.
They are still consumed by lack and deprivation, possessed by amnesiac conditions which make them see criminals as saints. They suffer from a curious lapse of attentiveness, therefore are not aware of the extent to which their existence has been mutilated. Their psychology is corroded from many years of economic hardship therefore, they can’t recognize a change. They prefer to remain bound by the same taskmasters. But there is hope.
It is a good thing that the youths of Nigeria have risen to reclaim their stolen future. The youths are ready to reject the divisive instruments of ethnicity and religion. The delegates have been bought but will the millions of youths across Nigeria be bought too. The long-awaited legal revolution is here and it will never be business as usual. Although many leftists do not believe in the current revolution, it does not matter. The truth is that the youths of Nigeria are ready to collapse all the old structures of poverty, backwardness, suffering, decay, and corruption that have held them down. It is not an easy task but it must be achieved. Arise, all Nigerian youths. 2023 is the time, polling booths are the arena. Get your PVC.
Promise Adiele PhD
Mountain Top University