The Role of the Youths in Nation-building in Nigeria
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
Global Coordinator, Champions For Nigeria Organisation
Paper presented as a Guest Speaker at the Federation of Oyo State Students’ Union (Lagos State Chapter) Week
Held at the
Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria
24th November 2010
Distinguished Chairman, Distinguished Senator of the Occasion, all protocols observed.
I am very delighted to be invited, and be here, to deliver a Guest Speech at this Symposium put together by the FOSSU (Lagos State Chapter). And my delight should be understandable: for one thing, I am an indigene of Oyo State. For the other, today’s event is an opportunity for me to partake in the enduring and continuous concern of many Nigerians, old and young, with people-oriented issues over the years: nation-building or nation-destroying, unchecked corruption in high places, lapses in leadership at every level, promotion of democratic values and principles, care for the less-privileged, advocacy for good governance, exemplary public service, etc
“Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigerian’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.” (Path to Nigerian Freedom by Chief Obafemi Awolowo)
We cannot talk of Nigerian politics without giving considerable weight on the role of civil society and corruption in the nation’s political development. As for ordinary Nigerians, they have grown inured to (which is not the same as being uncritical of) the prevalence of corruption. Surprise has gone out of news about huge embezzlement of state funds even if the shock remains. Today nobody can teach, talk or even think about Nigeria and its politics without at the same time taking into account the problem of corruption and the difficulties the civil society is facing. We have to assume that corruption inevitably contributes to the underdevelopment in Nigeria.
For the very fact that human motivation is a more complex business than any single explanation can account for, I inject a cautionary note on corruption as the basis for explaining the failure of nation-building and the inability to develop a viable civil society in Nigeria.
Nation-building refers to the process of constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. This process aims at the unification of the people or peoples within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run. Nation-building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth (Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia)
Originally, nation-building referred to the efforts of newly-independent nations, notably the nations of Africa, to reshape colonial territories that had been carved out by colonial powers without regard to ethnic or other boundaries. These reformed states would then become viable and coherent national entities.
Nation-building included the creation of superficial national paraphernalia such as flags, anthems, national days, national stadiums, national airlines, national languages, and national myths. At a deeper level, national identity needed to be deliberately constructed by moulding different groups into a nation, especially since colonialism had used divide and rule tactics to maintain its domination.
However, many new states were plagued by “tribalism”, rivalry between ethnic groups within the nation. This sometimes resulted in their near-disintegration, such as the attempt by Biafra to secede from Nigeria in 1970, or the continuing demand of the Somali people in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia for complete independence.
To understand the notion of nation-building, one needs to have some definition of what a nation is. According to Carolyn Stephenson (2005), early conceptions of nation defined it as a group or race of people who shared history, traditions, and culture, sometimes religion, and usually language. Thus the United Kingdom comprises four nations, the English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. The people of a nation generally share a common national identity, and part of nation-building is the building of that common identity.
Today the word nation is often used synonymously with state, as in the United Nations. But a state is more properly the governmental apparatus by which a nation rules itself.
For the evolution of nation-building, Almond and Coleman (1960) defined input functions as:
1. Political socialisation and recruitment.
2. Interest articulation.
3. Interest aggregation.
4. Political communication.
Output functions were:
2. Rule application.
3. Rule adjudication
Lucian Pye identified multiple meanings of political development with, among them:
· as prerequisite to economic development,
· as politics typical of industrial societies,
· as political modernization,
· as administrative and legal development,
· as mass mobilization and participation,
· as the building of democracy, and
· as stability and orderly change.
He identified equality as one of the basic themes running through all of these. While nation-building after 9/11 still incorporates many of these meanings of political development, equality does not seem to play a major role in practice.
Nation-building that will likely contribute to stable international peace will need to emphasize the democratic participation of people within the nation to demand rights. It will need to build the society, economy, and polity which will meet the basic needs of the people, so that they are not driven by poverty, inequality and unemployment, on the one hand, or by a desire to compete for resources and power either internally or in the international system. This does means not only producing the formal institutions of democracy, but the underlying culture which recognizes respect for the identities and needs of others both within and outside. It means development of human rights– political, civil, economic and social, and the rule of law. But it also means development of healthcare systems, and roads, and jobs. Perhaps most important, it means the development of education. Nation-building must allow the participation of civil society, and develop democratic state institutions that promote welfare. Democratic state-building is an important part of that. This is a multi-faceted process that will proceed differently in each local context.
Many commentators on Nigeria’s history and development are always fond of saying Nigeria that is, the country, is an artificial creation of a colonial power, Britain. Let us agree this is true. But is Nigeria the only artificial creation in Africa, or indeed the whole world? Many countries in the world as we have them today are artificial creations. Even the greatest country in the world, The United States of America was not created by God naturally. It was the ability of men of vision and wisdom and sufferings. Most African counties fall into this artificial creation phenomenon.
So, why is Nigeria deemed as unique? Is it because we have 250 or so ethnic groups? Is this an insurmountable problem, if indeed it is a problem?
So who builds a nation? Past notable examples of nation builders include Otto von Bismarck (the Iron Chancellor), who united Germany; Kemal Attaturk, who defeated the Ottoman Empire and founded and united present day Turkey. Even, there are the Kwame Nkrumahs, Leopold Senghors, Jomo Kenyattas, Julius Nyereres, Fidel Castros, Mahatma Ghandis of this world. What can be done about nation-building is the question (if it should be done) or who should do it, and who CAN effectively do it. The literature is divided over these issues:
Individual statesmen and women: Where are they in Nigeria? Over the past 50 years, what we have seen are nation-destroyers, not nation-builders. We have been extremely unlucky with our leaders, as well as the followers, at any rate. So, the blame does not lie wholly on the type of leaders our society threw up.
In Nigeria, it has been very difficult to name even one of those people we love to refer to as our Founding Fathers (like the American Pilgrim Fathers) as nation building statesmen. It is really difficult, and this is simply because their mission then was not to build a nation but rather to build power bases and usurp power by whatever means; and mostly serving sectional or tribal interests, if not their pockets.
Intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), States or Nongovernmental organisations, (NGOs): Here, the issue is not so much which agency, but how the agency functions. Does it simply throw money at the problem? Does it exacerbate tensions by providing money or projects unevenly across ethnic groups or regions in such a way as to generate competition or, worse, security fears? Is its presence so big that it overwhelms the local or national governing structures it is trying to nurture? Is it culturally knowledgeable and sensitive?
Military or Civilian: The military must prepare leaders for nation building, by providing training in “culture; basic law and civics; city planning and public administration; economics; and ethics,” as well as language, and “how a free, democratic government is supposed to work”. Has this happened in Nigeria? The military incursion into government set Nigeria back a hundred years. They have no vision, no purpose, are largely opportunistic and corrupt, and hence had no idea what nation-building is. In fact, the military further polarised an already fractious Nigerians.
Thus, the civilians have not fared better either. Catch-22 situation, isn’t it? And unfortunately for us, it is same set of people, under a democratic dispensation, who are supposed to build the nation better, under peaceful, free and relaxed atmosphere, than under usually draconian military rules.
“The democratic approach to nation building refers to cases in which elected governments operate under inclusive institutions and the leaders behave in ways that strengthen democracy. This approach has the greatest potential for creating a stable multiethnic nation. Unfortunately, Nigerians have not yet successfully pursued this path” (Abu Bakarr, 2004)
Indigenous or exogenous actors: Nation-building is an evolutionary process. It takes a long time. One of the problems with outside actors is that they come and they go, but they are still necessary; arguing for the importance of indigenous nation-building does not mean that outside actors should ignore the process.
Role of youth in nation building/development: The saying goes that “youths are not only leaders of tomorrow, but partners of today” Maybe its time to start planting in them for tomorrow’s harvest. During this past US election, The Republicans underestimated the role of youth in politics, something the Democrats used to their advantage. The government and society at large have equal responsibility to provide the youth with an environment that is conducive to bringing about a mature and responsible youth population for the coming generation to lead a better life.
As nation builders, let us focus on brain drain of the thousands of graduates leaving the country for greener pastures. This issue of migration has a negative impact on our nation. Nations are build out of human intellect, migration of our many graduates has a serious implication on us. This means that a nation cannot be built without the recognition and the collective efforts of such graduates.
Particularly, my suggestions:
– be serious with your academic studies to be a better person tomorrow
– stop praising people with no genuine source of income
– do not encourage examination malpractices and cheating, expose perpetrators.
– ensure you register and vote in the 2011 Elections and collaborate and mobilize other youths to vote
– use social media (Facebook, Twitter and other forums) and technology to encourage other youths to engage in the election process.
Barriers/Problems faced by the youths:
– High youth unemployment
– Lack of youth support by the government in the community
– Lack of fund to help the youths for school fees and social life
How to overcome the numerous problems in Nigeria:
– the youths must not sell their voting right for a bowl of soup or monetary gain
– the youths must not allow themselves to be used as thugs
– explore entrepreneurship as a way to develop yourself
– avoid secret societies and cultism in the university and our community
– protect your vote using simple technology at local polling station e.g. mobile phone and digital camera
– use social media to expose corrupt politicians with photo evidence
– engage in local and peaceful vigilant youth groups to help the election process e.g. election monitoring and evidence gathering locally
Fact: The present Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron just turned 40, while Ed Milliband, the leader of the British opposition is about the same age.
Nigerians youths should therefore sit up and speak up.
Prof. Wole Soyinka is ageing; Gani Fawehinmi is late; and Femi Falana, Bamidele Aturu, Festus Keyamo, Olisa Agbakoba and a few others, need more youths to join them in leading Nigeria to the path of true nationalism, honour and development.
It is a shame that Ghana has left Nigeria behind while Nigerian youths are indulging themselves in campus cult and cultism, examination malpractices and prostitution rather than indulging in deep reflections and correct political praxis and positive student union activism.
The Nigerian student union, which ought to be a strong and active voice in the fight against corruption, has become comatose and complacent. Where are the likes of the past student union movements of late Banji Adegboro, Segun Okeowo, Chris Abashi, Labaran Maku and Arogundade? Where lies the bite of the present crop of Nigerian student leaders in particular and the youths in general? Where lies their sting? It is an unfortunate development! Very, very unfortunate.
At this critical point in our nation’s history, where blinding corruption, decadence and impunity are the order of the day, the student union is in a state of coma and moribund. I cannot really comprehend it!
Try and grab this stage in our history to express yourselves without fear or favour otherwise, yours too will be a wasted generation. Nigeria needs an active and a vibrant youth movement now than ever before. The future will not forgive them if they keep shying away from this utmost responsibility.
A key challenge, therefore, is the way we manage our affairs. The question for Nigerian youth is how to realize the principles outlined in the constitutions and thereby promote a stable multi-ethnic nation. Ehiedu Iweriebor (1990) identified six criteria for measuring the progress of the nation building process. These are: leadership, transportation and communication networks, economic development, national education, pedagogical nationalism, and civil society. Though his study outlines the successes and failures of the various Nigerian governments, it fails to explain why a particular type of government might fail or succeed in promoting nation building.
As stated in Article 14 of the 1979 Constitution: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the government or in any of its agencies.” Furthermore, “the composition of the government of a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognize the diversity of the peoples within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the federation.”
A democratic approach is the best path to nation building in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria. As we have seen in the Nigerian experience with nation building, it is difficult to pursue a non-democratic means of reform without aggravating internal unrest and international censure. Sadly, the lack of a democratic mandate, poor institutional design, and bad leadership has all made it nearly impossible for successive Nigerian governments to pursue a democratic approach. Many Nigerians are not satisfied with the 1999 Constitution because it failed to address the structural imbalance of the federation (Abu Bakarr, 2004).
Even of more concern is the lack of accountability, the massive corruption scandals of successive governments, the poor state of the economy, and the fraud that characterized both the 2003 and 2007 elections. “If we continue to have these same levels of corruption and the economy is mismanaged, then the sustainability of democracy will be reduced. The country’s survival will be endangered.” (Suberu, 1999) Even though the emerging domestic and international political environment has minimized the possibility of a return to military rule, there is a real danger of democratic decay in Nigeria. As we have seen over the past decades, democratic decay is a recipe for chaos and military intervention.
All in all, I will posit, successful nation building is no mean task. The problem with our pseudo-leaders is that they have never taken nation-building, management of resources and people, leadership, seriously. In fact they do not know what it means to be leaders. They are essentially ignorant though educated (even this is questionable)
Nation-building and the associated developmental issues require men and women of deep vision; sincerity of purpose; selflessness; genuine love for their country and their people; hardworking; of conscience, integrity, credibility, trustworthiness, honesty, reliable and able; people who do not think of stealing or embezzling; people who do not misuse the authority and power conferred on them, by God or Man; people who do not think that getting to positions of authority is a “do-or-die” affair; people who understand the meaning of nation building, leadership, good governance, rule of law, political emancipation, equality, human and civic rights, civility, freedom of speech, rule of law, diversity and religious tolerance,; people who will shun and will not tolerate tribalism, corruption and nepotism.
These are the people who can build nations.
To my people, how are we building this nation? It is time for all Nigerians to collectively do their part in being nation builders and stop being nation destroyers.
Fact: Oyo State Experience – Carved out of the old Western Region of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo; Ibadan, the military capital of the old Oyo Empire; the first regional capital of the old Western Region, the capital of old Western State (comprising the present Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun States); home to the first Television Station in the whole of Africa; home to the first sports stadium in West Africa; home to the first University and University College Hospital in Nigeria; a very cosmopolitan city, which welcomes everybody from anywhere in Nigeria and indeed the whole world. But now a sad excuse for a city, ruined beyond recognition, repairs and respect by greedy politicians and equally greedy and uncaring elites. The capital of Oyo State is a dilapidated, ruined, un-progressive town, not fit to be reckoned with as a city in Nigeria, even considering the sorry states of the rest of Nigerian cities and towns. Even the whole Oyo State is ruined by these useless, compromised people who are hampered by their greed, corruption and selfish ambition; men and women of straw who parade themselves as leaders and mini-gods; indulging in pettiness and ungodly and unholy alliances with mediocre and self-serving political charlatans and thugs. I really can’t find the proper words to express myself here. I have said it all before – Why Oyo State Is Not Working and Cannot Work (Nigeria Village Square, Thurs 11 Oct 2007; Nigerians In America, 10 Dec 2007, Nigeria Today Online, Fri 12 Oct 2007) – and I do not want to reproduce myself here.
Fact: Our Democracy – One of the problems with our democracy is that people (s)elected into public office do not regard themselves as servants of the public who elected them and is paying their salaries. They regard governance as a right for them to do as they like with public money; with our lives. They regard the governed as their servants and slaves, and their states and boundaries as fiefdoms. The reason might be because we do not have a truly representative democracy where credible, free and fair elections are conducted. Most of these vagabonds in power (VIP) lied, rigged, murdered, raped and looted their way into positions of power; so what should we expect of a brigand and rogue to deliver when he/she becomes someone with authority?
Read the newly published Wale Adedayo’s book “Micro-seconds Away From Death” and you will understand how base, evil and depraved our so-called democratic rulers have descended. And for what? Money, power and recognition.
Look at the way our so-called leaders carry themselves in public. They are “mini-gods”. They are untouchables. They are the privileged. They have power of life and death and they constantly exercise it and remind us of their immortality. They forget, or perhaps, chose to ignore the fact that power, and indeed, life itself is transient. And in so doing, they forget there is a greater Supreme Being than them. It is as if their tenure in power will never end.
In a way, I can’t blame them; it is an African thing, an African disease. Centuries of feudalism will be very difficult to replace with true western-style democracy. But we should still try. We must let them know we are living in the 21st Century and not in the Dark Ages, and we have examples we can emulate properly. We do not have to re-invent the wheel.
We can also jettison what will not work in Western-style democracy and our own African culture and tradition and ways of life and amalgamate the ones that can work to make our societies better. In order words, let’s fashion out what mode of government is best for us.
Are we going to survive? Your guess is as good as mine. Election 2011 will come and go, and Nigeria will remain. If we fail with that election, we will moan and shout, but the eternal optimists that we are, we shall be looking forward to a better election in 2015.
If we succeed with this election and we get the right person(s) (but with the current crop of disreputable and ignorant politicians and others of their ilk vying to become President, Governors and Local Government Chairmen, forget that optimism) then perhaps Nigeria would have come of democratic age. And perhaps there is a chance that the future of our children would be secured.
Finally, let me borrow the words of Gbola Bowale X (one of my Facebook friends) “We have a CHOICE in OUR GENERATION to either continue dealing with the SYMPTOMS of our multifarious and entrenched challenges or we can make a VERY BOLD attempt at dealing with the ROOT CAUSES of OUR COMMON CHALLENGES! Until and unless we do what is NEEDFUL and not what is CONVENIENT; my folks, the wahala (problem) will continue to stare us in the face koro koro (forcefully) and we can continue to “blow” girama! (Grammar!).”
There are old people you see on the streets right now, my young friends; their life is over, death is only a few machine pings away. Did THEY do something with their lives? Probably not, since you or I don’t know any of their names. Do you want to end up regretting what you didn’t do with your LIFE? NO! YOU DON’T! Hell, I’m only fifty-four and I’m ALREADY regretting a lot of stuff I didn’t do in my younger years.
You have power now, in your youth and future, that is glorious and precious; many people would give their souls to regain this power, even for a single day. This power is YOURS for many years… but sure as hell not forever. MAKE yourself grow in wisdom, awareness, and knowledge, both in self and the world; your confidence, abilities, and satisfaction will grow more and more every single day, and you will live a goddamned happy and useful life.
Let the Truth be said always.
“The glory of great men should always be measured by the means they have used to acquire it.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Postscript: Professor Ibrahim Gambari, in 2006, said “Today, as a nation, we face more challenges than we have known hitherto. Our population has ballooned from 55 million at independence to nearly 130 million. Yet, in our country, children still go to bed hungry and most families subsist on less than one dollar a day. It will, therefore, not be glib to state that in every household, community and state in this nation, where the top hierarchies of human needs are not being met, we certainly have a problem. In a world awash with affluence, yet mired in poverty and hunger we cannot escape our culpability. This is more so in Nigeria, which once boasted of having agriculture as its primary industry.
Most Nigerians will readily admit that what affects us the most, is poverty and underdevelopment, which are now buffeted by perennial bad governance and debilitating corruption. Likewise, those who are outside Nigeria looking in, will say the same thing, albeit, with a qualifier; to them Nigeria’s myriad of problems is self-induced. This often the argument advanced by those who were opposed to any debt forgiveness for Nigeria. They refuse to accept that a nation with so much wealth could be so indigent. To them, our country and the challenges it faces, presents a unique paradox”.
Akintokunbo Adejumo was Pioneer & Past Publicity Secretary, Egbe Ifesemule ati Ilosiwaju Ede Yoruba – UK; Founding Member, Oluyole Progressive Union, UK & Ireland; Pioneer Member, Congress of Yoruba Heritage, Arts & Culture-UK; and is a Special Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Oyo State Command. He’s also a Fellow of the Royal Life Saving Society of Nigeria.
He is a Food Safety & Hygiene Trainer and Consultant; and also an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing, UK and Member, Chartered Management Institute, UK. He is also the Country Director of the Nigerian-UK Housing Society and has also been appointed as the Academic Director of the proposed Afemai University, Fugar, Edo State.