A few months ago, I wrote about the prospects of a Ribadu presidency and the great excitement it had generated. If that possibility seemed like a fantasy then, it looks more like a reality today thanks to the extraordinary efforts of young Nigerians.

Perhaps in response to the admonition of the philosopher and revolutionary, Franz Fanon, that each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it, Nigerian youth seem poised to take up the gauntlet to salvage Nigeria. They have come together to undertake this onerous task under the banner Team Ribadu.

Team Ribadu is a youth driven, flagship volunteer movement for the Nuhu Ribadu 2011 presidential bid. It is “a political movement, founded in recognition of the legitimate thirst of Nigerian youth for a new kind of leadership marked by integrity and competence. It seeks to harness and support the tidal wave of young people, who are eager to get involved in the electoral process, in order to create political and social change”.

To achieve this, Team Ribadu plans “to build a groundswell of motivated, committed and capable volunteers to not only ensure the right leaders are voted into political office in 2011, but also to ensure that these leaders are held accountable for their promises once elected into office”.

Clearly, more than anything else, the 2011 election will be a battle between the old order and the new; between whether we want change or more of the same. What these youth – some of them professionals, many of them students, and many more unemployed -- seem to be saying is they want to reclaim Nigeria and they have the capacity to do so.

These indefatigable young Nigerians are calling 2011 the Year of the Nigerian Youth Voter. According to a post on the team’s Facebook, “in 1993, IBB and his cabal annulled the popular will of Nigerians. Many of us were too young to vote then. But not anymore! We are conscious of the task that history has placed on our shoulders. If the task of our grandparents, many of whom were much younger than we are now, was to liberate our nation from the evils of colonialism, the task of our parents was to build a strong, prosperous, and united nation, an egalitarian society founded on the principle of social justice and freedom. Unfortunately, they failed woefully in that calling.

“But it is not enough to bemoan our situation or to perpetually play the blame game. We have the future of Nigeria literally in our hands. The question is: do we want to live the second half of the Nigerian century in darkness? The world is now electing young and visionary presidents with broader foreign policy perspectives, with notions and ideas of integrity, and above all with models of the future.”

Those behind the novelty, Team Ribadu, see in Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a once-in-a-generation opportunity to confront our problems as a nation. Ribadu brings compassion, integrity and a strong vision of the future. What else can one ask for in a country where the bankruptcy of leadership is the rule rather than the exception?

Team Ribadu is poised to be the most elaborate and sophisticated attempt by Nigerian youth to be a part of the democratic process. Understandably, it is gradually turning into a pop culture phenomenon. This weekend about 400 volunteer members across the country will gather in Abuja, the first of its kind in our tortuous political history, to parley with the man, Nuhu Ribadu, and fine-tune strategies for their roles in what will be, for most of them, the greatest opportunity as well as challenge of their lives. 

Of course, our youth have the vote and they know the power to make a difference is literally in their hands. Unlike other platforms that seek to mobilise Nigerian youth with money and other forms of gratification, the Team Ribadu platform, according to its founders, is powered by the conviction that young people can bring about the kind of change we desire in Nigeria.

I agree with the founders of Team Ribadu that the battle cry as we count down to 2011 should be register, vote, defend your vote!

Who says a New Nigeria is not Possible?

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