Fifty four emails and thirty four comments after my article “A failing ethnicity” published on Saharareporters, I am touched.

  The show of concern, the will to grow and the disappointment of the people is astonishing.  Therefore I decided to write a follow up stating one of the action points we can take as youth to harness our future in this nation. Often time I read articles and wonder if they are written to reach the right target audience in Nigeria. Today believe it or not,  mechanics, farmers, drivers and homeless individuals have access to at least one form of media and are curious to know what is going on (if they can read or understand is a different issue, but I bet a vast majority try), those are the people you and I represent. We may know why we are voting but they don’t, we may know the issues but they assume times are hard. Therefore I always urge that we keep dialog simple and free of too many numbers, we educated ones know the details so lets not confuse the ones that have been abandoned by a failing system.

I must say that a few things have bothered me in the present scope of the so called elections in Nigeria.  In the most simple way, I will make reference to both the ‘internal and external politicking’ that I have seen suffice thus far.

Internal Politicking

The youth have been shut out of internal party politics in Nigeria. We have been left with dreams of becoming leaders when indeed the gates have been shut by the greed and bully tactics of our leaders.  How many youth factions are represented within the political parties? How many candidates produced by these parties represent the youth?  How much do the so called youth leaders know about arrangements made at the ‘tables of power’?

Any youth leader within a party who claims to be conversant with the internal politics within his party has betrayed the youth of this nation. Take for example the ‘Zoning arrangement’ within the PDP. How come before the show of shame during the internal power tussle, we the youth were clueless to the fact that our future was predetermined by the same leaders who solicit our votes? We obviously have no choice in picking our candidates, we pick our party.

I will try to give a simple example; a 20 year old Yoruba kid (forgive my use of real numbers it’s easier to do the math) dreaming big dreams of leading Nigeria, based on the constitution has to wait till age 35 to contest as a senator. At 35 he runs and wins. Then he serves for 8 years at this time he is 43 years old. The youth believe that he has shown exemplary leadership qualities, equality in his choices and pick him to be leader.  But wait we don’t have a choice! The party has a ‘hidden’ clause that says it’s not the turn of his zone he would have to wait for a Niger Delta, Igbo then Hausa leader before he can rule the people. By this time he is 67 years old. Now I don’t feel bad that Dele Momodu considers himself youth, as many of us will have to live in such a bubble come our time. Just like football age, he is youth in political age. We are on a road to losing many great leaders who will slip away due to the disregard of the choices our party leaders have made.  There is really no chance for the youth leader, he does not exist but our votes are necessary for success of the ones who have betrayed us.  If a 20year old has little or no chance of becoming a leader then why are we the youth going to the polls? I am not limiting my criticism to the PDP alone; the same way we found out over a tussle, there is a probability that such agreements exist across party lines. PDP is merely a public example.

Another tactic adopted by the political ‘elders’ is one I would like to call ‘finance checkmate’. The youth strive for political relevance and a cap is placed on how much funds are necessary to be a frontline candidate.  How many youth can afford to go frontline? If we have the qualities to lead, why not sponsor us?  Typically the youth will drop out of his ambition and chase bogus contracts like supply of DDC machines and money laundering all in an effort to finance the dream. By the time he returns, he is corrupt. The party system is in place to corrupt the youth therefore reducing the chance of producing a leader of true integrity. If a young aspiring leader with true heart, ambition and leadership qualities is checkmated; and another leader of less quality is picked for his financial prowess . is that not equivalent to our votes being bought? Its just a change in trade tactics.  If you make the share price high enough only for your candidate to afford it, and I still vote for your party then you have bought my vote. Party politics….and they want our vote?

I reiterate that these issues are not limited to the PDP alone. It took an internal problem for us as youth to know that there was an internal arrangement that made a mockery of our ambitions.  Other parties could have them, we simply do not know.  My take is simple on this issue.  Either the parties open the books on all the so called arrangements they have made on our behalf or we don’t vote.  If such information is classified, then our votes stay classified.  If there is zoning let us know, if it does not exist then say so. As a party if you have predetermined my future, I have a right to know before I go to the polls. NIGERIAN YOUTHS WE MUST KNOW THAT WE ARE VOTING FOR PARTIES WITH SET MANDATES AND RULES. NOT FOR CANDIDATES. CANDIDATES ARE HELD DOWN BY INTERNAL POLICIES THAT HAVE BEEN SET BY PARTY LEADERS. There are many issues we have overlooked as youth, many plots we have failed to understand before casting our votes. We may be casting an end to our generation.

As we know, according to the number registered voters the majority bracket falls between 18-35. The youth! Our president Goodluck Jonathan through the mandate of the PDP has promised 35% of offices to the women (our mothers). I applaud such show of equality as I believe the women deserve it and will come out in drones to vote based on that.  Do you not think that the votes that stand in majority deserve even 10% of office?  Or has our refusal over the years to use our votes as a bargaining tool been taken for granted. Before you get our votes, let us know what we are getting! This is also an issue along party lines and is not limited to the PDP. What are we getting parties?

I have left many unturned stones out of this article as I simply cannot write them all. I believe this is enough internal madness to ponder before we cast our votes. Lets  our leaders to stand before us and tell us what the contracts signed say about our future. Let my Igbo representation within the hierarchy tell me why as an Igbo youth I should cast my vote….and same should apply across ethnic lines.

External Politicking

In terms of external party politics, the youth that followed the campaigns must have noticed the absence of youth leaders, youth coordinators and youth voices. How many youth did you see sitting or standing next to a political aspirant? None?  But they are on the campaign trails asking for our votes!  I remember watching the ACN presidential nomination rally on television, sitting through the party leaders all dancing to the song “stand up for the champions” and wondering where the youth representing or serving under the party platform had been placed. Can’t we dance? Do we exist? Or are we simply not worthy to be called champions?  If I cannot get on the dance floor, I do not want to vote! At the PDP rallies, no youth emerged to tell us what the party has done to ease the pains of our existence in Nigeria, or the future plans the ‘leaders’ have for us.  We are in majority, we are well equipped to negotiate for transparency before we cast our vote. Let is know what has been agreed; let us know why the youth political hopefuls were dropped along the way. Most importantly let us go to the polls understanding the consequences of our votes. We could be destroying a generation.  If it’s not important for the air to be cleared on issues, then our votes are not important to the success of this nation.  Let’s exercise our rights

My urge to vote has nothing to do with me; I refuse to be a fool. My decision to vote, is not for the candidate I want as I have not been given a choice to pick him. I am simply voting to ‘checkmate’ the candidate I do not want. I am voting for the little girl that sells water in the streets, the boy who changes my tire but most importantly one man over 50 who stood in front of me while a registered and could not write his name. I care about that 50 year old, but do the party elders care about me? It’s a valid question. Consciously think about your reasons for going to the polls, if you are convinced it’s worth the visit.

On a last note, I want to urge the party leaders and aspirants of any party that has a rotation agreement to please stop visiting our schools telling the kids “you are the leaders of tomorrow”, “if I can make it, you can make it”…tell them the truth “we are not sure when your time will come, its a lot of calculation”.

That’s all folks; I need to get some sleep. I really appreciate all the responses I received to my article yesterday. For that reason I made an effort to write today. Thought I didn’t reply individual messages, I acknowledge receipt. Vote wisely!!!!!

Gihan Mbelu  [email protected]

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