In the book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture the author, a Canadian named Douglas Coupland, wrote a masterpiece that started out as a fictional novel but became the defining characteristic of a whole generation. The story is about the traits and struggles of three young strangers born between 1965 and 1980 who decide to distance themselves from society to get a better sense of who they are. The book was so revolutionary that the title was adopted to describe the particular generation the characters of the book came from. Several literatures have interpreted the features of various generations by labeling them with popular terms used to describe the characteristics of the era they emerged from. For example missionary-generation was given to those who grew up in the era of western colonisation when there were numerous missionary operations and war-generation has been used to describe those that grew up around the World War I and II period.

Following the same pattern, one can easily describe the generations in Nigeria by drawing from occurrences in our history. For obvious reasons, the most palpable terminology would be to categorize our forefathers of the pre-Awolowo time as the colonial-generation, those of the Independence era as the independence-generation and the generation after that as the military-generation. Because the generation that comes after the military-generation have not had much of an opportunity to participate in national issues due to their voices being dimmed by their predecessor generation, a befitting name for them might be the silent-generation. In accordance with Douglas Couplands’ book; due to their somewhat blasé attitude, the generation following the silent-generation that encompasses the twenty six to forty one year olds should be known as generation-X with the young generation after that as generation-Y.

Each generation was born into an idiosyncratic social milieu; unique events encountered by them shaped the attitudes and conduct of that generation in different areas in distinction to those of the generations that preceded or followed it. Thus, arguably different age groups tend to see things similar to those born within their age but different from those of other generations because their thoughts have been shaped by the cultural norms, occurrences, behaviours, atmosphere and habits prevalent within their epoch. It is these different standards that manifest in each generations’ psyche to give credence to the lack of understanding between older and younger people and the generation gap. But despite the generation gap, nearly all societies can only reach its peak when it allows its system to benefit from the alternative principles of the different generations. This is in all probability one of the ingredients missing from our own social structure where members of the independence and military-generations continue to completely hog the administrative circumference, thus making the silent-generation appear more silent than ever.

The members of the independence and military-generation were lucky because in the years after our Independence with its clean slate and oil boom, opportunities in Nigeria were abundant, making way for the members of that generation to rise to the top and consolidate their leadership position which they do not want to give up. As a result, for decades the generations following our independence and military-generation have been stuck in a rut and pushed aside by Nigerian elders that have refused to leave the stage. The military-generation presently takes up the lion's share of our political, industrial and academic leadership class and as we go into another election the situation doesn’t look likely to change.

The same personalities are vying for the same positions they did thirty years ago even though, with a growing population, the nation has more to offer than it ever did before. In spite of the fact that the leaders of the independence and military-generations have seen their political and leadership influence wane during the recent past, the situation of who steers the oars from the top has not progressed to the beneficiaries. In most societies retirement is taken very seriously. People who have worked tirelessly all their lives and contributed to society are expected to retire and allow society to contribute back to them. But with Nigerian politics, retirement is a non-starter. As long as a leader has enough resources then he is likely to go on and on and on without stopping, even when the roost comes home.

While the military-generation in the present political parties make their alliances for the next elections, engage in ceremonial hand-shaking, commit to various projects and get caught up in bureaucratic red-tape, a new generation needs to be given a chance to flourish. In this respect Nelson Mandela once said, ‘it falls upon a generation to realise that the 21st century calls for a new type of politics…it is crying out for a new generation that will step up to the plate.’

Whilst everyone bemoans the fact that there needs to be an ethnic shift, the focus should instead be on a generational shift. A younger breed of politician at the very helm needs to emerge to nurture the circle of political life. Younger people need to be encouraged to participate in politics in the interest of development and continuity. A new form of politics with modern ideas is rising in this century and as a nation we must stand up to meet the challenge; already we can see the tide pushing for change. The real politics of our time is taking place not amongst the elites but with the public; by action groups, in opinion articles, in newspapers, in the media and through public opinion on the social online networks.

In this generation, we must break the jinx and put our communities first and know that it is possible for our choices to be put back into our arms. We must sustain the spirit of that revolution for the future so that Nigeria will never again be short-changed.

The 2015 elections will be one of the greatest tests in our history of the judgement of our leaders. And the ultimate trial within that test is whether the main players are earnest about the objectives of encompassing change and saving this country. And if they are to save this country our leaders will be called upon to put the nation above any sectional interest, above any personal gain. This will include the courage of the older generations to pass the baton of power to members of the younger generation.

The problems and pressures of the sit tight presidency and all other office holders have threatened our progress for all too long. But the sit tight attitude doesn’t just mean a president who doesn’t want to leave office; it also includes the older generations who instead of forfeiting power prefer to reprocess themselves as leaders with no end. The politics played out by many of the politicians involved in our government is not the politics that one sees when one considers the world's movements for development and justice. That politics is altruistic and resonates with the core of humanity and its different generations but ours is just stagnant. If you look at older democracies, you find that with every election a younger leader than the one before is produced but in Nigeria we are left to choose from the same individuals, election after election.

This nation wants food, employment, shelter and security. It needs water, electricity, a reasonable standard of living, communication, accountability and an educational system that will give our offspring a future to take full advantage of the resources of our motherland. Anyone with the right focus can do this but in order to inject the system with a fresh lease of life, generational shift needs to be considered.

Members of the younger generation generally have a somewhat withdrawn, indifferent, cautious and pessimistic view about politics and appear to be disdainful about political personalities. But who can blame them? They were born into a world of increasing cynicism about leaders, grew up during the time when governments were engaging in unsystematic behaviour and social ills were blamed on a failed state. But despite this, there is a need to revive their interest and encourage them to make key determinations about their political perspectives because to write them off politically is to risk losing a sleeping giant.

The young are ethnically diverse, avant-garde and the future leaders. Without a doubt members of the independence and military-generations have experience on their side but how are their progenies supposed to acquire the same level of experience for the future if they do not have a chance to experience, learn and grow? The independence and military-generations are needed for guidance but the silent generation should be woken up for governance.

The older generation should realize that the country is changing; people are becoming aware of their rights and abilities. The politics that we will see in the next twenty years will be a much different beast than the one we have seen of recent. The next generation will have to plan from the ground up to deal decisively with the warn voices who use high-sounding talk about freedom to cloak their determination of putting themselves above the nation. We need fresh blood, new people with new ideas and a new generation as leaders. Business as usual should not be an option because other generations will demand their turn.

The selfish stage we have undergone of ‘tazarche politics’ in which incumbent leaders feel it is their God given right to impose themselves on millions of resisting people must not be repeated. And the cleansing period for that process should start with a generational shift. Instead of recycling leaders, Nigeria needs to find articulate, exposed, erudite young leaders, ones with charisma and ones who appeal to the full electorate and the international community. A new generation is coming of age in Nigeria and our present leaders need to give it a chance.

When Coupland wrote his book, he had no idea of the effect it would have but he touched on a nerve. In comparison Nigeria should also touch on a nerve; because the silent-generation have only a few left and the older generations are fast getting on them.

The independence and military-generation need to help the silent-generation to find its voice and set a precedent so that they can in turn pave way for generation-X who have the responsibility of grooming generation-Y and so on. Lets make a generational gain by breaching the generational gap and winning this generational game.

Written By Hannatu Musawa

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