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A Call to Action:Nigerian Youths Must Seek Participation in Politics


A Call To Action: Nigerian Youths Must Seek Participation in Politics

In 2014, I made an extremely conscious decision to enter the terrain of politics at the age of 32. I vied for the Ukwa Federal House of representative seat under the United Democratic Party – UDP. It was a field many young Nigerians are scared to go into. Although, I lost the  election for a variety of reasons,  chief of which is the Nigerian kind of politics with all the attendant politricks. But, this is a discourse for another time. Looking back in retrospect, even though I fully realize this is a field young Nigerians are scared to venture in, I have absolutely no regrets. If anything, I  actually feel enriched and emboldened to try again in future by the experience. Many have enquired of me the reasons that propelled me into throwing my hat in the ring,and one of the most compelling was: I felt I cannot relax in silence, not saying a word, while my (people/demographic) continues to be taken advantage of,their potentials buried while they perish in service of the old political class, and being used as thugs and domestic chattels. I still feel the same way today. If I say nothing today when I am energetic and ready to go, then, when will I, as  an individual take a stand? In view of these compelling reasons, I resolved to proactively engage in the murky world of Nigerian politics. I stepped out from my comfort zone and did the right thing. Again, I must reiterate that I have no regrets on this decision. 
The truth is that knowing myself, my driving ideals wouldn’t have been content with being a “Hand bag Assistant” or a Twitter Overlord, so I had to carve my own path and take my destiny in my hands by throwing my hat in the ring. 
Having gone through the experience and lived through both the positives and negatives, the firm and enduring advice I would still give fellow Nigerians captured in my demographic is simple. You can do same too.  You can challenge your senator or governor in an electoral contest, and can possibly win. I did it this past election cycle, and will run for office again in 2019. I will enjoin them that Our silence strengthens the old ruling class. 
Let me tell you; they don’t give power. You go and grab it. We practice democracy in Nigeria, and having roughly 100m youths not doing a thing in shaping governance for the betterment of Nigeria is shocking to say the least! 
It disheartens me that fellow youths are sitting away while their time passes,limiting their potentials to taking pot shots and verbal jousting on social media. What happened to the spirit of our fore-fathers who led at tender ages – 20s and 30s? . . . Awolowo (37), Akintola (36), Ahmadu Bello (36), Effiong (36), Balewa (34), Okotie-Eboh (27), Enahoro (27), led the struggle for independence – In 1966, the first coup was led by: Kaduna Nzeogwu (29) and countered by Murtala Mohammed (28), TheophilusDanjuma (28), Babangida (25), NanvenGarba (23), Sani Abacha(23), Shehu Musa Yaradua (23), and brought into power Gowon (32), Ojukwu (33), Obasanjo (29), Buhari (24) – MT Mbu became Foreign Affairs Minister at 23 and Pat Utomi became a Presidential Adviser at 27 . . . Even our current President was a Minister of Petroleum at a young age. Why can’t I be one today? 
Where is my generation in this scheme of governance and political participation? A generation content with being the mouthpiece of the spent gerontocrats who give them handouts. A generation decorated and immersed in cowardice. I contested for the House of Representative seat not because I was rich. I am not,but because I had a goal and was driven by my base convictions. I wanted to help my demographic and my nation, a nation where the ruling class has stifled the young’s growth politically. I am a successful Accountant/Finance Analyst in NYC, USA. But I was overwhelmed by the desire to serve. Most importantly, to impart my wide and varied experience garnered over many years in the United States to my people back home . 
To illustrate some of the sacrifices,I was campaigning for office while my wife was delivering of a baby away from home,I also uprooted my family from a first world developed country with all the comforts,to move to a Nigeria with a dearth of basic infrastructures amongst other comforts they are used to. That is sacrifice! That is the sort of spirit that should drive my fellow youths in Nigeria and abroad to rescue our country from its downward trajectory. Our fathers sacrificed a lot. Why can’t we? It appears as if we want everything on a platter. However, the reality is that, it doesn’t work that way. The older rich keep suppressing us,our children;and if we are not careful the next generation. And, while they are doing this, they’re replacing themselves with their own children and family members.If we continue on this non challant and complacent path,I predict that our children and generations to come will have only derision and curses for us,they will throw at us uncharitable words for doing nothing when the time was ripe for us to say something and take a stance.
When I declared to contest, I was shocked on realizing that it was the young people that advised I shelve my ambition for the older ones. Can you imagine? The very demographic whose interests underpinned my decision to contest,to sacrifice a lot selling their rights for plates of “Nkwobi soup” and N500? I just wonder – What is wrong with our youths? Is it a question of focus? Are we content with being “Cashtivists” on Twitter? Being “Media Volunteers”? Something is definitely wrong. And whatever it is, a robust narrative needs to be crafted around the reasons in order for a proper solution. 
As soon as I hit the 40yr old mark in 2023, I am firm and unshakeable in my determination that I will declare for the President of Nigeria.The pertinent questions however are- Why can’t I win? Why would my fellow youths not support me? Are we forbidden to run for offices in this country? What is it with the debilitating and limiting mindset with my demographic?
 I have come in fully into Nigeria politics. I have announced myself, and there is no going back. Let the Political class in Nigeria embrace me as soon as possible, because I have no intention of giving up or selling out. it is our time, and we must deliver, else our children insult us. Let the Jagabans, Atikus, Sarakis, Danjumas, Onus, Ngiges, Apugos, Kalus, Odilis, Fasholas, Iwuanyanwus take note. We cannot be put aside. They all should be looking for ways to sponsor my dream 2019 and 2023 elections. If no youth stands up to support my aspiration, I will stand up alone if need be, and remain standing till my goals are achieved.
It is our task to develop this nation. We cannot wait while this nation continues sinking. I believe the old generation failed us, but by the way we are going, we are going to fail our own generation.It is pertinent for my generation to note that we will be left with the bad decisions and broken economy after the old generation have passed on. Hence, it is incumbent on all of us to take a stance now rather than later when it might have been too late. For an example, Nigeria and Singapore were at par GDP wise, HDI wise, Unemployment wise and had the same third world status, in the 60s. In the early 60s, Singapore was importing water from Malaysia. Singapore has not a single thing, natural resources wise, while Nigeria has everything and is the 7th largest oil producer in the world. 6 decades down the road:
    •    Per Capita: $3,416 (Nigeria) – $55,182 (Singapore);
    •    HDI: 0.504, 152nd (Nigeria) – 0.901, 9th (Singapore);

While Singapore’s economy is heavily diversified, Nigeria’s is still heavily dependent on oil. Nigeria, in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s was marred by a lot of military dictators who cared very little about development but were busy instituting corruption, committing human rights abuses and siphoning money to private accounts abroad. Nigeria, despite her oil wealth and days of oil booms, failed to economically develop, diversify; and cater for her people. Nigeria still ranks so high in terms of low quality healthcare, low standard of living, infrastructural crisis, poverty, corruption, unemployment, inequality; has not been able to industrialize; and has one of the least HDIs in the world; despite being the highest economy in Africa and the largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Between 1960 till date, between 100 – 300 billion dollars have been stolen by corrupt Nigerian government officials. Nigeria has been ruled for almost 30 years out of 54 years by military dictators and has had 6 military coups. Nigeria experienced a lot of political instabilities in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s with the hallmark being a bloody Civil War. Nigeria has had ethno-religious crisis, the recent culminating to Boko Haram insurgency.

While in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, her founding father, created institutions that fought the eradication of corruption, instituted democracy, united the races in the country, retired and handed over power, and pursued national planning and rapid, miraculous economic development. Singapore currently has 3rd highest per capita (PPP) in the world having overtaken almost all the European and Northern American countries. Since 1965, Singapore has developed rapidly, earning recognition as one of the Four Asian Tigers. It places highly in international rankings with regard to education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness. The Singaporean economy is known as one of the freest, most innovative, most competitive, and most business-friendly. The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Singapore as the second freest economy in the world, behind Hong Kong. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, along with New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries. Singapore is the 14th largest exporter and the 15th largest importer in the world. The country has the highest trade-to-GDP ratio in the world at 407.9 percent, signifying the importance of trade to its economy. Today, Singapore attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, corruption-free environment, skilled workforce, low tax rates and advanced infrastructure. There are more than 7,000 multinational corporations from the United States, Japan, and Europe in Singapore. There are also approximately 1,500 companies from China and a similar number from India. Singapore is also the second-largest foreign investor in India.  Over ten free-trade agreements have been signed with other countries and regions. Singapore also possesses the world's eleventh largest foreign reserves, and has one of the highest net international investment position per capita.    
This is the same good story of other countries like South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia; some Middle Eastern and Latin American countries that got independence alongside us, in the 60s. Dubai was a desert few decades ago. We young Nigerians must contest in elections to force participation in governance. We cannot fail the next generation with this Nigeria’s bitter story. We must re-direct Nigeria. It is our responsibility.

I watched with shame as some group shouted “30% or nothing” for a few months and then all quietly sneaked into their holes. Real shame. If 30% of the youths screaming that phrase had bought forms to run for various offices this past election cycle, we might have a good number of young people in government at the moment. Again, you won’t have power handed over to you; you go and take it yourself.  I refuse to see Nigeria as a nation where love of brothers and sisters has disappeared and we now are worshiping money and acquisitions. I enjoin my fellow youths to refocus and join me on this journey. It is not the country Enahoro, Awolowo, Azikiwe etal envisioned. We must not disappoint.

Written by EJ-AlozieNwagbaoso, a Nigerian Accounting and Financial Analyst,he was 2014 Contestant for Ukwa Federal House of Representatives Seat, Abia State,under the auspice of United Democratic Party – UDP

To reach him pls Email:e.alozienwagboso@gmail.com or  Twitter:@enwagboso 

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