Why’re you Angry?

I recently engaged a Youth Leader in Nigeria who posted on Facebook that he was angry.
In summary, the current President has abandoned young people, the very significant demography responsible for electing him into office. Whilst I disagree with this assertion (I hope to find time to blog about this too), I found his outburst outrightly distracting and counter productive. Also, young Nigerians have remained docile, nonchalant and somewhat oblivious.
In addition, he called for a movement and crowd-sourcing of ideas to change the status quo. On this, I could not fault him though; we should never get tired of discussing, engaging and then, working. However, what is most peculiar to us as the most populous black nation is ‘what’ and ‘how’ but never ‘when’ and ‘whom’.
I am always open to volunteering ideas to causes and have been committed to this for many years. Many public-facing initiatives get unsolicited emails from me with constructive criticisms and suggestions laced with what I consider very bright ideas. Whether these visionaries possess the courtesy to acknowledge the email is yet another blogging topic even after requesting ideas and reviews. Nonetheless, I gave him the benefit of doubt and reached out in an email with the subject, Why’re you angry?.
Here’s my first email:
Young people do not need political appointments to make a difference in Nigeria. Rather, should work on themselves to add value and if interested, seek elective positions. Yes, public service is key to large scale reforms but there are alternatives.
In 5-10 years, my generation will be running every sector of this country; and if we are serious, the government as well. This is not the time to organise mass protests but to prepare ourselves. With technology and innovation, we can render the generations ahead redundant and orchestrate the future with our minds, skills, and ideas.
I am not sure these are the angry ideas you envisaged but your Facebook post was counter-productive in my opinion.
Look forward to the outcome of the ideas you’re crowdsourcing.
He promptly responded and we engaged over a few emails which I cannot reproduce due to privacy laws but my final submission I will oblige.
Today’s generation (not sure which I actually refer to: those in their 30s, 20s or younger) will remain an angry generation just like those before them if they do nothing about it. Anger is good, many people say but I doubt that anger not channelled to any productive cause remains only an emotional sensation. This submission I also shared via my Facebook profile.

“The clamouring for youth representation is misplaced, in my opinion. Being young is no guarantee for brighter, fresher ideas or even expertise and better governance….Movements are not planned IMHO, they evolve through conscientization usually built over a period of time by ideologies and content. Although this may take a longer period than a typically orchestrated revolution, it is more widespread and can be sustained almost permanently.

Accordingly, the way forward in my submission would be aggressive investments in the majority of the youth population on Peace Education, (Awareness about) Governance Systems, (A careful study of) Nigerian History, (Imbibing) Religious Tolerance and (Inculcating) Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills. Call it a revised Citizenship Curriculum”. 

*text in parenthesis were not included in the original post.

Here it is, my humble submission garnered from years of engaging young people, youth leaders, individuals who take and make decisions on behalf of young people, youth development experts (and not those who organise events, campaigns, and initiatives) as well as much older and accomplished individuals.

Sometimes, I feel ashamed to still be young and wish I were much older. Other times, I wiggle a victory dance in pride for what my generation is changing across the world. I guess I cannot have my cake and eat it and so when it matters most; I cannot deny I am a young person.

Consequently, the answers are obvious, anger clarion calls, protests, political revolutions and initiatives (and there are so many of them siphoning funds without new ideas or approaches) will not change our predicament. I have a few conclusions:

  1. For as long as our education system is on its knees, we are wasting our time calling for a revolution. If 75% of the demography cannot read and understand what the constitution says and allows, we will be leading a herd of cattle down a steep;
  2. Our parents and grandparents know we are impatient – just as they were – and deliberately use this to manipulate us. We must demonstrate the courage to be patient, wait out a long, boring narrative and respond with as much courage and certainty as we would blurt out “Enough is enough!” after a few minutes;
  3. Constant self-development is inevitable for any young person who aspires to greatness. One who aspires to public office must prepare for battle and stay battle ready all the time. We often see our leading lights jettison their altruistic visions, sadly, but mostly for the comfort of an appearance of success;
  4. Our victory will be pyrrhic no matter how hard we try or how fiercely we fight. We are not ready. I am not too;
  5. We do not have the critical mass. It will take decades to build. When I co-founded an initiative, The Future Awards & The Future Nigeria Project; it was to build this critical mass. The vision started with finding positive lights (not necessarily role models as much as I remember) to demonstrate the business case that there are 18-31-year-olds who prove the stereotypes of the Nigerian Youth are wrong. The long-term vision was STRAT (Strategy) 2025 – 20 long and painful years of building, investing and grooming a critical mass to restore the greatness of our nation. Anyone honest enough to embark on this ‘anger trip’ knows he/she may not be done after 20 years;
  6. Journeys such as this are not fought and won as part-time activist causes. For a cause such as this, will a man or woman or group of young people solely dedicate their lives. Nothing short would do and nothing haphazard will be good enough. Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew etc. are examples of sold-out lives. I believe it is a good enough price to pay because the outcomes would record the most sustainable global mind revolution that ever occurred in human history. Nigeria is that relevant and infectious but who would bell this humongous cat?
  7. With a sense of responsibility, the majority of Nigerians are not concerned enough. I struggle to explain this but as long as the cause – whatever it is or will become – does not directly benefit an individual, his interest is limited. Corruption has for decades eroded our sense of values and nationhood. We exist as fragments of ideologies, beliefs and interests and not as Nigerians.

We can remain angry and attempt a revolution but it will amount to no good if the reasons are personal, to gain political relevance, fame, sustained income or substantial wealth and affluence. Also, for as long as many young people gravitate towards quicker, not stressful and seemingly simpler ways of making money; we will remain angry. Angry until our pockets are stuffed with cash, relatives are appointed into public offices, we earn a title ‘activist’ or ‘role model’ for a few years or have our dreams privately met.

Anger is good but anger will never be enough, and should someone ask, “Why are you angry?”, we better have an answer that’s beyond a political administration or governance opportunities – one for a marathon and not a sprint.

We better develop a real answer, and quickly too.


#Recommended: Expertise & Governance

O Canada…..What a cabinet!
Minister of Health is a Doctor.
Minister of Transport is an astronaut.
Minister of National Defense is a Sikh Veteran.
Minister of Youth is under the age of 45.
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is a former farmer.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was a Scout.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development was a financial analyst.
Minister of Finance is a successful businessman.
Minister of Justice was a crown prosecutor and is a First Nations leader.
Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities is a visually impaired Paralympian.
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Coastguard is Inuit.
Minister of Science is a medical geographer with a PhD.
Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees was an Immigration critic.
There are scientists in the cabinet, and it is made up of 50% women.

Whilst I commend my favourite Prime Minister in the world, I am not sure Medical Doctors have the best training and experience for Healthcare Administration. This rings true for many other cabinet positions. I have always been an advocate for youth representation but the experiences in Nigeria (a very peculiar example) show that being young is not a guarantee for expertise, vibrancy or even a capacity to deliver or administer public offices.

However, I presume the essence of the post, in contrast to Nigeria, is to communicate that seemingly round pegs have been placed in round holes and each Canadian Minister has been trained in the respective areas. Whilst previous administrations in Nigeria attempted this with the major cabinet positions, government agencies and departments were seemingly handed to professionals of questionable experience to manage.

Critics have argued that administrative experience is the thrust of cabinet appointments and ministerial leadership. Whilst I agree in part, I also disagree that a Medical Doctor will make an effective Minister for Education even though he/she is well trained. There are always aspects of a field that require core expertise or technical know-how to administer. Another argument in favour of this school of thought is that a Minister can always appoint special advisers. The simple counter-argument would be that appointing an ‘industry insider’ reduces the expense of the Minister’s Office and Personal Staff. No Minister should expend so much in hiring advisers when he/she should possess the requisite experience to take these decisions.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently retorted to critics that he has 3 more years to prove them right or wrong. I doubt that response is desirable for a President who was so critical of his predecessors especially Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. So many developments from the Buhari Administration smack of shameless hypocrisy nonetheless, as a citizen I recognise my role to offer all the support possible towards the success of this government. This is simply because when Buhari succeeds, Nigeria grows and develops further. And if he doesn’t….(I will leave this till 2019 to express my fears), I hope he will have the integrity to admit the failures in his stewardship and extend an olive branch to his successor.

So far, whilst President Buhari has failed to match or surpass women representation in his cabinet, Prime Minister Trudeau has achieved 50%. One week after the world celebrated International Women’s Day (#IWD2016), the Nigerian Senate voted against the Gender & Equal Opportunities Bill (#GEOBill).

“I’ll Keep Saying I’m A Feminist Until There’s No Reaction…If you’re a progressive, you really should be a feminist because it’s about equality, it’s about respect, it’s about making the best of the world that we have…”

– Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Till 2019. For now, I rest…

NB: I saw the opening quote on Facebook and thought to share.


#Ebola: A false sense of urgency.

Any individual who is conscious of current affairs must have heard about the current epidemic ravaging the Western Region of Africa, #Ebola.


I will skip the background of the unprecedented spread of the virus to the crux of this ‘short’ post. The Nigerian Government declared a National emergency on the outbreak of the virus. Pardon me, as I run a few ‘searches’ on this headline, it dawns on me – slowly – that the declaration did not explicitly mention steps to be taken at the various borders of Africa’s largest economy. So, pardon me indeed; it was just a declaration of an emergency.


Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value – Jim Rohn


However, I departed the country through one of her largest migration points; the Murtala Mohammed International Airport on Saturday, August 9, 2014 but it seemed like business as usual. All officials: Aviation Security, Immigration, Customs, Airline Staff conducted their business as though the declaration did not happen. I had personally watched and closely followed all the press conferences by the Lagos State and Federal Governments on the issue including this emergency declaration about 24 hours before.

Please do not misunderstand me, I did not expect an isolation centre already set up at the airport; perhaps one would not be impossible, however, I expected a briefing session. I expected to be questioned, briefed and instructed to report anyone who looked sick or developed ‘Ebola-like’ symptoms during the almost 8-hour flight. And our arrival as passengers from a virus-hit region, I did expect a lot. We had prepared to be pulled aside, interrogated and possibly subjected to blood tests at the airport. None of these happened.

It took a few days to get over the shock. What if we were fleeing with the virus to another country? What if an infected person was on the flight and we were all at risk (at least those of us in Coach) of contracting the virus?

#Not a laughing matter

A few minutes after arrival whilst on the queue into an aviation hub and undoubtedly the world’s busiest airports (Hint: almost always constant renovation and expansion); a passenger coughed and sneezed loudly. Immediately, the Nigerian woman who stood in front of him took a few steps forward. Her frantic efforts to hold her breath whilst gently nudging her children forward and exchanging knowing glances with her husband was nothing but comedic. I couldn’t hold back. I laughed out loud, laughed so much that she heard me. We exchanged knowing glances that said, ‘God forbid! I run away from something only to ‘catch it’ here in a foreign land!’

#What I would do….

Quickly, here is my theory: When Late Mr. Sawyer was confirmed the Index case; the governments of Lagos State and Nigeria should have done the following:

  1. Declared Obalende an epicentre
  2. Introduce curfews and movement restrictions
  3. Moved much faster with quarantine
  4. Marked ‘Points of Guard’ immediately
  5. Disseminated Official information much faster

When I shared this with a friend, he laughed at the capacity of our leadership to achieve this. However, I disagreed on the grounds that the swift response exhibited by the Lagos State Government – first in admitting and informing the public – proved to me that they were capable of implementing points 1-5 except 4 in partiality as the administration of airports are on the exclusive list of the Federal Government.


Nigerians, in my opinion understand actions better than words. So, whilst a hygiene campaign in Obalende and Oshodi would have been outright waste of resources; a ‘clean up’ – which also resulted in destruction of property and livelihoods inadvertently – of these popular slum bus routes sent the message and the offenders were compelled to align or move away. Anyone who has been to Lagos Island would understand my point of view, that is not a suburb where you embark on campaigns or organise press conferences. That is one where you unfortunately have to cripple regular economic activities (hustle and bustle) to send a clear message across – EBOLA IS HERE. BEWARE!

In one of my favourite titles of all time, A Sense Of Urgency by John P. Kotter, it teaches on how to effect change using an efficient and effective method. In the analogy used in the book, the subjects were faced with a real, life-threatening challenge of a melting iceberg.

A Sense Of Urgency

#Business School Case Study?

Irrespective of the current circumstances and those which characterised the index case such as his refusal to stay in the hospital, urinating on the medical personnel et al; the most important factor in containing #Ebola at the moment which would have set the tone from the onset is Leadership. I beamed with pride (and vindication that I am not in denial after all) when I watched Dr. Chike Ihekweazu of Nigeria Health Watch on BBC’s Focus on Africa TV Show as he asserted that leadership is all that matters.

Would this suggest the same failure in the other West African countries? That is a blog post for another day but needless to say that the outbreak of a highly contagious and haemorrhagic fever such as #Ebola in a remote rural area or geographically obscure suburb is a different ball game from that which happens in a high-end hospital right in the centre (and old Government Reserve Area) of a city like Lagos.

It is easy to disagree with a business concept proffered as solution for a national emergency but from all indications, this has not been handled as one and so, this business concept might have prevented a lot of damage. At the moment, it seems both senses – urgency and emergency (a false sense of urgency) have failed.