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.