Mark Zuckerberg, Nigeria’s Youth and the Politics of Things, By Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji

Brace Up Nigeria. I am convinced more than ever before that the generation that will salvage our country is right before Us and 2019 will be the beginning.

This for me is a season of mixed feelings. For once, I think our public sector leaders and a few young Nigerians should swap roles, positions, offices and responsibilities for some months for the good measure of service, work ethic, effectiveness, vision and leadership.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 32, worth over 40 billion dollars visited Lagos last week, walked on the streets of Yaba without any pomp and circumstance, knelt behind children to see how they were writing codes at Co-creation Hub and visited only businesses and ventures run by young people.

The sterling efforts of our youth excited and attracted Mark to our country. He could sense the potentials of Nigeria’s tech sector, and didn’t just visit our country for a taste of Jollof rice and shrimps, but to explore and consolidate his ties and relationship with the next big thing within the world tech business space – Nigeria. Mark my words. That is a young lad who’s known for living intentionally.

Our youth keep putting Nigeria on the global map in a positive light around the world without much government support or investment, while our governments continue to display a steep lack of empathy and understanding about simple issues on matters that affect citizens and our livelihoods.

Just last week too, while in the middle of a recession, during which our people have been barely able to feed or afford the very minimalist standards of living they used to manage to have, our government announced an increase in the toll fare between Ikeja and Oshodi in Lagos, Nigeria. There is no justification whatsoever for this, at least not now.

I have never been so upset with the government in a long time. After the 2015 elections, I made a decision to lean back and hope for the best while observing the plans and agenda of our new administration.

Our generation has upped the game in entertainment. We are changing the world of, in and with technology already. Both sectors have largely flourished through the power of organisation and collaboration. Government, governance and our public service have to be next.

It is my hope that the Pope, the UN Secretary General and the president of nations of the world will visit Nigeria one day and it will not be merely to shake hands with old goons, even as afterthought, but to see how Young Nigerians are reshaping, remaking and repositioning our political system from one led and managed by the same group and clique of clueless, greedy oldies to one superintended by young savvy leaders who know how to build roads, fix education, create an enabling environment for the jobs of the future to thrive, reward dignity in labour over access or nepotism, deepen democracy, promote unity, provide security and clean water and deliver wholesome development to our people.

It’s not even their visits that would be weighty, it would be the fact that there would be key takeaways from Nigeria’s 360 degrees growth in the hands of a new generation with demonstrable resilience and capacity to tackle our problems from the standpoint of knowledge and commitment.

Brace Up Nigeria. I am convinced more than ever before that the generation that will salvage our country is right before Us and 2019 will be the beginning.

The Road is dreary and the journey is long but we walk in faith as we conquer our fears.

To all the young people who worked hard in the Nigerian tech space even when the internet wasn’t commonplace, we celebrate you. Beyond Mark’s big endorsement of your hustle, it’s about your tenacity, courage, vision and long suffering.

I write this with tears in my eyes because I know what real “change and transformation” our nation can experience when our generation gets the opportunity of political service and leadership. I mean, it shouldn’t be too difficult for public servants who travel so frequently to build decent airports in our major cities but they are blinded by corruption and self-serving tendencies.

Nigeria can keep ignoring her youth but Nigeria cannot do without us. They may have the money and power, but we have the voices and the votes.

Our nation is on the precipice. Jobs are being cut daily. Our people are impoverished. Our government representatives feed fat on our commonwealth. The two major political parties who display fake enimity during the day while they unite and negotiate to loot our public treasury at night are one and the same.

The argument is that as youth, we are inexperienced and naive, but I hope Nigeria is aware that since independence, anything that has brought honour and glory to this nation has been spearheaded by young people – in academics, football, entertainment, and what not.

No single political leader out of Nigeria in the past 56 years has been a reference point of exemplary leadership, vision, integrity and other critical values that elders bequeath as legacies.

If you ask Nigerian children who their role models are, it will be a shame that no single president or governor, law maker or whoever at any level of government will fit that bill or make the list, but ask young people in other nations who their models are, and we can guess their answers.

America has John F. Kennedy, Ghana has Jerry Rawlings, South Africa has Nelson Mandela, Singapore has Lee Kuan Yew, Tanzania has Julius Nyerere, Burkina Faso has Thomas Sankara, who does Nigeria have?

Civil society organisations, NGOs, businesses and individuals have the combined power of mobilising for change and social justice but the policies made by government are reponsible for development.

Nigerian young people did not wait for government for set the frameworks for progress in the earlier sectors I mentioned, so waiting for politicians who lack vision and compassion to hand over the baton of political power to us is like waiting for a ship at the airport.

This is a call to action to Nigeria’s “can do” generation to step forward and seek political power. There is a special space reserved for us on the pages of history.

Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, a social entrepreneur is fellow and candidate in the mid-career Masters in Public Administration program at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

1 Comment

  1. I can imagine I’m about the same age as the writer or slightly older. At least within the same generation. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the writer of this nice article should try putting his eyes and ears to the ground and maybe he or she might have a different view.
    First, let’s admit one major fact. My generation is filled with alot of lazy and corrupt people. Most youth in our generation are self-seeking, selfish and lack integrity. Honestly, if you put most of them in power, the whacking will be far more than what it is today. Most are more interested in the luxuries of life rather than doing something that will have a positive impact on their neighbours. If you doubt me, please really take a close look at the so called young entrepreneurs of today who are well hyped on social media. I’ve been privy to conversations between them and have wined and dined with them, so I’m not speaking from just mere hear say.
    Only a very few can truly handle the mantle of leadership in this country. Only very few are aware of the social, economic and political plight of the masses. You cannot rule or lead the multitude when your eyes are gazing high up towards the castle you want to build. Nor can you solve the problems of the masses when you don’t even know what they are.
    So sorry, I’m not sure if our generation have the answer to this countries problem. I know how many times I’ve spoken to my peers about the issues regarding the country and only a few seem interested to make some sort of a change. The rest, well they don’t care or they just ask one question. Who will lead?
    Personally want to seek the oppurtunity to work on and with the generations after us. If we can shape their thinking and point them in the right direction, maybe this country might some day be a better place. I really pray I get to do so and soon. Till then, I won’t hold my breath about 2019. The same mistakes of 2015 will be made.

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