This is the promised continuation of the excerpts of my public lecture on “The Youth & the future of Nigeria – what role for the media?” given on the occasion of the Lagos Television anniversary on 18/11/13. The first part ran in this column of 01/12/13. Enjoy:
The youth in history
History is replete with the dynamic role the youth of a country, including Nigeria, have played in changing the political or economic trajectory of their countries. Conscious that their future is at stake, the youth have many a times taken the bull of retrogression and negativity in their countries by the horns, and picked up the gauntlet to challenge and upset the status quo; asserted their own authority, and often at great sacrifices to their lives changed the course of history of their countries through revolutionary interventions look these up.
We are reminded of the 28-year-old Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, who doused himself in gasoline and burnt himself to death in protest of the Tunisian regime; and how that set the Arab world aflame in what has become known as the Arab Spring with the overthrow of the governments in Egypt and Tunisia and raging fire all across Arab land from Syria to Yemen, and Libya.
Nearer home, the example that still resonates in the Nigerian with relish is that of Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings who at 31 staged a coup d’état in Ghana in 1979 and went on to execute a number of top ranking Ghanaian political leaders in what he described as a purge of Ghanaian society of all the corruption and social injustices bedeviling the country. Many Nigerians still wonder if a Rawlings treatment may not be the answer to their own country’s stagnation if not retrogression.
Nigeria has had her own fair share of military putsches, also mostly by young military officers, from the first coup of 1966 by the “five majors” all in their early 30s, to subsequent ones that brought in Gowon, aged 31, Murtala Mohammed’s, Buhari’s, and Babangida’s who were all in the 40 age bracket. Military uprising and coup d’état is, however, a different kettle of fish, an undesirable and anachronistic one from a people’s revolt, the revolution of the youth ready to troop unto the streets and ready to sacrifice their lives rather than continue with a life with no direction and no hope.
The past tells a story of the Nigerian youth, educated, enlightened, motivated, conscious of their historic responsibilities and bringing about changes in the society through their valiant protests. These were periods when the student unions had internal cohesion, good organisation and networking.
The 1971 Student Protest at the University of Ibadan marked the first time a student would be killed in the course of student protests. Kunle Adepeju, a second-year agric student of the University of Ibadan was killed as a result of students’ protest over feeding arrangements.
However, since the late 1980s, the collective identity of Nigerian students has changed dramatically. The effectiveness of student mobilisztion and collective identity has waned. The students as a body have since become a less formidable force. What explains this radical change? The repressive actions of the various regimes since independence took a toll on the student movements since the 1990s. (Bolaji Akintola: The Perils of Protest: State Repression & Student Mobilization in Nigeria).
(Note: To be continued)