Where are the heroes for the Nigerian youths?-By Abah Simon

Where are the heroes for the Nigerian youths?-By Abah Simon

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I looked into the faces of the youngsters on children’s day, and I couldn’t help but love the way they expressed hope in Nigeria. The joy on their faces after the customary march-past was infectious. For some, it was the first time. “I love Nigeria.” one said, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Nigeria will love him and others back.

If you speak to children today, you may hear, “I want to be an astronaut.” When I went to teenage school, I didn’t know what that meant. But I knew I wanted to be a soldier. If you were raised in the barracks and witnessed a military parade, you might want to be a soldier. I tried but I didn’t make the short list for a branch of the armed forces. Nobody told me why.

See, I do not have to go to the Bahamas, to recreate Nigeria’s story. I was born here and live here and so I know the history of this country well enough.

The writing of this article began in Owerri, Imo State and ended in Port Harcourt. Looking back, I had to ask myself seriously concerning my boyhood dream: “Would I have ended up a very good officer? Who is my military hero? Other than prestige, what was the underlying reason for my desire to be a soldier?”

Reflections are necessary in life, the need to take stock. I hear there are no bad soldiers only very bad officers. And so, if you happen upon an officer’s convoy with soldiers clearing the officer’s route by beating people with horsewhips and said officer does not care enough to stop this dehumanising act, the chances are that he is a very bad officer.

How can such random violence against innocent Nigerian civilians be justified? Do we so debase ourselves that we accept the patrician airs in which officers are shrouded along with their feelings of entitlement to a peerage?

Ours is an environment where so many things are taken for granted. Members of the armed services beat “bloody civilians,” police officers harass Nigerians as a matter of course and drive against traffic. I might have ended up a very bad officer, who knows? The role of the military, instead of protecting its country’s citizens against violence, is to inflict that violence itself.

My mother used to wake me up to watch Christy Essien Igbokwe “omo mi seun rere” on national television but I have yet to wake my children up to watch today’s Nigerian musical stars.

I didn’t have to be woken up by anyone to watch Onyeka Onwenu’s music featuring King Sunny Ade. When “Wait for me” was played on television.
I believe that many of today’s youths may not find themselves useful in the national scheme of things. It’s a sad truth that a child’s future seems to depend on what is learnt from society; a child ends up becoming what his parents and heroes became. A Heinrich must become a Himmler.

Who is our hero? Who is my hero? What is the relationship between our heroes and the people and of the attitudes they showcase toward one another?

In this country, everyone wants to sit on a peacock throne: “Do you know me?” “Don’t you know that I come from this state, an oil city and need not work for anyone?” We are a people of class. When we buy vehicles we must post photos on social media and walk around ceremoniously dangling our car keys in our hands. Geniality and humility both are essential commodities that have taken flight. There is a natural tendency to demean people to the level of indignity.

The social outlook of Nigerians is complex. Our sense of love, respect, equality and human dignity is mainly limited to the tribe of our friends, families and folks of our geographical region. The prejudices are so high that a Southerner can only be a hero in the South East and South South and a Northerner can be a hero only in the North. The passion for “our own” remains entrenched in our locale.

 

How do you build a country when the adult citizens that our future leaders (our children) see are debauchees of varying kinds or clerics who only preach war and not peace?

Many clerics do not promote hard work. Instead, they only offer life-changing deliverance programs in contrast to the Apostle Paul who laboured to earn his keep. Many clerics have never worked and don’t work but they evaluate people strictly on their faith and belief.

Ours is an environment where so many things are taken for granted. Members of the armed services beat “bloody civilians,” police officers harass Nigerians as a matter of course and drive against traffic. I might have ended up a very bad officer, who knows? The role of the military, instead of protecting its country’s citizens against violence, is to inflict that violence itself.

It is painful to see people conscious only of territories. It hurts to see people in adult education who do not know the difference between knowledge and wisdom. They cannot see that self-education, and not what you learn in school, is the bedrock of real education.

It is painful to see people who do not know how to evaluate office holders and who write them off purely by virtue of their geographic origins. Who will remind these people that Margaret Thatcher inherited over a million unemployed people and that even though that number had nearly doubled by 1990 when she left office, she remains the greatest post-war Prime Minister of the United Kingdom? Leaders are judged by the policies they chase and not by their ethnic configuration. Many justify their blind bigotry by pointing fingers at the other side: “We are better than them, they can’t be our equals.”

What future lies in wait for the children I played with on Children’s Day? Will they grow up wrapped in current fatal misconceptions to also ruthlessly exploit and degrade others into servitude?

What future lies in wait for the children I played with on Children’s Day when intellectuals rewrite Nigerian history for ulterior purposes?
We are so conditioned by emotions in this country. When I read opinion pieces of some people in the dailies, I can predict the journalistic outbursts by their names and not many have failed me in their projects of demagoguery. I avoid their pieces for the sake of sanity.

It is time we began to question the status quo and enlarge our minds, to give latitude to people not like us. Such latitude was given to Bill Clinton at Boys Nation where he decided to be a politician after a national tour.

Where are the heroes for Nigerian youth? The love of philistinism and not character is damaging our destiny and our lives, both personally and nationally. Our youth do not see people with the courage to set an example by word and deed. They have been conditioned not to be inquisitive but to bow to group philosophy.

Who will ever teach our children to practise the injunction of Mitch Albom, “you either love each other or perish”?
It is disconcerting to see Nigerians so well versed in religious text yet so far removed from its character. Is this how to show love to another being? Life has deeper meanings than the ability to quote religious texts. It is hard to see a bright future for our children when we have all failed to devote our energies to the service of humanity.

How can they have a bright future when we make them adults in their teens? They dance at parties, and touch their holy temple as we shout to support them. Who will teach our youths that buying and selling doesn’t increase the GDP of a country to the scale people imagine? That this is only achieved by massive manufacturing? Who will explain to our children that SME’s can only benefit the economy (by filling funding gaps), if they move from their present informal position to a formal partnership with the government?

Who will teach the younger generation that in politics there are preferred candidates and qualified candidates? How can they learn that sometimes the qualified candidates aren’t the preferred candidates? How can the next generation discern when candidates have had their credentials polished, and sometimes even invented, for the sake of appearances?

Before our eyes, today’s youths witness the promotion of ill-will. They have come to accept graft, militancy and malpractice as the norm. How can it be otherwise when the current status is accepted at their schools aided by parents, teachers and society?
•Abah, teacher and writer, lives in Port Harcourt.
08023792604; 07035017922.

 

 

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