There is a famous picture in the United States of baby JFK, Jr. crawling under the Resolute Desk of the White House Oval Office while his father worked on it. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, JFK, Sr. (the baby’s father) was the 35th President of the United States of America, one of those to be assassinated. That crawling lad was born to him few days after he won the US Presidency in November 1960 and remained in public spotlight until he died in a plane crash sometime in 1999. The 6th President of the US (1825–1829), John Quincy Adams, was the son of the 2nd President of that country (1797–1804). In the same vein, George Walker Bush, the 43rd President of the US (2001–2009), is the son of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of that country (1989–1993). Again, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. announced to an unprecedented crowd of 200, 000 civil rights activists, and indeed the world at large, his dream of a truly free United States of America. Whether the US is truly free today is a different story, but we do know that about 46 years after King’s epoch making I Have a Dream speech, Barack Hussein Obama became the first black human being to mount the US Presidency, or, should I say, the most powerful human being on the planet. From this survey, therefore, there seems to be a certain degree of sincerity in addressing youths of America and elsewhere as leaders of tomorrow.
I wonder if the same holds true for our country, Nigeria. Few examples will do. When General Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria’s Head of State way back in 1979, he had addressed a group of youths, wherein he told them he looked forward to seeing them take over the reins of power in the nearest future. Funnily enough, exactly 20 years from that year, that is 1999, he vied for the office and became president again, remained there for 4 more years and wanted to bend the constitution to let him stay on, and would have asked for more afterwards, I guess. Go through the annals of Nigeria’s history and find that our great grandfather’s Heads of State still want to be our president, and are not joking about it. Check out the résumé of President Buhari and find that he’s been there a very long time ago. Go through the Nigerian Civil Service and find grandfathers who should be glorying in their pensions and be tenants of retirement homes still posing to be 50 years of age with the assistance of our interesting instruments of corruption – affidavit swearing and Declaration of Age. And yet we find energetic and promising youths languishing under the yoke of underemployment and unemployment.
The case here is that of a conspiracy of the rich and those who thread the corridors of power. They want youths down. They want them to be and remain incapable of questioning or challenging the status quo. They want them to accept the status quo for a culture and be too blind to spot and spoil their greed. And it actually appears they are succeeding if at all they haven’t. How? Through their educational designs and obsolete curriculum they make youths unemployable; through their emphasis on security they dissuade youths from resorting to crime; through their sabotage of the economy they discourage economic adventure, the type the likes of Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Musk, etc. dabbled into in America to make their way to the billionaires club. What do we find around us instead? They want youths to get their eyes off white collar jobs and embrace the various available farming schemes. They offer enticing loans to NYSC pass-outs and have students compete in writing and executing business plans. In one word, it is difficult to trust that the system cares about youths and it appears that only death can muster the courage to kick them out.
The one million dollar question becomes: “What do we do?” Rising to mutiny, that is killing every single one of them, is not at all a part of the solution. This is because our children will hold us responsible for the blood of their grandfathers. Ruffling it out with them is not the solution either, as one should be sure of losing out on the game, given that they are pretty good as what they do, in addition to the fact that they made more than enough pluck when our money grew on trees – they own all the oil wells, bought up most public enterprises in the name of privatization, and equally have a cabal of Machiavellian capitalists who throw their combined weights behind them in return for profitability from their mischief. Furthermore, while they can be said to have the repose of wisdom, which is got from experience, youths are, more often than not, impulsive in deciding what course of action to take.
What then is the way forward? The answer is quite a simple one and is hidden in the understanding that the future is now! You just need to understand that your future is now, and then start living in it. I can explain. To start with, what is your take on the idea of future? Is it something faraway, near or now? Do you wake up every morning in joyful anticipation of ‘a time’ called ‘future’ when all your dreams and noble aspirations will come through? This is correct only insofar as you are viewing the matter in the light of conventional wisdom. However, the problematic encountered in seeking a deeper understanding of the concept of future, the type sought for here, is that of the concept of time. Suffice it therefore to say that our understanding of the concept of time is the point in question here, as the terms past, present and future, or yesterday, today and tomorrow are only nomenclatures that express time.
At this juncture, let’s turn to St. Augustine to tell us something about time. For him, the concept of time is elusive, one that is understandable but incommunicable. He confesses, in his Confessions, that while he knows what time is, his knowledge of it eludes him whenever he attempts to communicate it, reason being that the components of time (past, present and future) barely exist: the past is no more, the moment is passing, and the future is not yet. Therefore, this ‘present passing moment’ is all we have got to grapple with.
And so ‘getting involved’ in this ‘present passing moment’ is the key to doing battle against the Nigerian status quo. When you get involved, you rather than blame or complain against the situation take responsibility for whatever has become your lot. It demands that you do whatever you say you want to do – never caring about your detractors – because your word is your bond. It calls you to the realization that your destiny is in your hands, and you never want to trade it for a bowl of porridge. It emboldens you to go out there and get all you need to become all you want to be. It instructs that the only limits are yours to decide. It means that you daily become what you aspire to become by the quality of every single choice you make and every other decision you take. Yes, it is that simple, except that you have decided to busy yourself with gossips about a system that cares little or nothing about you.
For instance, what do Nigerian youths do with the many months of strike whenever the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) want them out of school? I bet you that many youths will spend their time making jokes of it on social media, while many others will spend it doing one stupid thing or the other. And if one continued this way, why complain about ending up on the downside of things? I understand that the status quo has put many in critical positions, but there is absolutely no need to enjoy such an experience. Get involved!