Thursday 17 March 2011

Nigeria: The What About Us Presidential Debate

This blog was first published at NigeriansTalk.Org with the title, Nigeria: The Youth and the What About Us Presidential Debate

Update (25/03/2011)

The Nigerian Youth “What About Us?” Presidential Debate will hold on the 25th of March 2011 at 7:00 PM (GMT) at the Shehu Musa Yar'adua Centre, Abuja, Nigeria.

The following presidential contenders will attend Chief Dele Momodu (NCP), Mr. Nuhu Ribadu (ACN), Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP) and Professor Pat Utomi (SDMP). The incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (CPC) have so far declined invitations.

Channels TV Nigeria and Youtube will collaborate to stream this debate online at

Additional details about the event can be found here.

Setting the stage

Writing for the Guardian yesterday with the title A Nigerian revolution [1], the celebrated writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said she will be a moderator of the Nigerian presidential debate arranged under the auspices of youth groups with the theme, “What About Us” on the 25th of March, 2011.

She starts off is identifying the issues of eternal incumbency amongst certain African leaders who have been in power from long before we could read until now and that fact that the leadership structure was quite different from those of the North African countries now in flux because Nigeria had become a democracy since 1999.

The plurality of our democracy needs to have its potency from the generally accepted statistic that 70% of the Nigerian population is under the age of 35 and hence needs genuine representation with regards to their needs and their aspirations.

Pride in our nationhood

That list of things that encapsulates the outlook of the Nigerian youth can simply be defined in terms of what would make any Nigerian proud to be a Nigerian in the brotherhood and sisterhood of the many and diverse elements of our nationhood regardless of tribe, creed or religion whilst offering the equality of opportunity to all to rise to be all that they could be.

We have come to a time when the youth should and must have a voice that can be heard and responded to with consideration, responsibility and sense of duty – our leaders can no more reign as demigods whose ideas and lifestyles are completely removed from the realities of those they represent.

A constituency to listen to

The first rung in the need for accountability in our representation can only be achieved in a forum where those who seek electoral mandate are ready to listen to and answer questions regarding what they intend to do to make the promise of Nigeria a realisation that exudes pride and praise.

The hope is when the debates come all representatives of the parties vying for election would present themselves for scrutiny, for tough assessment and the healthy debate of ideas, vision, mission and realisable goals.

The write-up also offered the opportunity for commentary that ranged from the well-worn issues of poor leadership and corruption to the historical landmarks that very few of the youth can truly identify with.

Memories we have not experienced

Interestingly, one non-Nigerian could remember Biafra, what I remember of that was it ended in 1970 and I was hardly 5 years old then – it is unlikely that that informs the dreams and aspirations of the youth of today but it represents one of those possible wedge issues that could take our focus off the critical issues that our country faces.

We keep being reminded of the North-South divide and the religious divisions which pale in insignificance with many people who live in mixed environments of varied allegiances, it would be very unfortunate if the youth allow their views of Nigerianness to be defined in those terms when the entity is still Nigeria and the identity is Nigerian – we have something that is worth fighting for and we should not allow selfish interests to usurp the agenda and the so-called politicians and power-brokers are mostly responsible for this travesty.

Education is the foundation

One particular comment dwelt on the broader issue of education and the need for all to recognise the value of education in raising the quality of life and status of all Nigerians. The ignorance that allows for preventable diseases to contribute to high mortality rates is unforgivable, the need for our generally patriarchal society to accord women and females equality and the right to education and the need for a language that allows for our citizenry to engage in the political process making the right decisions for themselves and their communities.

Too often politicians have exploited the citizenry and the preponderance of a type of vassality to the political class with the ulterior and inadvertent aim of keeping the uneducated or powerless oblivious and ignorant of their rights and hence the force of agitation to bring change.

The youth are here

This time, the youth are coming to the fore and they would probably decide who takes the political spoils and the politicians better have a good few answers to the question, What About Us? The youth would not be ignored, let alone patronised and one is hopeful that they are making seriously informed decisions based on track record, ability, ideas and competence.

If the result of April’s elections rest in the hands of the youth, whoever gets to power without being properly tested and assessed would in terms be representatives of the youth and they would have assume a modicum of responsibility in deciding the future Nigeria faces.

The pledge of the youth must be to use their votes well and not commit to allegiances based on sentiment or subjective criteria; we need to be able to say that when the youth asked that question they did their part in bringing a democratic revolution to Nigeria for useful change.

Surely, that is not being too optimistic, is it?


[1] A Nigerian revolution | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Comment is free | The Guardian

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