– Samuel Ayara
Majoring in minor has for long stayed with us, we can notwithstanding go past learning how to count and begin to consider what really counts. As with church sermons, which are expected to be new to the mind and ears of the believer, this call for the reawakening of young people might be one too many, but quite necessary as we tend to be learning the ideals of making our youthful energies count for the right reason, at an unfortunate snail speed. The choice of a Sunday to string these thoughts may not be unconnected with the fact that a handful of church goers may have been reminded to take their destinies in their hands, while others could have been made to believe their misfortunes are caused by either some strange spirits or people who do not wish them well. Wether we choose to confront our demons or trade blames, the direct repercussion of where we choose to stand, as always, will continually be ours to bear, despite our needless cruelties against people who also have their troubles.
With the turn of the penultimate quarter of 2021 came an observed trend of angry tirades in our political space, where people for reasons ranging from, doing what they should do, to what they could not do and what they were not allowed to do, spared nothing at baring how they felt at any instance. These have assumed an unfortunate dimension that is threatening to pass us for an entitled lot, given to selfish dispositions of seeking to draw huge capitals from the worst of situations. Most disturbing appears to be the growing disenchantment among young people (whom I will going forward refer to as youths) who think their unyielding economic and political fortunes are a direct result of the elders’ unreadiness to quit the space, not minding an attempt at answering the readiness question while sometimes thinking so bad of one elder because they are enjoying the patronage of another.
Mutual coexistence as a word was not coined for no reason, if early language tacticians never thought it an idea humanity should imbibe, but how our society tends to so lose it in strife for lone medals seem to be pushing us to the terminals of despicable antagonism; where we draw daggers against people we should learn from. Dwelling on the timelessness of deploying youthful strength as prerequisite for every society that seeks progress, care must be taken to not discard the worth of experience, which is advanced as the best teacher. Little wonder why revolutionary societies that rely on youthful brawns before long often slide into anarchy, for lack of proper sense of history, direction and experience; which are always a subject of active collaboration between the youths and elders. This is where eruptive societies often get their wrong outcomes, as the youths who are allowed to fight are usually killed in such fights, leaving elders who flee to strange lands in the consciousness of the ruins of war, to tell the stories. After all sensing danger is an art mastered by old dogs.
As gloomy as the Nigerian situation with youthful leadership as in the case of Governor Yahaya Bello and Sen. Elisha Abbo presents, Akwa Ibom without absolving the older folks of their failings, also has a fair deal of irresponsible youth leadership, as a handful of young people did so little to dispense their mandate and turned out worse than the old blocks they disparage, when they had opportunity. As with finding a dedicated leader among selfish politicians, we can also count several young minds in our space that made a mark with their opportunities, hazarding a few mentions should not in any way indict my refusal to mention those that failed; it is better to celebrate good deliveries especially when you have public servants in the mould of Ini Ememobong, Frank Archibong, Uwemedimo Udo, Akaninyene Ikott, Ndianaabasi Udom, Sampson Idiong, Otobong Bob, Imeh Uwah, Aniefiok Iwaudofia, Raphael Edem, Ekomobong Iseh, Borono Bassey, Abraham Odion, Ekerette Inyang, Uyio Nathaniel, Emmanuel Udosen, Abraham Anlak, Esta Nta, Patrick Umoh, Amos Etuk, Prince Ikim, the list is endless; but no one should bother about Onofiok Luke and Bassey Albert’s non-inclusion, they live in a world of their own. A careful look at these names point to the fact that not many have crossed the forty years rubicon, a reminder that a great future lies ahead for the state, if we can aggregate our best minds for the right course.
In getting the aggregation right for the benefit of the entirety of the Akwa Ibom populace, our youths must rise above thinking of the elders as the source of their misadventure and seek ways of bringing value to the table of political discourse, because these elders and political stakeholders do not look like people who will be quitting the space without the conviction that their labours will be preserved. As the discussions about 2023 gains traction, the youths must learn languages other than insult and confrontation at pleading their course; freedom at the turn of the current decade had stopped coming by struggle and does not look like our close future will ever play down on dialogue. This is no time to urinate into rivers we once drank from, we must be careful not to build an antecedent we would not be proud of and avoid promoting vices we would not applaud when nature happens and roles reversed; safe for some few, we will not be youths forever and must resist tilting to the patronage of a political interest to invoke the wrath of the “Don of the party” against an opposing interest or fanning the embers of vindictive politics to massage the ego of political patrons, when we can all consider the beauty of a rancour-free succession to stay true to our aspirations.
Make no mistake, this is no call for docility and does not suggest we are never going to differ with the opinion of our leaders, but a reminder that we respect our differences on rainy days as much as the conviviality we shared on sunny days when our opinions were similar. It is time to get under and be mentored by elders who over fifteen years ago drew from their youthful banks to change the tides of leadership when everyone doubted them for no reason other than being young. This brings us to the story of i-11, a collection of young minds in the build up to 2007, who looked away from financial inducements and immediate gains, stuck their necks in advancing a leadership position they felt would better serve the state, by supporting Chief Goodwill Akpabio against the sway of political principalities, who at the time thought them inexperienced and less equipped for the bills. Thankfully, these patriots can today be found in both the PDP and APC playing active leadership roles, that seems to make retirement a needless call as they still enjoy the prominence from the conviction that brought them to limelight.
I-11 as diversified and heterogeneous as it then was and still remains found consensus in working for a future young people could sit on the table where critical issues are on discourse, a departure from engagements of the past that condemned them to mobilizing crowd for events their interest were neither considered nor captured. Interestingly, none of Enobong Uwah, Prince Ukpong Akpabio, Onofiok Luke, Kenneth Okon, Etetim Awatim, Emmanuel Ukoette, Ekerette Ekpenyong, Monday Ego, Michael Etim, Emmanuel Bassey and Anietie Ufot, as well as others including Bassey Albert, Patrick Udomfang, Tony Akan and others, who though not part of the i-11 contributed to Akpabio’s emergence were up to 40, but showed such sagacity in an era internet penetration was so shallow. Apart from Yahoo mail, there were no social media platforms they could deploy to shore up support, but went through nooks and crannies of the state in deepening their message and getting other youths to queue behind them, they did more than idle metropolitan gossips, social media rants and beer parlour exchanges, for the course they believed in, and are today acknowledged as the forebearers of youth emancipation, who have today grown through the ranks of leadership to becoming political personae nobody can ignore regardless of their political persuasions.
Most intriguing of their resolve was that they were all economically disadvantaged for what they ventured into. Apart from Emmanuel Ukoette who was an Aide of the then Governor Victor Attah, none of them was a Council Chairman, SSA, SA, PA, Commissioner, State or Federal legislator. All they had going for them was their resolve to brighten their corner of the world, and like an idea whose time had come, they landed the fame that changed their fortunes by sticking with their convictions. Today, lame talk from people who think they have stayed for so long can only amount to noise, as my generation, despite having all the advantage of juicy placements in public service, with a long pole, is yet to dare what the i-11 braved and emerged unscathed when it was not fashionable to speak. How we seek to reward their sweats to facilitate active inclusion for the youths with an Achilles heel is in plain terms most unfortunate. However, most unforgivable is how we have made our advantage count as loss, reclining to blackmail, despite how well equipped we have become.
Firing blank and talking with our gums will do us no good, neither would calling out people who have been of help pass us as courageous, it is time for people of my generation to decide what they want and work towards achieving them. We cannot afford to be beneficiaries of the loudness of the thoughts and actions of others and bequeathe our generation next the dumbness of “a nue nue nue” engagement because of our inability to communicate workable strategies that would engender a development based and people oriented position in the leadership recruitment discussion. Whether we belong to APC, PDP, APGA, the professional league or you think you are apolitical, it is time for young people to build bridges and consider the course of our journey, going forward, without being confrontational with people who long ago achieved feats we are still far from accomplishing.
The sky we have all seen, is large enough and for the right reason we can birth the future by taking that road we so fear. We must redefine the modus of our engagement to abhor individualism and needless competition; which has for far too long not helped our case. Not just about the next election, we must strive for imprints that would also win us such medals as we have continued to enjoy from our predecessor generation. It is a truism that our journeys have been faster, but stronger collaborations will help us farther in our walk; this is the time to rise above the explosive outsider mentality in recreating the future of our engagement. We cannot continue to blame our failings on a generation that had long succeeded.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA