– Samuel Ayara
It is about thirty weeks to the 2023 general elections. The economy is at an all time low, security has taken such nosedive the devil never foretold and the nation ripping further apart along ethnic and religious lines, while inequalities and despair prevail; but our people, especially young people are speaking so little of solution than crass idiocy founded in helpless partisanship, just to preserve the next meal that has for too long remained inadequate.
The national grid now sleeps on us, decaying infrastructure signposts our current reality, the southward looking stock market blink all-red, even as official sources now proudly announce that national earnings are no longer enough to service the nation’s debt. How we still find the energy to engage inane arguments tend to make us a more insensitive lot, only concerned with our patron’s political and economic interest, disproving outcomes when the feather ruffling is not in our favour.
In Akwa Ibom once existed a class of young people whose resolve for change was never expressed by insults, blackmails, internet trolls and tantrums they dispensed, all thanks to the low internet penetration of the time, and no thanks to the improvement, which ought to have counted in the positive for my generation. Hysterically, our exposure to a range of information and communication channels and gadgets have rather enboldened our resolve to “major in minors” (apologies to Raphael Edem).
Among these class of good fortuned young people emerged a cache that have made an enduring presence on the leadership hall of fame. How better could a generation that stuck its guns to having their voices heard been rewarded than the number of national and state legislators, commissioners, council chairmen and other sensitive placements the class of i-11 youths and others, in the last fifteen years have recorded; with everyone evidently doing well.
Sadly, the generation of young people who coasted to fame by staying together in pursuit of ideals that were considered selfless at the time have all found solo agendas and blurred the lines that decorated their advent. Some of them are also thought to be doing so little at raising succeeding generations, others just want to stay in the space forever. The narrowly liberalized turf for more young people has nonetheless become more stifling for opinionated minds, the reason we now accept every machination, hook, line and sinker.
If we are more sold out to lumping young people in whatsapp groups to transact doom and darkness while children of those in the leadership cadre are tucked away from the bile and madness of social media and condemned to interactions that promote growth and opportunities, then we may as well begin to trust that our political elites are on the way to building a society their children would never meet with the rascals they have all these years created.
The more privileged kids are not as much the problem as young people in my class who fail to remind themselves that we are no first-line beneficiaries of anybody’s ascendancy, but their children and families, who are also on social media, but neither put out a line for their parents nor against perceived opponents. Mudslinging should not be a forte for economically disadvantaged folks; we can do more than tantrums, if we cared less about the pallbearer role we have condemned ourselves to.
There is so much we can discuss regarding the failing standards of education in our state and country that has drifted to the level of accepting a 140 score as national pass mark for admission into Universities. Conceding that the free and compulsory education policy in Akwa Ibom has for this long served us, isn’t it time we discussed the quality and content of this education and how well the society would fare if best practices were deployed? Not just for basic education, how much of capacity has our state-owned tertiary institutions built and what projections are in place to grow them into where champions are bred?
Healthcare in the African continent may remain a honest concern for more decades, and appears no government in the interim will ever answer all the questions, this brings to the fore the need for continuity in government policies. The last seven years of the Udom Emmanuel administration has witnessed a significant shift at giving life to secondary healthcare facilities in the state, previous administrations did theirs, but as citizens nothing would fill the healthcare gap without a functional primary healthcare system, but we are yet to even mention how relevant this could be.
Our current national economy has crashed to an all time low, the next reality could be such that makes monthly visits to the center a needless venture as not so much may still be available to share; how will we survive the tides and storms of this future that beckons. How many young people are talking entrepreneurship and agriculture, or focusing on endeavours that would ultimately take their minds off who on the ballots will help pick their bills?
The seamless transfer of retirees from salary to pension platform without bureaucratic hassles hitherto experienced is an intervention of the Emmanuel administration that must be commended. Through it, anxieties of how long it would take a retiree to start drawing pensions have been stemmed. Despite this feat, payment of gratuities have remained an issue that would require the coming together of policy stakeholders to fashion a workable plan as we steadily glide into a future these payments may become more difficult for government. Pensions and gratuities should be exhaustively discussed by key political actors to reduce the frequency of having our senior citizens hit the streets in protest.
As we approach the elections, there is need to consider promotional strategies that won’t be injurious to our state, as demarketing our values to enthrone a political agenda will make us worse losers who may never break even with rebuilding the much we ruinned. This is a time to put Akwa Ibom first, ensure media narratives convey solutions. To achieve this, candidates in the coming elections must condition their camps to deploy less falsehood. Interestingly, only the PDP Governorship candidate, Pastor Umo Eno has so far shown commitment to the evolution of development media as evidenced in the annual prize he recently instituted for development journalism in the state. This effort if emulated will go a long way to address our perennial dark media concerns.
The sad news remains that nobody on the 2023 ballot is in it for how much they love our society, they are all in it for what is in it for them; but the brightness of their ideas on how our ailing key social and economic sectors can be revamped could be the magic we need at this moment, not just floweryly outlined blueprints that are scarcely on the shelves of their offices when they finally make it through the ballots, because work, for a greater majority of the selfish pack means, time to recoop.
We all have where we stand, but before you dish that insult and invective on who does not deserve your venom, check if where you stand is also standing by you; find out where they will stand on dark days you would be in dire need of light, ask yourself why they suddenly get friendly with the next elections around. When you can wrap your mind around the mysteries of political desperation and egocentrism, you would have by half solved our next set of problems, because your choices would be more informed and geared towards general good.
They must not meet you where they abandoned you. Do all you can to move and be sure to move with the future of our society in your mind; if not for you, do it for your children. We sure could create our warmth and light in cold and darkness. Never again shall we be defined as a hapless and helpless majority, our PVCs can do more if we put our minds to it.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA.