Too many times young activists in Nigeria are accused of “going to be the next Abati.” I have certainly been accused of this. As ludicrous as this sounds, it is worth treating because while one would always be able to treat it with the usual silence – there is no need defending yourself over a crime you have at least not committed – it is important to treat it for the sake of other young people who might likely be slowed down by these accusing fingers that are not from people who truly care about the progress of society but about people who are either self-convicted of what they’d do given the same opportunity or people who just need everyone to shut up and let injustice and evil continue to reign in the land.
Before I continue I will offer some poignant disclaimers.
- I respect Dr. Reuben Abati (Presidential spokesman) as a man. I respect him for his craft and I believe that only he knows exactly why he does the things he does. This is not a blog about him or whether he is truly the villain a lot of people who use the above accusatory phrase obviously see him as. This piece is about the weight and essence of that phrase itself, as I believe it is beyond an individual, it is about us as a people and essentially about the phenomenon called Nigeria.
- I am not an activist. I will defend myself with all my strength and ability against anyone who takes what is mine or which belongs to anyone whose interest I am interested in. Except where deemed unnecessary, I will go head to head, shoulder to shoulder, wahala for wahala against anyone who tries to cheat me no matter how big the person. I may ignore some other people who step on my toes because ignoring them serves my purpose better. If these make me an activist then may be I am one but outside of that, I am just another Nigerian who has a right to air his opinion about anything concerning this country. How people take these opinions depends on them not on the source. This is not a society that likes to hear people speak frankly but this is how some of us know to speak. I will treat this piece with much more attention to my conscience and sincerity than about whether you would agree with it or not.
Till the end of time, societies will always produce people who make a lot of noise not because they care about the overall interest of the society but because they care about what they can get off that society. These people understand that if you make enough noise about those stealing the nation dry, they’d have no choice but to either shut you up by getting your mouth stuffed with their loot or employ you to work for them. Either way you are doomed because there are jobs that no matter what you assume you’d do when you take them, taking them essentially means you have signed up to be a loser! You may win some power, influence and even money but you lose your essence and purpose.
Let us face it, you cannot defend any government in the world as a spokesperson and not tell at least half-truths. Whether they are outright lies or half-truths, these are betrayal of values. But these jobs have to be done anyway. You’d have to choose between your current job, staying jobless or taking a job that you’ve seen destroy others because you want to be seen as one of the people who have the ears of your country’s president/state’s governor. If there is anyone who should steer clear of a job like this, it is that man who has the cloak of being called an activist. Whether you agree you are one or not is not the question, as long as you sound like one or are seen like one, you take certain government jobs at your peril!
Questions then need to be asked. Should young people shut up and not speak up about their pains and fears with respect to how their country is run because they don’t want to be accused of being “the next Abati”? Is it in the interest of our country to discourage our young people from taking a stand on what is right and just, because some who used to be like them betrayed the public trust? Should people stop writing examinations because some wrote them in the past and failed? Should we stop living because others who lived before us died? I will look to answer these questions over the next few weeks by God’s grace as I delve into the phenomenon of activism amongst young people. This is admittedly going to be written based on my experience but this is not written because of me. It is because of us – people like myself. Those of us who are already guilty of a tomorrow we are yet to live simply because those who lived like us yesterday are the society’s villains today. Trust me on this, I’ll hold nothing back!
Japheth J Omojuwa is a student of German Language at Berlin’s Goethe Institute and he lectures at Free University, Berlin. Follow his tweets @omojuwa
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