It goes without saying that Nigerians love to talk. We are known for vivaciousness and our noise making is legendary in African circles. Wherever two or more Nigerians are gathered, rarely will you hear them talking in soft tones, except, of course, if it is a really private conversation. And we talk about anything and everything. Name it: from football to relationships; from business to politics. But one of our favourite topics is the government and what they are doing, or not doing.
This is one reason that every year in Nigeria, there are innumerable conferences, symposia and talk shops about the Nigerian situation. They are organised by governments, regional bodies, trade associations and even youth organisations. We have, arguably, one of the most vibrant social media communities globally, where every move of government and public personalities is dissected and analysed. Sides are taken, sometimes, tempers flare; and of course, the arguments range from the mundane and emotive to the intellectual and rational. A community of intellectuals and activists has gradually emerged in the Nigerian Twitterverse.
For example, on Saturday May 5, the Oxford University African Union organised a conference on The Role of Youth in African Development, which was largely followed on Twitter, for those of us not able to attend physically. The opening remarks of the host struck a chord with me. In his words: Africa does not need more think tanks and talk tanks; what we need most is do-tanks.
I could not agree more. I remember a point last year when I got frustrated with my constant yapping online, via Twitter and my blog, and not having the opportunity to be able to do more than just that. I got increasingly interested in finding non-profits that were doing something in their communities, but I did not find many. One of my strongest desires remains to see such non-profits, especially in my native Borno State.
The time has come for young Nigerians to begin to put their words into actions. We should take this desire for a change in our society beyond 140 characters at a time and articles and blogs. We should step away from our smartphones and computers for once, and begin to organize ourselves to inspire and bring change. We cannot depend on government to do everything; governments will always fall short, either due to lack of ideas and desire or due to sheer bureaucracy. But solution-providers will always be needed, and it does not matter whether it is the government or a group of young people who are passionate about change.
What we desperately need are young people with a burning fire in their hearts about one thing, or a set of things. These young men and women must be willing to set out on the road less travelled; to lead the charge and inspire others like them to take action. They must be able to set out their agenda and goals clearly. It doesn’t have to be a nationally-focused agenda; in fact, I would prefer to see more locally-focused organizations, especially in states away from Lagos and Abuja. It could be anything, ranging from good governance to youth empowerment to religious co-existence. As long as they are able to develop strategies that will help them achieve their goals.
At the same time, it will do these young people a great deal of good to seek mentors who will help shape them in their journeys. There are older people who have been down this road, who can lend us their hindsight to be our foresight, who can help us with good advice. With their wisdom and our energy success will not be a mirage.
In closing, let me mention one of such groups that have impressed me with their vision, passion and strategy:
20MillionYouthsForChange was created shortly after the fuel subsidy imbroglio that incensed a nation and fired up an already discontented youth. Their vision is to build up a movement of 20 million Nigerian youths by the year 2015, which will be able to agree upon a single candidate for the office of the President, and even contribute funds for his campaign. Their aim is to raise a credible, detribalized Nigerian who will not be more loyal godfathers who are likely to hold him hostage, than to the Nigerian people.
They have a very strong online presence, making effective use of social media and their website. But they have also gone beyond just talking online to begin action, using the strategy of cells in localities. Cells can meet offline and work to meet the goals of the movement in their local areas, even possibly picking credible candidates for local elections, rather than having the status quo of candidates who are beholden to moneybags and godfathers.
I know 2015 is still a long way from testing the effectiveness of their strategies. But one thing for sure is that such initiatives deserve to be encouraged, supported and guided towards their goal.
Let this story stay with us as we strive to make our efforts for a better Nigeria, an as we move beyond mere words to include actions.