It is difficult to recall when I stopped enjoying the round-table discussions with my friends about how bright our future would be. Perhaps it was the moment people around me were shot in the mouth for speaking their truth. Maybe it was the day my cousin packed his bags, shoulders slumped, knees shaking and uttered the words, “I have to leave home. I need to hustle and make something of myself”. Here is what I do remember – we laid the foundations for our megacities, constructed dreams so high, the tower of Babylon could never compare.
Every day our dreams crumble, they peel and choke under the pretense of a nation that claims it’s doing everything for the average Nigerian youth, but there’s nothing to show for it. Many people of the older generation talk about the ‘good old days,’ when our institutions of higher education competed on global levels, graduates with a first school leaving certificate could find work that provided for their families, the purchasing power of the Nigerian naira rivalled the British pound and citizens of Nigeria travelled without their passports raising suspicion. It is discouraging that a Nigerian youth can lament that they have never experienced this Nigeria. The young generation inherited nothing but socioeconomic deterioration and a faltering international reputation. Basically, this country does a fantastic job of making its citizens, especially the youth, angry and misunderstood. If you are one of the fortunate ones that do not understand why youths are angry in Nigeria and you want to see things from their point of view, the next few points will teach you how. Most importantly, you will learn how to be an angry Nigerian youth.
To start with, watch yourself spiral into a cycle of depression and anxiety, but do nothing about it because mental health problems are a white man’s curse, an Egyptian plague. If you eventually feel like doing something about it, try telling your parents. If you are lucky to have strict, uneducated parents, get ready for a wild ride of prayers, unhelpful advice and the most common of it all – the cliché, “Get over it. There is no reason to be sad. You have no kids or responsibilities.” In my opinion, carrying this nation on your head is more than enough responsibility.
Don’t say anything about the reports of kidnappings and sexual assault you have to endure. “Could I be next?” Think quietly to yourself. Be careful not to let the trauma and irritability get the best of you. When people tell you it’s your fault because you wore a short skirt, beat your chest and tell them yes. Because who else will take the blame if not you?
Sit calmly as the President of the country calls you lazy and tells you to behave yourself before getting a job. Do not say anything about how you have to fight against little opportunities, unending pressure and soul-crushing anxiety. Do not say anything about how you’ve had to make your own way, because you couldn’t rely on the people you counted on to do their jobs like create employment opportunities and ensure citizens are secure in their country. Do not say anything about how you keep knocking on doors that are only accessible to ‘better’ people. By ‘better people’ I mean people that benefit from nepotism and favouritism. In fact, all you can do is protest, at risk of getting arrested or shot at, and rant about it on social media as the President catches his flight to yet another country. Wait for him to come back home and blame the rising state of insecurity on you.
Make an attempt to convince authorities that to be modern is not a crime, that owning iPhones and laptops, having dyed hair and piercings does not make you a criminal. Fight with your blood and tears only for you to get shot at. Endure reports that the Lekki Toll Gate massacre of 20.10.2020 did not happen. Watch the government gaslights millions of Nigerians and invalidate their struggles for freedom and justice.
With these few points of mine…
It does not bode well for a nation if it cannot be accountable to its ‘leaders of tomorrow’. If there are few opportunities for youths to explore their abilities, let us just face it, the country will experience major setbacks. We may be taking two steps forward and five steps backwards.
It is not easy to be a Nigerian youth. Nigeria owes its young people a lot, and they are no longer politely asking; they are demanding. They are demanding to be treated with basic decency. Our anger can only motivate us to do better. Our anger can only be a warning bell; a battle cry. Every once in a while, our anger will force us to walk through the sweat and joys of our childhood memories, pluck out the tunes of ‘we are the leaders of tomorrow,’ and sing with renewed hope and cracked knuckles.
Tomorrow is calling; it has waited for us long enough.