Nigerian Youths: On The Table or The Menu?

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Some weeks ago, in July, I attended the 13th Wole Soyinka Center Media Lecture Series in celebration of the Nobel Laurette’s birthday and one of the speakers at the lecture said: “If you are not on the table then you are on the menu”. That quote immediately enlists in my most memorable quotes.

At this point in the history of Nigeria where the population of the youth constitute the greatest of the total population, and on this day of International Youth Day, we might as well discuss the place of the Nigerian youth in the Nigerian society.
So far, in the history of Nigeria, there has never been a time of reign for the youth like this. No doubt that in this era, the youth are thriving, reigning and making giant strides and large footprints in the country and even beyond, projecting themselves as leaders in the continent and even the world at large.
Long ago were the days where young minds will apprentice under an older generation to start climbing the ladder up till when he/she will get to the top. Past were the times when a sprouting seed will only grow under the shield of a giant tree. Youths of this era do not sprout anymore, they spring up to the limelight.
Countless are the brilliant ideas that stem from the minds of youths, numerous are the startups of these same youth that has not only become a reality but also a real problem solver to the underlying issues of the Nigerian society, visible are the outstanding ventures of Nigerian youths which do not only record success and recognition within the walls of the country but even beyond her shores.
Still, we need to ask the question: are the Nigerian Youths on the table or on the menu?
I think it is high time I explained the meaning I gave to this analogical expression.
When you are on the table, that gives you a human representation. It is only a person that sits at the table. And when you sit at the table, that means you not only have a representation at the table but a stakeholder position at the helm of affairs and a voice in the decision-making process.
But when you are not on the table which makes you a candidate for the second space, on the menu! You are on the list of agendas to be discussed. You are an object of deliberation on which decisions are made without any form of representation.
Even with the giant strides and large footprints of the youths, how many times have we been on the table and not on the menu? The reality is that we often feature on the menu and often times with no representative or even a fan on the table treating the menu.
Truly the youths are taking over in many sectors, finance, technology, business, health, manufacturing and creative industry. Even the professional space is being led by the youths making innovation here and there. But these are still receiving sectors, the dictating sector has a very minute representation of the youth, even those who featured there are not representing the youths.
It is a known fact that government policy is a great controlling factor in every sector of society. The only sector that has power over government is the political sector which seeks to control and harness its powers. It is this political space that the youths are now shying away from.
From the clamped down on cryptocurrency in the country to the suspension of Twitter to the Bureau De Change and even the reintroduction of Toll-Gate fees. The government is a formidable force that controls a lot of things. Government policies are like natural air and politicians are like the windmills. To a great extent, windmills have power over how natural air spreads around.
We keep creating history in Business, Finance, Health, Agriculture, Technology with innovation in Fintech, Agritech, Healthtech, Communication and Information Technology, yet we can’t even effect a change in government policy without a struggle and accompanying sacrifices.
With the brilliance and passion Nigerian youths use to ace many fellowships, competitions and outstanding ideas in essays written by these same people youths within and outside Nigeria it is no doubt that if the same quota is expended into intervening in the political space we will not only make waves, we will pull storms and typhoons. We have seen the power of numbers and how our unity of voice gives a great amount of this power during the #EndSars Movement. Our creativity, innovation, resilience and agility is an object of no doubt. Our strategic thinking and planning and energetic execution are one of the tops in the world. Why then do we shy away from politics?
Not everybody is indeed cut out for vying for political posts, but the few who vie for these posts need the support of followers, comrades and you to get to the posts. The youths can’t shirk the blame for the low political participation index of Nigeria.
The last local government elections in Lagos and Ogun state reiterated the low turnout of people during elections. Voting in elections in Nigeria is continuously perceived to be the responsibility of card-carrying party members. The Nigerian youths are expected to know better than this. People just register to get PVC for getting sake, maybe for the record, for bank account registration not really for voting. Millions of people will register and just a few thousands will vote
How then can we use democracy as a tool for our development when we don’t grasp the tool for participating in this democracy which is the periodic election to make happen what we always wish for.

We have always had the mindset and power of changing the status quo wherever we are, that is the spirit behind our creativity and innovation. Then why can’t we infuse a quota of this spirit into the politics of our country? Obviously, the success of our country’s democracy will effect a great increase in the ease of our affairs and general living standard.
2023 is just at the corner and surely, our eyes have seen and our ears have heard nuances of the plans of these ancient, recycled leaders of Nigeria, What are our plans as the Nigerian Youths for 2023? We keep answering the name leaders of tomorrow, for how long will we keep postponing that tomorrow? Is it until tomorrow turns to yesterday even without our knowledge? How will we even know the day, when we are not on the table? Isn’t it those at the table that set the date on the menu?
A few days ago when talking to Madam Stella Din-Jacobs on LinkedIn after a CNJF Webinar I attended had her as one of the panellists. She keeps talking about how strategic thinking and communication is the best framework for success and it reminds me of one inexperience quote I say often during my days in The Polytechnic, Ibadan which I have refined to be: “Critics never win with their noises, activists can only do so much in their space, but only strategists can use the noise of the critics and the energy of the activists to make change”.
On this very note, I put a call to all Nigerian youths to stand up to their responsibility to find a seat at the table to get the power to create a better space for themselves and the Nigerian populace as a whole. Get out of the menu list and rise to the table.
Remember we have the number, the ideas, the energy, the voice, the agility and on top of it all we have the undaunting will.
We have all it takes to get the power we deserve, let’s use the number, the ideas, the energy, the voice, the agility and the will strategically. It is only with a strategic approach to problem solving that success is guaranteed.
We need to get to the table to make the world a better place starting from our respective spaces.
Rise to the table wherever you are; your school, home, workplace, ward, council, constituency, state and country! Rise to Power!
Happy International Youth Day!

Optimind© August 12 2021 ( International Youth Day)

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