Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has charged Nigerian youths to begin mobilization to take over the reins of leadership of the country in 2023.
Soyinka made the comments at the wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the death of Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election.
He said, “Sometimes I refer to this generation of youths in which one places so much hope, as a ‘gaseous’ generation because they are so full of gas.”
“But when it comes to action, you are astonished because they keep calling out names like where is Wole Soyinka? Where is Joe Okei-Odumakin? Where is Femi Falana?
“They keep churning out the same names, same expectations, they do not organise themselves for action.
“This is what we had hoped to happen in the last elections when we called the public to jettison the two major political parties and for the youths to recognise that they actually have a powerful bloc vote and they should exercise it in a progressive way.
“Well, it didn’t work the first time, it’s a new concept to them, so, nobody should place so much expectations.
“But one hopes that in advance, 2023, the youths should begin to organise themselves, they must not wait till the last minute.
“They should begin right now in manifesting their expectations and the possibility of the realisation of their expectations of taking up leadership positions.”
An incident happened this week that left us with a ‘197-dollar question’ (pun intended) to reflect on, as we head into the freedom week; how much have the youth learned from the young men and women that led Rwanda’s Liberation struggle, 25 years ago?
He has since changed it but my friend, AC Group’s Patrick Buchana had the perfect Bio on his Twitter profile; ‘I have grown up watching and learning from the men and women that liberated our country; now it is time to do my bit.’
Considering that every country has its own liberation story, the ‘197-dollar question’here is not meant for only Rwandan youths but every young African in their respective country.
The incident on Tuesday morning was disturbing to follow; young Rwandans in their thousands, gathered at the Convention Centre, responding to what later turned out to be a false-call with a vague promise of returning home with ‘$197 value bonus’ to qualified participants.
The ‘$197 value bonus’ which was misconstrued by most to mean ‘cash handout’ at the end of the workshop only to learn otherwise at the event, left many wondering how it was possible for everyone to get it wrong; or whether the vague messaging was deliberate to attract revelers.
I am avoiding to say more about the unfortunate eventon purpose; to deny the organizers possible prominence and credibility that comes with being mentioned in this reputed publication.
It is instead the lessons from the wrecked event that deserve being highlighted with prominence. The first lesson to draw being that, our youths are paying attention to the internet, searching for opportunities to learn and enterprise, to improve their personal financial situations.
That is a good thing and we should not in any way use it to conclude that Rwandan youths are ‘desperate for jobs and money’ as some attempted to spin in various social media chat threads.
As my colleague Thierry Gatete pointed correctly out in one of the twitter threads on the same subject, ‘money, let alone $197 would have excited anyone in most parts of the world’ regardless of unemployment rates in their respective countries.
Indeed, some of those that turned up were employed young people who took leave from their workstations to attend the event which they saw as an opportunity to earn a quick additional buck.
That however leads us to lessons of caution and responsibility. From the story of our country’s liberators, which we are celebrating this week, the youth should learn that there are no short-cuts to success and that they should treat with caution whoever shows up with such promises.
In consolidating the gains of their respective countries, African youths must not substitute reason with excitement especially in the face of dappled promises for quick success;such an attitude is not only a danger to national security but also jeopardizes personal destiny.
The story of the now rehabilitated Kizito Mihigo, the once young celebrated musical icon provides a classical example of what happens when young people swallow the bait of short-cuts to success.
Consolidating Rwanda’s liberation gain requires youth that are steadfast on reason and caution before engaging in actions that could end up jeopardizing their future.
“The liberation struggle that we participated in, has set the foundation for you to succeed and consolidate what we gained to take our country forward,” General James Kabarebe said in an address to the youth, during the Liberation week last year.
He added, “It’s the youth, in fact over 90 per cent, that were at the vanguard of our liberation struggle; for instance, His Excellency our leader Paul Kagame was only 32 years old; Fred Rwigyema was 33, and many others were in their 20s, youths, just like you.”
Here were men, whom at 30, had just helped liberate a country and almost immediately embarked on a new campaign to liberate their own to regain the dignity of having a nationality and a country to truly call home, to which they would dedicate their lifelong effort to developing.
As someone in my early 30s, Rwanda’s liberation story has always left me and colleagues in the same age-bracket, challenged and questioning our own contribution.
These are men and women who had proven their worth in battle and were assured of lucrative careers worth more than US$197, in a foreign country they had helped liberate; no wonder, many were already holding senior positions in different government departments.
It’s steadfast attitude and visionary wisdom even at their tender-age that informed the brave decision to embark on a military campaign whose victory was not assured; they overlooked ‘bonus values’ and short-cuts to success in a foreign country, to take the longer route to their vocation.
Today’s youth have an opportunity to not only learn but also continue the liberation struggle which is now in the reconstruction phase after attaining victory in the military phase. But it takes strong character and steadfast focus to stay the course.
The youth of Rwanda and Africa at large, should not be distracted by short-cuts to success because real success is toiled for but the joy from such victories is very much worth it. Stay focused; think and act as the liberated youth that you are! Accept a hand-up but shun handouts!