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The awakening is in effect. There’s a tidal wave of renaissance coursing through the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria right now, and those who are at the helm of affairs need to read the room for their own benefit. The #EndSARS protests brought many issues to the fore, one of which is the conduct of politicians and the role they continue to play in the precarious state of the nation. The days of docile youths who are only concerned about reality TV shows and the latest hip hop album belongs in the past and any public officer who desires to court the goodwill of the electorate will do well to accept the new status quo.
It’s early days yet after the nationwide agitations and there’s still a fragile peace hanging in many parts of the country. While young people are devising strategies to advance their struggle to free Nigeria from the vice-like grip of charlatans—in form of high-handed cops and a sadist political class—elected public servants are scratching their heads. They are at a loss on what to make of this new breed of young people who seem to have lost their fear factor.
In a bid to curb the uncharted dynamic that has seen those whom they hitherto considered disinterested in the affairs of the country show more than a passing interest, they have resorted to a potpourri of tactics to remind the sòrò sókè generation who’s boss.
Intimidation is always the preferred strategy. And so, we have witnessed a series of subtle threats to try to stave off any threat from the relentless youths. When the president warns that acquiescence to protester’s demands is not a sign a weakness, the message is not lost on the discerning.
Attempts to muzzle social media is another agenda that is top on the priority list of the ruling group. The events of the last couple of weeks have proven that they will do whatever they can to see that people do not have the free pass to criticise them without some form of consequence or repercussion. It’s why speeches from the floor of the National Assembly are incomplete without a warning about the “ills” of social media and how it will be the end of Nigeria if nothing is done to curb expression there.
Of course, the role social media played in bringing them into power is all but forgotten at this time. All that pales in comparison to some unruly kids snapping at their heels daily.
Tell a political office holder that he is liable to face the law for embezzling funds and palliatives when he should be championing people-oriented projects and he will remind you that he is 15 years older and as such deserves reverence and not query from your likes. He waves the age card or adopts theatrics like shedding fake tears hoping you’ll take the bait and cower beneath the cloak of culture while apologising.
When government officials are taken to task on their promises, they either play deaf or begin to talk about something entirely different. It’s why one would allude to the youth’s perceived dependence on drugs as the cause of growing irreverence when starker issues like police brutality and intimidation are condemned.
But the handwriting is glaring and direct and subtle threats aimed at clamping down on free speech aren’t working anymore. Young people have realised that their continued silence is a recipe for infinitesimal suffering.
When we were kids, and as we grew into our teenage years and eventually became young adults, we held hope that things would change at some point. They had to. The days of fetching water and tugging at a recalcitrant rope to power the generating set would someday give way to running water and regular power supply in every Nigerian home. But like a pipe dream, decades down the line, nothing has changed.
What has remained constant is the bulging pockets of folks in administration. Everyone knows a public servant who once poor but has now “made it” in government. And maybe many wouldn’t have minded if they spared a thought for the masses on whose backs they rode to their current status. Alas, there seems to be a mutation of values once people evolve from being regular citizens to holding a public post.
Before their official engagement, we bemoan the state of the country together, pointing out the obvious things the government should fix, but as soon as our friends, uncles or neighbours move to the other side, they seek to take our voice away.
There’s little need to mince words: the tactic of pushing a social media regulation bill under the guise of stifling hate speech or playing the age card is a closed pathway.
We have come to the time when those we have chosen to serve us either do what they collect humongous salaries to do or get kicked out through the ballot box.