Did we, the “older generation”, fail the youths?
If you are above the age of 25, this question also applies to you. I know that in Nigeria, especially in our villages, people are regarded as “youths” until they are about the age of 40 or even 45. But right now, Nigerian “youths”, whom we would have ordinarily referred to as “young people” have made it known that once you leave secondary school and shortly after you graduate from higher institution, you are a “youth”. Any other person above that age bracket belongs to the “older generation”. So when you want to say, “The older generation has failed us”, remember you are one of us.
Back to the focal question, do you think we have failed the “youths”?
If you have noticed, since the #ENDSARS protest began, youths have been accusing us of failing them. They said Nigeria is as bad as it is because of us. They said we are too weak to speak for them. They said that there is no development in the country because we are too comfortable with mediocrity. They said we don’t know what we wanted or that we are too afraid of speaking up. They said we prefer staying in the dark instead of the light. They said that while the world is moving digital, we remained in analogue. They accused us of not being computer literate. Should I continue?
Well, the question has not been answered. But let’s look at a short encounter I had with one of my contacts.
Some days ago, one young man in his early twenties sent up his “the older generation has failed us” post on his WhatsApp status. I would have ignored it but he added another angle to it that made me decide to point him straight. He wrote that the “older generation” is a failure and that when they, “the youth” and the “working generation” decided to liberate the country, we, “the older generation” sabotaged their efforts. He further wrote that since the “older generation” knew they were too weak to make positive changes, and were too afraid to come out and join the protest, they should have steered clear so that they, “the chosen ones” would make Nigeria “work again”. What effrontery, you would say.
Well, I crawled into his DM, like they say, and asked him, “My dear, how many protests did you join during the military regime? How many bullets did you receive for your country to send out dictatorship? How many ‘online protests’ did you perform in those days that people ‘disappeared’ for challenging government’s policy? What can you say about the transition of Nigeria from military regime to democracy? Did you join the 2012 protest on fuel subsidy removal that shut down Nigeria for almost two weeks? Have you even heard of the Aba Women’s Riot that happened as far back as 1929?”
Well, let’s just say he replied with “my dad told me” and “my mom said” stories. But then, he never had the guts to post nonsense again.
You see, I don’t really blame the “youths” for saying what they do because the “older generation” brought the internet into the country and won freedom of speech for them. I don’t really blame them because the “older generation” believe in “children” being free to express themselves and hence trained these young ones to be expressive (they wouldn’t have talked nonsense against an elder if it was during our time). I don’t really blame them because History was removed from school and most of our historical pasts were either collecting dusts in old newspaper pages or they have been lost forever. I actually don’t blame them because no one taught them the truth.
I don’t need to go into the roles the “older generation” played in the #ENDSARS protest because that will be a whole story on its own. But I wish the “youths” will be honest enough to say that the “older generation” told them to cash in their chips when it was obvious that things were turning ugly but they ignored the advice and claimed that we are “weak”. What they didn’t know is that what an old man sits under a shade to see, a young man will climb a tree and still not see it.
Now to answer the focal question of this essay, nobody failed anybody. Nigeria might not be moving at the pace we all wanted but it is moving. The youths are too young to observe the changes taking place but they are enjoying it. People fought to bring the country to where it is. Lives were sacrificed for that. Properties were lost for that. Some lost their identities because of it. But then, we, the “older generation” have seen the best way to move the country forward and have been working towards that. It might seem subtle, but it is powerful.
So, next time a “youth” says that we have failed them, please, advise him to look for a History book and shut up.