The country director of Actionaid Nigeria, Ene Obi, and a foundation member of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Omotoye Olorode, were among prominent Nigerians who suggested strategies for ensuring accountable leadership in Nigeria through active engagement and mobilisation of the younger generation.
The duo made their suggestions during the second edition of a conversation series aimed at appraising the EndSARS protests of October 2020, and organised by a non-governmental group- SING Nigeria.
Tagged the independence day edition and themed “Beyond the Rhetoric: Transitioning from Activism to Sustainable Political Engagement,” the event featured also young panelists including Yiaga Africa’s manager for Governance and Development, İbrahim Faruk; a communication specialist, Maryam Laushi, and was moderated by a broadcast journalist, Femi Amele, popularly known as Femi-D.
In her presentation, Mrs Obi, a former students’ union president at the University of Jos, Plateau State, said Nigerian youths must stop agonising for agonising sake and advised that they get involved in the electoral system through active participation.
According to her, allowing the status quo ante to remain would only advance the current recycling system of leadership in the country and that complaints alone cannot bring about solutions.
Ene Obi, Country Director, Actionaid Nigeria
“Like the Black Lives Matters movement in the United States of America, Nigeria Lives also matter; we are not just agonising, we are organising to hold our government accountable. We need to encourage young people as they protest; these young people would at some point take control. The lack of investment in young people is the reason for young people going on the streets to protest against the system.
“The ENDSARS protest shows that youth are everywhere, and massive voter registration must begin across the states. The youth must rise, and rising through elections is the way to go. We have enabled the politicians, through our political apathy, to continue to play with our lives, and unless we are ready to vote, we may continue in this cycle”, she said.
But on his part, Mr Olorede sounded a note of warning, saying taking part in elections alone without sound ideologies and principles would only lead to another round of confusion.
The former vice-chairman of the now rested Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON) decried what he described as the weaponisation of security agencies by the ruling class, as well as widespread hunger and poverty.
He said: “It’s not sufficient to join a new party so as to win elections; the goal must be properly defined if we must be able to change the system.”
Meanwhile, Ms Laushi insisted that youths should also channel their energy into politics.
“While the desire for change is in many young people, we must go beyond protesting to active participation in the political process, we must transfer the same energy from the protest to politics; at the community level, young people should engage and mobilise their peers and elders, and we must be able to properly communicate our ideas”, she said.
Similarly, Mr Faruk enjoined the youths to leverage the positive energy from the last protest, going forward.
“Beyond coming out to protest, there must be deliberate political engagement to follow up on the demands of protests. While social media is effective during the last protest, we have not been able to sustain our engagement. The energy from the protest has not been transferred to spotlight the judicial panels of inquiry for instance”, Mr Faruk said, adding that, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and we must all come out to vote and enforce the change we want.”
Objectives of engagement series
The organisers of the event in a statement signed by its communications manager, Victor Agi, said the engagement series are aimed at advancing conversations around the EndSARS protests one year after, and that the second edition, in particular, which coincided with the country’s 61st anniversary, was targeted at commemorating the celebration.
He said as an organisation peopled by young men and women, SING Nigeria encourages youths to take their destinies into their hands by engaging in active political activities in order to see the change they desire.
The statement reads in part: “These realities underscore the need for the country to have the right leaders who would put the nation’s rich potential to resourceful use, and the role of young people in causing a political shift from the old order into a visionary collection that have the key to unlocking the nation’s potential cannot be overemphasised.”
The statement further noted that power is not given but taken through the political process.
The online dialogue series had kicked off with the first edition on 23 September , with the first edition focusing on interrogating and reflecting on the regrets and lessons learned from the #ENDSARS movement with the aim of developing a new strategy for youth organising and mobilising in a shrinking civic space.
The independence edition is the second edition, which according to the group, focused on interrogating the nexus between activism and sustainable political engagement in the light of meaningful participation in the electoral process by young people.
The first edition featured panelists like Antonia Ally of The How Foundation, Mojeed Alabi, head of development desk at PREMIUM TIMES; Jaye-Gaskia, researcher and human right activist; Leo Dasilva, social influencer and entrepreneur; Obianuju Iloanya, social activist; Edward Zabee, social activist and entrepreneur.