There are two young Nigerians whom other young Nigerians love to hate – Reno Omokri and Ohimai Godwin Amaize. There are several reasons why they are hated, but among the top reasons are their perceived excessive vocalizations of the Jonathan administration’s agenda, their insistence that young Nigerians should not be satisfied with ‘Twitter activism’ but should challenge government in the arena of ‘alternative ideas’, and Ohimai’s recent declaration that the best solution for our country is for the majority of Nigerians, the youth especially, to get involved with politics. That last one did not go down quite well with the vast horde of anti-Ohimai campaigners, but let’s hold our guns, Reno Omokri isn’t fairing very well at all. In his 2012 end-of-the-year Twitter award ceremony, Japhet Omojuwa awarded @renoomokri the ‘most hated twitter handle’. These days couldn’t be tougher for these two young men.
Politics in Nigeria has never been an endeavour for the chicken-hearted. We are all devotees of Nigerian dailies which have, from time immemorial, reported gruesome tales of assassinations of patriots who believed that it was their God-ordained mission to save the country from the throes of oppression. We have mourned, cursed and mourned again after each murder, but we have moved on, with reasonable fear of the pervasive darkness of Abuja. The fastest way to incur one’s parents’ wrath was to indicate interest in a career in politics. Respectful children have learned not to threaten their parents with such wild interests. The collective dream of most of our parents is to earn enough to help us escape the misfortune of Nigeria and her cursed political system, and see us thrive in huge companies in New York or London. What then are these two vibrant young men doing in the Abuja inner-circles?
The Amaize and Omokri families must have called several family meetings to discuss the obstinacy of their sons, just as the rest of us have concluded as to their motives in Abuja – “they clearly are there to line their wallets, build enough clout to launch political careers of their own, and replace their bosses in the near future”. We have castigated their every statement, justifiably or otherwise. Somehow, it just sounds really unreasonable for a young person in this generation to justify the actions of any Abuja politician, less-talk of work directly with them. What exactly were these two gentlemen (and others like them) thinking? More specifically, what was Ohimai thinking when he wrote that piece for YNaija on January 7 and its follow-up on January 14?
Ohimai recalls the definition of a political illiterate as someone who claims to hate politics, he mentions the fact that political party membership is as interesting to young Nigerians as the hostage crisis in Algeria, he reminds us that we despise politicians because we are saints and they are demons, he acknowledges our preference for cursing the PDP and her apologists, and hints at our love for opposition parties. He, thankfully, recognizes that the PDP hasn’t done well for Nigerians in 13 years, but states that our problem is not the PDP or politics. Ohimai says that the problem is that several of us, young Nigerians have backed too far away from politics and left it in the hands of a highly-corrupt few. He calls us a politically-naïve generation, and feels pressed to give us a knock each on the head. Of course, he is the one who gets knocked on the head, kicked in the stomach and smacked in the face for making such ‘unguarded statements’. YNaija commentators did to him what the ‘Twitter activists’ have been doing to him for almost two years. Very few people felt sympathetic to his statements. I was one of them.
I subscribe to Ohimai’s assertion that not very much will change on Twitter or blog pages. A lot will change, but not very much. Social media sites do a lot for sensitization, but in all honesty a lot of that is misguided. There’s a lot of naivety being paraded on social media, disguised as patriotism; consequently, the (un)informed thoughts of a handful of socio-political critics with a few thousand Twitter followers becomes the gospel truth for their readers who hastily retweet every criticism they level, and then beg for retweets as rewards. If we set aside emotions, we’ll realize that not much of that is going to get a genuine change-maker into Abuja.
Ohimai mentions that “in a democracy, the majority, no matter how stupid will always have their way”. He also says that “Bundles of ankara penetrate the farthest nooks and crannies of our nation and big bags of rice inspire more hope than well-written blogs “. Unfortunately, he’s right. Whether for good or bad, the majority dominates. The majority of disgruntled young people brought about the 2011 Arab Spring, as did the majority of young, black and female voters in the 2008 US elections. The silence and lack of involvement of the majority of Nigerians could also be responsible for the undesirable present state of our politics. I get amazed when Nigerians identify more as Democrats (very rarely Republicans) than they identify with Nigerian politics. Definitely, no one wants to be associated with a disgusting political institution, but Ohimai was spot-on when he said that “We can chose to be remembered as the generation that lamented about our problems or the one that took drastic decisions towards solving those problems”.
Ohimai is not crazy, he’s just unpopular. But that will not last for long. His message will percolate through the crevices of our minds and we will get involved in Nigerian politics, either through the formation of alternative political parties or the reformation of the existing ones. This generation of young Nigerians will soon lose their satisfaction with only social media advocacy and gravitate towards mainstream politics. We will realize that there is a place for us in there and that our direct involvement is as relevant as our criticisms of the status quo. We will not chide forever. We will get involved. Before or after 2015, we will migrate en masse into the core of Nigerian politics, and whether or not that is part of Ohimai’s motivation, he will be vindicated. It will be remembered that he spoke out when it was unfashionable to do so.
You can follow Faith Abiodun on Twitter @FaithAbiodun