ARISE O RIVERS YOUTHS – By Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo

You constitute 40 percent of the population and 50 percent of registered voters. You are between 18 and 35 years old. You are the spine of society. You are full of energy. Communities, churches, political parties thrive because of you. There is no future without you. The present relies on your raw strength and intellect.

You have gone through school and obtained certificates but you don’t have a job. Many of your mates didn’t have the opportunity to attend school to the level they desired. Some, for no fault of theirs, didn’t even have a good primary or secondary education.

You wake up each morning confused on how to begin another frustrating day. You go hungry all day and watch your siblings and parents go without food. You want to help but you have no way to earn a living. You take to begging. You are unable to live your age because you don’t have the finances to meet your obligations. You are stagnated and have become a man-child. A grown man that is still a child. You are frustrated and humiliated. What a wicked society!

You eke out a living by doing odd jobs. As a graduate, you ride Keke napep, Uber and Bolt. Some of your friends get roasted in the mangroves, boiling crude oil (Po fire). They risk their lives to survive. They pollute our rivers and air. They compromise the health of the rest of us.

Some of your schoolmates turn into yahoo boys, hacking online platforms and stealing from unsuspecting people. Some are area boys, others go into violent crimes like kidnapping and armed robbery. The girls are forced into barefaced prostitution or veiled whores – slay queens, selling their bodies to survive. Yes “bad boys will be bad boys” but in your case, you are forced into criminality by an uncaring society.

Like women and children that bear the brunt of societal dislocation, you are at the receiving end of the ongoing acts of crass irresponsibility by the political leadership.

Unfortunately, like the youths at the grassroots who ‘carry everything on their heads’ you are on Facebook and Twitter promoting the cause of your oppressors. You turn against yourselves fiercely, trying hard to prove to your so-called political leaders how much you do to protect them. Instead of channeling your energy to fight oppression, you hail the oppressors.

I HAVE SOME INFORMATION FOR YOU

It has not always been this way. Life was much better in my days. Primary education was free with books. No child paid more than fifteen naira in secondary school. Yes! You heard me, not more than N15 for tuition and boarding combined.

In university, I was on Rivers State scholarship (not bursary) and so were all other Rivers students. We had good meals at the cafeteria for 50 Kobo a plate. Real good meals. Rice, large chunks of chicken, fried ripe plantain and tea. Large pieces of meat and fish in our soups.

After NYSC, there were jobs for me to choose. I had an official residence in old GRA and a small car too. The same way I had a job when I left secondary school even before WAEC released my results.

Life was much better in my days, yet those before me, say that theirs were even better than mine. These were in the 1960s to the late 1980s.

I was in secondary school and in university when Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff and Chief Melford Obene Okilo were governors of old Rivers State respectively.

“Five years after the civil war, Diete-Spiff’s administration made Rivers State one of the top 3 of the then Nigeria’s 12 states, along with former Bendel and Lagos States. The Governor did not have a monopoly over control of government money and decisions. The Founding Fathers in the administration made sure that government invested state resources in industries and enabling infrastructures located in different parts of the state. Jobs were everywhere. He built the biggest and best assets in Nigeria in terms of human capital and infrastructures. There was no insecurity of lives and property in Rivers State”. – Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown

Even then, we complained about inadequate amenities. But not in our wildest imagination could we have thought that Rivers State would degenerate to the current level. That unemployment will make university graduates, political thugs.

But “As time dey go, things just dey bad, they bad more and more” – Fela

Performance in governance declined drastically. Those in government failed to match Nigeria’s rapidly growing population with corresponding economic growth. Instead of promoting more investments in agriculture and industrialization, old investments were allowed to rot. The Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout is now a ghost town.

Unlike the governors before them, Rivers State governors, since 1999, in varying degrees, ignored real investments in education, health care, housing etc. Governors since 1999 had more money than their predecessors yet the lot of our people has never been this harrowing.

In Rivers State, almost every brand-new car on the road, every mansion in town and every lavish party are owned and enacted almost exclusively by former and current political office holders. They build sprawling estates and mansions at home and abroad; their children live and school overseas; even those who (before 1999) had never set their eyes on Lagos or Abuja, now own mansions in the big cities of the world.

“If your condition today make you shake, and you still not dey talk the way you feel, make you open your two ears very well, to hear the truth talk me I dey talk” – Fela

You have been reduced into agents of destabilization in the hands of the political elite who deploy you as attack dogs on social media and as thugs during elections. But you bear the brunt of poor political decisions.

“If you dey follow-follow, make you open eye, open ear, open mouth, open sense. Na dat time you no go fall” – Fela

You must organize yourselves and channel your energies to change the status quo and usher in a New Dawn. You must demand to know the plans, the proven competence, quality and character of the next governor. Don’t just support! Don’t just follow!

WHERE HAVE ALL THE YOUTH BODIES GONE?

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery (because) none but ourselves can free our minds” – Bob Marley

Where are the youth movements and youth councils? This is the time to emancipate yourselves. This is the time to starve for your tomorrow. This is the time to shun Greek gifts. Tell your mothers and sisters to reject the wrappers and rice. Tell your fathers to refuse the N5K. Tell them to starve for your tomorrow.

Youths have stood up to rescue this country in the past. The Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Obafemi Awolowos, the Anthony Enahoros were young people that spearheaded the fight for independence. Diette-Spiff was 25 years old when he was appointed military governor of old Rivers State. If they did it then, you can do it now. Arise o’ Rivers youths. The future is now!

Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
21/11/21

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