But, soon rather than later, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil. - John Maynard Keynes (1935)
This piece is the third of a trilogy (I have written about in these columns) of events that I experienced in Accra’s urban spaces in 2011.Over the last three years I have been speaking regularly (twice a year I think) to different groups of high schoolers from Nigeria who visit Ghana for an educational tour. It is always a joy for me to watch these young people: full of life, infectious zest and loads of promise. The saddest part is the numbing thought that their compatriots who have led a potentially great country into a pale shadow of its shinning possibilities were just like these youths. Just what went wrong? Could this generation bring the dream of Nigeria to a rapid, pulsating, realization in their life time at the very least? My agenda in these talks has been to provide points of reflection on the future role of these youth in building the Nigeria and indeed the world they would consider worth living in.
|Jah Rule(in blue cap) at work as some of the Nigerian youths look on.|
The Q & A session provided some understanding of some of the questions I had asked above. A hand to my left went up. She had this unblinking stare scowling through a mien framed by soft, delicate yet pensive features. Her query shot out with a fiery rapidity untamed by the weight of the logic it bore. It was obvious the question had driven her to a forlorn despair over which she had brooded mutely. Was it intelligent, useful and worthwhile to be patriotic, selfless, concerned about the common weal given the array of forces dead set against such virtues? In Nigeria she intoned, that meant certain death or something close. The sanest thing to do was to go with the flow: survival was the name of the game. Her peers seemed to echo her sentiments. For teenagers to have such thoughts was both sobering and anguishing. I understood their rationalization but I was insistent that a few hard thinking, courageous, selfless human beings had bucked some of the most damning trends in human history. That was why I was a citizen of Ghana and they Nigerians: others had cut the path that we now tread.
|Branding Ghana Bonwire style.|
It was clear to me the deep distrust that some very young people had of those wielding power political or otherwise in Africa (a phenomenon expressing itself across the globe lately as well). There was deep dissatisfaction with the status quo but the vexing question was: how will change come? Out of the seminar room I engaged with other youths: my fellow compatriots. Four in all they had been drawn by business to the venue of the Leadership Seminar. They were all from Bonwire, the town in Asante land that had played its part in gifting the world the intricate, colourful, regal and almost imperious Kente. They assured me of their skill with the Kente looms which know-how they were leveraging in other creative directions: creating made to order pendants, bangles, key rings etc in record time. They all spoke good English. They had all left high school just recently. They were dissatisfied with our governments. One who had taken the moniker(his dream was about music stardom) Jah Rule called our governments Al Queeda. They expressed their pain: they felt alone however hard they tried to build their dreams in a country they called home; their motherland. Kwarteng said he will not bother with voting anymore. The politicos were making fools of them. I listened to them. I encouraged them. I ordered some of their work. And then I pondered. Is any one really listening to our young people beyond the hoary sleight of hand shenanigans of policy crafted to win votes rather than affect in a sustainable way the lives of bona fide citizens of this our Republic and more so the young?