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In Nigeria, the Younger Generation are Pushing for a Revolution in Government

Ahead of the 2019 general election, the political climate in Nigeria has witnessed what can be best described as a revolution, with the increasing number of the younger generation who have expressed an interest in running for various elective positions.

From the State House of Assembly to the governorship position and from the National Assembly to the Presidency,  youth feel the time has come for the old breed of politicians to give way for a new crop of leaders who will change the narrative of the country.

In past years, Nigeria has suffered from quite a number of setbacks, from harsh economic realities to widespread insecurity and from youth restiveness owing largely to unemployment to corruption in high places.

But the younger generation wants a positive change. They are pushing for transformation, with the formation of political parties and movements. It is time for the status quo to change.

On Saturday, November 10, at a gathering in Lagos, music star, Olubankole Wellington, 37, amid cheers from supporters, especially from the music industry, declared his intentions to run for the Federal House of Representatives in the 2019 general election.

The gathering was the debut convention of the Modern Democratic Party, a political party founded in 2017 by a group of youth associations which pushed for the Not Too Young To Run bill.

The Nigerian musician, who is known for his strong advocacy and unrelenting passion for voter education said that there is every need for a transformation in the body polity of the nation.

With the nations urge for younger candidates to take the reins and control the course of the future, Wellington hopes his party, the MDP, can build a platform for younger and credible Nigerians who are committed to fixing the rot in the country.

Thousands of people waiting to see Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party. (Arinze Gideon)

According to Wellington, declaring interest to run is a dream come true as there is a need for renewed hope and results in a country that has consistently and persistently lagged behind in almost every sector.

Below is his keynote speech at the debut convention:

I have shared this vision with quite a few people. Some have been incredibly supportive, but some have advised against it. I am under no illusions that this will be easy. Considering whom we are going up against, it looks like it is impossible. They said we don’t have money to run. But we want to say that our strength is in our numbers. They say we don’t have the structure. But we say we will attempt to build it. They say, what if we lose and we say what if we win. We may not have a godfather. But we have God. We have intellectual capacity and integrity and the right intentions. We have a whole lot of hope that at the end of the day, it may very well be the only thing we have. But I truly believe that it is all we need.

Our generation needs a realistic rallying point. We need to begin in community, earn our way into the system and up the ladder. We need someone to stick their neck out and pave the way. The problem is that we’ve always looked only to our leaders for change…instead of looking in the mirror and at the neighbors around us. Isn’t it ironic that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for all along?

It’s incredible what can be achieved with a dream, the willingness to work hard, and the courage to hold on to hope in spite of the odds. I’ve seen rock bottom create champions. I’ve seen grass watered until it becomes known as grace. “Hope” is almost always the common denominator. Hope is what helped a former plantain seller and a kid born blind at birth become 2 of the most internationally acclaimed and successful Music Producers, from this same Nigeria.

Hope is what convinced 2 young Nigerians that they could take a company that at one point wasn’t worth the paper it was registered on, and build it into one of the foremost Media and Entertainment Empires in the country. Hope is what convinced me that a scrawny little kid from Ojuelegba Shitta could one day become the biggest Artist on the African continent. Hope is what has helped me through 3 separate battles with skin cancer.

And to me, that’s what tonight is all about…it’s about this generation having the courage to hope again, and the will to work towards making our dreams for Nigeria, a reality. That’s what we are attempting to do with MDP – the Modern Democratic Party.

You see, subconsciously, we’ve kind of given up, haven’t we? As a generation, we have essentially accepted that things will never change. We’ve lost hope. It’s why more people vote in Big Brother Africa than in our General Elections. It’s why most of us are too busy to register for a PVC, but we’ll stand in line for days at the VISA Center – further proof that nowadays, for the average citizen, the ultimate Nigerian Dream is the one in which you get to escape Nigeria.

I realized that all my years of activism in Nigeria didn’t amount to much more than my plight as an Arsenal fan. You see, as Arsenal fans, we love our club, but we knew it was time for change. We complained, we tweeted, we held up banners at the stadium, we shouted and hashtagged for many years.

But until the people who were a part of the system – the board, the shareholders, the executives etc – until they decided that it was time for change, all of that noise would not have amounted to anything. Our former coach could have remained in that position until the day that he died and there’s not a damn thing any of us could have done about it.

The same can be said for Nigeria. Until the day that we decide as a generation, to get involved with the affairs of our country, nothing will ever really change. The time has come for us to play our part. We can no longer afford to remain mere spectators.

Getting a voter’s card alone is no longer enough; because that does not give you a say in putting up the kind of candidates that you believe in. We must take things one step further by building a new political platform for this generation. One that is not built for selfish interests. But one that is built off of a shared vision and ideals. One that will put up the right kind of candidates: people with Integrity, the right intentions and the intellectual capacity to lead. People with vision and the ability to execute.

Make no mistake, we are a generation in a battle for the soul and direction of our country, but we are stuck in a lose-lose situation. But when you’re in a lose-lose situation, you don’t pick sides. You change the situation. It’s time for us to do that. It’s time for us to hope and believe again. It’s time for us to work and build.

25 years ago, the majority of Nigerians overwhelmingly bought into a vision called “Hope ‘93.” We had the freest and fairest elections in our Nation’s history and elected a great man called MKO Abiola into the Presidency. May his soul rest in peace, and his sacrifice not be in vain.

Our Country’s trajectory might have been very different, had he been allowed to live and assume his rightful position. Back then, it didn’t even matter that he fielded an all Muslim ticket…because poverty, lack, and suffering do not discriminate. Unemployment, lack of infrastructure, a declining educational system, poor healthcare, gender inequality…these are issues all Nigerians are struggling with whether we are Christian, Muslim, or Atheist…Yoruba or Igbo, Hausa or Ijaw, Edo or Delta, Efik or Kanuri.

Our generation does not really believe in the existing powers that be on both sides of the divide and for good reason. We have been taken advantage of and lied to. We are tired and disenfranchised. We are frustrated and suspicious. We don’t believe in our current political options, so it’s time for us to build our own. We want a seat at the table of Governance in Nigeria, but we must bring our own chair. Because if we are to get into leadership, it must be on our own terms and conditions, with our own vision and set of ideals…otherwise, we risk being marginalized and handcuffed by the same systems we are criticizing.

And this vision is for beyond 2019, and for more than just the office of the President. It’s about every electable office in this country. We must start now to build a movement towards 2023 and beyond, otherwise, in every election, we will find ourselves in this exact same spot.

We want to fix Nigeria, but we must begin by rebuilding our communities. Everybody seems so obsessed with the Presidential race – it’s one of the most frequent suggestions I get – “Banky W, run for President.” But see, as I said earlier, I do believe in dreaming big, but I believe in starting small and working your way up. Hope is what we needed in ’93. 25 years later, hope is what we’ll need in 2019. And it is with the greatest sense of humility, purpose, and destiny, that I announce my candidacy for the 2019 Federal House of Representatives, in the Eti Osa constituency of Lagos State.

With the rate of youth inclusion in politics, it is hoped that the country will soon be ushered into an entirely new political dispensation. But we only need to keep our hands crossed and wait for the outcome of the polls.