President Buhari versus Nigerian Youths

Buhari at Commonwealth Business Forum
Buhari at Commonwealth Business Forum

Nigerian Youths are up in arms against President Muhammadu Buhari over his statement at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, depicting them as lazy

By Samuel Ibezim

THOSE who are looking for explanation as to why President Muhammadu Buhari characterised a lot of Nigerian youths as lazy in front of an international audience may find an answer in the accident that involved his son on Wednesday, December 27, 2017. Yusuf Buhari, the only surviving son of President Buhari’s had a bike accident around Gwarimpa in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. He broke a limb, sustained a head injury and had a surgery at a clinic in Abuja. Seventeen days later, he was flown to Germany for further treatment and he spent over six weeks receiving treatment probably paid with tax payers’ money.

Prior to the accident, the University of Surrey, United Kingdom graduate had two bikes. Daily Post, a national tabloid revealed in its January 8, publication stated that Yusuf, who is under 30 years, secretly acquired the multi-million naira BMW power bikes at the cost of $314,000 from Germany. He is a youth with no known job but was able to buy bikes at this exorbitant price apparently with money given to him by his affluent parents.

According to Daily Post, three operatives of Department of State Services, DSS, attached to Yusuf lost their jobs because of the accident. They were reported to have struck a deal with him to allow him sneak out in the night for bike racing at Bashir Gwandu’s place. Gwandu is Yusuf’s friend who helped him to procure the bike.  Yusuf reportedly bought the bike without his father’s (the President) consent?

Four months after Yusuf had an accident with power bike, his father must have concluded that his son has a sense of entitlement for acquiring such expensive bike when he is not working. This must have made the president came to the erroneous conclusion that a lot of Nigerian youths are like his son. Hence, he told the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, on April 18, that: “More than 60 percent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free.”

The president’s speech elicited virulent reactions from Nigerians especially the youths who took to social media to vent their spleen and discredit the president’s speech with both writings and pictorial proof that they are independent and hardworking. The social media are awash with angry and disappointed youths threatening to vote Buhari out of office in 2019 with their population for vilifying them. One of the heart rending pictures showed an amputee northern youth with a digger working hard in an ongoing road construction site to earn a living. The youths want Buhari to apologise to them and to retract the statement but this is not likely to happen. But the youths are equally not relenting as they have formed groups to continue the fight which the president started.

The Cable, an online platform on Thursday, April 26, reported that the trending hashtag #LazyNigerianYouth recorded hundreds of thousands of tweets and millions of expressions in less than a week as youths seized the opportunity to showcase to the world the ingenuity of their trade and expertise as Nigerians. Now, the hashtag has gotten a page in Wikipedia which it described as a social media outrage by Nigerian youths.

This notwithstanding, some supporters of the president are defending him while political opponents have equally flayed the statements.

Femi Adesina, senior special adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, accused the opponents of twisting the statement by replacing ‘a lot of them’ with ‘all of them’ to mean that the president has taken the youths to the cleaners. Also, he said Buhari being the father of Nigeria could not pass a vote of no confidence on the youths as he has biological children within the youths’ age bracket.

“It can only exist in the imagination of those who play what the President has described as ‘irresponsible politics’ with everything. President Buhari has always applauded and celebrated Nigerian youths who excel in different areas of endeavour, from sports, to academia, and other realms. And he will continue to do so, because he values the youths, and knows that they are the fulcrum on which the future of the country rests.” Adesina said.

Similarly, Tony Momoh, former information minister, said that Buhari was right for saying a lot of Nigerian youths were sitting at home doing nothing. He described the president as a brave leader that was not afraid of speaking the truth unlike other professional politicians that say what the people love to hear. He insisted that Buhari owes the youths no apology because there were youths staying at home doing nothing because of lack of opportunities. Momoh said that “the government is trying to create opportunities for youths. To apologise for saying a lot of Nigerian youths are staying at home is unnecessary.”

However, Punch editorial of April 24, described Buhari’s statement as a derogatory comment against Nigerian youths as he is known for passing the buck of his incompetency and government failure to others. The editorial described him as a leader that talks down on the citizens at will and claims to do them a favour by being, whereas his record so far has been sub-par because he brings no new initiative, no robust or creative thinking into governance and no sense of urgency in tackling grave national crises. Concluding, Punch said “The youth should participate fully in politics and use their number to vote people of integrity and ideas into office. Not only the youth, Nigerians should conceptualise the leadership they desire in 2019 and beyond.”

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, described as shocking, the comment by the president, noting that his remark brought the nation low in the eyes of the international community. Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP publicity secretary, said that Nigerian youths have proven without doubt to be one of the most industrious sets of individuals across the world.

Atiku Abubakar, former Nigerian vice-president, said on his Facebook wall that he will never refer to the youths as people who sit and do nothing as they are hardworking.  “I have always said oil is not Nigeria’s greatest asset. Our greatest asset is our youths, who created Nollywood out of nothing and an entertainment industry that is second to none in Africa.

“Our youths are charting new frontiers; creating a huge technology industry on their own. Their entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic, and creative abilities are things of pride and should be applauded, encouraged and nurtured,” Abubakar wrote.

Reno Omokri, former aide of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan queried how the president would in one breath say that the youths are lazy as they don’t want to work and still appeal to foreign investors to come and invest in Nigeria. Similarly, Fani Kayode, former Aviation minister asked- “What type of leader takes pleasure in slandering, shaming, denigrating and humiliating his own people before the world; tells foreigners that his own children are lazy and unproductive?”

Nigerian Young Professionals Forum, NYPF, asked the president to apologise to the youths because he is not aware that youths, through Small and Medium Scales Enterprises, SMEs, contribute up to 80 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP. NYPF, through Moses Siasia, its chairman, also reminded Buhari that youths and not his generation brings glory to the country through sports and entertainment and have created enormous employment for other youths to excel without the government support.

Nonetheless, in the event that Buhari fails to apologise to Nigerian youths, they will be amply consoled by the word of Ikechukwu Uchendu, a graduate and proud owner of betting shops in Abia State, who urged fellow youths not to stop working hard because of Buhari’s statement. He called him a hard man that is never ready to apologise nor retract his inciting statements.

– Apr. 27, 2018 20:29 GMT |

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