THE FIFTH BOLA TINUBU COLLOQUIUM

The fifth Bola Tinubu Colloquium held in Lagos at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos State on the 28th March, 2013. This edition was themed “Beyond Mergers: Movement for National Change, A New Generation Speaks”. In a statement released by the organizers, the reason behind this year’s theme was to seek “to bring new voices to the table to interrogate ways by which we can meaningfully engage the political space and sustain a national movement for change that will result in a national transformation as we have seen happen in some countries around the world in recent years.” The event was chaired by the Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka. As the merger being discussed was between the older and younger generation, the speakers were picked from significant sectors and were mostly Youths who would lend a voice to the course of getting the youth involved in politics. To speak were Femi Edun, the Keynote speaker, Hafsat Abiola, Bankole Wellington (Banky W), Myani Butar, Kola Oyeneyin and Yemi Adamolekun.

In the speech by Kola Oyeneyin, the youth were urged to participate more and bring more of their intellectual capabilities to the political scene where they can be utilized to safeguard their future generation. He stated that the sad reality is that the younger generation is full of global influencers who despite all odds have come up with initiatives like Light up Nigeria campaign, Slum2School initiative, North Youth Agree Entrepreneurs, dustbin village and platforms like Leap Africa, Rise Up, Enough is Enough co creation hub. It was a surprise then that these bright minds are in the minority “How come then we are the minority when in essence we are the majority?” He gave examples of past successful leaders like Shehu Shagari, El-Rufai, Richard Akinjide, Chief M.T. Mba and Maitama Sule who were less than 40 years when they assumed political positions. The case was the reverse in today’s Nigeria as the Youth are at best background players and pawns for political war. According to him, if the merger is to be successful, Nigerian youths have to be a part of the process from the start. They need to be a part of shaping their future. Young people, he emphasized, have a lot to offer among which is intellectual and human capacity. The world has cabinets with young people who can foresee the future with technology at the heart of it. Fortunately technology is not new to youths and they can make good use of it to become better.

He mentioned things that can be done to make sure the merger is successful, the first of which is to kill the mentality of the youth being too young to be key players in decision making of their future. The youth must be allowed to lead or be a major part of the current ideology. To do this the right channel and access must be created for the right people to go through the selection process. The older generation leaders must create good governance skills and political school of thought that is exemplary. He also urged that politics be made very attractive in the sense that the impact should be felt and not the benefit to their pocket. The best way to bring the inexperienced youth to the political scene is to encourage political mentorship and design a system that recognizes and encourages that because “Leadership must never be accidental. It must be deliberate and have a system that channels it”. Finally, he concluded that a platform must be created where young people can come together, a symposium where they can rub minds and chart the course of their future. In the words of Chinua Achebe “Nigeria is the way it is today because our leaders are the way they are” and to change this, we must have statesmen and not politicians at the helm of affairs. “the question is not if our fathers and mothers can, the question is if our fathers and mothers will”.

The chairperson of the event, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in his speech remembered the lost souls especially Wole Awolowo and what he stood for. He gave an anecdote about the celebrant. He said Tinubu “was a fugitive offender like many of us here and many other things; former governor of Lagos State and a businessman”. He commended the business attitude of Bola Tinubu and how he started selling rice, creating a rice line from Taiwan to parts of Africa to fund the revolution during their fugitive days and thanked Senator Remi Tinubu for her help to him after their return. He was delighted that the younger generation used this opportunity to voice their ideas. According to him, the nation was at the verge of a break and this was not what was envisaged in the fight against dictatorship to restore humanity, right and dignity.

He voiced his anger at the government and the president for not taking the people into confidence with the recent happenings. “By now the president should be addressing the nation. This nation is at war and certain things have to be done to ensure that we pull back from this second round of what is moving towards a civil war”. He was of the opinion that Nigerians should have tightened their belts a long time ago in many directions as what happened in the North is not a regional problem but a national one. This consciousness that the problem is a humanist one has to be imbibed in all. He likened the Boko Haram problem to the four horsemen apocalypse calling them the fifth. In conclusion, he thanked the younger generation who utilized the event to reinstate human consciousness by speaking beyond mergers and regionalism.

Banky W in his speech was appalled that the previous leaders had done nothing with the wealth gotten from oil discovered in the 60’s. To him, the youth must be part of the change they seek or risk being changed. They ought to follow the examples of youths around the world who have clothed themselves with the mantle of change. They need to embrace this rather than going through the same tedious cycle of bad governance, praying and expecting things to change without actually working towards that change. To do this, youths must be involved in the political process and exercise their right to vote, carry out peaceful protests through old and new media to raise awareness and inform themselves of things happening in the political world; join parties.

He also asked them to use the medium or platform they have constructively; use their craft, art or vocation to make a change that is the only time Nigeria can be changed, can become the Nigeria he dreamed of where “each child, no matter the background has a dream of
his/her own, and is given access to education, healthcare, and basic
amenities in life to make those dreams come true. I dream of a
changed Nigeria where the opportunities abound for anyone willing to
work for them; where every man, woman and child is given a fair shot to
avoid poverty and become a success at whatever they set their minds to
do. I dream of the day in Nigeria where we finally live up to our potential – as citizens, leaders, countries, and as a Continent.”
According to him, it would be a failure on the part of the younger generation if their children meet the same conditions present today. This is the reason, he said, why he would be a part of the movement to change the conditions that prevailed. Not just being involved but being actively involved. Like the saying “the best way to predict your future is to create it”, the best way for Nigerian Youths to make a better future is to create it by standing up to the status quo and changing the narrative.

Governor Babatunde Fashola, who gave the toast at the event, said he was happy listening to the contributions made today as it gave him a re-born hope. He agreed with Kola Oyeneyin that the nation should have a president that is young. He said there is a connection between development and youthfulness as can be seen in the previous head of states and leaders who effected change in the political sphere as they were all in their youth. The prospect of the merger was a joyous one because according to him, it was an offer of new voices and fresh ideas. These would bring change to the nation and engage the youth “If there is a possibility of change, voters are not enticed to vote because the opposition doesn’t offer a better option.” There owes a duty to the society to ensure the provision for the mergers stand a chance of being actualized. He hoped that looking beyond mergers, “we would see that the birth of mergers will give us a new national movement for change that will include a strong positioning for the youth.”