Because change doesn’t happen because one set of people is replaced by the next. Change only happens because one set of philosophies is replaced by another.

When democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999, a generation was just finding itself. Its evolution stunted because of the endless military occupations of Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha,  it subsequently came into its own in terms of politics and public policy as Abdulsalami Abubakar prepared to hand over government.

Some of them organised under a broad umbrella called the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM). Driven by an intellectual set of young Yorubas, they were united by an admiration of the likes of Bola Ige and a disdain for all the things Olusegun Obasanjo, who would later be president, represented.

Their rationale for organizing was, however, more lofty:  they needed to inject a progressive set of ideals into governance; driven by the conviction that young(er) people needed to step out of the shadows of the media and activism and actually get into government and politics to change the way things were. Soon, it became fashionable to get into politics – these, after all, were a “stainless” set of politicians; not driven by any particular desire for office, but only to enshrine a different kind of politics.

Before you could say “MKO”, Femi Fani-Kayode, Akin Osuntokun and other leading lights of the PDM had joined the same government they had hitherto “hated”; Fani-Kayode especially perfected a spell-binding volte-face from his fire-and-brimstone anti-Obasanjo TEMPO articles, and soon enough the PDM was dead and buried. It had, as George Bush would probably call it, ‘Mission Accomplished’.

I am sobered by this recollection as I look at the present cadre of young people who have begun to clamour that we either “participate” in politics or nothing. Like the PDM and other “youth” movements in different political parties and ethnic groups in 1999/2000, young people have now begun to shed off much of their idealism. Disillusioned by the limited results of activism over the past few years – hobbled not the least of by a lack of funding – many have now begun to insist that it is time to join government.

But there is danger ahead.

Is joining politics really the be-all alternative to activism? More than that, is it enough justification for the sharp about-turn we have seen from many of our peers , who only months ago termed the PDP the ‘Great Satan’, which must be avoided till death, but who have now contorted themselves into contradiction as they defend their decisions to join the ‘Great Satan’?

Of course, there is nothing wrong in joining politics or government. Despite the initial reflex attempt to demonise anyone seen to be slightly open to the idea of working in or with government, especially the ruling party – government remains one of the most important forces for social engineering.

What is wrong is the sudden philosophy that joining government and politics is the one-size-fits-all solution – a philosophy that gives cover to those who lack character and wish to join another bandwagon focused only on their own selfish desire.

Let’s tell ourselves the truth as we begin to position ourselves for the future – it is a lie that we need to be in government to change our country. Certainly people must join politics – the PDP, the ACN, the CPC, the LP, APGA, and others – but it is not the Almighty Formula that our new cadre of “young politicians” are making it to be. If it were, then Nigeria would have changed for the better in 1999.

The rest of us are needed elsewhere – we are needed in the media, we are needed in the judiciary, we are needed in the development community, we are needed as activists, we are needed in the academia, we are needed in civil society, we are needed as entrepreneurs and professionals committed to building and enabling a new order.

That is the real challenge. What we need is a strong system of values and accountability built by institutions as listed above – and those institutions cannot be developed if we all blindly follow those who seek political power, just for the sake of it, while hoodwinking the rest of all that it is suddenly the only way.

If a generation repeats the mistakes of its predecessor, it will fall into the same pot-holes as those before it. Therefore, we must demand to know exactly what the new brand or participators – in whatever party – want to do differently from those who sit in office at present.

Because change doesn’t happen because one set of people is replaced by the next. Change only happens because one set of philosophies is replaced by another.

I challenge you to monitor those who you see suddenly want to “participate in politics”.

Do you smell any change in philosophy around them? Do you, honestly?

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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