BY MITCHELL AGHATISE||
As Kayode concluded on his sales pitch to his supervisor in the company he had just spent his summer vacation interning at, Mr Oghene asked again, “…are you sure you are only 20? You speak so eloquently and your points are well thought out, you will go far young man, I only wish our youth were this knowledgeable and didn’t spend their time with trivial issues…”
Kayode is young Nigerian. In better climes he will be described as an intellectual; in reality the term often used by his peers to describe him is ‘Efiko’. In its context, it’s a word that many Nigerian youth will rather shy away from, a tag that has a certain straitlaced ring to it. It means that you’re not trendy and that you are very ignorant of the important things in life (we must define importance here to mean such things of great worth to human kind as ‘keeping up with the kardashians’ or the latest Nollywood grammatical blunder).
Kayode the intellectual, the far thinker, the Nigerian youth; feels out of place when with his peers, he whittles his lofty ideas down around them , wishing not to be labelled an ITK(I too know ‘Offensive Nigerian slang’), soon self-doubt arises; as he strolls home every day new thoughts and questions fill his mind. Questions such as; maybe I am abnormal, maybe I really am weird, or maybe I have grown up too fast for my own good.
This essay does not seek to denigrate the discourse that dominates the landscape of the typical Nigerian youth. On the contrary, it accepts it but asserts that there is a gap in terms of intellectual conversation, there also is a strange hostility towards those who pursue that path.
So, why bother?
Kayode, like many Nigerian youth in his shoes are looking more only to the older community to discuss these intellectually stimulating ideas, ranging from areas of business, to politics to education. There is an argument that it’s better that way, however the flipside is that the Nigerian youth is losing the opportunity to add a broad range of generational concerns and suggestions to the national discourse, an ideal situation will be a meeting point whereby there is a confluence of strong youthful ideas mixed with the experience of the older class to push it on, but for as long as the youth are only engaged with the amount of followers they have on instagram (not to impact but as a status symbol), we leave Kayode alone to face the older class with wonderful ideas that could have been better if there were a cacophony of ideas… although Kayode may benefit in the long run… we are left with a youth class that are unemployed and feel they have no voice in society… but with this lack of interest in intellectual matters, how good is a voice if it has nothing worth saying?
Kayode is daily going through a struggle. On the one hand, the older folk are amazed at his intellectual capacity, they are amazed at the ideas he has to push businesses ahead, even more amazed and impressed are they of Kayode as a man. On the other hand, with his peers he is labelled an ‘ITK’, he is labelled uncool and people keep asking him, “why are your ‘convos’ (conversations as represented in youthful twitter speak) so nerdy?” slowly and surely, Kayode with no support tends to doubt and second guess himself, you see, kayode has never been known for having a tough skin or for standing too long for ideals, his weakness is that he seeks acceptance at any cost… soon Kayode’s lofty visions and dreams are lost; exchanging phenomenal for mediocre, he becomes a statistic like the rest, falling in amongst those complaining about the mess the country is, hindered from discovering that like Joseph in the Bible he was the messenger sent to restructure the source of complaints…
On what basis?
Kayode has many a time been involved in quasi-intellectual conversations with various youth who seem to go off on a tangent proffering un-intelligent arguments or proposals. It is evident to Kayode now that the necessity to study cannot be overstressed. On what basis are you discussing financial advice for FTSE 100 companies when you have never read a financial magazine talk-less of a textbook on the issues those companies face?; on what basis are you discussing political restructuring when you think Obama is the president of the UK and Obasanjo is now Ghana’s President?; on what basis are you discussing educational reform when you don’t know who ASUU is (no it’s not the meaty meal, I believe that’s called asun)?
It is as the legal maxim states; Nemo dat quod non habet, literally meaning “no one gives what he doesn’t have”… so Kayode can decry the lack of intellectually stimulating conversation all he wants but no one can give what he doesn’t have.
We find solace in the fact that Kayode is not alone amongst Nigeria’s youth with this drive, there is Chidinma who despite her lack of access to Libraries walks 5 miles to the Nsukka campus to read leftover books by unserious university students, there is usman who despite the boko haram onslaught, hides editorials on financial education in his turban while insurgents torch books a few miles from his house, there is Osas who rather than migrates to Italy to become a prostitute identifies a gap in the Benin textile market and now goes abroad not to prostitute but on lavish holidays with her family funded by honest work all as a result of her willingness to think, there is Tega who although limited to primary education in the creeks of the Niger Delta has identified the need of oil companies for professional divers and having saved to learn and become accredited has left the teeming masses of unemployed militants in his area. You see, all this was as a result of intellectual thinking and conversation, not from the reruns of keeping up with the kardashians.
Here the caveat must be highlighted that it is easier to say than to do. As Al Batt once said, “It is easy to sit up and take notice, what is difficult is getting up and taking action.” In a nutshell; beyond having intellectual conversation amongst Nigeria’s youth my humble opinion is that more is desired.
In conclusion, intellectual conversations amongst Nigeria’s youth are not an end in itself. However, when intellectual conversations lead to well thought out and informed actions that better the country in which we live. This is the end we seek.
December 17th 2013 | Eko Hotel & Suite Lagos, Nigeria.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Mitchell Aghatise is passionate about politics and people advancement especially in his home country of Nigeria, he is a final year law student at the University of Leicester.