2 things Nigeria’s Soro Soke generation must do to rebuild and change the narratives [Pulse Contributor's Opinion] 

Many individuals have gone ahead to blame the crises we witnessed in the last few days of the peaceful #EndSARS protests as manipulative works of government-sponsored thugs. Video evidence seem to corroborate these, but no one can say for certain who sponsored them. It is clear, however, that many of these thugs are young people and, if Nigeria must move on after the events of the last few weeks, there is a need to know and include them in all and any rebuilding plan.

EndSARS protests at Lekki, Lagos [Tobi Durosinmi-Etti]

Who are these young people we conveniently classed as “thugs” and why are they acting against our collective good? Agbero, thug, tout, Area Boy, or whatever you call them, they are the youth! They are the real face of the Nigerian youth not represented in the media. They are the young people who have not been given the same level of opportunity as many of the people criticizing them. They are the result of the high level of inequality and systematic oppression in the country.

Many of them could not access quality education and now cannot basic things like good healthcare or health insurance. They do not live in the high-brow neighborhood, and many do have no roof over their head. They do not have the luxury vacations, and their closet encounter with airplanes comes from looking when they fly over the slums they call home.

If anyone has ever considered these thugs insignificant, the violence that effectively damaged the #EndSARS movement suggests otherwise. Therefore, if the new Nigeria will be driven by the youth, as has been suggested by many, it cannot be driven only by a particular segment - the educated, enlightened, employed and comfortable ones.

Efforts aimed at achieving the change we desire for Nigeria must be inclusive of every segment of youth. The anarchy we witnessed after the peaceful protests are a loud sign to everyone that this segment of young people cannot be ignored or left out of the discussion. They have the right to Nigeria, just as we do!

How do we manage this?

It is time for dialogue, not with government officials but with the brothers and sisters we have left out of our online conversations and conference meetings. It is time to bring them to the table to have conversations that will drive development and community transformation.

This is not about offering money or other incentives. This is about listening and engaging with these marginalized groups. Money should not be seen as a quick fix. We cannot buy loyalty, we can only earn it. We cannot sell hope, we can only inspire it. Besides, if it is a battle of war chests, then the youth have already lost the fight before to moneybag politicians.

We need to start sharing the hope of a better Nigeria and the possibility of a country where the son of nobody can be somebody without the help of anybody. We need to create and strategically implement enlightenment campaigns where every youth will be empowered to demand accountability from their elected officials. Relationships with these marginalized groups must not be as a result of pity and charity but out of love, respect, and dignity.

2. Invest in the Grassroots

The “Soro Soke” youth of today have largely invested their lives in the major cities of the country, if not in other developed countries. The cry for transformation cannot begin online and end online or begin in the cities and end in Lagos, Abuja, Rivers, and Kano states alone. It must get to the rural communities and the villages.

We must not underestimate the power of grassroots movements. To be ignorant of the Nigerian electoral system is a disaster waiting to happen. Every young person should be ready and willing to go to their hometown and the community they live in to engage the grassroots. This will allow us to stand a chance to be voted and elected into political offices is in the village and not in the city.

Nigeria roughly has about 120,000 polling units distributed around 774 local government areas in the country. Citizens in the farthest part of the country also have the right to exercise their franchise and the less we engage with them, the more we give vote-buyers a chance.

A house that is divided against itself, cannot stand. Every youth transformative initiative to change the trajectory of this country must earn the support and drive from major youth segments. The time to act is now! We must begin sensitization programmes, town-hall meetings, and thought-provoking debates across all spectrums of youth in Nigeria.

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Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.

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About the author: Tobi Durosinmi-Etti is a communications and design (thinking) specialist with a passion for sustainable development and community transformation. He has worked in various capacities with top organizations, strategically contributing to their effort in driving development in Nigeria and across Africa. He holds an MSc in Media and Communication from the Pan-Atlantic University.

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