The Role Of Youth In Sustaining Democratic Values In Nigeria

The Role Of Nigerian Youths In Sustaining Democratic Values In the Country.

mr. sam nda isaiah









At every epoch and in all climes throughout recorded history, scholars and thinkers, religious and secular alike (from Ibn Khaldun to Socrates, to Epicurus and Seneca, to St. Augustine and Rousseau, to Kant and Murdoch, to Confucious and Tao, to Chomsky and Mamdani, etc), have acknowledged the role of values in nurturing, shaping, and consolidating political structures and systems.
In spite of obvious doctrinal differences, these values, viewed at both theoretical and philosophical levels, tend to have universal character and applicability.Indeed, all societies operate value systems which govern human social existence. Values across cultures, communities, groups and other social formations bear similarities, though contrasts very much exist particularly in terms of specifics and emphasis.
Essentially values can be defined as broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of action. They are what a people cherish, hence encourage their members to pursue and achieve. Most times they reflect a person`s sense of what is right and wrong or what “ought” to be. Some societies, particularly in the years of yore, valued warrior-like valour, bravery and courage.
The pre-colonial Igbo society depicted by the late Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart, in addition to all the afore-mentioned, valued successful individuals like Okonkwo, the major character in the novel. Actually, all societies value success and achievement, and frown at laziness, indolence and dishonesty. Other common values upheld and promoted by about every society include hard-work, wisdom, wealth, truth, compassion, justice, industry, love, kindness, etc.
Almost always values relate to the norms of a culture, but they are more global and abstract than norms. While norms provide rules for behaviour in specific situations, values identify what should be judged good or evil. In other words, the value system reinforces and gives expression to the normative system of a community or society.
To cite a typical example within the political realm, while it is against the democratic norm to engage in election rigging, the ideal of a free, fair and credible poll is a necessary condition – hence a cherished value – for a truly viable democratic polity.
By democratic values we refer to those principles underpinning democracy. In reality, democracy is a set of principles and practices evolved and operated by a people. It is therefore a distinct way of life or of doing things – at least as opposed to autocracy, totalitarianism, monarchy and other governance types.
As a process and a system democracy can only thrive and prosper when and if it operates within a milieu of a viable political culture. Taken collectively democratic values constitute an integral component of a given political culture.
However, it is a strong contention of this paper that Nigeria lacks a viable political culture, which explains why our polity thrives in rancour, crises, schisms, oddities and absurdities, and why it has failed to live up to the billing and the expectation of all. This is in part a consequence of our inability to fashion out, inculcate, instill, nurture, and transmit fine democratic values with which to sustain and consolidate the polity.
And because we lack coherent democratic values, ours is a disjointed polity where anything goes and where democratic principles are often observed in the breach, while the way and manner we practice democracy is akin to a man walking on his head!
We all share in the blame, including the youth, who should have been the sentinel – the guardian angel of the republic. Indeed, rather than serve as the bulwark of the democratic enterprise, the Nigerian youth have often, both deliberately and inadvertently, threatened it. And therein lies the tragedy of our democratic voyage so far.
In general terms, democracy is regarded as a system of government where people participate in governance directly or through their representatives. Thus, democracy is primarily a way of determining who shall govern and to what ends (Maclever, in Kapur, 2003: 378).
In a nutshell, democracy is a form of government in which governing power is derived from the people. This presupposes that democracy has a popular base and lies upon the consent of the governed, a requirement that makes elections – or the broader phenomenon of choice – such a crucial element.
However, according to Amartya Sen, a Nobel prize-winning economist from India:
We must not identify democracy with majority rule. Democracy has complex demands, which certainly include voting and respect for election results, but it also requires the protection of liberties and freedoms, respect for legal entitlements and the guaranteeing of free and uncensored distribution of news and fair comment.
Even elections can be deeply defective if they occur without the different sides getting an adequate opportunity to present their respective cases, or without the electorate enjoying the freedom to obtain news and consider the views of competing protagonists (Sen, 1999: 9-10).
This simply means that democracy goes beyond merely holding periodic elections. It must enthrone and guarantee rights and freedoms. Indeed, Dunmoye (2003) has warned us not to equate democracy with regular elections, lest we fall into the “fallacy of electoralism.”
Similarly, Ibrahim and Ibeanu have argued that holding elections does not necessarily means that a polity is democratic, particularly under the pseudo-democratic enclaves and Byzantine era-like tyrannies that dot 21st Century Africa where, according to Adele Jinadu, “people seem to be voting without choosing.”
This fits into Thandika Mkandawire`s characterization of African so-called democratic transitions as “choice-less democracies.” A classic reference is Nigeria since 1999, where election conduct, outcome and adjudication often defy common sense and constitute a violent assault on our sensibilities, and even sanity. Not unexpectedly beneficiaries of such electoral robberies and judicial abracadabra have conducted themselves as if their mission is to banish all hopes of ever enthroning true democracy in the country.
What is missing is really a consciousness and awareness that democracy is a pretty serious business, that it operates based on a set of rules, and that the ultimate goal is not just to grab power but to use power and authority for the pursuit and advancement of the interests and aspirations of society. This can only happen in a polity that has evolved and articulated coherent democratic values.
Democracies rest upon fundamental principles, not uniform practices, because the way democracies operate differ remarkably from one another. The underlining principles of democratic rule however remain essentially the same or substantially similar everywhere. The commonest of these are equality, choice, freedom and mass participation, regarded as the main features and ingredients of democracy.
By their nature, modern democracies are largely plural entities, reflecting each nation`s unique political, social and cultural life. This brings to the fore and necessitates entrenchment of “the 4Ds of democracy,” – diversity, dissent, deliberation and decision-making, which are a separate set of principles essential to democratic rule.
However, democratic values are more than mere principles; they embrace the principles all the same, but also represent a conscious attempt to institutionalize and give practical expression to a set of ideals through political action. In many societies they are known as core democratic values.
In America, as in many other places (including Nigeria), the core democratic values are fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles as expressed in the statutes. They include: 1. Right to Life 2. Liberty 3. The Pursuit of Happiness 4. Common Good 5. Justice 6. Equality 7. Diversity 8. Truth 9. Popular Sovereignty 10. Patriotism
In addition, modern democratic practice has evolved other elements of democratic values such as the Rule of Law, Separation of Power, Representative Government, Check and Balances, Individual Rights, Freedom of Religion, Federalism, Civilian Control of the Military, etc.
Within the Commonwealth, the democratic values are categorized into three: 1. Pluralism/citizenship/ human rights 2. Debate and Dialogue 3. Informed Choice.
Similarly, mention must be made of leadership values as expounded by the trio of Sokoto Caliphate founders, namely Shehu Usman Danfodio, Shehu Abdullahin Gwandu and Sultan Muhammadu Bello. These values are exquisitely distilled, dissected and discussed by Mahmud Tukur in his book, Leadership and Governance in Nigeria: the Relevance of Values.
Tukur has reduced the values of governance to twelve: three each classified as Process Values and Community Values, and six as Leadership Values. The latter bear unmistakable resemblance to the core democratic values and are particularly relevant to our march to democratic maturity and consolidation. They are:-
a. Justice – as argued by Tukur, drawing from the three great scholars, “justice is instrumental to the endurance of the state, for the security of the state and welfare of mankind…” Also, as argued by Aliyu Tilde, “our political instability and particularly the ethnic and religious conflicts in our society are manifestations of injustice meted on our people either economically or politically.”
Economic injustice, as in the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor is easily the casus beli for the endless social crises and eruptions in the land. Political injustice often serves as the precipitating and escalating causes.
b. Ease and Kindness – this, according to Sultan Bello in Usul al-Siyasa, simply implies that “the amir or imam should be gentle, moved to forgiveness and refraining from anger, inclined to generosity and tolerance.” Elsewhere, Bello insists that “the ruler should be gentle in dealing with his people… he must not burden them with what is unnecessary… should not be harsh but should act towards the people with grace and guiding hand…”
c. A leader must evince and show humility and modesty.
d. Abstinence, Moderation and Ascetism – Danfodio came down very hard on those leaders who engage in over-indulgence in terms of eating, luxurious living and bodily pleasures, just as he praised moderation in personal conduct and daily life. It is really not difficult to establish a relationship between the penchant of a leader for wealth and the state of corruption and poverty under such a leadership. Besides, our democracy is inherently but unnecessarily expensive, and it encourages waste, pilfering and squander-mania.
e. Integrity and Honesty – on this count, Danfodio enjoined leaders to be such that they uphold probity, sincerity and honesty.
f. Service to Community – Shehu Abdullahi declared that the relationship between a leader and his people is for the former to serve the latter such that every action he undertakes is solely done for their benefit. In Diya al-Hakkam Abdullahi declares that, “no person is made a ruler over a people to become their master…the governor must not think that he is the owner of the province over which he is made to rule, whereby the land becomes his personal estate.”
It bears repeating, therefore, that democratic values are an integral, even indispensable, component of democratic politics and governance. Their absence (or lack of them) invariably robs the polity of its essence, making the evolution of a viable political culture impossible, hence true democracy can possibly never take root.
In this situation, politics becomes just a theatre for the desperate and the inordinately ambitious who engage in fierce, do-or-die contestations for power for its own sake; political actors and actresses are mere seekers of license to partake of wanton display of greed, avarice and lust for filthy lucre, unmindful of the adverse consequences on the health of the democratic enterprise itself and the stability and survival of the country.
Unfortunately, however, this almost exactly fits into the description of Nigeria`s Fourth Republic. The truth is that the present political dispensation is anything but democratic. It is the best possible example of how not to run a democracy.
We currently run a political system where impunity, rather than process, dictates things; where rule of law operates in the breach, where key institutions (the bureaucracy, the electoral umpire, the almighty judiciary) that should serve as the pillars of the political edifice are too weak or have been so compromised that they only serve few powerful individuals and cliques, where political parties are mere rallies and tools for the pursuit of narrow and private interests of the same powerful individuals and cliques, where the parliament – particularly at the state level – is not more than a rubber stamp and an extension of the executive arm.
Whoever hears of a democracy without democrats? But that is our lot right now. The average Nigerian politician betrays martial instincts and character, and lacks the defining democratic mien, tolerance and accommodation.
The political class is selfish, self-seeking, unpatriotic, manipulative, and is capable of any vice – including engaging in dangerous intrigues capable of destroying the country itself. Such a class always thinks and plots for the next election rather than pause to think of how to address teething and mounting problems.
On the other hand, the followership is indolent, indifferent, easily susceptible to manipulation, fatalistic, and is given to merely wishing (or just praying) for change, rather than struggling to bring about one. Such a class does not more than condemn and grumble, and would rather play the ostrich than consider taking up the gauntlet to bring the nonsense to an end.
We dare say that all the afore-mentioned unenviable characteristics of the present-day political system are a direct fall-out of lack of fine democratic values which should have guided and guarded our democratic transition, evolution, consolidation and development. Where democratic values truly exist, take root and influence the conduct, actions and functions of political leaders, institutions and the electorate, all the above political oddities and absurdities cannot possible happen.
Freedoms and rights of individuals citizens will be respected (or at least will not be trampled upon with reckless abandon); rule of law and adherence to process now becomes an article of faith to be pursued by leaders and the led alike; leaders will not behave as masters of the people, hence they can be challenged and be made to change or get themselves kicked out.
Democratic values imbue in the people a consciousness and a strong sense of awareness so much that they begin to feel that they are important stake-holders in the democratic enterprise. This radically ups their political participation. The easiest and most effective way to guarantee the growth and development of any political structure, formation or system is through meaningful participation of people in all its activities.
Generally, correct democratic values cure the political system of vices and smoothen relationships and interactions between and among individuals, groups, organizations and institutions in the system.
The first problem one encounters discussing the youth in Nigeria is trying to find out who they really are. Persons of all ages and age categories call themselves (or are being called) youth. And the ruling party, the PDP, does not help matters by choosing as its National Youth Leader a certain gentlemen who is above 60 years.
However, we shall restrict ourselves to the definition of youth as provided in the National Youth Policy, that is, a “youth” is any person between 18 and 35 years.
Now, going by that definition, the youth are the most populous segment of the Nigerian population, making up almost 40% of the country`s population, according to the last census report. Also, as in everywhere, the youth constitute the most active and virile segment of a population. It is the age of biological maturation, during which most individuals finish school, acquire skill and training, and get a job.
It is literally the age category during which an individual is likely to get it right or miss it entirely. The youth are essentially characterized by physical strength and agility, mental perseverance, intellectual explosions, social and sexual exertions, political and ideological consciousness, etc. Most significantly, it is the age of franchise and political activity.
Ordinarily, the youth of a nation should be her democratic vanguard, hence should be at the fore-front of all democratic activities. However, that is not the case in this country. Indeed, the youth are about the most marginalized and neglected political category. All manner of obstacles and restrictions are placed on the path of their political participation and aspirations.
Some of these obstacles are even constitutional (such as legally barring most of them from vying for certain posts, including those of the National Parliament, Governorship and the Presidency) or through outright economic exclusion (politics has become so monetized that most of them cannot participate meaningfully).
Nigerian youth also suffer from deliberate denial of level-playing ground and opportunities to realize their political dreams and potentials. The female among them are restricted by cultural, religious and biological constraints, among others.
Generally, the political economy, as controlled by those who run the system, has consigned a great percentage of the youth to the background through denial of education, economic empowerment, incentives and opportunities. Millions of Nigerian youth are gypped and now constitute a huge army of the unlettered, destitute, unemployed, social miscreants and the hopeless and hapless, hence are a liability rather than asset to the democratic system
But then the youth themselves are sometimes to blame for their predicament. When given the chance to straddle important positions in the polity they tend to prove not better, sometimes even worse, than the old guard, in the perpetration and perpetuation of vices and negative values. Besides, Nigerian youth have not demonstrated a willingness to initiate, instigate, propel, or even support revolutionary change.
In certain instances, the youth have been used to counter efforts at righting the wrongs afflicting the polity. Guilty of this include the National Association of Nigerian Students, the various Students Union Governments, the National Youth Council of Nigeria, and sundry youth groups that abound like mushroom.
In the last decade and half, supposedly informed and enlightened youth have acquired retrogressive and negative values and attitudes so much that they thrive in divisive politics, unpatriotic vituperations, intolerance and bigotry, primodial effusions, ethno-religious and regional mobilization and de-mobilization, as well as bloody and violent attacks on one another at the opposite ends of the divide.
The simple, painful truth is that the Nigerian youth, in their present state, are incapable of sustaining democratic values. But this is not really their own fault. The reality is that the Nigerian youth, to a very large extent, do not even understand these values, cannot recognize many of these values, hence cannot possibly appreciate, not to talk of projecting and promoting the values.
You cannot give what you don`t have. If their parents, guardians and patrons are not democrats, or do not believe in the democratic norms and values, then the youth cannot be different. It is as simply and as plain as that.
At the end of the day, the democratic values build up to a democratic spirit, which entails a set of habits, attitudes, disposition, temparements, norms and values, which must exist in an individual, then expressed as democratic character and persona. The democratic spirit comes about through a process of continous interaction with democratic forces. No such forces exist here – at least not in their true form- hence the political climate is not such that can produce democrats in our youth.
In the main, our youth grow up not sufficiently socialized politically. Sometimes what they get is negative political socialization which reduces their participation to the fringes – thuggery, ballot box snatching, kidnapping, rigging, etc.
As solutions, the paper humbly recommends as follows:
1. Enthronement of true democracy – what we operate is a pseudo, or quasi-democracy, where anything goes. This must stop forthwith. There is no substitute to true democracy if we must make progress in our democratic march.
2. Value Re-orientation – we have to change our ways and set our priorities right. We must define our objectives, and amend our ways of doing things. We must do away with all negative values. In particular, the pervasive and odious culture of impunity must cease forthwith.
3. The older generation must retrace its step. They have impoverished the youth, denied them opportunities and placed all sorts of obstacles on their path to progress. In the process, they have produced a huge army of angry and hapless youth. Something just has to be done – and very fast too – before this ticking bomb explode.
4. Political socialization – a process of educating, inculcating and instilling in the young ones with correct political behaviour, attitudes, manners, values, etc – must, as a matter of policy begin at the family level, then continue at the level of the school and worship places.
5. The curricula right from primary school to the university should contain adequate lessons on civics and political education.
6. The mass media, both print and electronic, should devote a good chunk of space and airtime to issues associated with political enlightenment and education.
— Being a paper presented at the Sam Nda-Isaiah Annual Lecture, organised by Integrity Icons International, held at Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre Minna, Niger State, on Wednesday May 1, 2013
By David mark
I am griped with nostalgia each time I set foot on Minna, or any part of Niger State. My years here were memorable, bathed with sunshine, love and warmth. I arrived in January 1984, a youthful, swashbuckling Colonel bristling with zeal, passion and vigour. I was tapped and dispatched to Minna by that great inspirer of men, my boss, and one of my greatest benefactors, president Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR.
The call to duty immersed me at once in a maelstrom of ideas, values and influences, much of it edifying, and all the time enlightening.
Niger State is indeed at tapestry of ideas and unique culture. It is the home of ancient and proud civilization, and boasts a noble heritage. I drank from the limitless fount of its wisdom, formed bonds and friendships that would forever remain imperishable, and became, in short a wiser man! Undying friendship can exist between a nation and a man, between a collectively and an individual. Undying friendship certainly exist between me, and Niger State.
It is not the least surprising, and I say this with every sense of pride and responsibility, that Niger State should produce such a one as my dogged friend, the Kakaki Nupe, and the Jakadan of Potiskum, Sam Nda-Isaiah. The Nupes are noted for their industry, intellectual vigour, loyalty, bravery, discipline and daring.
These were the qualities that enabled the Nupe to defeat the British Royal Army on the field of Ogidi, near kabba, on 26th June, 1896, a feat that only few African armies ever matched! Sam is a true progeny of the Nupe spirit. Pa Clement’s little boy has come of age. He is 51 years old today.
These have been 51 years very well spent. I am not unmindful of the fact that this lecture is not about Sam, but I dwell on him now because his remarkable life reveals a reservoir of the every qualities which should inspire out youths. They are also the qualities which every nation should inspire to make a quantum leap.
Patriot, social icon, columnist, essayist and pamphleteer, humorist, pharmacist turned journalist and publisher, entrepreneur par excellence, the conscious citizens of the troubled but resilient nation, defender of human right, anti-corruption crusader and sniper, the heir to the great Nupe tradition – Sam Ndanusa Isaiah has been all these, and more!
Though lacking in formal journalistic training, this restless spirit set up the LEADERSHIP newspaper stable on the 29th of September, 2004, and has made an amazing success of it. It is truly difficult to compliment Sam enough, the man they love to call “Chairman”.
But I must now return to the topic of the today’s lecture and examine the role of the youth in sustaining democratic values in Nigeria. I thank the “Initiative of Integrity Icon International” for organizing this annual lecture series, and for the honour of making me the keynotes speaker in the maiden edition of the series.
Many of us here are familiar with the story of Pheidippidis, the Athenian youth and soldier.
In 490 B.C., the great Persian Army had laid siege dispatched its fastest runner Pheidippidies to Sparta, to summon military help. Pheidippidies ran the 150 miles from Marathon to Sparta on foot over two days, and back again to Athens invaders, and had saved his dear Athens! The modern Marathon is run in remembrance of Pheidippidis, to honour the supreme sacrifice this youth made to save history’s first democracy.
I have consciously began this lecture with the story of Pheidippidis because it has become an allegory for instinctive patriotism and self-abnegation, by a youth. And there can be no gainsaying the fact that the youths have a huge role to play in sustaining out own democracy.
But who then is a youth? Most of the standard definition of “youth” the Advanced English dictionary defines “Youth” as, “early maturity, the state of being young or immature or inexperienced, the time of life between childhood and maturity… a young person, (especially a young man or boy…)”. the United nations defines youth as person between the ages of 15 and 24.
UNESCO understands young people as heterogeneous group in constant evolution and that the experience of being young varies enormously across regions and within countries. The Nigerian national Youth Policy (2001) defines youth as comprising all young persons between the age of 18 and 35 years who are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The categorization of youth, in my view, would inevitably depend on the vocation in relation to which the definition is being proffered. While a forty year old athlete, for instance, is definitely aging and has long passed his prime, he would still be a spring chicken if he was a politician.
Therefore, it is safe to posit that from a political perspective, anyone who falls within the bracket of 18 to 50 years could be regarded as a youth. Some are even prepared to further extend the bracket to accommodate the young at heart!
Historically, each generation of youths is thrust into a set of epochal challenges, which may even appear inscrutable at time. The political philosopher, Franz Fanon had these epochal challenges in mind when he submitted that every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, betray it, or fulfil it!
The generational challenge of Nigeria’s colonial period was national liberation, and the struggle for independence. Those who inspired and led the struggle were youths. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was only 30 when he returned to Nigeria in 1934 to give zest and impetus to the anti-colonial struggle. The Nigerian historian and writer, Dare Babarinsa, in the bumper edition of Newswatch Magazines of October, 1985, aptly captured the impact ZIK’s return had on politics and the anti-colonial struggles:
“Before Zik came back to Nigeria in 1934, Nigeria politics was a mere Lagos affair, with the frequent brickbats between Herbert Macaulay and his contemporaries. But Zik was to take the nation by storm. He was then only 30, heartbreakingly handsome, and with his tongue he could rouse an army into battle. The old brigade cowered before this enfant terrible, and the British Authorities fled before his very shadow”
Similarly, when he became premier of the Western Region in 1952, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was only 43 years of age. Yet, his social and political revolution remains transcendental, and through this, he towers in the vastness of our countries consciousness. The Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was also 43 years when he won a seat to the Northern Regional house of Assembly in 1952.
Two years later, at the age of 45, he became the Premier of the Northern region. It was at this politically tender age that this giant of Nigerian politics performed the dizzying task of melding the polyglot and diverse people of Northern Nigeria into one dynamic economic and political force. Our found fathers and mothers were young men and women, who discovered their mission very early. We owe our freedom to the untiring struggles and sacrifice of these patriots who not only discovered their mission quite early, but also fulfilled it.
Unfortunately, the immediate post-independence period was a very tempestuous one. Bringing together more than 250 ethnic nationalities under one democratic and independent nation threw up new perils and challenges.
Meeting these challenges, and riding the inevitable storms that the nascent union produced, unleashed a chain of dreadful events which inevitably let to the two military coups of 1966, and eventually plunged our nation into a thirty month civil war, ending in 1970. Again, the youths were at work. The two coups were led, and executed, by idealistic young men, in their late 20’s and early 30’s. They were following a trend which was sweeping across the developing world at the time!
The resulting civil war was, in essence, a mission against national disintegration. Yet again most of the dramatis personae in the war were young men and women. It was their blood, tears and sweat that saved our nation from disintegration.
That generation not only discovered its mission, but also pursued it with a single-minded determination. It is one of the supreme ironies of our history, that Nigeria’s military leaders, whose heroic effect had kept Nigeria one, did not succeed in the larger task of national rebirth.
Many in this audience will be wondering whether my surmise does not amount to a ringing self-indictment, since I was a major actor in that era. But this analysis transcends individual actors and personages, former colleagues and superiors, whose patriotism is beyond reproach, and whose devotion and commitment to our nation are unsurpassed.
The times call for candour, and my appraisal is only an attempt at an objective analysis of the nature and systemic dynamics of authoritarian, nay military rule. You can say, if you may, that David Mark is being wiser after the event.
But the fact remains that wherever military intervention was not brief and purposive, whether it was Chile or Uganda, Argentina or Nigeria etc, it ended up breeding huge systemic distortions. These distortions have in turn become inimical to progress in the long term. One is left to ruefully ponder might-have-beens! Was military intervention really a necessary aberration?
Should democracy have been left to endure its birth pangs, then mature and flower? Would the military have made fewer mistakes, and attracted less castigation, if its intervention had been brief and purposive? I ponder these questions because it does appear now, that military intervention eventually became afflicted by ossification – the result of staying too long in power!
From the mid-1990s to 1999, prolonged military rule stirred a new national challenge. A broad coalition of Nigerians began to demand a return of the country to civilian, democratic and consensual governance. Both history, and the new global post-cold war balance of power, fanned the wind of democratic change. It was not surprising that the country was returned to civilian democracy on 29th May, 1999, with the promulgation of the 1999 Constitution.
Democracy is undoubtedly the superior form of government because it is premised on the respect for man as a reasonable being. But for it to take root and succeed, it requires the highest qualities of self-discipline, restraint, commitment and sacrifices for the general good. It requires deep knowledge and wisdom, and a willingness to forge consensus, make compromises, and above all, to accept, and abide by the people’s will, expressed at periodic elections.
These democratic values are not necessarily a function of constitutionalism. They must manifest as impulses. It takes constancy and consistency in practice to acculturate democratic values and to manifest them as impulses.
For mankind, including democratic Nigeria, democracy emerged after a long odyssey from the state of nature.
Between the state of nature and the advent of democracy, man had experimented with different methods of political organization, including monarchy, autocracy, oligarchy, theocracy, authoritarianism, despotism, and military dictatorship. In each of these systems, absolute power lay in a ruler, or a tiny clique of rulers, who exercised power arbitrarily and often, abused it.
Democracy, with its emphasis on separation of powers, checks and balances, and its guarantee of basic civil and human rights, is man’s most sophisticated reaction to the concentration and abuse of power. Sovereignty is broken up, shared and vested in three independent but mutually complementary branches of government, each of which is ideally kept on its toes by a vibrant, dynamic and unfettered press.
To merit the term, modern democracy, a system must fulfill some basic requirements. These requirements need not only be written down in the Constitution, but must be observed, kept up, and infact lived up to by both the leaders and the governed. These critical requirements are as follows:-
(a) The fundamental law must guarantee basic human rights, including freedom of expression.
(b) It must enshrine the principle of separation of powers.
(c) It must guarantee religious liberty.
(d) The fundamental law must guarantee free and periodic elections, and universal suffrage.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), enshrined all these. However, if indeed truth be told, there is nothing new in those provisions. Almost every other constitution in the history of our Constitutionalism, starting from the Clifford’s Constitution of 1922, the Richard’s Constitution of 1946, the McPherson Constitution of 1951, the Littleton Constitution of 1954, the Independence Constitution of 1960, the Republican Constitution of 1963, to both the 1979 and 1989 Constitutions, contained very lofty and aspirational provisions.
Yet, until the prevailing democratic dispensation which has now lasted unprecedentedly for an unbroken period of fourteen years, democracy had only known short spells in our history.
Earlier, in this lecture, I had posited that every generation must discover its mission, fulfill its, or betray it. What then should be the mission of the present generation of Nigerian youths? They may have inherited a prosperous Nigeria, or a nation free from polarizing political discord.
But they are the inheritors of the greatest, the most sophisticated, and the most enlightened system of political organization ever devised by man. President Abraham Lincoln called their inheritance – “A government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Today’s Nigerian youth have lived under the longest unbroken spell of democratic rule in the history of our nation. And in their own time, the outlines of complementary democratic values are evolving and emerging, and are being gradually internalized.
In my view, the historic challenge of today’s youth is to work to further deepen democracy, and those values that sustain it. Democracy with its ballot box, is the only political tool that offers young Nigerians a fighting chance, because it affords them a viable mechanism to hold those in power accountable.
But this is easier said than done! Very few governments in the developing world, however incompetent, have been successful punished at the poll. Our instinctive inclination to undermine the ballot stultifies the very reason for democracy, which is that it is a tool to hold those in power accountable. This is at the root of our national malaise, a malaise that young Nigerians must begin to abhor and shun!
It is a happy development, and part of the emerging political culture, that the political class has now begun to look at itself in the mirror, and to acknowledge its many failings. Also emerging is a willingness to confront these failings. The passage of the Electoral Act, 2010, and the successful alteration of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly, were all efforts borne of a political soul searching.
The goal was to reform the electoral system, and to address its inherent defects. One crucial competent of that reform process was the insertion of a Constitutional provision giving both INEC and the judiciary a first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This has had the effect of strengthening the independence of INEC, and that of the Judiciary, the arbiter in election disputes.
The general election of 2011, and those conducted thereafter, have benefited immensely from these reform efforts, which are continuing. Our elections are not yet a template of perfection, but it has now become crystal clear that impunity is no longer welcome in the electoral system. Nigerian youths, by insisting on their rights, by being eternally vigilant, and by actively participating in the electoral system, and in governance, will give fillip to this positive trend.
I make bold to say that in all the momentous events that have defined and sustained our current democratic evolution so far, Nigerian youths have been keen participants. Many state government houses have been occupied, and continue to be occupied, by youths. Our various states and federal parliaments have benefited from the inimitable and vibrant contribution of youths.
Civil society and the press continue to be driven and dominated by the vibrancy and nimbleness of young Nigerians. Nigerian youths, through civil society advocacy, are not only setting the agenda for debate, they are also regulating social conduct, lampooning the hubris of power, guarding against a relapse to arbitrariness, and generally enriching the democratic project.
The day will soon come, and I have no doubt in my mind about that, when the presidency of a democratic Nigeria will be thrust unto the able hands of a Nigerian youth! This is the solemn objective Nigerian youths must work towards.
It is an attainable objective, but one which requires hard work, knowledge, wisdom and tremendous discipline. It is a feat which youths have already achieved in the mature democracies of Western Europe and the United States – Thanks to the Kennedys, the Clintons, the Obamas, and the Camerons, all of whom attained the ultimate office in their forties.
However, the nation must encourage and support the youths to further help Nigeria. We must ensure a massive investment in education, and a renewal of educational infrastructure. The national must harness and cultivate the huge potentialities of our youths, and channel them towards self-actualisation and national rebirth. It is one of the ways by which the nation can drive attitudinal change, combat insurgency, corruption, and rampant criminality, and all the other ills ravaging our society.
We must strive to engage the enormous talents of a generation that has shown great promise, but which has also made its own contributions to the anomie that presently ravages Nigeria. For the truth is that a vast majority of our youths have been lost to crime, and to endeavours that undermine national development.
Be it examination malpractices, thuggery, rigging, election violence, ballot box snatching, substance abuse, drug trafficking, cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery or banditry, religious extremism and armed insurgency, or official corruption – almost all of these deleterious vocations are dominated by youths. The national ethos has become so bruised that many a youth would today not cringe at the prospect of running away with billions of naira pilfered from the public till!
The time has come for our nation to help our lost youths redeem themselves. And this can only be achieved through good governance, fostered by democracy. Good governance is not an abstract principle. It is participatory, consensual, accountable, transparent, responsive, efficient, equitable and inclusive.
It adheres strictly to the rule of law, and affords a bulwark against caprice, arbitrariness and corruption. The fundamental objective of good governance is the acceleration of social, economic and political development, leading to mass and gainful employment and a reduction, if not total eradication of poverty. Good governance is self-advertising.
It requires no extravagant propaganda to be felt. Once good governance is enthroned, the following tell-tale indicators will emerge and be felt.
1. A rise in the living standards of the average man, especially the youths.
2. An increased public perception that the allocation and utilization of resources are both fair and transparent.
3. Functionality and continuous upgrade of critical infrastructure.
4. Diversification of the economy.
5. Enhanced credibility of the electoral process.
6. Greater effectiveness of the system of checks and balances, and the enthronement of greater accountability and transparency in the conduct of the business of government.
Happily, amidst the numerous challenges facing our nation, and the pervasive despair it has bred, there is ample reason for hope. No upheaval could ever dispel the iconic axiom that all the ills of democracy can only be cured by more democracy.
In many states of the federation, the dividends of democracy are emerging, and are being felt. The dynamism of our youths, their keen participation in the democratic process, and their infectious optimism tell me that Nigeria is not finished, and that we are indeed on the path to greatness.
There is ample evidence that sooner than later, reason shall prevail, and the arc of our history will once more, bend away from turbulence and despair, towards hope, cohesion, social justice, and national unity.
Let me end my contribution by quoting Saint Francis of Assisi, who more than a thousand years ago said a prayer most apposite, even for our time. I quote that holy sage in exhortation to every Nigerian, young and old:
“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony, where there is error, may we bring truth, where there is doubt, may we bring fait, and where there is despair, may we bring hope”!
Once again, I thank the INITIATIVE OF INTEGRITY ICONS INTERNATIONAL, and commend them for organizing this maiden edition of the Sam Nda-Isaiah Annual Lecture Series. To the Kakaki Nupe, I wish you a very happy birthday!
— Keynote address by the president of the Senate and chairman of the National Assembly, Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Senator (Dr) David A. B. Mark, GCON, fnim at the Sam Nda-Isaiah Annual Lecture Series (Maiden Edition) at Minna, Niger state on Wednesday, May 1, 2013
By Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu
Let me on behalf of the good people and government of Niger State welcome you all to Minna on this unique occasion of Sam Nda-Isaiah inaugural lecture series with the theme: The Role of Youth in Sustaining Democratic Values in Nigeria.
I am particularly delighted that this historic event is taking place in Niger State – our state of shared vision and unlimited opportunities, as the lecture series ranks in relevance as the personality of Pharmacist Sam Nda-Isaiah, Kakaki Nupe.
Indeed, the theme of this inaugural lecture cannot be more apt and significant because in the 21st century the nations that forge ahead are those that pay more attention in building the capacity of the youth, who represent hope and dynamism of society. I am therefore very pleased that the Sam Nda-Isaiah inaugural lecture is focusing on The Role of Youth in Sustaining Democracy Values in Nigeria.
We are here in respect of our dear son – a patriotic Nigerian, Pharmacist-turned journalist, shrewd businessman, astute manager and an illustrious son of Nupe Kingdom, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, chairman, LEADERSHIP Group, publishers of the LEADERSHIP Newspaper titles.
We are pleased with the huge successes he has recorded both as a publisher and private citizen. Let me at this point commend this patriotic Nigerian for being a good ambassador of Niger State. I enjoin our youths to toe the exemplary path of this icon and publisher of note. Through extraordinary resilience and uncommon determination to succeed, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah has been able to establish and rune a world class media conglomerate. We are proud of you.
The timing of this lecture is very appropriate and relevant given the socio-economic and political challenges facing our nation and frustrating our national integration processes. I therefore commend the wisdom and foresight of those behind this initiative, which will afford us the opportunity to appreciate the roles of the Nigerian youths in national building and critically address those challenges facing the Nigerian youths with emphasis on their rights, aspirations, obligations and interest.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it might interest you to note that since the inception of our administration in 2007, we have identified the youth as critical stakeholders in the realisation of our development aspiration of Vision 3-2020.
It is in this regard that all our policies and programmes are designed to bring succor to the average Nigerian Youth in Niger State. We will continue to ensure that our youths are the prime beneficiaries of our Graduate Engagement Scheme (GES), Voluntary Teaching Scheme (VTS), prompt and regular payment of scholarship to students in higher institutions, free education, free WAEC fees for secondary school students, free health care services, agriculture credit financing, micro-finance facilities, among many others.
However, important as the youth are in our national development, it is regrettable that our young people have become most vulnerable to social vices in society today. This is largely due to the lack of adequate parental care and neglect of our core moral values and social norms.
I must reiterate that any child who does not grow and live in a caring and loving environment is not likely to appreciate the value of caring and loving others in the larger society. We must therefore pay more attention to the training of our children for the good of society.
Let me assure you tall of Niger State government’s readiness to continue to assist our youth in the pursuit of their dreams and aspirations. The youth are our invaluable asset that we cannot afford to treat them with disdain. We shall not rest on our oars in our determination to secure the future of our teeming youth population.
Once more, I congratulate our dear son on this historic occasion.
I thank you all for you kind attention.
— The Chief Servant, Dr. Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu, OON, CON (Talba Minna), the Governor of Niger State on the occasion of the Sam Nda-Isaiah inaugural annual lecture series, organised by the Integrity Icons International at Justice Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre, Minna, Niger State, May 1, 2013
By Pelumi Olajengbesi
I feel greatly exhilarated to welcome you to this moment of history, and with profound gratitude to the Almighty God – the ruler of the Universe for to Nigeria he has given reality to the dream, Sam Nda-Isaiah Annual Lecture Series.
I am humbled this morning by the presence of great men and women of value and virtue who are here seated in the spirit of our common destiny as a nation and the hope fired with an unquenchable faith that our nation will fulfil those lofty dreams of our forefathers.
Integrity Icons Organisation is an organised vanguard of change agents across Nigeria, with the fundamental goal of supplying voice and vision for the genuine emancipation of the Nigerian people from the umbra of socio-political darkness.
Our cause is deeply rooted in the Nigerian dream; a need for national rebirth to restore integrity and sanity back to the nation’s value-system which has suffered degeneration over the years. It is on this noble mandate that the Sam Nda-Isaiah Annual Lecture Series was envisioned and as such estimated and deemed crucial for the heralding of a glorious dawn.
Sam Nda-Isaiah Annual Lecture Series is an initiative of the Integrity Icons Organisation conceived with the passion to honour a living icon and to advance those values and ideals he stands for. Sam Nda-Isaiah is without doubt one of the Nigerian finest; bold, brave and strong and an unadulterated champion of the people’s cause who has deep passion for the worth and dignity of all humans regardless of creed or colour.
Sam Nda-Isaiah is a shining light and source of inspiration to the Nigerian youth. He has with an iron cast will consistently protected the common good of the people of Nigeria through his vibrant platform – The LEADERSHIP Newspaper at the exercise of his personal comfort and business interest.
Am sure we all seated in this hallow chamber will acknowledge the fact that Sam Nda-Isaiah is a man of integrity. This annual lecture series is therefore inspired to revive and institutionalise the values of selfless service, integrity, patriotism, good leadership and as well lead a vanguard for peace and tranquillity in Nigeria as we have seen in our man, Sam Nda-Isaiah.
The Nigeria nation-state project has been a sad chronicle of unfulfilled promises, dashed hopes and unrealised expectations. The cross since independence has been the search for a genuine nationhood spirit, better called national unity, peace and progress, in the reality of an acute ethnic and cultural fragmentation, high scale virus of humanistic regression and moral impiety, unfortunately deeply rooted in the Nigerian value system.
It will amount to a misleading notion to generalise that we are all responsible for the current pathetic situation of our nation-state, as it is glaring to the blind and audible to the deaf that poverty of leadership and the international murder of social justice in our land has brought us the present awful affliction.
We are again at crossroads, where the major concern of Nigerians across the nation is centred on strengthening our democracy, insecurity, social injustice, failure of leadership and corruption among others.
Politics has remained the bane of Nigeria’s development as it has over and over again consume our great values on its altar of irrelevance; yet, we can and must save ourselves of his morass. Nigeria can and must go forward to fulfil her destiny as a great nation, of great economic opportunities for all her citizens, with a values system deeply founded on hard-work, integrity and justice.
It disheartening to note that the values of the average Nigerian youth is devastating by the day and our failing society made it so. It is a truism that any nation that undermines the energy of her youth will certainly wear the toga of under development.
The youth represents a wide base in the demographic pyramid of Nigeria, yet the social order menaces against the much anticipated prospects, which adversely alienates them from the decision making processes and consequently having a near-ignorable contribution to the socio-economic advancement.
It is also worrisome to note that the federal government of Nigeria is not taking issues regarding the Nigerian youth serious, particularly issues that borders on unemployment and also values system. Our students all over the nation have seen prostitution, robbery, cultism, internet fraud, examination malpractices and other social vices as a way of life, at the expense of our future.
Sanity has been thrown to the dogs and the position of integrity made void for the sake of materialism. Many Nigerians now prefer Togo, Ghana and other countries rated below the Green White Green ranking to the first generational institutions in Nigeria. Good and great Nigerian youth has become tools for destruction in the hands of sinful politicians at the expense of their great future.
It is our strong believe in Integrity Icons Organisation that for this nation to go on, the youth also have roles to play. We believe we all shall share in the blame for the failure of our nation if we keep mute and allow spineless entities that have hijacked the instrumentalities of power to dominate our psyche. We must be constructively and positively involved.
All over the world where youth have been involved in the affairs of the state, such nations have moved forward. Look at the United States, John Kennedy a youth came in and put man on space. In the United States now again Barack Obama came in his forties as the most powerful man on earth.
Look at the United Kingdom where you have Tony Blair and Margret Thatcher before him; Margret came into the Downes Street at the age of 45 and see what she did for her people. Look at Malaysia, Dr. Malik. Come back home, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was only 37 he founded the Action Group and Bola Ige was 26 when he become the publicity secretary of the Action Group.
If those characters put themselves in place that long ago, why are we shying away from coming into the political life of this nation?, hence the choice of the theme The Role of Youth in Sustaining Democracy in Nigeria.
Permit me to use this great medium to call on and warn the federal government of Nigeria and also challenge all our leaders both in and outside government that our nation is very close to the brink and if we are not careful, there will be no Nigeria to talk about again.
The Americans told us a few years back that Nigeria might disintegrate by the year 2015, but the country was put together in 1914 by the amalgamation of the South and North and in 2014 we would have been centenary old.
That is a very ominous date, if somebody had said in 2015 we going to disintegrate, and in 2013 we are still kidnapping, bombing, murdering ourselves and all sort of things in the name of politics, we are moving very close to the brink.
While we have faith in this great nation, it is important we keep reminding ourselves time is running out! A hundred years towards building a nation with yet unfulfilled hopes may be a costly adventure.
At this juncture, I wish to challenge us all, we all have a stake in making Nigeria a better place. I wish to reinstate that we all shall share in the blame for the failure of our nation if we continue to fold our arms and allow spineless entities that have hijacked the instrumentalities of power.
I must as a matter of important appreciate…
I must also commend all members of the Integrity Icons of Nigeria and also in a very special way, members of the planning committee who burnt night candles with me to make this great initiative a reality.
I am entirely grateful to God for giving Nigeria a man in Sam Nda-Isaiah.
I welcome you all once again. Thank you and God Bless.
— Welcome address by the National President of Integrity Icons Organisation, Comrade Pelumi Olajengbesi at the maiden edition of SAM Nda-Isaiah Annual Lecture Series, organised by Integrity Icons International in Minna, Niger State, May 1, 2013

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