Editorial

The Experience Hoax: A Case of a Failed Country

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This article tends to piss you off, but that’s fine. It tends to piss off one of your parents or elderly relatives, but that’s fine too. This article is about a conversation majority of Nigerians in Nigeria aren’t ready to have. In case you are impatient to read, just like me, – let me help you decide whether to close this message and continue surfing the ocean of Internet or continue reading – this article is about those who destroyed Nigeria yet still asking the younger generation to present their experience in leadership as a validation for them having a seat at the table of governance in the country. In case you haven’t closed this yet, this article is about the gradual and systemic destruction of Nigeria and how the elders are to be blamed;

Let’s start with a scenario not too far from home. The West-African country of Senegal is lately in the news for the right and exciting reasons. Even the western media and “Fake News” channels couldn’t dim Senegal’s shine. You see, Senegal is handling CoronaVirus with smartness and rare ingenuity that is making even their non-allies raise her two hands and scream “Twale Baba óò”. In case you haven’t heard the gist, Senegal has just developed a $1 COVID-19 Testing Kit to enable it to test EVERYONE – speedily – in the country! The testing kits are similar to the simple Pregnancy Test kit which makes a line as an indication for a woman to know she’s taken in. Senegal is also 3D-printing Ventilators to increase supply and this has crashed the cost of getting a ventilator from over $15,000 to just $60. Did you just shout “Woow”? Well, I did too. That’s what an awesome country – where the young and the old collaborate – feels like and it’s only possible when a country is led by Leaders with functional brains. I am tempted to tell you about the “Giant of Africa” in which one of its largest states – Kano (with a population of about 13.5 Million People) – up till recently – couldn’t even test ANYBODY until their samples were ferried to Abuja (6 hours away) but I wouldn’t, lest they say I’m a hater.

If I say I’m surprised by the recent good news coming from Senegal, I’ll be lying. You see, I have lots of Senegalese friends and Family (based in Senegal and across the world) whom we discuss almost every other week. But this ain’t even about me or my friends; It’s about how Senegal’s leadership – in the last few decades – is structured and configured to deliver value to her people through the recognition of Ideas and new knowledge. In Senegal, the standards of leadership are “slightly” different from ours. For example, to be a Deputy Director in a Government Ministry or Agency in Nigeria, all you need is to have spent some 25+ years working (regardless of whether you contributed ANYTHING tangible over the years or not) and a bit of Office Politics. Promotion in our Civil (some call it Evil) Service is by Cadre, some incoherent “exams” and favouritism. Flash: one of my Senegalese friends is currently an Assistant Director in Senegal’s Federal Ministry of Communication (sort of Nigeria’s National Communication Commission (NCC)) and he’s only 35 years old. That can only happen in a country where they value Knowledge/Ideas over Age.

Leadership goes beyond elected offices. Everyone in charge of Government Offices, Ministries, Agencies or Committees – serving people directly and indirectly – are leaders in their rights too. The crop of people in those capacities is just as important as those we vote via the ballot. That’s why when you vote an INCOMPETENT half-dead half-alive person as President, Governor, Senator or House of Representative Member, who do you expect him to appoint/endorse in the Ministries and Agencies? Of course, half-dead half-alive people like him/her. If you go to any government parastatal in Abuja and see those making decisions, you will weep for your unborn children.

In my little experience of being a Nigerian (in Nigeria), I’ve seen – first hand – a huge government MDA (name withheld) where the Director of ICT Department didn’t have an Email. Amadioha, Ọlọhun and Sango can bear me witness to the validity of this absurdity I saw and experienced. No Gmail, no YahooMail, no Hotmail, not even Okokopioko-mail. Nothing! As in the Director didn’t (still doesn’t) even know how anything “Email” works and s/he was the one in charge of the Information Technology Unit for the whole agency. Money wasted, many years of “service” burnt away, future destroyed! How did s/he get appointed? Of course, we know, number of Years of “Experience” aka “Wait for your turn”. A sane person will ask “experience doing what exactly”? And that’s the system we run while constantly chanting “God will help us in this Country” at the end of every serious conversation. Let’s face it: God will NOT help us until we fix this toxic system. Let’s stop being foolish and sick.

Don’t get me wrong please. I have huge respect for elderly people óò. But it just doesn’t sit with logic when people equate Age with Experience and make that the basis of qualification for leadership. These are two completely different things. The fact that you have been alive for longer (and seen 15 Civil Wars in your lifetime) doesn’t mean you are better aware or equipped for Leadership TODAY Sir/Ma. Unfortunately, the political class in Nigeria and the Elites (you feed on their misdemeanours) use this “Experience” narrative wrongly to shut naive young people up so they can intentionally continue damaging the country across sectors.

It took years of advocacy and non-stop canvassing to get the eligibility age for Presidency reduced to 35 years. For a very young (by population) country where 42.54% of the people are within the ages of 0 – 14 years (CIA World Factbook, 10th April 2018), there is no place in the world where the voices of young people should be at the centre of every decision making and conversation. Imagine almost 50% of your population is under 30 years old, it should be a no-brainer for that age group to have seats on the table and not being added as after-thoughts or tools of mere activation of self-centred agenda by the ruling class. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. Nigeria’s Leadership is built – for a long time now – upon this erroneous “You don’t have Experience” fallacy and that’s one huge reason God will NOT help us in our present model.

The commonest argument against this proposition will come from folks who cite a handful of “young people” who are current Governors or Senators or those echoing instructions from the seat of power via tweets and social media posts. To counter this, it is quite easy to tilt the head of debate to the fact that there is no basis for comparison yet. For every one Governor in Nigeria that’s is 45 years old, there are 35 other governors above that. So, what are we comparing – the misbehaviour of one versus the {insert-everything-that-stinks} of the 35 others? It’s not a time for comparison yet, but a time to work out practical steps for the adequate inclusion of the age bracket that constitute the majority of the country and best fit to tackle the challenges of today.

In fairness to the older folks, they were better educated than us. They met a Country that worked (to a large extent) – Free Education, Strong Currency, Water, Jobs, Security etc. The only problem is they got lost with the enjoyment and cared less what kind of country they were bequeathing over to the coming generations. That’s a riddle they are yet to solve, individually and collectively. They are yet to even agree that they are partly and directly RESPONSIBLE for what Nigeria is today. Professor Wọlé Ṣóyínká must have thought deeply about this when he described his generation a “wasted generation”. In Soyinka’s words, he said – in an interview granted in 2019 – “I compare today with dreams and aspirations we had when we all rushed home after studies abroad. We considered ourselves the renaissance people that were going to lift the continent to world standards, competitors anywhere. It hasn’t happened.”

With due respect Sirs and Ma’s, most of your parents either partook, benefited or watched the destruction of Nigeria. They are guilty! And they need to apologise and step aside. Sadly some of them are still participating in the gradual and systemic destruction of the country while some of you defend them because your livelihood depends on them. And if you are supporting the whole “Experience Hoax” under the pretence of Love for Dad and Mom or because of FOREIGN religious beclouded, I’ll like to tell you that’s not love but classical nepotism and no religion supports the injustice and bad leadership. So, you are on your venture and it doesn’t matter under which leaking tent you’re trying to hide. To be a little bit straight with you, the Selfishness and Short-sightedness of your Parents (our parents) culminated in the millions of young Nigerians now desperately finding their way out of the country – to go just ANYWHERE even if it’s… lips sealed… to do just ANYTHING. as in, once great Nigerians now homeless in different parts of the world. It’s first-class frustration! Damn!

The next time you have a chance to chat with Dad & Mom, ask them how the Free Education they enjoyed disappeared; Ask them what happened to the Naira; Ask them what happened to Electricity – all in their lifetime! Ask them FFS! The elderly people have messed up this country beyond recognition. The destruction is so much they don’t even realise it. It’s the reason why they can’t trust Younger People with Leadership and most of them hide behind that one-finger they like to call “Experience”. Isn’t it amazing that those who destroyed Nigeria are asking the younger generation for the experience?

Unfortunately, most older folks don’t realise nor agree that Education is never static. Education changes as fast as the clock. If I may adapt a powerful Yorùbá adage, the intelligence of today is the foolishness of tomorrow. And Experience – as important as it may seem – is relative with time too. You may have a truckload of experience, but is it relevant experience …?

Take for example fam, Mr Audu Ogbeh (whom I respect a lot) was Minister of Communication in Nigeria between 1982 – 1983. That wasn’t a problem until one president – who seemed to have lost touch with life itself – brought Audu back as Minster of Agric in 2015 (till 2019), some 32 years later. Politics they call it, but Audu’s daughter could have better delivered than the dad as a Minister at this age and time. Sensible people will ask what happened to all the Young People in the Agricultural space. Oooh I see, nobody is capable out of all the graduates, researchers and Agric thought-leaders we’ve seen between 1983 and 2015? Ooh okay, the answer is more obvious than you think, they all lack EXPERIENCE.

Going a bit down south of Africa, we have Emma Theofelus – the Deputy Minister of Information and Communication in Namibia who is just 23 Years Old. Lemme spell it for you óò, Tu-Wen-Ti-Tiri. Plus, she’s the one leading Namibia’s Communication Unit on the Presidential Task Force on CoronaVirus. So all this once in two weeks waving of hands, lifeless photoshoot and reading of incoherent Speeches – that Nigerians are supposed to be “grateful” for – don’t happen in Namibia. The 23-Year-Old girl is addressing the nation daily and as at when due. It’s only fraudulent people that use the word “Experience” the way we use it in Nigeria.

Quick question for the road: how many years of experience did Adam require before God made him lead in the Garden of Eden and – literally – everything on Earth?

When young people in other countries innovate, build solutions and lead (sometimes) whole industries, the Nigerian elderly fora and political leaders are quick to use them as motivational examples. But tell them to let young people in Nigeria do same, that’s when you become a bad child and a devil’s advocate. At this rate, one would wonder if – perchance – the world was left in the hands of elderly people of Nigeria, who are drunk on their not-so-relevant “Experience” ideology, young people wouldn’t have been allowed to do, lead or build ANYTHING. Which means we wouldn’t have computers, Smart Phones or Facebook; We wouldn’t have Telecoms Services; We wouldn’t have WhatsApp; We wouldn’t have Email; We wouldn’t have self-driving cars; Don’t even talk about Space Exploration or Instagram óò. Simply put, the world wouldn’t work just as Nigeria isn’t working at the moment. This isn’t a blame game if you think it is, your bad! It sincerely just feels like this whole drama can be put into a book and the title “Nigeria’s Destruction: The Elders Are To Be Blamed” will just be befitting.

Dear Young people of Africa – particularly Nigeria, let no one intimidate you. Let no elderly person box you, discourage you or discredit you on the alter of “Experience”. Those who ask you for Experience haven’t used theirs any rightly. The evidence for that is this same dysfunctional country we are all in together – no running water in our homes, electricity remains epileptic, over 13 Million Children out of school, internal security TurningOnEOwn and you know where else the Naija shoe hurts.

Dear Young people of Africa – particularly Nigeria, you’re not the “Leaders of Tomorrow”, you are the Leaders of Today and now is your time! Next time they carelessly say a Young Candidate XYZ “lacks experience… ” do not just agree and nod your head, ask them how they have used their own EXPERIENCE to provide Electricity, Access to Education, Security and Potable water for Nigerian in the last 50 years. Ask them! As a Nigerian, it is part of your constitutional rights to answer a question with another question. So, you are still doing well by asking them!

Written by: Emdee Tiamiyu

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