The stories told of how votes don’t count, of how a group of maniacal old men seat in a dark room pulling the strings of the political landscape, of how elections are but a farce to the reality of what goes on behind the curtain, have only benefitted those who in all likelihood have been the root of the disconnect between the voter and the elected. These stories have worked solely to widen the sea between the young Nigerian electorate and the ruling class.
Telling a story is often so easily done; making that story stick is even easier. You need but to say it with no limit to the iterations, often with the perceived authority of a louder voice, a pulpit or an indifferent desire to engage in opposing it. Whatever method is chosen, these iterations, accurate or not, begin to take on a religiosity of their own that it seizes to belong to one person. No thought again of who first told the story; it belongs to no one but the collective that shares in it and unconsciously guard it. This best explains the root of voter apathy in Nigeria today; the indifference to the oppression of others and the adherence and clear surrender to the flawed reality we know it to be.
This reached understanding of ‘’storytelling’’ and how lies could take the form of truth in a society like ours makes one wonder; is it worth it? Would it not be safer to ponder false notions from a distance in say, a beautiful café in Manhattan, living the Japa dream. To be free and significantly safer in a place that is not your own, simply because of the iterations made of a story by those benefiting from it and those who have surrendered to it.
Antithetical to this are those who stare impetuously at these iterations hoping to face them head-on; these groups are met not so favourably by those opposed to a change from the status quo, the gatekeepers of “reality’’. The gatekeepers have borrowed the cynicism of the “your-vote-doesn’t-count” cohort, dosed with their pseudo-intellect/ faux attempt at “objective” analysis, arriving at a conclusion that urges the discontented young voter not to waste their vote, to ignore their “unrealistic” hopes of what Nigeria ought to be and settle like the rest in accepting the state of things in the polity. This view they deem to be realistic, it is to them a reasonable logical assessment.
So, I urge other members of the oppressed like myself to be less interested in engaging with the gatekeeper's school of thought, as our own assessment of the polity is not without a knowledge of the reality we face, but also with an acknowledgement of the work needed to get us to a better place. As said by Freire in ‘The Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, “who better than the oppressed; The younger generation to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society? Who suffers the effects of oppression more than the oppressed? Who better to understand the necessity of liberation?”
We will not gain liberation by chance or through the existing 'structures' nourishing the status quo but through the praxis of our quest for it. And this fight, because of the purpose given it by the oppressed, will constitute a selfish act of altruistic liberation, not just for themselves but for those opposed to a paradigm shift and those indifferent to the status quo.
The perception of the oppressive system and the unabated task of rejecting in all totality the status quo would only grow in strength when the oppressed, the Nigerian electorate, have for themselves an instrument of their will, a tool for the proclamation of their rejection of the reality before them. The instrument, a card hard to get and the tool; the pathway to their hopes made palpable or, a candidate that comes not as benevolent messiah, one not as though entitled to it, but rather one in who they see a genuine desire to put above all, our future first.
There is none more broken than the Nigerian youth, none more weighed down by the culture imbibed by the polity. A culture that thrives on fanning ethnic and religious divides amongst the 99% while the ruling class stays on top of it all, benevolently so, as a symbol of what the Nigerian youth should aspire to be, and the cycle continues. So, while it may seem convenient to ignore the madness, to conveniently settle in fatalism, while it may seem convenient to join in that ‘’reality’’ without accepting the responsibility of trying to change it, it is as well good to note that while things may ‘’seem’’ a certain way, they actually aren’t. The status quo is timely only to those benefiting from it and those they have urged to be the gatekeepers of the reality they have created. Thus, a total rejection of it is the path forward.
There exists nothing more powerful than the will to be free, to be more than we are allowed to be, to be beyond the path dictated for us. As the election draws nearer, this will shall be tested. It shall be tested by those who would prefer that lines of young undergraduates and Nigerians are at their gates begging for a job or a meal, that they the oppressors may be allowed a chance at benevolence, that their guilt of the woes served on us all may be in their mind lifted. It shall be tested by those whose antecedents are vote-buying, thuggery and theft. It shall be tested by the ‘’gatekeepers of reality’’ in whose cynicism we find a desperate attempt to dictate our surrender to the reality we have rejected.
So, to the young voters and tired ones, I urge that we do not settle, I urge that we hold fast to the hopes we have for a better polity, one in whose political culture is not in reverence to a dogma or creed, to a master or slave, to a ruler and the ruled, to a tribe or faith but to the service of the commonwealth. We are powerful and no story can tell us otherwise. It is so much easier to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams, so dream of better days ahead and wake up each day ready for the task of getting this country right.
Freire, Paulo, 1921-1997. ( 2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York :Continuum
About the Author
An aspiring writer, deeply passionate about politics and walking my way towards absolute wokeness. A pan Africanist in progress. I strongly believe in shaping society through our words, as i find the art of them to be sharper than any blade.
Currently furthering my studies in International Relations, hoping to someday devote myself to a life service to a younger generation in a classroom or public office