By Wole Olaoye
Did my president de-market my country in the full glare of the whole world when he made the now raging comment about Nigerian youths? The social media is afire. Wherever you go, it is the subject on the plate. And the arguments for or against tend to be tempestuous.
The storm was generated by President Buhari’s reply to a question: “We have a very young population; our population is estimated conservatively to be 180 million. More than 60 percent of the population is below the age of 30. A lot of them have not been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria has been an oil producing country, therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare, and education free.”
Let’s enjoy the perspectives of Tesi and Kogba (not their real names) who nearly exchanged blows at a social event last week as they argued for and against the president’s statement.
Kogba: It is such a bleeding shame that our president would say negative things about our country whenever he steps out. A man who is supposed to be the chief marketer of Nigeria is now our demarketer-in-chief.
Tesi: You are just like all the other wailers! Have you not read the clarification of the president’s media team? Why must you twist everything the president says out of context?
Kogba: Who is twisting what? The question Buhari was asked was: “What are the investment opportunities in the Nigerian Economy?” Nobody asked him about Nigerian youths. Are you telling me that he didn’t understand the question?
Tesi: It is you that don’t understand the president’s simple statement. Look at this newspaper. Read! The media adviser has explained it all: “Manipulators, and twisters of statements of Mr. President, who lie in wait to make mischief, interpreted the comment to mean that President Buhari had taken all Nigerian youths to the cleaners. But elementary English recognises a wide gulf between ‘a lot of’ and the word ‘all.’” You are just a manipulator and twister of the president’s statement.
Kogba: You know, I’m not even as angry with Buhari as I am with you apologists. That was how sycophants have always misled successive Nigerian leaders. Did you read what Chido, a newspaper columnist, wrote about people like you?
Tesi: I don’t read naysayers. What did he say?
Kogba: He said, “Astute public relations professionals know that their principals would occasionally commit gaffes. The pro cleans up the mess. Two things. The silent treatment is one. The proactive is to change the agenda by inserting activities and speeches that contain positive narratives about the principal. They certainly do not amplify the negative by accusing stakeholders of lack of comprehension. Dancing in the mud only spreads it. It does not further presidential communication.”
Tesi: He’s talking rubbish
Kogba: And Atiku Abubakar? Did you not see his tweet: “I will never refer to Nigeria’s youth as people who sit and do nothing. They are hardworking. I should know, I have thousands of youths working for me all over the country who have been the backbone to our success.”
Tesi: Nonsense! Tell Atiku he will never be president as long as people like us are around.
Kogba: Don’t work yourself up for nothing. The youths are waiting to cast their votes in 2019. They will vote for another change this time.
Tesi: Buhari has no problem with right-thinking youths. He is cleaning up the country in order to guarantee their future. The youths love him. People like you conveniently ignore the president’s statement on April 5, 2018, when he said, “Our insistence on probity is to encourage people to be accountable, and accept honesty as a lifestyle so as to secure the future of our youths.’’
Kogba: You’re delusional. All over Africa, our youths are celebrated for creating Nollywood. The ‘national anthem’ of most social gatherings across the continent is Nigerian music created by young people. Our professionals number among the best in Europe and America. We have some of the brightest people on the planet. At home, our youths hustle endlessly to better their lot in spite of government’s incompetence. And you have the liver to call them lazy?
Tesi: But are you denying that some of the youths are lazy?
Kogba: Are they lazier than our do-nothing government?
Tesi: Do-nothing? Ah, now I know you’re out of your mind. It must be the PDP bug that is still afflicting you. After bringing the country to its knees in a 16-year looting spree, you want to twist Buhari’s statement to sneak back to power. God will not allow you. Nigerians will never go back to that looting era.
Kogba: Are you listening to yourself? What has PDP got to do with your principal’s verbal diarrhoea? The president had a great opportunity to market the vibrancy of our music, the uniqueness of our art, our countless mineral resources, the Ease of Doing Business initiative and the warmth & never-say-die spirit of the Nigerian people – and he blew it!
Tesi: Nigerians admire the president’s candour. Even his opponents salute his uprightness. All the gang-ups against him will fail. Just you wait.
Kogba: Yes, I can’t wait for 2019. Nigerian youths will cast their ‘lazy’ votes for the new change.
Tesi: Wailing wailer!