Founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, has appealed to the political leaders and elders of Igbo land to make effort to reconcile with the youths with a view to establishing unity of purpose, especially as the country prepares for election in 2023.
Uko, the Secretary of Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), who made the plea to the leaders at the weekend, pointed out that the younger generation, who have been the most affected by the marginalisation of Ndigbo, have since lost of confidence in their leaders who in their estimation, have failed to do something about their situation.
“If nobody told them, and they are incidentally unaware, methinks it’s high time our regional leaders are told in no uncertain terms, that Ndigbo are thoroughly ashamed of the state of affairs in our region today, and that Ndigbo do not consist only of the tiny cabal of ex this and ex that, who actually constitute less than one percent of the population but insist on determining the fate of the Igbo race. Something they’ve done for about half a century now, with dire consequences as proof of their great “commitment”, talents and “dedication,”” Uko said.
“The disheartening condition of Igboland is testimony of their wonderful leadership for decades now. They must also be told that about 76% of Ndigbo population are below 50 years old. With more than 50 percent of them under 39. Have they ever wondered how they are perceived by the angry younger generation? Do they ever worry about the state of infrastructure in Igboland, the lack of job opportunities, the wave of migration out of the zone and the damaging effect of the long standing marginalisation and humiliation of our people on the psyche of the younger generation?”
According to Uko, if the Igbo political leaders were up to their responsibilities, they could have prevented the emerging separatist crisis in the zone, which he said started 22 years ago, even as he wondered why the factionalization of Ohanaeze Ndigbo is being allowed.
He therefore, called on them to make strategic efforts to win back the trust and confidence of the youths ahead of the 2023 general election in the overall interest of the Igbo quest for president.
“If our leaders spared a thought for the people, they would not allow and condone factionalization of Ohanaeze. They would not have delayed in offering sincere suggestions to the solution to the 22 year old agitation ravaging our land and waiting until things get really bad, before raising their voice. They would have presented the truth to the central authorities long before now. They would have been loudly asking questions, how come a standard gauge modern railway was hurriedly constructed to Niger Republic, whereas South East Nigeria, known for trade and commerce, with terrible roads, left to their fate,” he noted.
“They would have endeavoured to show the younger generation that they are truly committed to the development of the region by fighting for at least one seaport in the zone. An inland container port will transform the region and explode commercial activities. The younger generation are educated, suave, urbane, articulate and social media savvy. They are aware of development strides in other regions of the world. They remain greatly disappointed with our leaders, moreso, with the obvious but saddening disposition of our leaders, that they alone know all things.
“It is not true that ascendance to political leadership suddenly transforms people into geniuses overnight, who automatically become omniscient, knowing all things, things in heaven, things on earth and things beneath the earth. That holding political office turns people into perfect beings, saints and angels who cannot be advised or even criticized. That all the youths, activists and the entire masses are morons who know absolutely nothing because they aren’t in Government. It’s not true that our leaders have done excellently well within the last 50 years and therefore should be elevated to deities and supreme beings and are above reproach. What is true rather, is that the leadership cadre should ask themselves : how come our younger generation lost confidence in us? How come they don’t trust us? How come a very large chunk of them lost faith in the system? What went wrong? It is only in sincerely seeking answers to these troubling questions, that we will stumble on the truth. The self-preservation and self advancement inclination present in our DNA and genes may have pushed us over the brink to the point we unwittingly hurt and offended our children. Our leaders need to do the right things now, to regain the respect of their children.”
He noted that the inability of the leaders to understand the younger generation, whom he said have borne the brunt of marginalisation, contributed immensely to the emerging challenges.
According to him, a change of approach had become necessary, as there is need to begin to mobilize the younger generation to register and get voters cards ahead of the election next year.
“Struggling to prove that we are always right and our children always wrong, hasn’t helped. From the military era, to the 1999-2022 democratic experiment, our youth population have been totally and completely sidelined as if they don’t matter. Fit only as political thugs, nothing more. No large-scale impactful skills acquisition, further education or arts, sports or entertainment programmes, to engage, sharpen or occupy our leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
“They have borne the brunt of the serial oppression of our people over the years. Abandoned and utterly left to their devices, even as politicos provocatively pounded our streets in state-of-the art SUVs, suggesting to them to go to hell, they decided to take their destiny into their hands. When they, out of frustration began to let off steam and vent their anger, agitating for attention, they were shot at, and ignored for 22 years.
“Everybody heaps all the blame on them, while our leaders insist they are the best leaders in the world, and our youths, the worst youths in the world. That isn’t true. Our youth has been blackmailed for too long. Our leaders must engage them now and work with them. Tagging them miscreants and criminals will not bring peace, harmony, resolution and closure.
“It’s a shame that people angling to lead Nigeria come 2023, cannot convince their masses, especially their younger generation, to register and vote. If all eligible Igbo voters register and vote, Ndigbo could boast of over 25 million votes and nobody can lead Nigeria without them. Incidentally, millions of Igbo youths are angry with Nigeria, and don’t want to hear about Nigerian elections, and we still insist on calling them miscreants. My question: If a large chunk of our people refuse to vote in Nigerian elections and we refuse to engage and placate them, who will vote the Igbo Presidential candidate in? Are we actually depending on the Fulani, Yoruba or Kanuri to vote in the Igbo candidate into Aso rock? We will be making fools of ourselves, if we can’t put our home in order, counting on the Hausa to vote an Igbo as President. Our youths are aggrieved, our activists are hounded, Ohanaeze is factionalised, even as millions of our people aren’t interested in queuing and voting.
“Why do we refuse to do our homework. This plea to our leaders is real and urgent. May we not disgrace ourselves as a people.”