By Nwachukwu Egbunike
#EC4NY: Ending Corruption for Naija Youths was a conversation of the youths, for the youths and by the youths. Dr Ayo Ojebode, the Head of Department of Communication and Language Arts (CLA), explained that they got three hundred possible themes for the discussion from his Facebook wall. And an analysis of the comments showed that majority of Nigerian youths wanted to talk about corruption. The collaboration with Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) was built on the vision of creating: “create safe spaces for youths to engage, on and offline” according to Helene Michaud.
As a guest-blogger for the event, I was prepared to witness a verbal fight and had fortified myself for the ad hominium slurs which a topic like corruption in Nigeria was bound to generate. My bias may not sound exaggerated to any observer of the Nigerian blogosphere. However, the #EC4NY broke my single-tale narration because it did not live up to my preconceived bias. Why?
This was the scenario: about sixty young people – the gender spread by the way, was balanced – seated in an interactive fashion. There were no high tables (the vanity that has been personified into a national lure); the sitting arrangement had local validity (face-me-I-face-you) and the two key discussants kept to the allotted ten minutes (non-Nigerians may be at pains to appreciate this little detail). And wonders of wonders, the comments were not the typical blame-shifting and name-calling associated with a discourse of this nature. Rather these young fellows, from diverse disciplines, faith-based and social organisations, made personal introspections about corruption in Nigeria and what each person – individually – can do to end corruption in Nigeria.
I have aggregated some of the comments below. This will aid in recapturing the ambiance of the #EC4NY offline and online discussion about #corruption in Nigeria.
Tim Melaya (discussant from GIABA): “Is Nigeria corrupt? Why? No need to emphasize the obvious. ‘Corruption is endemic, etc. How about you? Are you corrupt? The issue bothers more on attitude… The police man that collect bribe, the lecturer that collects money to pass students is corrupt, the student that cheats in exams is also corrupt. Look not at the great effects, look rather at the origin.”
Mrs Adeoye (discussant from ICPC): “Youths should take ownership of the corruption crusade.”
Adeola Boluwatife (participant): “…Live a good life or have a clear conscience; you must choose one. An average youth wants a good life…”
Enamudu Victor (@enamuduvictor26): “Am I corrupt? The moment you can’t answer that question wholeheartedly, you can’t point fingers. Wash your hands first.”
Idowu Temitope (participant): “[Corruption] starts from law enforcement agencies.”
Joy (student-participant): “We mind our business too much in this country. Report offenders, make a move. Ring the bell!”
Wole Oladapo (@lexydek): “Youths say they can’t fight corruption because they are hungry; not fighting corruption will not relieve the hunger anyway. #EC4NY”
Michael Tunbosun (moderator): “In less than 3 generations, 41% of the world’s youth will be in Africa.”
Oluwaseyi Olawole (participant): “Corruption should be minimized from our classroom.”
Muyiwa Donald (participant): “If you want to be celebrated, start something today. Obedience also matters. This nation is going places.”
Scarlett (@FolabomiOdunsi): “#EC4NY …if you want to stop corruption, DON’T MIND YOUR BUSINESS!”
#Segun&theGang (@SegunOdejimi): “…Be the change you want. Michael Jackson sang: Start with the man in the mirror. #EC4NY”
You can now understand why I was delightfully impressed? Rarely does one find such balanced and calm analysis by youths – whose blood usually boils with creativity and impatience. Dr Ojebode noted at the end of the on-site event that “this is just the beginning”. With what I witnessed, I totally concur with him.