Continued from Backpage

Meanwhile, since the federal government is conceding some ground, it may be necessary for our young people to design a new and sustained strategy for the next stage of their campaign. I monitor what many of their leaders are saying on Twitter (the only social media platform I operate) so I am well aware that it is not popular to tell them to take this dialogue from the streets. But I will say it nonetheless (let them drag me!). Continuing on the streets may have its utility, but it is also prone to hijack by people with other interests. Should that happen, it will detract from the hard and long work that they have done in the past one week and may divide their rank. Besides, if they continue the protests, the federal government could lose patience and begin to apply heavy-handed measures that may include drafting in the military as we saw on Tuesday in Abuja. Some interests may also recruit thugs to disrupt the protests and instigate violence. In Abuja, there are entrepreneurs who provide such services. To worsen the situation, I have seen video clips of shadowy youth groups who disparage the protests as part of a broader agenda by a section of the country against the government. When that sort of dangerous and patently dubious narrative is allowed to gain ground, especially under the current toxic political environment, our young people could easily be divided along ethno-religious lines. Once that happens, they will be defeated.

A unique feature of the protests which we must come back to interrogate is the leadership role being played by our women. I was driving past the police headquarters last Saturday in Abuja when I ran into protesters led by Aisha Yesufu. I had to park my vehicle and within the few minutes I spent with them, my concise observation was that there were almost as many women as men in the crowd. In other cities across the country, women are also playing leading roles. On social media, their voices are loud as well and they seem to be in charge of the logistics.

On the whole, now that our young people have proved that they are not simply interested in what Erica and KiddWaya are doing under the bedsheets in Ebuka’s BBNaija House but also politically conscious, I hope they will continue to use that power to demand accountability in all spheres and at all levels of leadership in our country. If they manage that power and the voice they have found, it may just signpost the dawn of a new Nigeria.

Olusegun Adeniyi, Abuja