Earlier this week, I was jolted awake from my sleep and given the news that the same street where two of my immediate brothers are living hundreds of Kilometers away was terrorized at midnight by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
You do not need to ask if there was an arrest warrant for that kind of move, some form of legality backing this, or maybe it resulted from a long-time investigation. No, it was just the direct brute force we have known our state institutions to embrace in all its forms.
This was the apex anti-corruption body of this country, moving to abduct students, harass them, bundle them in buses, and disappear into the night. And oh, I should probably mention that this was done right under the nose of the school authorities, who have said “Fuck you” to everything because, you know, “It did not happen within the campus.”
Well, you would be living under a rock if you were not aware that this has been the modus operandi of the agency for quite some time. I have also consistently spoken about how terrible this is and how there are better ways for any government agency to act against its citizens. However, everything that happened on that Wednesday morning made it more evident to me about the backward mentality of our agencies in this part of the world.
That could have been anyone. So, while we advocated on social media, I could not help but think about the hundreds of similar illegal arrests that nothing came out of. I could not stop thinking about the many faces this agency has posted on its socials, soiled their digital integrity, and got away with it. Just how many I saw their faces out there, and just mindlessly judged them and kept it moving.
I already said a lot on my socials, and I just was not interested in reacting any further, especially after our momentary victory as a result of these social advocacies. However, the news of 11, now 12 people still in custody out of the possible 69 that had been dragged from their abode in the dead of night, is just not sitting right with me.
Well, as it stands, I am currently at work, and I have to bear with NTA. But that is not the worst part. I see advertorials telling the youth, urging them to participate effectively in nation-building and be patriots. I am angry again because nothing can be more hypocritical than this.
Nigeria is killing its youths, taking such a hardline stance against them in reality, only for the country to come and posture on national television about the importance of the same youths it daily hunts on the streets. That jingle or whatever got to me so much that I had to come and write something. It just does not feel right.
Because What is happening?
Even though we know how state institutions acted with impunity, in recent times, everyone has tuned up a notch. The EFCC, for example, is tasked with combating rising corruption, economic, and financial crimes. But we all know that it is moving far away from that right now.
The agency has always had to cope with the public perception that successive presidents have used the body to fight political opponents. Still, it has been able to shake that off to an extent due to the convictions it has gotten against some of the bigwigs on the Nigerian political scene.
The EFCC has also had its fair share of cases dragging on for years in courts, accused individuals getting off due to some form of technicality. Still, it seems it is leaving that primary function and focusing on the youths, barging into houses, harassing young people, and parading them with some “Recovered Items.”
I do not know when this new change of direction was seemingly instituted, but the actions of the agency in recent times provide enough evidence. It was expected to hear of night raids, abductions, like that which was committed against my friends some days ago. The agency seems to require urgent wins, and it is bent to get them in any way possible.
The new focus might result from directorial changes, but the youths, mainly, have borne the brunt the most. However, there is something we need to remember. No Nigerian institution acts in a vacuum or an isolated manner.
If you have studied the body language of these agencies, you can understand the position of the central Government. You can correlate how apparatuses of the state act to the form or type of leadership. If an EFCC spokesperson justifies night raids by saying, “Internet fraudsters operate at night,” then you know we are all in trouble and how your Government thinks about you trying to make it out of the trenches in the best way possible.
State Failure and the “Lazy” Nigerian Youth
It is not unusual to have the average Nigerian youth described by the leadership as Lazy. A former president of this country once remarked at the worst of times in the past. Looking at it, it is as if there has been a time loop, and every young person managed to jump through, leaving the older generation behind.
We can “eat” statistics, but we cannot deny how vital these stats are to helping us arrive at certain conclusions. I am starting to have a new appreciation for what data does. It does not lie; it is not impartial and irrespective of how much it is manipulated, it still stands true because data is a perfect representation of reality.
Nigeria, for example, currently battles with an unemployment rate of as high as 41%, which means that 4 or 5 out of 10 people in the workforce do not have jobs. To put this into a clearer perspective, this unemployment rate is hitting new decade lows that the Government had to announce a new format for its calculation.
The Government believes that the new rate is representative of that found in developed societies, where a few hours of work, say about 2 or 3 hours, guarantees one to fall within the employment bracket. This is quite a genius move because in a country where over 80% of its workforce work in the informal sector or have to create jobs for themselves, this is a good move.
All of these paint a grim picture of the failure of leadership. Instead of a pragmatic approach to governance or a “Boots on the ground” approach that could improve the fundamentals and spur economic growth, we keep running around in circles.
So, what do we do?
When the Government fails to put you in its plans and instead decides to buy luxurious cars for its leaders, spend on yachts, and even slack in paying an agreed minimum wage for its labor force, you have to turn to innovation, which is what the Nigerian youth does. Amidst grim realities, the Nigerian youth hopes it will somehow get better.
Well, armed with the crucial knowledge of the world being your oyster and that everything is possible, and then coupled with the fact that even if your Government does not rate you well enough, there are millions of people out there who are willing to pay for hard-earned skillsets, there is no better source of motivation.
So, the average Nigerian Youth levels up; he works hard, gains skills, and leverages his network to level up to survive. But what does the Government do? It conducts late-night raids like the ones that had my friends in custody overnight and still have their phones and devices confiscated, you know, just till “Profiling” is completed.
It barges into your room, snatches you from your bed, harasses you, assaults your woman, and just mindlessly accuses you of being a fraudster even though it has no single proof of this. Well, they say, “From the abundance of the heart speaks the mouth, yeah?” This is not true for our security agencies.
When subjected to the worst inhumane treatment, you will confess to things you have never done. Instead of deciding to pay attention or learn about how work roles are evolving in big 2023, the EFCC, the Government as a whole, refuses to face the big picture. Instead, it chooses to malign, harass, and assault the same youths it has largely failed.
How do we get out of this?
Do I still need to say anything? Japa, my guy. If you have the means to live and experience a better civilization, you will not regret making that move. But if you make a mistake and become obsessed with nation-building, governance, and everything, you are just bidding time. It could be any of us at this point.
So after that obvious solution, what else can we do? First, as youths, do not expect “Bread” to fall from anywhere, so irrespective of how much opposition you might face, you have to keep at it. Keep going; do not stop for anything. Take those courses, boost your portfolio, and do all these in public.
Make sure you are carving a niche for yourself. It will set you apart when you are at risk of being profiled. That will also be your saving grace because people who recognize your public building will defend you. Everyone will know what you are doing, and it will be made clear that you are not a fraudster, nor do you engage in any form of criminality. This is me keeping it a hundred with you.
As for the Government and its agencies, as I mentioned earlier, work roles are changing. The routine and the rigid nature of conventional work roles are being adjusted to fit the lifestyle of the average person. You do not need to leave your house to be anywhere at any particular time; you can work on the go. Anything and everything is possible now, and they need to get that.
There are so many digital skills that can be leveraged these days. Digital content creation, content writing, data analysis, supply chain management, logistics, Forex trading, cybersecurity, etc. A lot is possible, and government agencies need to be aware of that now more than ever. Then, let us stop with the profiling; it does not help anyone. Be sure you have your facts right, and investigate on a proper check before approaching or arresting anyone.
I am constantly monitoring and hoping my friends get released in no time since they will also be arraigned in court in just two days and a weekend after they were illegally abducted; so much for obeying the rule of law. While I hope things get better, let us all keep building in public and do not give on pushing the reminder that the Nigerian Government needs to provide an enabling ground for youth growth and development.
We do not deserve the crumbs; we deserve everything good; and if the youths are constantly spinning the wheels of innovation to make something for ourselves, we do not earn all of these treatments from the same Government that is expected to be in charge. But while we are on this, do not give up on yourself, as I can see it all, and I love all the efforts and the results from here.