A former Minister of Education and Vice-President of the World Bank, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, has said the greatest failure of the regimes in the current democratic dispensation, including that of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, has been military approach to developmental issues.
Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former Head of State, handed over to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979.
The retired General later became Nigeria’s civilian President, ruled for eight years and handed over to President Umaru Yar’Adua, who died while in office.
Ezekwesili also described youths in the country as “a threatened generation,” saying it had become necessary for them to get involved in the governance of the society.
Ezekwesili was one of the speakers at a youth forum tagged, ‘100,000 voices telethon,’ organised by Generational Voices, an event monitored on Channels Television by our correspondents on Saturday.
Speaking on ‘How and why citizens must engage,’ she urged youths to understand the tenets of democracy, as they were born into a nation that languished under militarisation for many decades.
Ezekwesili said, “Everything about the country you’ve been born into is militarised. This was the greatest failure of the government that I was part of. We failed to realise that and to do a natural mobilisation that would win our society from the militarisation.
“The society continues to assume that the military approach is the approach for solving development needs. It is not. It is fallacy to think that way. And you are the generation that would start from the basics of understanding democracy and understanding that the most important office in a democracy is not the legislature or the executive or the judiciary.
“The most important office in a democracy is the office of the citizen; the citizen that is informed; the citizen that understands issues and defines expectations, not for others but for himself and herself. That is how to engage effectively.”
She noted that it was difficult to move dreams to execution, and then to counting the results.
Ezekwesili said, “You are a generation that is battling with the biggest fundamental problems of disconnect in economic systems. You’re a generation that has come at a time when capitalism gave the world an economic system that has produced the most prosperity for the world.
“Yet, you’re a generation that has come into your cognisance at a time when the limits of capitalism are very clear. And those limits have manifested in inequalities that we see around the world. Those inequalities have shot up the disconnection between economic growth and improvement in the quality of lives of the average citizen.”
She said youths of the present generation were disadvantaged ‘average citizens.’
Ezekwesili further said that for youths to establish their centrality of purpose, they must define it from their outside because each youth was insignificant in the community that had the problem they wanted to solve.
Also at the event, a former Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, urged youths to positively galvanise their energies and engage actively in nation-building, political process and governance.
Associating young people with great energies, innovations and achievements, he urged them not to relent but to be more daring, productively and positively.
The envoy said it was wrong for people to perceive ‘transformation agenda’ as that of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“In Nigeria today, we say we have a transformation agenda. And some people make the mistake of telling us that this is the transformation agenda of Mr. President.
“It can’t be, because if it were, then we would not get involved. It has to be our transformation agenda. Young people are the generation for transformation,” Kolade said.