When you get an invitation to an event with your President in attendance, it really should be a proud moment. Youths from all walks of life were invited to Eko Hotel to a lunch with President Jonathan as part of the events leading up to the inauguration on Monday, May 30th. The agenda for the event was sketchy and as a result a few people stayed away.
In the end, it is difficult to identify what gains will be made, because it wasn’t an official forum. It was more in the mould of D’Banj’s chat with the President: loose and informal. Given the complaints about the level of government expenditure, it is odd that the same youths who complained would take part in it.
It is also difficult to see how the event helps to hold government accountable. Much of the old establishment that has held this nation captive is still in place, and surely the focus should be more on organizing to put appropriate pressure on the government to fulfill its promises rather than partaking, even a little bit, in the largesse of what has been a free spending administration.
One thing is for sure though: the President does know how to woo the youths and play the game on his terms. He snubbed the ‘What About Us’ debate, preferring to talk to the Kokomaster instead. Now, he hosts a select group of youths to lunch in order to score points, even giving those who attended ‘transport money’ as well. Those who came from Lagos were given N50,000 and those from Abuja were given N150,000. Whether or not everyone who attended took the money is beside the point. The idea was to compromise those who came because they can’t prove otherwise. It has the potential to be a distraction as the credibility of the youth activists in attendance might be called into question. The silence from some key actors is also deafening.
The elephant in the room is the use of youth activism by some as a means to an end, namely relevance and political appointments. Such motives are a deviation from what is needed right now: robust engagement with government at all levels on key issues over the next 4 years so that promises made are fulfilled. It will be an uphill battle that needs vigilance, sacrifice and a refusal to move with the crowd. Not every open door should be walked through, as people like Segun Adeniyi and Dora Akunyili have found out to their cost. Change first, lunches and appointments later.