Guys, let me start by commending you on what has been a most interesting week of protest that you and your friends have embarked upon to press home your demand for an end to impunity and Police brutality against your generation.
Your struggle has been such a success that you caught the world unawares. It’s particularly gratifying to see how you have become the main issue of discourse the last few days all over the world.
Yesterday I read somewhere that global celebrities are sending good wishes to you as you confront the serious issue of our collective state of failure to which you and your generation have chosen to struggle through the #EndSARS protest.
I’m so proud to see you and your friends with clenched fists and for your peaceful conduct witnessed majorly across most states of the land. Even with the provocation of rented machinery, you have stood firm on the side of history.
Your generation is speaking to power and your voice is reverberating across television channels all over the world.
To make it more interesting, you look up to no one to lead your protest . The place of the NLC, PENGASSAN and other organized groups of our time is in the dustbin of history. Area Boys knew that this is not their struggle, they deservedly took the back stage on this one. I have seen the children of the rich and the poor mingle on the streets of protest. The very educated are freely articulating your demands in a most thoughtful manner.
Your celebrities are also on the frontline, making it more difficult for the terror machine of the state to react in their usual manner. They have become your shield against state molestation and harassment
You deployed your new toy, the digital space to the best use. The machinery of government is caught napping because your strategy is unconventional.
Myself and my friends are mightily proud of you. We are proud that our investment in your education is not wasted even when the state has chosen the path of irresponsibility from even when we were born.
I dropped a tear or two when I saw your sister and her school mates throw their clenched fist in the air while taking the long road to freedom with you.
Something has given in our country and now I know that victory is very near. Aluta Continua was our own battle cry but your generation needed no sloganeering and that has in no way diminished your effectiveness.
In our days, your mother and her pretty friends had no business joining us on the steeet. Not that they were aloof or uninterested in the struggle, but we felt they were the weaker sex and had to be protected. In their own ways, they nursed our wounds and brought us food at police/ SSS detention facilities when those you now call DSS came calling. And there were many instances of broken bones and live bullets fired at our congregations. Many of our Comrades fell to tear gas and live bullet wounds but we survived.
Before today I didn’t find it necessary to tell you of our own struggles of three decades or so to free Nigeria from “their” grip. That’s why I have chosen to write through the public space that you and your friends hold so dear. I have seen so many salvos fired at us on twitter handles of your friends.
One of them wrote about the “docility of our parents”, almost calling our generation cowards. Another alluded to our generation’s decades of collective silence in the face of tyranny.
I apologize to you and your friends for our failure to induct you properly into our history of struggles. It’s really our fault. You know how they made an attempt to stop the teaching of history in schools. I guess that must have affected our appreciation of the place of history in development.
We have learnt, and we will do better.
This then is the essence of this letter to you. I have chosen to speak only for my generation, those born in the 60s shortly after Nigeria brought down the Union Jack – flag of the colonizer – for our own green white green.
For those who were born before us, Brother Wole, our very respected and talented teacher of the white man’s language. He’s old now with no strand of dark hair! He classified that generation before us as “wasted”. I have nothing to add to that definition. He’s still very much around though, in Abeokuta. You may wish to visit him for further elaboration. But don’t forget to take along that other big dictionary I bought for you for regular reference to synonyms and antonyms.
Though the character of your struggle is different from ours, I am happy that our objectives are very much aligned.
1. Our two generations love our country so dearly.
2. We are both appalled at the level of decadence occasioned by bad governance since 1960
3. The history and character of oppression in Nigeria have not changed and the perpetrators are still very active. Sometimes they wear uniforms and at other times, they appear in civilian garbs.
4. Back in the 70s and 80s they also called us “leaders of tomorrow” in the same manner as you’re presently being addressed. That tomorrow is yet awaited.
I need you guys to know that we neither are cowards nor did we acquiesce with the oppressors.
We are warriors too who failed to tell our stories. In our time, we confronted the most heinous and potent military evil structure in Africa, that seized political power with the barrel of their guns. We fought with our clenched fists too.
We lost great Comrades who would have added strength to the project of nation building. We were hauled into detentions and correctional facilities too for no just cause beyond our demand for good governance for our country. We were bruised and battered. We fought for June 12, and fought Abacha to death.
But we made mistakes!
Our error was returning to our daily personal struggles to be able to send your generation to good schools within our means, and to put food on the dinning table. Afterall, we are mostly good family men.
Like that our other Professor who had a gang on national television in recent past. One or two gang members abandoned the gang to that place on the rock flowing with milk and honey. To make his point often on the state of the nation, our dear Prof has the habit of closing his eyes to the reality of the present. On one of the occasions, the gang had pocketed the national cake and dispersed by the time he opened his eyes.
In the post-June 12 era, when the dust of struggles had yet settled, those of us on the frontline also had our eyes closed. And before we could say MKO, a new set of gangster had seized governance and pocketed the national treasury.
Now we are battle-weary!
It’s gratifying to see you take up the gauntlet, ready to take our country back. I will quickly advise you to learn persistence and perseverance because it is a long road to freedom.
And…don’t close your eyes to the dictates of 2023!
*Odedina, a communications and marketing guru, is Managing Director of First Katalyst Limited, Lagos.