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Young People Have Mentally Checked Out of Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi Young people are traditionally associated with vim, vigor, enthusiasm, and idealism. Th...

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Young people are traditionally associated with vim, vigor, enthusiasm, and idealism. They energize social movements, inspire revolts, and help shape the contours of the future. But I’ve noticed that in the last few years, the vast majority of the Nigerian youth have effectively dissociated mentally from Nigeria.

They have lost interest in the affairs of government, human rights, democracy, social justice, and other high-minded ideals. Entertainment, gossip, comedy, football, and petty fights on social media are now their escape from the strain and stress of life in Nigeria.

I started observing this from the quality and quantity of engagement with news on social media. I noticed that the typical average “like” and “share” (or “retweet”) counts for stories shared on social media by Nigeria’s most visible national news platforms are always in the ballpark of 800.

Really impactful political stories may sometimes get up to 5,000 likes, shares, or retweets. I have never seen a story shared by a conventional Nigerian news platform that has attracted up to 10,000 likes, shares, or retweets.

But comedies, gossip, entertainment pages, football replays, BBNaija, etc. consistently get hundreds of thousands of likes, shares, retweets, and comments. Trending topics on Nigerian social media also reveal this reality.

In offline Nigeria, the culture of civil rebellion against tyranny is virtually gone. Student union activism, which used to be the initiatory rite to social justice activism, has been dead for a while. That’s why Omoyele Sowore’s #RevolutionNow protests attracted only a handful of the Nigerian youth. Scores of young people who should join it accepted pittance from the government to counter it and to deride it on social media.

There are at least three reasons for the progressively alarming mental dissociation of the Nigerian youth from issues that will shape their collective futures whether or not they realize it. The first obvious reason is plain, old, shortsighted self-interestedness. Human beings are biochemically wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Nigeria is a source of endless mental and emotional anguish. From the decay of infrastructure, to rising insecurity, to the expanding oceans of blood across the country, to the conscienceless theft of national resources by everyone in government, to intractable impunity and lawlessness by people who are tasked with making and enforcing the law, Nigeria inflicts pain—even on those of us who are not directly affected by the country’s dysfunction because we live abroad.

In light of the frustration and helplessness that this state of affairs inspires, many people, including the youth, choose to escape into mental universes that they can control, that can give them ephemeral joys and freedom from disabling anxieties. Unfortunately, mental escapes don’t solve problems; they only suspend them temporarily.

The second reason why vast swaths of young Nigerians are no longer animated by social justice issues is that they have very few people to look up to for inspiration. With a few exceptions, most of the people who used to be at the vanguard of social justice are now in bed with the Buhari regime, which is by far the most tyrannical, the most inept, and certainly the most unjust government since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999—and perhaps in the entire history of Nigeria.

 If there is any regime that deserves to be confronted by a sustained, organized, nationwide, pan-Nigerian civil insurrection, more than any in Nigeria’s history, it is the Buhari regime, but it is ironically the one that is mollycoddled and legitimized by hitherto professional activists.

Activists who are not openly in bed with the regime run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, and most people are smart enough to know this. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some former activists who are now unabashed pro-regime apologists, and they’re united in saying that they don’t want to be condemned to being economically disadvantaged, perpetual agitators for justice and democracy while undeserving people benefit from their toil.

They said other people should take off from where they left off. But that is simplistic. Their betrayal of the cause they were famous for hasn’t only broken the intergenerational continuity of a long tradition that goes back to the anti-colonial struggles of yore; it has damaged the credibility of civil activism. It has now caused people to see civil society activists and insurrectionists as mercenary opportunists who are waiting for a chance to be noticed by the government and rewarded with an invitation to join the plunder of the nation’s resources.

The third reason for young Nigerians’ mental break from their country is the forlorn hope they nourish that they would relocate from the country to a more prosperous, more secure, and more welcoming country in the near future. Survey after survey consistently shows Nigeria as the country with the highest number of people who desire to leave their country for another country.

For example, in a March 27, 2019 survey, Pew Research Center found that, “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populated nation, nearly half… of adults say they plan to move to another country within five years, by far the highest share among 12 countries surveyed across four continents.”

People who are resigned to relocating to another country in the near future will have a weakened commitment to their country since they see themselves as sojourners in their own homes. But the truth is that only a small fraction of people who want to relocate to other countries will be successful. That means the blithe unconcern to the solvable problems of the country that prospective exiles show will ultimately be counterproductive.

As many people have already pointed out, the vast amounts of money being mindlessly looted now by Buhari and his gang of criminals is borrowed money that today’s disconnected youth will have to repay someday. The Buhari regime is literally stealing and mortgaging the future of Nigeria’s youth.

The youth must snap out of their lethargy and inertia and reclaim their country. It is not an option. It’s a dire existential imperative.

Buhari’s Nigeria as a Terrorcracy in Terroraria

The Head of the US Special Operations Command in Africa, Maj.-Gen. Dagvin Anderson, told reporters on August 6 that Al Qaeda terrorists are infiltrating Nigeria’s Northwest. That didn’t come to me as a surprise. The Buhari regime has worked very hard in the past few years to fertilize Nigeria’s social soil for the growth and flourishing of terrorism.

The regime has become the greatest boon to terrorism. When Boko Haram terrorists capture civilians and soldiers alive, they either murder them in cold blood or release them only when government pays a handsome ransom.

But when Nigerian soldiers capture Boko Haram terrorists alive, they "deradicalize," "rehabilitate" and "reintegrate" them at the cost of millions. In other words, they get rewarded when they defeat Nigeria and again get rewarded when Nigeria defeats them. They win heads or tails.

On August 5, the regime upped the ante of its pro-terrorism policies. It told distraught Borno communities that they must accept “radicalized, rehabilitated, and reintegrated” Boko Haram terrorists who murdered their loved ones or risk having them “go back to terrorism.”

Then it added this telling and ominous line: “The Buhari administration is a responsible one and is conscious of its duty to the state and society, and to the victims of terror as well as to those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people.”

 So the government has a duty to “those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people”? What sort of government has a duty to mass murderers but not to peaceful protesters who are always crushed with disproportionate force?

This is a regime of terrorists, by terrorists, and for terrorists. We might as well rename Nigeria Terroraria and the system it practices under Buhari terrorcracy.


  1. This says it all. In discussion with a nephew in the University of Jos last week, I asked him what has happened to student unionism. I told him how at the University of Benin, we as students rose up to confront Abacha, a Military Dictator and held the government to a stand still; how soldiers who couldn't speak a word of English where deployed from one of the barracks in the North to take us on in the dead of the night.

    He replied that most students are now on social media producing comedy skeets with the hope of make it big...... and that when you post on serious issues on social media - your friends wonder if - "na only you!!".

    Interesting times. That must be salvaged. Well done Farooq.

  2. Aptly said Prof. Even on social media where the average Nigerian youth is active, the comments posted just amazes you. Some go as far as exchanging words and supporting the same people that embezzle and rip the nation’s wealth and resources. The average Nigerian youths are not ready to take their future seriously and until then, the mess continues.

  3. This article has really said a lot about the reality on the way teeming population of the youth have been so detached from their own country. In spite of all these tendencies of nonchalant attitude about Nigeria from the side of the youth, they are not actually to blame owing to the fact that the parents should be responsible for teaching their children love and care as long as those parents want to them to reciprocate it long after they are full grown. As in the case of Nigeria, we have a mother who does not care about us;I believe this is the beginning of the problem. Many patriotic citizens that seem so passionate about their countries, they are first taught and schooled to love the countries unlike Nigeria. What we have now are power abusers, treasury looters and power drunk who pauperise the country then hypocritically attempt to teach you primitive and empty patriotism.

  4. Kudos to you Prof Kperogi for this piece. The situation is exactly as you have observed. The three reasons you adduced for the mental detachment of Nigerian youths to important national issues couldn't be more true. I am in my early forties, married with children and a lecturer in a university. I should be considered to be in a privileged position maybe in another clime but that is definitely not the case here in Nigeria. Never in my forty + years of existence have I desired to leave Nigeria more than now. The country is stifling us gradually but surely.

  5. Nigerian youth are the chief enablers of bad leaders in Nigeria. They constitute the campaign crowds, the thugs, the online trolls and the voters who work for bad leaders. Youth make up the entire fighting force of boko haram and the northwest bandits. They constitute the foot soldiers of kidnappers, internet fraudsters, drug traffickers and violent sectarian mobs. Nigerian youth have lost all sense of idealism and have become the scourge of Nigeria.

  6. On October 19, 2019, I tweeted "If you want to get the attention of most Nigerian youth, tweet about sex, music, movie, the English Premier League, Bet Naija, & the almighty @BBNaija - voilà, you have them. Tweet about burning issues that threaten our collective existence as a nation, you're on your own." Your today's column buttresses my tweet.

    Thank goodness for people like you who incessantly instill national consciousness in us and inspire some Nigerians who are still interested in seeing Nigeria work. To be honest, Prof., I completely lost hope in Nigeria over the shenanigans of "It's okay, Honourable Minister. Off the mic", "I'm a VI boy", and the feigned fainting when one couldn't account for taxpayers' money they brazenly stole. Worse still is the China loan which has mortgaged the future of the unborn generation. I say "has mortgaged" because I am deeply convinced the loan has been mismanaged and can't be repaid as it's the wont of the ruling elites. Whilst China bides its time to take over our national assets on the grounds that we have defaulted on the terms and conditions of the loans, I am disillusioned with the belief of seeing Nigeria work.

    I reside in Canada. I left Nigeria over a year ago. Before now, I studied for a master's in the United Kingdom and returned to Nigeria in 2018. Trying to readjust to the societal dysfunction (having returned from a sane clime) nearly made me lose my sanity and I knew I needed to stay away from Nigeria to retain my sanity, for I couldn't imagine I was born in Nigeria, had lived there over 30 years of my life, and would have developed a psyche of assuming her maladies and societal dysfunction are normal as with most Nigerian youth.

    Since I left Nigeria for Canada, I've not lost touch with home. I keep abreast of happenings there and my thoughts are always how not to live the rest of my youthful life abroad, so help me God. Truth is, no matter how long I reside here, even if decide to throw away my nationality, I'm still a Nigerian and will always, always be described as a Nigerian-born Canadian. I believe my dear country, Nigeria, needs me. Questions are: how do I help? By mere writing on social media?

    With the use of uniformed men to violate civil rights and crush any form of protest; with the use of SSS to arbitrarily intimidate, arrest and lockdown 'dissidents' like Sowore; with the flagrant disregard for the rule of law; with the deliberate and systemic underfunding and bastardization of the education sector to ensure Nigerians aren't awake to national consciousness and in order not to hold the ruling elites to account; with the oozing rot in the health sector and the I-don't-care attitudes of the government toward fixing that sector; with brigandage and insecurity everywhere paving the way for unrelenting bloodbaths; and with hunger in the land and rising food insecurity; inter alia, how do I fight the ruling elites who have the resources of the entire nation at their disposal and can make life miserable for me if I attempt to fight them?

    "The youth must snap out of their lethargy and inertia and reclaim their country. It is not an option. It’s a dire existential imperative", you said. In search of answers to the questions I asked, I was expecting you to reel off practicable steps or solutions on how to reclaim my country. Could you please shed light on this?

    1. My brother, I'm so "patrotically" confused like you. I'm fighting with my soul daily not to leave Nigeria. I'd a Canadian visa, I'm thinking of leaving. But I'm so worried, a lot of my students look up to me for hope, hope for our country's future. I'm a PhD.

      I know for now, our country is hopeless.

    2. Each day that passes makes the task of redeeming Nigeria more difficult. Which sector of Nigeria do you turn to? The youth is despondent. The Church and Mosque have lost their moral and spiritual clout. Traditional institutions have been corrupted. Yesterday moral crusaders have been compromised. Living has become so brutal that anything is resorted to for survival. I "fled" Nigeria about 12 years ago to the United Kingdom for the good of by little 4 children then. Since then I visit Nigeria every year and on each visit the situation in the Country is not better but worse. What is happening in NDDC mirrors the situation in the Country. Corruption and insecurity are on the increase while hope and aspirations are in decline.

  7. What does prof. Want the hapless youth to do? In this matter they have been technically, educationally, morally and financially been grounded.
    When I say technically, I mean they are confused now. No role model to look up to. very difficult to draw the line of good and bad, right and wrong. That's why you see them at each others throat on social media supporting one God father or the other at their own peril.

    Educationally, because these same so called god father ensured they are not educated. It was deliberate. This is the way they want them to turn out. Once unenlightened they won't be able to confront them and ask questions. That's explains the mental escape syndrome.

    Morally, it is all chain reaction. The youths have nothing to motivate them. So they create excitement for themselves. Too bad, apart from comedy, dance and sing they create. The other one is sex is the legacy the God father bequeathed.

    As a result of all the above the youth are unenpoweed hence poor. They are without opportunities.

    It is all orchestrated. So, they have little choice.

    In the saner climes where the youths are in state and nation building. They are not under the kind of hardship youths in Nigeria groan under.

  8. A very interesting article. Only few have the privilege to analyse "this" government here in Nigeria.

  9. It is still baffling that educated people want to identify with the contraption called Nigga-area or niggeria.

    The zoo must ~Nnamdi Kanu.

  10. A classic piece on social injustices with tacit and open acceptance by the people who swore under oath with the Holy Books to protect and provide for us an egalitarian society where justice, equity, transparency, accountability, probity, opportunities for all and fairness would be the order of the day.

    Alas, we instead have a total collapse of the social systems with heavy pillage of the nation's treasury through orchestrated fibilianism and nepotism. A country where peaceful mass protest scares the presidency and prompto you descend on defenseless Nigerians who by coax or coerce accepted to partake in a course of action that seeks to right the wrongs.

    A country where good and moral uprightness aren't recognized as against the distractions found in the social media and other junky sites. A country where a mere child whether by acting or seriousness cried and mentioned "calm down" and was videoed could get the attention of a governor and be rewarded just like that as against the hard work by people including this writer who seek to see governors because they deserve such recognition; a country where when you have carnal affairs on national TV shows through reality shows get the attention of philanthropists as against people who go to school to acquire academic fleece; stood out and not even any form of recognition done to them. We are indeed doomed and I wonder who has done this to us.

    Prof, forget the Youth of this country. They don't see themselves as part of this country because all opportunities that are supposed to be for them are hijacked by the honchos of Buhari presidency and before their eminent eyes, are traded for wads of dollars. But don't forget that the first law of nature is survival. The Youth must eke a livelihood and in doing this, they don't give any heck to whatever happens in Nigeria. Nigeria can burn for all they care!

    This is just the beginning!

  11. Students and young people of today were never associated with human ideals of democracy and the resultant benefits to begin with. So there is nothing to dissociate with. Nigeria's post 1999 democracy under Obasanjo destroyed what was left of education including student activism when the standard and quality of education was left to rot (by gross underfunding) to pave way for the many private higher educational institutions that were established. Ironically, Obasanjo, Atiku and co all own Universities. There were robust student activism which lasted immediately before 1999 because the student activists were born in- and into - an era of robust student activism.

  12. What a let down by our generations and past generations to the upcoming generations. The leaders have successfully divide the country on religion and ethnicity ground. Until we wake up and ready to face the government of the day the way IBB and Abacha were faced and forced. All pressure groups have been bough over, NLC, TUC PENGASAN etc are all on government pay roll or leadership sponsored to be and eliminate anyone with traces of opposition. Political and ideology Revolution is urgently needed to save Nigeria ���� from collapse.

  13. What a classic and mindblowing piece, Nepotism,selfishness, lack of patrotism, visionlessness, name it all , has caused a lot of inbalance in Nigeria, we the youths have being frustrated ,nothing is good in Nigeria not to talk of the educational system.

  14. We the Youth have been technically, educationally, morally and financially grounded.. According to one of the replies. You can't even Protests.. You either get killed or if lucky get Arrested.. I'm in my late twenties but I've lost Hope in Nigeria...
    Truth and reality is, Every youth in Nigeria wants to leave this curse nation.. Questions are..
    Who did this Nigeria?
    Who would save Nigeria?
    PDP and APC are same group of people with different names.. They jump ship whenever the tides are against them. Nigeria is Doom. In over 50years of Independence we can't boost of Good roads, Constant electricity, Good health or Educational System.. The only thing we can proudly boost of is CORRUPTION. SAD, I wish people could swap Nations.

  15. I came back to Nigeria over a decade ago but daily especially in the last few years, I am beginning to think my decision was a mistake. The youths are confounded in that those who they should look up to constantly hassle and fight in the open. If their 'role models' who claim to love Nigeria, cannot forge a common front in the fight for the country's soul, what can the youths do. Take for instance Sowore and Reno, I am always perplexed why personal sentiments should be jettisoned for the collective good. It sends a wrong signal, and in fighting each other the enemy takes advantage of the lapse and become brazen. Sadly, vices have successfully replaced virtues and anything goes. The youths are in dire need of reorientation, they have the capacity to fight but lack the motivation and the will.

  16. "Unfortunately, mental escapes don’t solve problems; they only suspend them temporarily." This is perhaps the most disheartening psychological situation the youths are confronted with.

  17. Nigeria has finally been interred by an illiterate islamist.

  18. This is frighteningly true. I have said it among my friends that, the oppressed of this country are the very defenders of their oppressors. They do this in number including "sidon look" approach.

    Like the Prof wrote, unless the youth wake up from their mental lethargy, the country will continue to rot.


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