John Ogba-Ifeakanwa: Am I Powerless As A Nigerian Youth?
I wonder what it’s like to live in a country where I matter — a country where my voice and millions of others are heard. I’m 29 years old, and democracy still seems like a tale my ancestors once believed in, like a dream hoping to come true. I don’t know if I believe in it anymore.
As a Nigerian, you learn to brace yourself for the most extreme anxieties since you will inevitably encounter them. I thought the catastrophe of October 20, 2020, was the worst thing that could ever occur. But I’ve lately witnessed more startling happenings than I ever imagined. I remember how my heart sank that night as I watched the videos on social media. I remember the fear that gripped me and would not let go. I felt like every other young Nigerian: powerless and dispensable.
Like I wouldn’t exist if I dared to move.
I felt like that again last Saturday on what would have been a great day for democracy. I remember being hopeful that morning while heading to my polling unit in Aguda, Surulere, Lagos. I remember watching in disgust as a party agent tried to start an agitation and also threatened to get votes from my unit cancelled. I remember a lady behind me telling everyone to ignore him and focus on voting for their preferred candidate.
Would it be a shame to say I was lucky I got home before Aguda dominated the Twitter trends? I think I left early because I knew something would happen.
For some reason, I’m no more afraid. I’m angry. I’m angry that everything works to frustrate me as a Nigerian citizen. I’m angry that my voice does not matter. I’m angry that I almost do not exist in matters that would bring change to my country, that I can’t vote into power the people who inspire me to go out and do it. I’m angry that someone tries to shut me down every time I try to exercise the right I have as a citizen.
I still dream of that day I’d believe in my leaders because I put them there and because their vision for the country is something I can relate to. The day when I would say that democracy exists and that it empowers me. But today, sadly, I am confused and angry because I have waited a long time, hoping these hopes will come true this year. I do not have 8 more years to spare.