On March 16, 2010, a coalition of prominent Nigerian youth leaders and about two thousand Nigerian youths rallied at the Nigerian National Assembly in Abuja. Among others, they demanded for the resignation/removal of ailing Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. They also protested against the general lack of security in the country as well as the poor state of power supply.
The March 16 rally received broad media coverage locally and internationally, including a prominent feature on CNN. But the march organizers insist that the March 16 rally is only the beginning of a succession of subsequent youth rallies leading up to Nigeria’s 2011 elections.
cp-africa catches up with Chude Jideonwo, Creative Director, The Future Nigeria Project (one of the Organizers of the Enough is Enough Nigeria Rally)
cp-africa: The March 16 Enough is Enough Nigeria rally can in many ways be regarded as historic, at least for one, given the collective anger of Nigerian youths and the general unity in their resolve. What inspired you to organize the rally? Do you think it was a success?
Chude Jideonwo: What didn’t inspire us? Anger. Frustration. A new sense of purpose. Look, this is our country. If we don’t rise up to the challenge, nothing will change. No change ever comes because the people of the old order thought it was their time to leave. Change will always come because those on the other side rise up and say enough. For five months, there was a fuel scarcity because we kept silent, for months we were without a president because we kept quiet. Nigerians are resilient but even resilience must have a threshold lest it becomes pure and simply complacence. The June 12 rallies, the post-Abacha death activism, Ali Must go, the Save Nigeria rally, the famous NLC rallies and strikes that humbled Obasanjo, Nigeria’s history shows that change only happens when people are ready to sacrifice and stand for something.
Was it a success? By every and all indices, yes. No one should be naïve enough to think that any one act will solve our countries problem. It is only a series of actions, sustained, that can bring change. So if someone thought that maybe if we marched, NEPA would suddenly give 24 hours electricity, then fine we failed in that area. Of course some have tried to suggest that our rally gave the Acting President the final push to sack his cabinet, assured of public goodwill. Well maybe or most likely, maybe not. But, we got more than a thousand young people on the streets, we got powerful name recognition under a week that many change projects use years trying to get, we were covered by every single one of the national media – a first, a very first for a youth-led project in this country – most on the front page, we have been on international media, notably CNN, for more than two weeks now, we have thousands of hits on the site, we have thousands of young people across the country at the grassroots participating in this process, and we are set from that momentum to roll out a series of activities leading onto the 2011 elections. Was it a success? You bet!
cp-africa: On CNN, you were reported to have said: “Nigerian youth are surviving in spite of the government, but at some point you have to move away from community organizing, as Obama teaches us, to influence governmental decisions…” It appears there has been a recent shift among young political activists in Nigeria to move activism from the Internet to the streets. What do you think is informing this shift? What do you hope this shift will achieve?
Chude Jideonwo: Let me try and explain it this way: the aim of The Future Awards is to emphasis the positive, to direct the minds of the youth towards using what they have in spite of the fact that our institutions and state of governance have collapsed, to rebuild our society. And we have been successful, over five years, in building an army of young Nigerians across communities in this country. However, that alone, like I say, as important as it is, will need to connect with another kind of effort to finally change Nigeria: our politics needs to change so that the forces for progress can have a smooth running.
It is in realization of this that organizations like ours, like Rise Networks, like Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, like Light Up Nigeria, like Brand It Nigeria, the Omotola Youth Empowerment Foundation, the Abira Foundation, B.L.I.N.G and others across the country, have decided to go beyond our comfort zones, where we have been galvanizing communities to believe in themselves and empower themselves, towards actually affecting governance, so that all the capacity building we have done doesn’t come to waste. You can build people to form businesses, but what about the electricity to power those businesses? You can encourage them to go to school? But where are the classrooms?
So we are not even political activists. I certainly don’t like the label. My organization for instance is completely non political. We don’t even need that tag, because of our clients. We are just influence agents in our different sectors who realize that something has to give. It is that realization that is moving to this shift. With democracy’s return, many of us decided to begin to equip young people, that was one shift. This is the next natural shift. And many of us have learnt from Obama’s efforts in America with young people. To get those people who we have imparted values upon and the influence we have gathered in the process, to clear the obstacles in our path to regeneration as a people.
cp-africa: Despite the activism, some in the polity still do not think the political outcome in 2011 would be different. (i.e., that the elections would be rigged once again and result in a “selection” (if we may call it) of a candidate who does not reflect the will of the people) What are your views concerning this? Do you think 2011 will be different? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Chude Jideonwo: Well how will it be different if we did nothing? Imagine if the forces against communism, against Hitler, against Apartheid, against genocide in Rwanda, against Taylor in Liberia had said nothing could change and had stopped their efforts? If you don’t go and vote and if you don’t protect your votes, of course it will result in selection! So why don’t try something different, Participate! And then let’s see if something will happen. Too many people want to go to the polls and Nigeria changes overnight. But democracy is not an end, it’s not a destination! It’s a process. It’s a continuous process for change for the society. And I think 2011 is the evolution of a decade of Nigerians tasting democracy and seeing its benefits, this is the longest period of democracy we have seen! And it has emboldened us to the limitless opportunities. 2011 will be different. It won’t immediately deliver Utopia onto us, but it will the start an overhaul of the system. Go and vote! Like Oshiomhole told them in Edo State, and after that we can begin to defend it.
cp-africa: Implicitly or explicitly, the Enough is Enough Coalition has indicated that the March 16 rally is only just the beginning of a series of subsequent events leading up to the elections in 2011 where Nigerian youths will actively demand for a better government and a more just electoral process. What is your vision for the future of the Enough is Enough Coalition as you continue to organize for the upcoming elections?
Chude Jideonwo: Oh yes. Certainly. Our message is called RSVP: Register. Select. Vote. Protect. Like our Lagos rally press release says: “ENOUGHISENOUGH Nigeria also wishes to send out a clear message to all Nigerians, and especially those in the corridors of power, that its quest to effect transformation in Nigeria will not be restricted to rallies and public protests alone… We have a unique opportunity to change Nigeria through the power of our numbers, resolve and collective anger in 2011. We will register en masse, turn out to vote in our millions, post live updates (pictures, SMS, video, etc) from the voting centers, wait until the winner is announced and confirm that the results are accurate. This is the election in which young people will shock the status quo. Any politician who tries to rig the 2011 elections will be shocked. Enough is indeed enough.” The vision for the future? Right now, our minds are set on the 2011 elections. It is a defining moment, because it is the election just after Nigeria has turned 50. The forces of retrogression had the last 50 years, and now the forces of progress are taking over from here, thank you very much. After 2011, we retreat, we take stock, we see what the issues are, and then we reload from there.
cp-africa: What are your parting words for the youths of Nigeria?
Chude Jideonwo: Complacency is no longer cool. Nonchalance is so 1990. It is no longer admirable to not be concerned. If Nigeria fails or collapses, all and sundry will suffer. Clubs will close down, parties will be restricted, we will not be able to have the fancy album launches, there will be no schools or offices to go to. Around us in Africa there is proof of that, societies that have regenerated. But no one is going to do it for us, and the Femi falanas and Soyinkas will not be here forever. Gani Fawehinmi is already gone. And no major structural change in Nigeria has happened without sustained activism. If we don’t get involved, Nigeria will collapse. It will slide and slide until its heart stops beating. If we don’t want that, then we had better do something about it. Whether you are a bank manager or a brand manager.
About Chude Jideonwo
A lawyer by training, Chude has, for almost a decade, garnered key experience in all forms of tradition and new media, and has managed to translate that practical experience into successful media campaigns.
He began his career as a researcher with Inside Out with Agatha, a TV show syndicated across the country, and then moved to Nigeria ’s leading breakfast show at the time, New Dawn, which showed on the NTA Network, He was at New Dawn for three years, rising to become Associate Producer as well as heading the Special Projects division. He has been Assistant Director and scriptwriter with The Academy (an international reality TV show). As a TV presenter, he has hosted The Sunday Show (NTA), and Patito’s Gang. He is now host of Rubbin’ Minds on Channels Television. He also consults for Moments with Mo, showing on Mnet.
He began his writing career in 2002 with the defunct Tempo magazine. His writing credits include Time Out Nigeria , Thisday, The Guardian, Farafina, True Love West Africa, Made, Takaii and the Big Brother magazine. He has also been consultant editor to a number of magazines including Tour Nigeria (for the Federal Ministry of Tourism), and an official magazine for the Nigerian Airforce.
Chude was Assistant Publicist with Common Ground Productions in 2006, and in October 2007, he was appointed Publicist for Bank PHB’s The Apprentice Africa. He served briefly in the External Relations department of the Nigeria LNG, before moving to Virgin Nigeria Airways, as Asst. Manager, Media Relations, the youngest in a managerial position. He joined NEXT Newspapers as Copy Editor in July 2009.
Called to the Nigerian Bar in November 2007, after emerging Best Student in Land Law from the University of Lagos, his awards include winning the British Council Telling Stories Competition. He is also the youngest recipient of the Nigeria Media Merit Award, announced as Entertainment Journalist of the Year in 2007. He has been recipient of the Olive Award for Media and Production, the Inside Out role model award, and the Green Yaggy Achievement Award. In 2007, he was selected as one of the 101 Young African Leaders by the African Business Forum, and in 2009, he was selected for the US Government’s International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP).
As Founder & Creative Director of REDSTRAT, he has organized the Future Awards, Nigeria’s largest youth event recognizing outstanding young Nigerians in different spheres of life. In March 16, 2010, he (along with other Nigerian youth leaders) led the Enough is Enough Nigeria rally in Abuja, Nigeria