As a young school leaver still deciding what to do with my young creative life, I encountered a political journal from the rich collections of books in my elder brother’s law library which spoke to the issues of America’s contemporary politics. My elder brother, who is almost 40 years post-call as a lawyer, is one person that I closely followed because of his unique love for books. By that time I only just left the Teachers College in Kafanchan, the United States held a unique fascination as a political Eldorado whereby there was a regime of free speech and fundamental freedoms. This was in the late 1980’s.
I do recall reading one of the juiciest political pieces published in that journal known as Dialogue which specifically dealt with the peculiarly fascinating topic of “The American talent for disorder”. The writer of this piece is James Fallows described as a foremost United States widely travelled journalist. He affirmed in that piece as follows: “America’s culture is America’s greatest potential strength. Something about American values has enabled ordinary peoples, assembled haphazardly from around the world, to build the largest, richest and freest economy in history and to do so mainly through voluntary actions rather than state direction. The essence of this approach, the true American genius, is a talent for disorder”
He delved into the comparative study of what American society is put side by side with one of the most prosperous nations on the planet Earth- Japan. Mr. Fallows says: “Japan, for example, gets the most out of ordinary people by organizing them to adapt and succeed. America, by getting out of their way so that they can adjust individually, allows them succeed. America opens its doors and brings the world’s disorder in. it tolerates social change that would tear most other societies apart. This openness encourages Americans to adapt as individuals rather than as a group.” He then stated that only but few other societies could endure the unsettled conditions that have always typified America. Many nations he said would be shattered by the threat of substantial immigration.
Few other western societies have seen women’s roles change as dramatically as in United States, he stressed. Historically, he affirmed that in 1980, one American family in 30 moved to a different state. Only one of 90 families in England and one of 80 in West Germany made similar moves. He submitted correctly that America not only can tolerate these disruptions, it needs them. Ceaseless internal change is good for the country; he suggested and added that this causes America to bring out the best voluntary efforts of its ordinary people by offering them the constant prospect of changing their fortunes, their identities, and their roles in life.
Americans are most likely to try hard, adapt and succeed when they believe that they can improve their luck, that the rules of competition are more or less fair and that if they take a risk and fail, they won’t be destroyed, he asserted. James Fallows then showed the stuff he is made up of as an objective journalist when he affirmed that although these conditions have never been entirely met –the competition has never been completely fair; some people have been permanently stuck; many have been ruined when they took a chance – they have been closer to realization in the United States than anywhere else.
In a country cobbled together from so many races and religions, the belief in playing by similar rules is the source of such “community” as America can have”, he asserted. Hear his core arguments as follows: “America’s talent for disorder allows it to get surprising results from average people by putting them in situations where old rules and limits don’t apply. That’s the meaning of immigration, of the frontier, of leaving the farm for the big city, of going to college or night school to make a new start. No other society has managed disorder so well in the past; none of its competitors need to keep promoting disorder, by endlessly rotating establishments, as much as America does.”
These facts are self-evident because there is hardly any Nigerian community whereby someone who is from a humble background has not travelled and settled in the United States of America and worked hard that has not attained phenomenal heights.
Nearly three decades down the line, I have found a new perfect correlation between what this American journalist wrote about in 1986 to the dominant theme of conversations actively engaged in by millions of Nigerian youths who can be said to be enormously endowed with talent for disorder but in the same mindset as posited by the American journalist but most of whom have accidentally projected these talents towards doing those things that lead inevitably to self-destruction. These talents of most of Nigerian youths are being put into negative disorder. This is hardly a debatable fact. I have therefore decided that the only way the Nigerian youths can take their rightful position in the Nigerian context is for them to decide to deploy some of these talents for disorder into constructive positivism.
The Nigerian youth must now wake up and smell the coffee. This is because, there is an ongoing generational threats erected to slow down their march towards occupying their rightful positions as leaders of today in all aspects of Nigeria’s national life.
Today, the youths of Nigeria more than ever before, are subjected to systemic and systematic profiling as criminals by those who control the machinery of law enforcement who are doing these dirty jobs for the old brigades who are bent on holding on to the different layers of control in politics, economy and all aspects of our national life. If you flip through the pages of newspapers always, you would always read about the convictions of dozens of youngsters by the courts over issues that border on what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) calls advanced fees fraud.
These youths are paraded globally as crooks even when the establishment could have used lawful means to obtain non-custodial transformation and get these youngsters to refocus their talents into creatively constructive ventures.
On the average, the nation’s prisons receive at least one dozen Nigerian youth per week as inmates and when you analyze their alleged offences and put them side by side with the gravity of monumental financial crimes committed by the old brigades and old breed politicians who control political powers, these petty crimes pale into insignificance.
I then ask myself why are the Nigerian youths been selectively targeted by the Nigerian state whereas big politically exposed individuals in their 60’s who have soiled their hands by stealing our commonwealth are consolidating their control of the political and governance machinery of the Nigerian state.
To be continued
Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) “