By Nnanke Harry Willie
The Desmond Elliot Youth Challenge
Actor-turned politician Desmond Elliot has been in hot over his recent contribution on the floor of the Lagos State House of Assembly in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that Desmond Elliot has ‘sold out’ on the youth.
In a trending video, Desmond is heard speaking very passionately about the decadence of the Nigerian youth and children and (within the context of the video) seems to blame it all on social media and the failure of celebrities and social media influencers to rein in their fans by preaching love and respect rather than spewing hate.
According to Desmond Elliot, when he opened social media he discovered that “Children were cursing elders and desecrating culture”. He seemed to have put the blame squarely on celebrities and social media influencers for not changing “the narrative” to positively influence the youth…and that is where he got it all wrong!
No, Desmond did not call for the censorship of social media but if the minister for information Lai Mohammed was watching him during his now ‘infamous contribution’ he would have applauded him and sent him a big thank you message for supporting his irrepressible push for draconian laws to censor free speech in Nigeria’s social media space. Thus, while Desmond did not state it in so many words, his desire for regulation and possibly censorship was patently implicit.
Perhaps more disheartening to the youth would be the fact that, in his speech, he did not identify with reasons for the #EndSARS protests in the first place. He did not use his privileged position to denounce police brutality and impunity. He did not point out that persistent economic hardship and acute poverty is what could have driven ‘pregnant women’ to risk their lives and run into warehouses to loot food that will probably not last her family more than 2 days.
Desmond Elliot did not also condemn the elders for bringing the ‘curses’ of the youth unto themselves for their roles in stunting the growth of our country and stealing the joy and future of the youth by continuous pillaging of our resources and foisting undesirable elements on the people as leaders.
Worse-still, Desmond Elliot did not condemn the hijack of the protests by the political class (to which he now proudly belongs) and their deployment of thugs and criminals to execute targeted arson attacks and cause mayhem and pains across the land. The same thugs, by the way, were also put to ‘good use’ to carry out voter suppression in Lagos during the last general elections.
However, it is important for the youth to realize that they did not put Desmond Elliot in the Lagos State House of Assembly, by his own admission a godfather did. His allegiance and loyalty are thus firmly to his godfather. It is therefore not a surprise that he would rather pander to the perceived interests of this godfather than those of some ranting youth who may soon get busy with another hashtag in a few days’ time.
The real challenge to the youth however goes beyond Desmond Elliot’s admonition for them to get their voter’s cards but to also begin to organize themselves into powerful pressure groups to identify and support candidates for elective offices and get involved in the political process on their own terms in order to be in control of their future.
Even after stealing the people blind, the old politicians work towards their retirement benefits by seeking out and foisting undeserving people, including youth into offices. If the youth keep standing by and looking on with arms akimbo, the desired change will never come and there will be many more Desmond Elliots to deal with in the near future!