THE YOUNG SHALL GROW… INTO THE OLD.

My first experience with “partisan” politicking was when I was in junior secondary School. We had to separate out into different social groups and clubs, conduct elections, decide on and plan our first projects, and things like that. There were clubs like the “Junior Lieterary Society”, the “Dramatic and Cultural Soceity”, the “Red Cross Soceity”, the “UNICEF soceity”, and more. Some clubs were more popular than others, their members and leaders enjoying almost cult status and exuding an uncanny power of attraction on girls. Some people naturally wanted they and their friends to go enmasse into certain of these clubs and take over the structure and the leadership.

Spontaneously the political animal jumped out of little teenage boys; campaigns and clandestine signs, signals and meetings filled the corridors and classrooms for a few days; conspiracy theories and rumours abounded, and people cross-carpeted at will, sometimes multiple times in one day. Treachery, backstabbing, mockery, insinuation and slander were the rule of the day; it was gleeful fun; sweet-talking and arm-twisting; and efforts were made on all sides to influence people’s decisions to be loyal to one or betray another. The set was agog with negotiations and coalition-building and -undermining. Friends turned into spies; and one moment people were doing what they had condemned a moment before.

Promises of provisions, cornflakes, ice cream, invitations to certain parties, access to certain items of fashion like baffs, perfumes and designer shoes, assurances of cronje and copying, and even a share in one’s precious pocket money, could work wonders on the conscience and decision-making capacity of many a hitherto well-brought-up boy. Where cajoling and bribe proved ineffective, threats, intimidation and blackmail were applied. No-one wants to lose his friends or be left out of the group. Some people just followed out of insecurity, so as to belong. Some were more calculating and strategic in the way they aligned their support. Some others simply laughingly gave their vote to the highest bidder. Cash and carry junior politics.

Naturally not everyone displayed these maverick political instincts. Some aligned themselves based on noble ideology, some made a pledge and kept their word, and things like that; and some just had no clue or no interest. But in the end, it was the politicaally astute and the politically aggressive that won and got their way. Verily, with time even the “ideological” started to rethink their stance and to quietly join the popular clubs, especially when enticed with the offer of leadership positions. In all this of course I was not just an observer – I was caught in the web of dynamics.

Prior to this occassion I had looked with disdain at the corrupt older generation, and with hope and certainty at my generation, sure that when it was our time we would do things differently and change the country for the better. This event was one of those important early turning points and awakening moments in my young life. I saw that we are all the same. I learned that generational change is an opportunity and, eventually, a necessity; but it is not a guarantee of spiritual renewal or character transformation of a group. It is a promise of change, but not in itself a fulfilment of it. Volition alone is the trigger of change. Old or Young, you have to want to change, or you will repeat – at best in different forms – the essence of the sins of villains past.

Another thing I learned is that kids are not innocent. They know early and they show early who they are and who they want to be, or are prepared to allow themselves to be.

So, now the Mantra: “Generational Change” is in the air again. But a young wolf and an old wolf are the same – with the difference, that a young wolf is probably even hungrier. The old of today were once the youth of yesterday; and the factors that sidelined the “good” yesterday and put the “bad” in power, those same factors will be at work again today; are at work again today – they don’t go on leave. So when you’re choosing the next generation, apply the filter of knowledge and experience gained from events and processes past. Because the young shall grow… into the old. So choose wisely, and follow those that will lead us not into temptation and corruption again.

It is the job of the old to set the right example for the youth. But where the old have failed to do this, then the youth must must set forth at dawn and set these examples for themselves, and for the youth of tomorrow. No more “same old, same old”. Once upon a time, Musical Youth sang “The Youth of Today”. What happened along the way? No wonder in the same song they also sang “Don’t blame the youth…” – as if they already knew what was coming next. Well, may the next “Generation Change” usher in at last the attitudinal Change and the orientation change that we so badly Need.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.