If You Won't Be A Part Of The Solution, Shut Up And Get Out Of The Way!


By David Hundeyin

"Smug cynicism" is what I termed it as a teenager in the mid-2000s.

Growing up as a Jehovah Witness in Nigeria, what I was repeatedly told was that all the problems that I read about in the newspapers everyday were the result of humanity's inability to rule itself. Only God's kingdom could solve problems like poor electricity supply, grinding poverty and rotten infrastructure. Any attempt to fix these problems using the levers of politics and government was doomed to fail because "God did not create man to rule himself."


For this reason, JWs were and are not allowed to take part in politics or take up political appointments. To take an active part in politics and government in an attempt to solve our own problems would be to engage in a futile struggle against the baked-in limits of human capacity, set by none other than God himself. I was taught this everyday.


Despite firmly believing that all of Nigeria's problems were beyond human solution and that to even try to solve them would be a foolish rebellion against Jehovah himself, I noted that my parents made absolutely sure to insulate our family from these problems. Trying to achieve constant electricity for 160 million people might have amounted to fighting God, but somehow the 35kVA Marapco generator at home and its 1,000 litre external diesel tank which gave the 7 of us constant electricity, was apparently just fine with the same God.


When we would travel, I would note that practically everywhere else, from Cotonou to Frankfurt to Lomè to London had constant electricity. Apparently these people had successfully fought God, since constant universal electricity supply in Nigeria was supposedly a pipe dream under human leadership - such things were only supposed to be possible in a theocratic, utopian paradise led by Jehovah himself. Clearly, something wasn't right or someone wasn't telling the truth. This became increasingly obvious to me as I got older.


Ghana was not a paradisaic theocracy led by God - in fact Ghana wasn't even all that different to Nigeria. But Ghana had light and Nigeria didn't. The UK was led by a dour Scottish bloke called Gordon Brown, not by Jehovah God. The British by and large weren't even a particularly religious people. But they had light. And great infrastructure. And machines that sprayed salt on the roads whenever it snowed. And a fire service that showed up inside 4 minutes when I accidentally set my kitchen at Ferens Hall on fire in 2008 as an 18 year-old 1st year in Hull.


Someone was telling lies.

That "smug cynicism" of my parents and so many around them, I later came to understand, is a major part of the reason why Nigeria does not change. There is actually no cosmic power in operation that prevents Nigeria from becoming a more functional and better-organised society. Nigeria is Nigeria because Nigerians are Nigerians, and they traditionally do not believe that Nigeria can change because they do not believe that they can - or should - change.


Within this demographic of cynical, comfortably smug people lies the key to understanding the supposed docility and resigned acquiescence of Nigerians in the face of provocations and malfeasance that has brought entire countries down. This demographic, to which Seun Kuti belongs, believes fervently that it knows best and that it has some deep, profound understanding of Nigeria and the world which it actually does not have.


Whether it is the religious variant like my parents who believed that young people pursuing change are pursuing a futile fool's errand; or the political/activist variant like Seun Kuti who believe that any kind of change that does not conform to their narrow vision of change is invalid; or the journalistic variant who have never produced any valuable journalistic work of their own, but criticise, nitpick and endlessly complain about other people's work; what they all have in common is that while they believe they know everything, they can never demonstrate the validity of their supposed knowledge. Their comfortable forte is criticism and running commentary. All talk, no do. Plenty of English, zero utility.


When young people came out to protest in October 2020, these were the people who stridently opposed and criticised the protests with the refrain: "You have to find a better way to express your grievances. Take your grievances to the polls and vote instead of constituting a nuisance." When young people took this advice and overwhelmingly chose Peter Obi as the bearer of their mandate ahead of this month's elections, it then became: "You need to stop building castles in the sky and vote for a candidate with a nationwide structure and realistic chance of winning."


When both of these things were achieved in record time and in unprecedented fashion, it then became "Peter Obi is not a saint either because in 1929, his grandfather's cousin's best friend stole a tuber of yam…" These guys offer only a never-ending stream of complaints, criticism, nit-picking and pointless, sterile English-speaking, often spiced up with a  contrived and shallow simulacrum of the "weed-puffing-counter-culture-intellectual" aesthetic initially popularised by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. They offer no actual ideas or solutions. Just endless empty talk that tries to mimic intellectual discourse.


If you listen carefully to these voices like I did as a teenager, you will realise 2 things that will make you understand why you should stay as far away from such people as possible:



1.) The entire reason behind the "counter-culture smug cynic" aesthetic is fear of confronting their own ignorance and lack of power in a world that is huge and scary. It is much easier to pretend to have everything figured out, and walk around with an aura of knowledge and mysticism, than it is to accept one's own smallness and inability to control anything in the larger scheme of things. It was easier for my parents to hide behind their faith than to acknowledge the reality that they were effectively hostages in a country ruled by a violent, dysfunctional military establishment which they were so terrified of, that they wouldn't even say Abacha's name out loud in conversation.


2.) They know nothing. When you prod the likes of Seun Kuti more than an inch deep, their glaring lack of intellectual depth becomes evident. There is no greater protection for the ego of an ignoramus than the ability to perform intelligence.


What every young Nigerian needs to understand is that power lies with them when they act as a collective. There are several people who are invested in propagating the idea that Nigeria is way too complex for any of us to bother about taking an active part in its politics. There are people in and around power since 1999 who have never won an election with more than 25% turnout of the total possible voting population. These people and their proxies are not happy to see young Nigerians under 30 becoming such a fearsome political force. It is a direct existential threat to them.



It is in their interest to throw out as many loudmouth proxies with as many narrative distractions as possible to stop young Nigerians from realising and exercising the power that they now have. I have mentioned before that if perchance Peter Obi loses this election, but finishes ahead of either of the 2 amigos in PDAPC, that would be every bit as much of an all-time political game changer in Nigeria as a Peter Obi victory this month. It would be a direct and unrecoverable victory of young, ordinary Nigerians against an establishment that is many decades older than them.


The solution is not God's Kingdom, or obscure aluta-continua candidates promoted by Fela wannabes with the tiresome weed-smoking-faux-intellectual aesthetic, or hundreds of pages of English expressing nothing in as many grandiloquent words as possible.


The solution is young Nigerians acting in unison to take decisive political action.

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