Cheta Influencers

INTERVIEW | #NotTooYoungToRun Bill, a Waste of Time – Cheta Nwanze [@Chxta] #TheInfluencersNG

Cheta Nwanze is an engineer with a degree from the University of Benin. He mastered in Computer Networks and Internet Security in the United Kingdom before returning to take up an appointment with the defunct NEXT newspapers. Following NEXT, he joined Daily Times as Managing Editor before joining SBM Intelligence as head of research. One of Nigeria’s vocal voices in the new media space, Cheta speaks to SIGNAL’s THE INFLUENCERS on youth in politics, Boko Haram, the Biafra struggle amongst other issues.

Excerpts; 

The emergence of a 39-year old Macron in France recently generated a lot of conversation in Nigeria about the possibilities of replicating the same feat in Nigeria. What do you think?

I think that the talk of “replicating that feat” in Nigeria is moot, unless the discussion is not about age, but about whether a complete outsider can take political power in Nigeria. The answer to that is NO. Nigeria is not set up to allow an ‘altruistic’ outsider to seize power. The system here, will exploit ethnic and religious differences to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

What do you think about the Boko Haram crisis? Is Boko Haram gone for good?

No, Boko Haram is not gone for good. Nigeria still has a lot of work to do in order to win the peace in the North-East, and even after that, the conditions which made Boko Haram to appear still exist. Removing those conditions is a long term job which we appear not to be ready for. The best possible scenario at this point in time is Boko Haram disappearing for a while, then reemerging in another form, and under a different name, at some point in the future.

What is your take on the Not Too Young to Run Bill?

Waste of time, and energy.

Please explain?

Different groups of people have different world views regardless of their age, ethnicity or religion. For example, I’m right of centre. Others are left of centre, others are far right, others are far left. Cooping people into a party based on age negates these differences in thinking and ignores it. The net effect in future will be a repeat of the APC, a single party without a unified outlook.

But the bill seeks to remove the age restrictions on young people who can vote at the age of 18 but cannot be voted for at the same age. Are you saying 18 is too young to run?

Getting young people to run at age 18 requires an amendment of the Constitution, not this bone they are throwing us.

There has been this argument that Nigerian politicians, whether in APC or PDP are birds of the same feathers. Do you see them that way?

Yes. They are products of an all encompassing system that has only one ideology – the ideology of getting one’s fill from the national cake. This is the reason why neither the APC nor the PDP can be defined as being to the left or right of the political spectrum, which in turn makes it easy for their followers/members to carpet cross at the slightest opportunity, and without a sense of irony. 

Boko Haram is not gone for good. Nigeria still has a lot of work to do in order to win the peace in the North-East, and even after that, the conditions which made Boko Haram to appear still exist. Removing those conditions is a long term job which we appear not to be ready for.

It appears History is no longer compulsorily taught in our schools. What are the implications for the future of Nigeria?

History has never been a compulsory subject in our schools, at least not since I was in school, over two decades ago. The recent furore was because it was taken out of the curriculum in its entirety. Now we’ve returned to status quo. That asides, even if it were made compulsory for all students to a certain level, there is still the issue of what is taught. The Nigerian history curriculum de-emphasizes important issues like our civil war, and would rather dwell on mythology such as Pan Ku and Bayajidda. With such issues, there is no way we could ever get it right with our children, and we will keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

People say Nigerian youths will be worse than the older generation they are clamouring to displace from power. To what extent is this viewpoint correct?

It is correct to a large extent, but it does not give the complete picture simply because it does not bother to interrogate the reasons for this. The young Nigerian today is completely amoral. He is amoral because the generation before him was immoral, so he grew up with the mindset that the end justifies the means, and it’s no surprise that he is living this out.

Getting young people to run at age 18 requires an amendment of the Constitution, not this bone they are throwing us.

What do you think led Nigeria into the current economic recession? 

Lack of preparedness by the current ruling party to handle the economy. Prior to the change of government, everyone knew that the economy was heading towards hard times. If the APC government had taken certain hard, but necessary steps upon assumption of office, we may have still entered a recession, but we would not have been in it for this long, and the effects would have been mitigated by preparation.

Since the emergence of the current Buhari administration, the number of Nigerians arrested and detained for comments or posts in the social media continues to increase. How did we get here?

What kind of question is this?

To rephrase the question, what are your views about the rise in the number of people who are being arrested and detained either for publishing articles in their blogs or for making allegedly defamatory or inciting comments in the new media space?

The increase in the number of people being harassed for expressing views that are critical of the government is worrying. Opposing views are vital to the democratic process, and it is by expressing opposing views that the current government came into power. My advice to them in this new found habit of suppressing dissent is to be careful. Bottled up dissent has a way of exploding elsewhere, and such explosions are usually unpretty.

Is a youth party the solution to scaling the wall of exclusion faced by Nigerian youths in politics?

What is a youth party?

In the context of this question, a political party founded and organized by and around Nigerian youths?

‘Youth’ is not an ideology. I am in my late thirties and do not consider myself a youth. Some of my joints already creak. Those who are really youths at this point will not be youths in a decade. So what’s the point of a ‘youth party’? Unless by party, you mean gbedu… 

Despite the promises and assurances, it appears the power (electricity) crisis in Nigeria is not coming to an end anytime soon. Do you think the Minister of Power Babatunde Fashola is overwhelmed?

Fashola is out of his depth, and clearly fatigued. The power crisis will not be ending soon. 

‘Youth’ is not an ideology. I am in my late thirties and do not consider myself a youth. Some of my joints already creak. Those who are really youths at this point will not be youths in a decade. So what’s the point of a ‘youth party’? Unless by party, you mean gbedu… 

Is the concept of Nigeria as one united nation a farce? What’s your impression of the IPOB struggle?

‘Unity’ is what you make of it. The IPOB thing is economic in nature, even though many of them may deny it. People tend to be happier when they can put food on the table. The moment that goes away, then we begin to see all sorts of ‘threats to unity’ such as IPOB. This is true of India, true of Russia, true of the US, true of Nigeria. Give people bread, and watch IPOB et al pushed to the fringes.

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