Fellow Ghanaian youth, let me engage you in a discussion that is friendly and free of malice. One that is honest and has no ill motive of denigrating our name in anyway or form. This discussion is influenced by what I will call my worry on the type of attitude we display on the internet these days. Knowing we form a significant intellectual base, permit me to try my hands on some definitions and statistics but please forgive and bring my attention if I am wrong.
Youth is defined as the period of life between puberty to the attainment of full growth. Some also define it as ‘the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit, etc., characteristics of one who is young’. Ideally, it is the period between childhood and adulthood. Today, the universal definition of ‘youth’ is simply the state of mind of a person. Age does not play a significant role in the definition. Individually, countries have their age range and age classification of who a young person is but in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries classify youth from 15 to 30 and 35 but the United Nations (UN) through the 1979 convention on the Right of the Child positions anyone under the age of 18 as a child and classifies anyone from 18 to 35 as a ‘youth’. There are about 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 18-35 in the world today, this is said to be the highest figure ever in a generation with many of them concentrated in developing countries like Ghana. It is in recognition of this that the UN designated August 12 as International Youth Day to celebrate and deliberate on the role of the youth in contemporary times.
Statistics from the 2010 Ghana Population and Housing Census show that sixteen million, six hundred and thirty-two thousand, two hundred and ninety nine (16,632,299) of our population consist of age 18+ which is 55.3% of the total population while from this population, seven million, four hundred and thirteen thousand, nine hundred and sixteen (7,413,916) which is 23.2% are of age 18-35. These statistics go to show we (my age bracket) have an influential share of the population which is the peak of our lives. With your permission, I will like to bore you with more statistics from our just ended 2016 election which recorded an overwhelming victory for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and President Nana Akufo Addo. The total number of registered voters in the election was fifteen million, seven hundred and twelve thousand, four hundred and ninety-nine (15,712,499) out of which ten million, six hundred and fifteen thousand, three hundred and sixty-one (10,615,361) votes decided the winner of the election. These statistics leaves me with nothing but the firm belief that the youth of this country wield significant influence in deciding who leads in this country. What remains is how well we manage this influence that we have.
My brothers and sisters, let us remember that when it involves political power, the oldies will not hand it over to us on a silver platter and it won’t also happen by natural succession. We must be ready to demand and work towards achieving political power. Generations before us did not get what we have today and connected only through school or by virtue of their neighborhoods or locality. Today, we have better connectivity and even wider mediums to contribute to issues of national interest. We have better ways of organizing ourselves and what I can describe as fantastic ways of making and meeting new friends which generations before us were not privy to. Today, we have a vital tool that is globally recognized as major in delivering good governance and citizen inclusion and participation, a tool minorities have used to show the world the abuse and unfair treatment they get of which solutions and aid have come to them. Ladies and gentlemen, before you get it twisted, I am talking of the medium through which Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America, the medium that has toppled men we used to call “strong men”, the medium ended dreaded regimes that we all called “untouchable”, the same medium has got us talking of a once conservative Saudi Arabia to make flexible laws that we never imagined would ever exist in the Kingdoms diction. I am talking about social media.
In Ghana we have had our fair share of how well we have managed ourselves on social media. With myself as an example, I have met and engaged with people I would never have if not for the internet, there have been highs and lows (which I will put behind me), moments I have been proud and disappointed, moments I have been the offender and victim but in all of this, I see a sad trend these days that I feel as young people we have to address if we really mean well for the future of this country. Some would argue that our attitude on social media might not necessarily be a true representation of our behavior but of course the perception it portrays about us is enough to send a message on what future we want for this country. On the 2nd of September, 2017 editorial “The Pendulum” of the famous Nigerian journalist and politician Chief Dele Momodu titled “The challenges ahead for Nigerian youth”, he made good point on the second paragraph that I will love to repeat “The internet is a giver of false hopes and confidence. I want to believe that the power of the internet is exaggerated and overrated in our dearly beloved country. Everyone who is able to buy some data sees himself as an omnipotent blogger who can install or bring down any government. This delusion of grandeur is not local to Nigeria but is pervasive all over Africa and it is tragic”.
Today, most Ghanaian youth are not involved in the habit of follower-ship or mentorship but are only concerned about the number of followers and followings they have on social media, the number of likes, reactions, retweets, views and comments they get on posts. For many in my generation the number of birthday wishes you get shows how well you have made it in life. This has led to many of them engaged in shear arrogance, pompous and callous behavior dropping their sense of home training or lack of it and showing the true monsters in them. Today on the internet, anyone with more than a 100 likes on their posts automatically see themselves as celebrity and attributes omnipotence to themselves but we cannot blame them in anyway because data today is cheap thanks to mobile network promotions with as little as 50 Pesewas today, one can bundle and begin their activity on the internet.
Growing up, the men I admired, read about and loved too watch on TV like John Agyekum Kuffour, Late Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Peter Ala Adjetey, J. H Mensah, Malik Yakubu Alhassan, Adu Boahen, Victor Owusu, Yakubu Tali, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, Ako Adjei, Mumuni Bawumia, Nana Akuffo Addo, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobbey, B. J Darocha, Obed Asamoah, J. A Braimah, Kwaku Baako Jnr, Kwesi Pratt Jnr and loads names space will not allow me to mention. These men were not just activists in their bedrooms or on paper, they were not keyboard activists and my admiration did not come forth as a result of their inaction but they got it because they passed through the trenches of oppression and repression, showed courage and did not sit on the fence but actively participated with their voice and their intellect. They went through hell to make the name they have today. History remembers them for their sustained struggle.
Today, young people in my generation just sit with their mobile devices and with grandeur delusion and think they are involved in some struggle of any form because they are cheered on by people who by virtue of free browsing data found themselves there (sometimes pseudo accounts). They make ridiculous demands, insult and rant in disrespect without any form of understanding of how the system works. We must note that the revolution we see and acknowledge weren’t started by social media and did not succeed largely because it just trended, got following, reactions and ended. It was followed by action in versatile nature. What the world saw in the wake of the Arab spring was largely not the doings of social media but the action there followed with their words. Today, it saddens one to see abusive comments that follows when a public figure makes a posts (sometimes needless for abuse or trolls) and the excitement with which people share it. Yes, it would be for the moment and surely will not last forever but if this is the way we will choose to approach national issues as young people, I beg to differ and we are not prepared for the future.
Further characterized on the social media of many Ghanaian youth is bitterness, pain and hatred we are quick to exhibit. With this I partly blame it on unemployment which is the fault of the generations before, their inability, incompetence and corruption. All you see is young people trying hard to undo each-other in their quest for “punchlines” or “throw punches” which if we diverted to the sport of boxing would have created jobs, sustained income and won the nation honors at international events. Young people are quick to write and say anything to disgrace or put their colleagues to shame just to prove a point to the extent that we are ready to kill vibes, talents and startups. Even at a time when the literate population is growing and at a high, you find it very sad on social media that even hostilities that existed and was exhibited in pre-colonial era cannot be compared to what we see today.
Knowing how politically active citizens are in this country, our cycle is always four year round politics with new stories flowing everyday and government and political leaders put on their toes and so much scrutiny done on their activities. Many people have joined the social media frenzy to catch up with time and the be updated with news which is not the case sometimes depending on whose timeline you are reading the news item or getting information from. Being politically active is not enough, criticizing and insulting government and political office holders is not enough, what is enough is actively participating. Join a political party, engage with the grassroots that is where the reality exists. the older generation will never hand over power to us, they will not wake up one day and call us to come and take it. We will have to work for it, the democracies and countries we aspire our countries to be like did not become what they are by talk but they went further to walk the talk and make the difference. President Manuel Macron became President of France at 35, he was not a star or celebrity on social media, he formed his political party, campaigned and engaged with the grassroots and today, he has made the difference.
Fellow Ghanaian youth, let me be clear that I am in no way trashing the role of social media or hating on anyone after all I have met friends and benefited from them in diverse ways from social media. What even pushed me more to be involved was social media, there I have found mentors and leaders who always handle themselves well and from whom I learn and still learn.
I cannot end all of this without acknowledging the strives we have made on social media to fight issues and decisions we have felt have not been in the interest of the masses. Take the tow-levy, Hon Paitoo’s unfavorable comments to Northerners, the TV license and a host of others. These charges begun on social media, proved results and once again showed the power of Ghanaian youth and social media.
Let me end here by wishing the Vice President Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia speedy recovery. He has embarked on medical leave to the United Kingdom and I pray he returns to continue the great and fantastic work he is putting in towards the road to Ghana’s economic recovery and opening opportunities for all.
God bless our homeland Ghana.
About the Writer
Iddrisu Abdul-Hak can be reached at @deerok4 on twitter and can also be reached on email@example.com