(Being Text of a Speech Given By Chude Jideonwo, Managing Partner of Red Media/The Future Project, at the Pre-Inauguration Youth Lunch with President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, 24 May, 2011.)
I was a bit worried when I was asked yesterday to speak about youth corps members and corruption at the same time. Beyond the ‘C’ in both words, how does one link both? But then it hit me.
You see, sir, the issues are simple: the National Youth Service Corps, like many Nigerian institutions that are ailing, needs urgent reform. It is the reason The Future Project, in conjunction with EnoughisEnough Nigeria, Sleeves Up, AIESEC and the National Youth Council, has activated the youth-led ProtectTheCorpers campaign, which is urgently demanding this reform.
But beyond that, the question is: why hasn’t this change come – even after so many years and so many lives lost? Why is it so difficult to restructure a scheme that has been ridden by neglect of its young people, lack of basic amenities from uniforms to water in camp, a complete inability to provide these young people with genuine learning opportunities and a total collapse of the original intent of this programme to forge unity?
Sir, it is corruption. People who benefit from this corrupt, inept system will fight tooth and nail, rain and shine to ensure that they continue to plunder the commonwealth. They cannot want change, they do not want change, and they never will. And now sir, these corrupt people are part of this government… your government, and therefore your responsibility.
Therefore, the times call for you, dear sir, to make a sharp break from the past and impress us – and we are not easy to impress - with the sheer strength of character to fundamentally restructure our state of affairs. Good intentions are great, a positive disposition is desirable, and your personal credibility is not in doubt, but those cannot dislodge such a fundamentally flawed system.
Sir, you have a prime opportunity to be a hero and change this system - for good - in a way your predecessors have sadly been incapable of.
We will be watching sir. But we won’t just watch, we will demand it, and we will work to make sure that we get it. We will hold you to every one of your promises.
God keep you sir, and God bless Nigeria.