I was sitting on a pile of rocks enjoying ice cream and good conversation with friends when I realized why I liked LookuLookuso much, and why I think it’s possibly one of the best songs I’ve listened to this year. The song itself, in my opinion, is the work of a genius lyricist. It’s full of quips and lines that I can’t quite explain to my oyinbo friends, and can truly only be felt by those who have trekked to multiple ATM machines in an emergency only to be told that “The issuer or switch cannot be contacted at this time. Please try again later.” Don Jazzy is a genius, the beat is sick, and the lyrics –odikwa very authentic.
So my question is; why is this important?
First, I think I’d like to augment the definition of authenticity, at least for the purposes of this piece, to include context appropriateness and indigeniety – not only knowing about a place, but actually being from within that context. With this in mind, I think the answer to my initial question is pretty simple; because being authentic is one of the best ways to ensure accurate identification of pertinent social development issues, and more importantly, identify resources that can be engaged to promote growth and progress within communities.
Authenticity is being able to accurately identify key points of engagement in a situation because the actors involved already have an intimate relationship with the context, a relationship based on history and familiarity. Authenticity is recognizing that, because Nigeria has a youth population of 167 million (Brookings, 2014), we are literally sitting on 167 million points of interface with the government of the future, 167 million individuals brimming with youthful passion, agency, and innovation, and 167 million authentic Nigerians who can serve as resources for development of the future.
Being young isn’t a crime, it shouldn’t be seen as a social problem that needs to be addressed, and it for sure shouldn’t be treated as the reason that Nigeria still faces the same growth problems that it does (youth unemployment was the first hit I got on Google when I began looking for statistics on the population demographics of Nigeria).
I think projections of the future of development in Nigeria needn’t view a large youthful population only with through the lens of youth unemployment, what I consider a pessimistic approach.
Earlier this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work with what I consider an authentic NGO outfit based in Abuja called Connected Development [CODE]. Most CODE employees are young part-time students, and I was inspired and encouraged by the zeal and urgency with which they took on projects and held their own against toxic, regressive thought patterns, based on the assumptions that young people are only good at Facebook and YouTube. They made no apologies for their ages and, in a predominantly gerontocratic society such as mainstream Nigeria, CODE leveraged the innovation and raw passion of its employees to ensure that all projects and initiatives got the full attention and support that they needed.
I’m using CODE as an example of an authentic approach to development, one that works with the unique Nigerian context full of young people to achieve sustainable progress and actually leave positive impacts in the country. It’s going to take time, it’s going to take innovation, and above all, it’s going to take authenticity to create solutions to address the problems of today and tomorrow, and I think the first step in this process of growth is recognizing that young people can be the nuclear engines that drive the thrust for development for the future.
So how does this all tie together? There’s a poignant quote from a book I read recently that has stuck with me all summer; “Manju looked at her mother with compassion, not comprehension, when Asha tried to describe it” (Boo, 2012). I think Nigeria is at the point in her developmental growth stages where we, as the development community, as youth, and as Nigerian citizens, need to begin to engage with an approach to social development and future planning that is based on comprehension of the actual issues at hand, and the authenticity required to devise solutions that actually work within the unique Nigerian context; authenticity that recognizes the human and environmental resources that Nigeria is equipped with.
So that’s why I particularly like LookuLooku – it’s authentic, and unapologetically so. And, as I embark on my journey of figuring out how I am going to play a role in this youth driven movement towards social development, please oh, no fall for gutter as you are looking at me.
Bolutife Fakoya is a communications specialist at CODE pursuing a double major in Anthropology and Biology at Swarthmore College in the US and has just concluded an internship experience with CODE. He is passionate about social development, research methods, youth engagement, and good music.