THISDAY Style - - CONTENT - BY AKIN­NAWO OLUWASEUN +234 810 397 9107

Al­low me to tell you this, be­ing a youth in Nige­ria in this present age and time is un­doubt­edly one of the most try­ing, frus­trat­ing and trau­ma­tis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the world.

The penury, sub­ju­ga­tion, job­less­ness and po­lit­i­cal abyss into which we have been thrown over­time by a clus­ter of fac­tors makes it al­most utopic to vi­su­alise an ex­is­tence de­void of these ills or fool­hardy to as­pire for greater or bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The peren­nial plight of the Nige­rian youth is ex­ac­er­bated by the non­cha­lance and in­sen­si­tiv­ity of govern­ment at all lev­els. This is re­gard­less of some of the lack­lus­tre ef­fort in the past and present by the govern­ment to cut some ice with the youth by creat­ing a space for pop­u­lar and en­er­getic par­tic­i­pa­tion in the po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic af­fairs of the na­tion.

Renowned play­wright and avid so­cial com­men­ta­tor, Pro­fes­sor Wole Soyinka once put for­ward some posers that I find deeply trou­bling, re­flec­tive and sad. In a pas­sion­ate mis­sive, the pro­fes­sor painted the pic­ture of the mis­ery and pa­thetic ex­is­tence of a Nige­rian youth in cur­rent times jux­ta­posed and con­trasted with what ob­tained years ago in the life of this same coun­try - Nige­ria.

He said and I quote,

“Awolowo was 37 years, Ak­in­tola 36, Ah­madu Bello 36, Balewa 34, Okotie-Eboh 27, and An­thony Ena­horo 27 and they led the strug­gle for Nige­ria in­de­pen­dence af­ter the death of Macaulay. Only Zik (Nnamdi Azikwe) was 42 at the time”.

“In 1966, the first mil­i­tary coup was led by Kaduna Nzeogwu who was 29 years and coun­tered by M. Muhammed 28, T. Dan­juma 28, I. Ba­bangida 25, J. Garba 23, S. Abacha 23, and M. Yar’adua 23 and brought into power Yakubu Gowon 32. Ojukwu 33, Obasanjo 29 and Buhari 24! Most of the mil­i­tary gov­er­nors who gov­erned the states un­der the suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary regimes were un­der 30 years”.

“Also, the brief demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion which in­ter­jected the mil­i­tary in­ter­reg­nums also saw some Senators and mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in par­tic­u­lar pop­u­lated by per­sons un­der 30! Un­der 30’s were also not in short sup­ply with ap­point­ments- we have ex­am­ples of M.T. Mbu who be­came Nige­ria’s For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter at 23 and Pat Utomi who be­came a fed­eral Ad­viser at 27 and so on and so forth.”

Pro­fes­sor Soyinka went on to ask some salient ques­tions thus:

“why is it that al­most all this age bracket is to­day still sleep­ing in 3-seater chairs in their par­ents’ homes? Why is it that this age bracket is to­day still col­lect­ing pocket money from their par­ents? Why is it that this age bracket is to­day still seek­ing for jobs and not yet mar­ried? Why is this age bracket to­day no longer qual­i­fied to even be lead­ers of youth wings of po­lit­i­cal par­ties? Why is it that this age bracket is so docile? Why is this age bracket to­day in­ca­pable of feed­ing it­self? Why is it that this age bracket is to­day barred from even as­pir­ing to cer­tain po­lit­i­cal of­fices? Why is it that this age bracket is to­day in­ca­pac­i­tated, un­will­ing, un­able and in­ca­pable of ask­ing ques­tions?”

These are ques­tions that should pro­voke deep re­flec­tions in the minds of all. I can­not claim to have all the an­swers my­self but I have spent a great deal of time in thought, try­ing to as­cer­tain what the re­mote and im­me­di­ate cause for the im­pe­cu­nious, in­do­lent and sub­ju­gated youths we see all over the streets of ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas, toil­ing me­nially, earn­ing mea­gerly and liv­ing de­ject­edly is.

Pre-in­de­pen­dence Nige­rian youths were re­puted for their brav­ery, dili­gence, pro-ac­tivism and a sense of brother­hood. These ebul­lient pre­de­ces­sors were able to carve a niche for them­selves be­cause they re­fused to be over­whelmed by the try­ing cir­cum­stances of their time and took the prover­bial bull by the horn.

So what gave? What ex­plains the dy­nam­ics of change which has seen the aluta spir­its of youths cow­ered and seem­ingly de­feated? The an­swers are man­i­fold and vex­a­tious. I wish to sim­ply high­light some of them.

The dy­nam­ics in­clude sys­temic or in­sti­tu­tional fi­asco, po­lit­i­cal ex­clu­sion­ism, low stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion and a trun­cated union­ism. There is also the wave of the ero­sion of core moral val­ues, the lack of much need ex­po­sure and po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and so much more.

The stark his­tor­i­cal truth is that over the years there has been an im­pov­er­ish­ment of youths in terms of op­por­tu­ni­ties and ideas. These act, sus­pi­ciously de­lib­er­ate, are sur­rep­ti­tiously car­ried out with the ac­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion of some youths who are sell-outs and on the curve to a short-cut to the fu­ture. There are sel­dom youth-cen­tred pro­grammes and even with the few, old men are still as­signed the port­fo­lio of man­ag­ing them. This is why it would seem okay for a youth min­is­ter in our Nige­ria to be non-youth and most ir­ri­tat­ing thing to a youth con­cept in char­ac­ter and thoughts.

But de­spite the over­whelm­ing sta­tis­tics to the con­trary, de­spite the rot in our ed­u­ca­tional sec­tor and the econ­omy, sto­ries still abound of Nige­rian youths who have some­how man­aged to make their mark in cer­tain spheres. This is a tes­ti­mony to the po­ten­tials of the Nige­rian youth when pre­sented with an op­por­tu­nity. It would be tan­ta­mount to er­ro­neous de­duc­tion that Nige­rian youths are in­ca­pable of stir­ring growth and de­vel­op­ment.

It is about time that the youths of this time and age rose to the chal­lenge and refuse to ac­cept hand-outs or less than mer­ited. As our ex­pe­ri­ences show, the po­lit­i­cal arena pro­vides us with an op­por­tu­nity to join the fray in mak­ing hay for the fu­ture. We must strive to make in­puts to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo, the ills. The coun­try is caught in the throes of a re­ces­sion brought upon it, or bet­ter put, ex­car­bated by a govern­ment whose one and only pop­u­lar­ity is hedged on the prece­dents of its prin­ci­pal.

It is im­por­tant for us to re­alise and hold to heart the im­por­tant truth that we must cre­ate our own op­por­tu­ni­ties and not wait on the same class of peo­ple per­pet­u­at­ing our con­tin­u­ous sub­ju­ga­tion to feed us crumbs. The age of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic ac­tivism is now and it must res­onate with the body of youths na­tion-wide.

As I keep re­it­er­at­ing, we have em­i­nent on us a new op­por­tu­nity. As the coun­try con­tin­ues to un­dergo knocks and eco­nomic quack­ery, it is im­por­tant for us to be­gin now to pre­pare to cor­rect the ills and mis­take made at the pre­vi­ous polls. We must gal­vanise around men of un­blem­ished records with the right po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic acu­men for of­fice, vi­sion­ary and imag­i­na­tive. We must iden­tify and do away with the po­lit­i­cal crooks who have the gift of the gab and those with the curse of the purse who en­tice us with sweet words and man­i­festos and on elec­tion days en­snare us with to­kens from their crim­i­nal purse to hand our fu­ture and man­date to them.

Let 2019 oc­cur with a cer­tain dif­fer­ence. It is not enough to be par­tic­i­pants from the side-lines or com­men­ta­tors. We must bring back the au­dac­ity of the past, we must re­store equal mea­sures and op­por­tu­ni­ties in our po­lit­i­cal process as much as prac­ti­ca­ble. It takes heart, it takes per­se­ver­ance. It takes the un-learn­ing of pre­vi­ous neg­a­tive no­tions that it can­not be done to the adop­tion of the YES WE CAN spirit. Youths must now stop be­ing a means to the ends of other class of per­sons.

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