THE NIGERIAN YOUTH AND THE OTHER TRUTH
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.