Young people are a crucial segment of the society; they are the root of future development. As such, young people are social actors of change and can serve as a pressure group to make governments to set goals and define priorities. It is often said that youths are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but the partners of today. Youths owe certain responsibilities to their country/State. We need to learn from history and live with hope for a better tomorrow.
Nigeria as a nation was built and shaped by the youths who were determined to build a formidable and united country. We can mention Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and Earnest Ikoli, among others who used their youthful energy to fight for Nigerian independence. People like Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, who led the civil war, were in their 30s.
It is pertinent to point out that the global trend is that youths are now in positions of authority and are the ones leading the world both in ideas and innovations. This is why we have the Facebook developer, Mark Zuckerberg, who is in his 30s; and the current President of France who is also a youth in his early 40’s.
In the public sector, we have identified pioneering leaders around the world. The likes of Leo Varadkar, the youngest Prime Minister of Ireland, to Kaila Murnain, the youngest and first female General Secretary of Australia’s New South Wales party, these leaders are ushering in fresh political ideas and promoting dynamic societies. Government administrator Armstrong Pame, nicknamed the "miracle man", brought 100km roads to his Indian district in order to spur economic growth. This new generation of political leaders will not be deterred by political paralysis.
In the technology sphere, Mustafa Suleyman, who aged 19 helped set up one of the largest telephone counseling services for mental health in the UK, now oversees integrating AI technology across a range of Google products. Iyinoluwa Aboyejio co-founded a digital payments platform that is addressing the issue of money transfer across Africa, empowering pan-African merchants to execute business on global scale. These enterprising young leaders stir our ambitions for the future. We are proud of their continued and significant successes.
Let it be quickly pointed out that every nation needs its youths to contribute significantly to its progress. The reasons are that youths possess boundless energy, enthusiasm and innovative ideas among others and are, therefore, vibrant actors of social change. It is for these reasons that they are also branded as “partners of today.” I like to tell our youths that it is better to learn how to be effective partners today so that they can truly assume the role of effective leaders tomorrow. Note that in our national history, youths who subjected themselves to leadership mentorship rose to be truly leaders of the nation.
Governments in advanced countries have placed high priority on matters regarding the welfare of their youths such that their policies are centered on youth empowerment. They have institutionalized many youth centered organizations which focuses primarily on serving the needs of the young people and reflecting their views. They create atmosphere for young people to meet and express their views on actions that will meet community needs. In our clime, this kind of atmosphere if created will strengthen youth vigilance and could help in combating corruption.
However, the Nigerian government have failed to create such atmosphere and is still using old-fashioned approaches that are antithetical to the principles of sustainable development as regards the policies that affect the youths. The National confab which comprises recycled crops of aging politicians whose interests are not predicated on issues affecting the Nigerian youths have further substantiated this fact. The confab should have been youth centered by providing avenue of expression and civic engagement. There seem to be a new face of emerging challenges seriously affecting the youths and this may cause a drift to anarchy if the government refuses to beam the searchlight on issues affecting the youths.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s the phrase ‘ the youths are the future leaders of tomorrow was commonly used by our leaders of yesterday who are still voraciously clinging on to the baton of power till date. We wonder when exactly is the future going to arrive for the youths. Unfortunately, this trend of leadership in Nigeria has robbed the youths of their potential, their ability and responsibility to be the leaders of today, thus subjecting them to a state of passivity, ineptitude and inability to promote national growth and productivity.
The national youth development policy (2001, P.1) asserts that ‘‘Youths are the foundation of a society. Their energies, inventiveness, character and orientation define the pace of development and security of a nation. Through their creative talents and labour, nations makes giant strides in economic development and socio-political attainment. And because of their dreams and aspiration, the future of a nation is assured.’’
The fundamental component of this society that remains underutilized and neglected are the youths. It is the youths who are the bedrock for effective and sustainable development. Young people are in the critical and uninhibited process of learning and inventing, therefore if they are given the responsibility, they will accept the challenge and will be a driving force in making a progressive impact in our economy.
Unemployment in Nigeria today has become every youth nightmare. It is no longer about going to school and graduating or learning a trade, but about how to face the reality of graduating and joining the brigade of the unemployed youths. In this present day and age, so many Nigerian youths seem to have discarded the core values and principles of moral dignity, intellectual pursuits of excellence and the need to integrate themselves in the collective responsibility towards national development.
Despite the inadequacies our system, as Nigerians, we are very resilient people and in that wise, our youths of today should realize that they are the driving force of tomorrow and owe responsibilities towards the progress of this country. The youths must realize and discharge these responsibilities to help in salvaging this country and as such should not remain passive and blame the system. If any section of the society in any country is important for positive change to take place, it is the young people. Patriotism comes naturally to young people and the youths are advised to ignore the ineptitude of the current system and work towards helping this nation to overcome its present challenges and to achieve sustainable development.
It is unfortunate that in Nigeria today we find youths who are more interested in crimes and other vices which is not for their good and the good of this nation. This category of youths choose to spend their youthful time and energy in doing drugs, yahoo yahoo (419), armed robbery, kidnapping among others. Some spend their nights partying and living it up while others sit idle at home or roam about aimlessly instead of engaging in self development and impacting positively on the society. These crop of youths have no vision and if they do have dreams they do not have the drive to attempt achieving them. This must no continue.
We must motivate our youth. We must teach responsibility and goal setting. I fear if we do not we will soon be supporting an entire generation of homeless and needlessly on welfare families. Things have to change, with our schools, with the older generation being good role models, with the older generation being mentors, and with the youth who are right now doing nothing.
We all have some responsibilities towards our country, which we must understand and carry out. Most importantly, youths should be honest and hard working. In this era of social media youths are encouraged to be vocal and speak out against all the wrong doings in the country instead of blaming the system. The youths should use their brains, strength, creativity and imagination to serve our nation. Instead of asking, who’s going to fight the corruption? We should do it ourselves.
Our youths should begin to view themselves as the leaders of today capable of creating monumental changes by making their ambitious ideas a reality today rather than waiting for the future. The youths should begin to embark on a transformational process by creating a political paradigm shift strong enough to sweep away our aged economic predators through unrestricted creativity, spirited action and ardent activism. The future begins now!
I salute all those youths of the past who made efforts to make a difference. We are back bone to the nation and can change Nigeria for better.