TOWARDS A BETTER DEAL FOR NIGERIAN YOUTHS IN 2021
Individually and as organizations, we must have marked off the year 2020 as spent, but what we couldn't have done as wise people or competent managers of organizations is to merely crossover the year without taking some vital lessons from our failures and successes into cognizance while setting our agenda for the New Year. It is a proven leadership axiom that; "Those who fail to keep a tab on the past are condemned to repeating its mistakes and missing out on reinventing its best decisions for future successes." It is therefore appropriate that while we move on with our plans for 2021, we shouldn't lose sight of the errors, challenges, successes and best ideas of the past year.
It is in line with the foregoing thought that I have undertaken to briefly x-ray the best points of the past year, its lowest points and our missed chances, with particular focus on the youths of Nigeria. I would also, at the end of this offering proffer ideas that I consider helpful to policymakers in both the private and public sector, with particular emphasis on a more effective and productive youth involvement in all sectors of our economic and governance structures. It may be more apposite to say that this is making a case for a youth-driven political and economic leadership prospects in Nigeria.
Given the statistics that more than 83% of Nigeria's population is under the age of 50, it would be appropriate to assert that Nigeria is a youthful country in the world. This could either be harnessed for the benefit of the country or ignored at the detriment of the country. This demography of a huge number of mentally, physically and even emotionally vibrant population in a nation, we either have a keg of gunpowder waiting to explode or a reservoir of treasure to be harvested.
The Covid-19 lockdown that gripped Nigeria from the last days of March 2020 until sometime in October hurt Nigeria's youthful generation more than any other group, as they are the major operators of the over 40 Million SMES in the country either as owners or workers. Nigeria was already in a precarious situation before the pandemic with one of the world's most disturbing youth unemployment crisis. Data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics show that as at 2018, the number of unemployed youths in Nigeria was at an all-time high of 13.1 Million. This number is higher than the entire population of Togo. So, you would better appreciate the menace by imagining where an entire population of a country is jobless or completely without any assured means of survival. Nothing could be more precarious than this.
Unfortunately, there are fears that the lockdowns and the concomitant economic crisis may have tripled this number, as many organizations laid off their workers, while a number of SMEs mostly run by an appreciable number of self-employed youths have gone bankrupt within this period. In fact, the Economic Sustainability Committee painted a more dire picture in its report, which warned that the Covid-19 instigated economic crisis could push a further 39.4 million Nigerians into unemployment. Do you imagine the danger inherent in that?
I will not fail to acknowledge the many programs put in place by the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari which are deliberately aimed at economically empowering the youths. The N-Power program, has provided a much needed cushion to millions of youths in the country. Also, the recently introduced Special Public Works program which aims to employ about 774,000 youths, the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES), Survival Funds, agricultural loans to young farmers are among some very creative programs and policies of the Buhari administration targeting to empower Nigerian youths.
As commendable as these policies and programs are, it must be observed that their impacts are impinged by hitches in implementation. At times, as a result of conflicts of interest or outright incompetence, some of those whose responsibility it is to execute these initiatives for the benefit of the people, fell short in its implementation. The discovery of tons of palliative materials in warehouses across Nigeria is a pointer to how corruption and greed have adversely affected the final implementation of youth programs and policies of the present administration.
Is the situation helpless? Are our youths condemned to be used as canon fodders by politicians and other elites in the society? How can we ensure that things improve for the better for the youths in the year 2021? The following recommendations, when considered and implemented would go a long way in giving the youths a better sense of nationhood and consequently impact positively on our national development visions;
1. Diligent and transparent implementation of policies targeted at improving the lots of Nigerian youths.
2. The Nigerian Ministry of Youth Development may need to be rejigged to ensure more impact. The ministry as presently constituted has a lot more to do in order to increase its impact on the youths.
3. Because no one would best appreciate the plight of the youths than the youths themselves, I will recommend the integration of the youths at all levels of policy formulation and implementation.
4. Transparent management of grants and loans targeted at bailing out SMEs.
5. Development of an up-to-date, relevant, implementable and all-encompassing National Youth Policy.
6. Ensuring a fair playing ground at all levels of government and private sector driven competitions.
7. Enhanced investments in entrepreneurship education for our youths and improved access to funding for creative and technological ideas.
8. Improved access to professional education and trainings for our youths.
9. Discouragement of harassment of all sorts, especially against our youths by public officials.
10. Government and public sector recruitment processes should reward merit ahead of nepotistic considerations.
God bless Nigeria 🇳🇬.