BEING A LECTURE DELIVERED BY BASHEER LUQMAN OLAREWAJU ON 17TH SEPTEMBER, 2017. AT THE ANNUAL LECTURE OF UNIQUE ASSOCIATE CLUB, ILORIN.
THE ROLE OF THE YOUTHS IN THE NATION BUILDING.
I am indebted to glorify Allah for making today a reality, may His blessing be bestowed upon Prophet Muhammad and his Households, Companions and the generality of Muslim Ummah, till the day of data presentation. Amen.
It is pertinent to appreciate the leadership and the entire members of this reputable club for their humanitarian services and through a lot of scrutiny, I was chosen as today’s guest lecturer, I hope we all achieve the goals of the program in the end in positive value.
Firstly, we have that the youths are the period between adolescent age and adulthood. Secondly, the nation is a country considered as a group of people living in a certain territory under one Government. Thirdly, we also have to know “Building” here means not masonry constructed, instead the development of the nation, the future of our country.
The leadership cadre is filled with aged politicians who think nation building is their exclusive preserve and as such youth should not be given a chance. Perhaps, their stand explains why though youths are said to be leaders of tomorrow, that future never come.
This is the unfortunate mind-set that has informed the pattern of successive leadership in Nigeria. This cliché in some way has sedated almost all youth and created in them a sense of reluctance in participating and taking up roles and responsibilities that will help in nation building.
In a broader sense, youth refers to people who have energy, vigour and enthusiasm to get things done. It is a state of mind not a function of Age, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity and an insatiable appetite for progressive reasoning.
“A nation is not defined by its borders or the boundaries of its land mass Rather, a nation is defined by adverse people who have been unified by a cause and a value system and who are committed to a vision for the type of society they wish to live in and give to the future generations to come.” ― Fela Durotoye.
YOUTHS AND THE NATION
Youths are the building blocks of every developed nation. The stronger the youth of a country, the more developed that country. For a country like Nigeria with about 70% youth population, one wonders why we are where we are but why would this not be so when the future of the youth has been mortgaged for selfish gains; when we have been denied the benefits of good education, when our minds have been chronically infested with low morality and loss of values, when the leadership class is riddled with notoriously corrupt individuals which the justice system has helplessly fail to punish. Why won’t it be so when government’s plans and readiness to revive youth un-productivity is but a mere lip service? They only engage us during election and turn us into electoral thugs instead of building enough schools and creating adequate employment opportunities.
The vision of our country lies in the hands of our youths. They are filled with tremendous and towering ambitions. It will be a great wastage of human resources if these youths are not given an opportunity to exercise their talent. This beautiful land needs these youths in order for our soil to become a brighter one.
The primary role of young people is to get a good education in order to become better citizens of tomorrow. They need to learn skills to do the job that their country’s economy needs. They also need to know how to read, write, think, understand, analyse, and discuss the issues their country faces. The entire success of the nation depends on the youths. However, in order for continuous success to take place; it is the Government’s responsibility to provide the youth with proper facilities for, getting equipped with the knowledge of the modern era.
CHALLENGES FACING YOUTHS IN NIGERIA
The seemingly insurmountable challenges the Nigerian youth faces daily and the biggest challenge we face, in my opinion is INSECURITY.
The Nigerian youth battles “Emotional Insecurities”, leading some into abusive relationships, pre-marital sex, abortions and out of wedlock childbirth vividly exemplified by the young celebrities. We are also faced with “Academic and Career Insecurities”, a situation where the Academic system is grossly sub-standard and teeming youths remain unemployed years after graduating with good grades. Nigerian youths are constantly faced with “Physical Insecurities” as well. Everyone is vulnerable to a form of attack on a daily basis, sadly from even the law enforcement agents. “Health Insecurities” also abound, affecting youths negatively and causing death of many who would have otherwise contributed immensely to national growth and development.
Dreams are dying and young Nigerians are among frustrated groups on earth. Most of these young Nigerians, save those from rich homes, cannot acquire quality tertiary education as Nigerian universities are suffering from a reversal of fortunes. Public secondary and primary schools cannot deliver quality education, the purpose for which they have been established. Students are discouraged from reading during secondary school certification examinations because of question-paper leaks. They pass through Nigerian universities, which are plagued with terrible facilities as a result of infrastructural knavery.
‘Sorting’ lecturers becomes the norm instead of the abnormal. Today, there are little or no scholarships anywhere for those that cannot afford to pay their way through schools unlike in the past when there were series of scholarships. A typical Nigerian youth survives in a nine-in-a-room accommodation in university hostels. Their female colleagues are subjected to assaults by lecturers to get good grades. Upon graduation, the reality of Nigeria’s situation hits young Nigerians in the face. They have to rely on senators, political appointees and politicians to write recommendation letters for them before they can get jobs in federal establishments. We’ve to pay hundreds of thousands of Naira to get jobs in public and private organisations – a situation that is akin to a broad day light robbery. Merit no longer holds a place in the system. Galloping unemployment has reduced young Nigerians to guinea pigs in the laboratory of the labour market.
Today, a typical young Nigerian writes a series of tests and goes for innumerable interviews just for a 50,000 Naira job. To make an already deplorable situation worse, nepotism is introduced into the mix, with someone making up a list of prospective employees full of relations and children of friends. Young Nigerians are compelled by the hostile economic reality to stay for years at home for lack of jobs. They are left with decayed social services and have no choice but to pay for whatever they want. This is Nigeria at its worst of times.
The story is not different for those who find themselves lucky to get a job; for with the job comes the realisation that the Naira has been devalued, and the cost of living high, that the average young Nigerian finds it difficult to marry not to talk of raising a family. Most disheartening is the fact that the young people are confronted with the Nigerian private sector crisis. The predominant features of this economic malady are jobs without job security, overworking the employee with a remuneration that is abysmally less than commensurate with the quantum of work assigned to the employee. The banks are the major culprits here, assigning outrageous targets to workers with an option of being thrown out of the job if they fail to meet targets.
The plight of the average young Nigerian becomes all the more pathetic when one considers their virtual inability to renew their rents and to afford the some basic necessities of life. Concisely, the polity is mercilessly competitive and the environment extremely hostile for the average young Nigerian to start anything serious. These are the consequences, which flow from a damaged and neglected society; a society, which is radically different from that of our fathers when companies and government agencies lined up to recruit graduates. Today, the Nigerian youth is advised to embrace entrepreneurship, yet, the government would not create the enabling environment for such enterprise to thrive. Because nothing is done on merit, the average young person comes away with the impression that hard work and intelligence do not pay.
As if the tales of woes are not enough, there is a deliberate policy of exclusion being pursued at the highest echelon of the government against the Nigerian youths. The objective behind this policy is to ensure that the Nigerian youth is excluded from participating in government. This is quite unlike in the 1960s and the 1970s when Nigerian leaders were in their 20s and 30s. Today, unless some of these youths are PAs to PAs to PAs to an SA of a minister, they would have no input in Nigeria’s governance. It is an impossibility to see a youth of less than 33 that is a minister or governor or even a commissioner. The Nigerian youths are assigned youth development ministers who are in their 60s and who have no idea of what the average Nigerian youth is passing through. Entry into politics is so costly that the youths cannot even attempt it. What is more? No one believes in them anyway. What is the fate of Not Too Young To Run?
HOW YOUTHS CAN BUILD A NATION?
Youth is the spring of life. It is the age of discovery and dreams. They have the power to transform the nation into a better place. They also have the ability to lead their fellow citizens into the right direction. All of them hopes for a world full of opportunities, so great minds can conquer them and become better individuals. They need good morals and values to handle conflicts in a positive way.
The role of the youth is the most important in today’s time. They have underplayed themselves in the field of the politics. Youth are strong forces in social movements.
Youths are problem solvers. Our nations need them to resolve most of our problems. The nation is facing a lot of problems, and I believe that the youths are capable of solving them. Youths have the power to unite individuals in the six ethnic groups. Racism is an ongoing issue around the world. Individuals are fighting against each other because of the complexion of their skin and the texture of their hair. Religion is another issue, the youths can convince their fellow man to live in peace and love. All of us are one and we should not allow these little differences to push us away from each other.
There also a lot of crime taking place. Women are more prone to rape nowadays; the religious leaders are now the godfathers of money rituals and kidnapping. All of this crime and violence needs to stop. They should create their niche themselves and not depend on the white collar job, the modern world has brought diverse opportunities to human race, hence, the most fitted are the youths, go on to the world of diverse opportunities and explore! The youth once more has the ability to bring about a change in their country. Youths seems to have the ability to face any challenges and problems. They have a positive influence on their fellow young people. They are able to teach them the positive things in life. The ones whom are destroying their future, they tend to listen to their fellow youths. They will make them understand the importance of a good education. The wise youths that we have out there should be taken into consideration. Some of them, though educated are unemployed. They should be given an opportunity to expose their intelligence to the world and make themselves into someone.
IMPORTANCE OF THE YOUTHS TO A NATION
Youth are the engine room of every nation. The similitude of the importance of youth to nation building could be likened to a car engine, without which, vehicles can’t move, so also without youth, a nation cannot thrive. The importance of the youth in nation building is too relevant to be jettisoned – they serve as the back-bone of a society. They can make or mar a nation based on what is programmed in them. They are a feedback system because if they are well equipped and garnished with the best available resources, they give a positive outcome, but, if otherwise, negative outcome should be expected.
Nigerian youth are surely among the most talented and creative youths in the world. They are fast learners; they have the ability to work under pressure and bring out desired result for any organisation or institution. The importance of Nigerian youth cannot be underestimated in nation building. Nigerian youths from time immemorial have been contributing their quota towards national development. The likes of Sir Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Herbert Macaulay fought tooth and nail in their youthful days to deliver the political independence we all enjoy today as a nation.
It is only an insane man that will say Nigerian youths are not productive because there is practically no aspect of nature, physical or anthropological, material or human, complex diversity or undefined homogeneity, regional, international, academic or sport, Nigeria cannot boast of, even in religion or ethnicity. Name any field of learning you would not see a Nigerian youth renowned locally or internationally. Mention any aspect of living, good or bad, a Nigerian youth will not be actively and not passively recognised. There is nowhere in the world one would not see a Nigerian youth with the buzzing I-can-do spirit; In fact they drive the wheel of several countries in the world.
In the same vein, it is paramount to state that most of the monuments we celebrate in this nation today were put in place by the then military regime led by young productive minds and they still remain ever green in our hearts.
Most government interventions to tackle the challenges of the Nigerian young population have not been implemented properly. Apart from that, such interventions suffer from inadequate and effective monitoring, sustainability and the absence of a political will to drive these interventions. The consequence is that the impacts of these interventions are minimal with the brutal reality of what Nigerian youths are passing through. The environment is not enabling enough for them to start sustainable businesses for those who wish to go entrepreneurial. No access to loans from banks, limited access to loans from the government, no access to meaningful skilled acquisition trainings and no serious policy to address fundamentally the issue of unemployment by the different Nigerian governments. They still have to depend on their parents for livelihood upon graduation.
It is high time the government came up with an agenda to address the challenges of the Nigerian youth. Sustainable interventions should be generated. There is the need for a robust plan from the government, which should contain all the young people. Similarly, the state governors should come up with sustainable plans for the youth at the state level.
Industrial farms should be set up with modern agricultural techniques, and ultimately, to fund them to go into agriculture. Mentoring relationships should be developed between the old and young generation.
The education sector in this country remains a subject for surgery, gradualist or radical. The government should come up with a clear strategy on how to revamp the educational institutions. Education should be made entrepreneurial driven.
The government should increase the incentives for Private Sector Capital Inflow, adjust policy to focus more on IT development especially by creating the enabling environment for youth capacity building in that area. There is the vital need to diversify the economy, empower the fabrication and development of a local content market, which should be flooded by young people.
Scholarship schemes for skill acquisition should be instituted and such scholarship schemes should cover sports – and sports here is not just football. Young people have delved into this area.
The elections which were handled confidently by corps members of the National Youth Service Corps scheme is a clear pointer that the Nigerian youth is ready to take up challenges in national service: their only snag is the absence of opportunities.
It is common knowledge that the older generation has been corrupted and has proven to be not only intractable but also incorrigible. Every young Nigerian craves a better society. Involving them, more in governance will make change easier to attain. Young people by their nature may be radical but they are impressionable and, consequently, pliable. Though there is still the fear of the unknown in them. Another advantage is that dealing with young people is cost-effective. There is no doubt that such a strategy will reduce the economic waste that occurs in political offices.
In conclusion, the role of the youth in the nation building is crucial. They are problem solvers, have a positive influence on other young people and the nation, and are extremely ambitious. They have the ability to create an identity for themselves and move the nation forward. However, they will not be able to do this without the support of their Government and fellow youths. So the youths can make their beautiful land flourish and shine in success.