The aphorism of transition
THE saying that ‘youths are the leaders of tomorrow’ may be true for some nations of the world, that have internalised this dictum in the structure of their national life, such that the transition process is feasible, transparent and one which can be consolidated. It may be true for a country which has integrated an enduring process of transition into her national life.
This maxim, however, seems proverbial in the Nigerian context when we take into consideration the primordial happenings and challenges being faced by the Nigerian youths. At best, the only thing we can glean from the present situation is that the future of the Nigerian youths is in danger.
Transition is the process of change, that is, a process whereby the past rolls into the present and the present permeates the future. It is a link between the past and the future, which guarantees continuity.
In government, transition transcends the handing over ceremony where an elected leader takes an oath of office; but a substantial change in the paraphernalia of governance and the entire structure of a nation.
This process does not just happen; it requires a conscious effort aimed at ensuring the continuity of societal values, ideas and history. It requires a deliberate effort to build a virile and an egalitarian society geared towards growth and development.
However, the youths play a significant role in this process. In fact, it is the quality of the youths that determines the quality of posterity that awaits a nation.
No wonder many nations that are ready for this change often commit a lot of physical and financial resources towards youth development and other components of transition such as training, education, culture, learning and technology assimilation and adoption.
These ingredients of transition determine the level and speed of the change and development in a country. The case in Nigeria is, however, a chequered one. As a matter of fact, there are several issues that make the ascension of the Nigerian youths into leadership position a mirage or a perpetual anticipation which, at best, remains a hallucination rather than reality.
The first challenge facing the Nigerian youths today is the decay in our value system. They are plunged into the abyss of value erosion contrary to the tenets of our founding fathers who displayed values as the vehicle of their administration and the flavour that permeated the very essence of their individual and national lives.
The degradation in our value system has increased the social vices such as loose living, cutting corners, pipeline vandalism, thuggery, and the recent terrorism.
Less emphasis is placed on hardwork, delayed gratification and moral integrity. With this gross misconduct, what moral grounds do the Nigerian youths possess to predicate or handle the process of transition? The weak moral platform of our leaders, particularly the political office holders, whose body language, perceptible affluence, and sheer display of wealth, is disenchantment to hardwork, is also a course for concern.
Youth unemployment is another monster bewildering the youths and incapacitating them in their quest to become tomorrow leaders.
This transcends just the inability to secure jobs but a gross disequilibrium between employment aspiration and the job opportunities available.
Economic power is germane to emotional stability and leadership. It is the moral fortification needed for independence and to prepare for transition.
When the youths lack the financial fortitude to wean themselves from external support and the likes, how do they become free to stand for what they believe since he who pays the piper dictates the tune? In the light of this incapacitation, an average youth has to combat with the challenge of survival before thinking about his relevance to nation building.
Of course, he must first stay alive before he can make any meaningful contribution to social and economic development of his country.
Different administrations in Nigeria have laid claims to being committed to solving the problem of youth unemployment and delivering the supposed leaders of tomorrow from economic crunch, but none of the policies formulated has had the potency to address the veracity of youth unemployment in Nigeria.
These strategies were at best temporary reliefs which clearly showed that the policy makers either didn’t understand the peculiarity of the problem, or they didn’t do their home work well. In the good old days which our elders always referred to, and to which most of the policy makers belong, graduate unemployment was near non-existent.
Those were times when the country’s major problem was how to spend money rather than lack of it; where manpower was needed to fill the vacuum left by the colonial masters; and where every aspect of nation building was in progress. The situation is different now.
The value erosion in the education sector is another cog in the wheel of transition of the youths in this country. There is a wide gap between the town and the gown, and it worries us if the way higher institutions in Nigeria dispense knowledge reveals true value addition.
Human capital development is fundamental to both social and economic development of any country. The capacity to accentuate development and gear it towards transition is embedded in the quality of its labour force, of which the youths constitute greater percentage. But when the quality remains bereft of industrial take-off, it becomes difficult to achieve these goals.
Education in Nigeria is no longer reflecting its true opportunity costs. The nominal certificates being awarded by various institutions is just a symbolic representation whose true worth is at best relevant within the primordial confines of the awarding academic institution, rather than having true bearing on the reality in the outside world.
Many graduates still lack the verbal, logical and quantitative aptitude, and other intelligent parameters that will make them fit into industrial need. This situation compares the proliferation of institutions versus skill adequacy of outputs from these institutions.
More often than not, the curriculum being used in these institutions are not relevant enough to handle the dynamics of the modern world where technology holds sway.
This skill deficiency usually retards industrial revolution and the rate of economic growth and development. Of course, the reward system is not encouraging. Youths are beginning to realise that education is not an end in itself but a means to an end.
What is the use of spending years in school, burning the midnight candles and end up jobless after graduation, when you can be in the show-biz, sports or entertainment and make millions? And the society is also promoting this.
We heard the story of how those who schooled during the good old days enjoyed their days in the university to the fullest.
How they ate full chicken, had ready employment opportunities, prided in Naira supremacy, and left us with the option of perpetual wish that we had come during those times. It is sad when the past is better than the present and when we are not certain about the future.
What hope do the youths have when the privileged few at the upper echelon of the society continue to rigmarole the leadership positions among themselves, while the only role assigned to those who should be occupying them is sitting at the ringside as perpetual spectators?
What of insecurity and religious fanaticism? The youths have been ambushed and drafted to carry out nefarious activities thus becoming easy tool in the hands of terrorist groups.
This is a product of brainwashing and wrong indoctrination. Some of the scenarios which were sometimes heard of from afar have now become daily occurrences.
People in the name of terrorism are desecrating our fatherland with impunity. The Nigerian youths can only be tomorrow’s leaders when they are able to operate in a free, secure and egalitarian society, devoid of any threat to their lives. But in an environment of fear and consternation, the youths are left with the only option of self defense.
For this aphorism to be a reality in Nigeria, we must effect changes in our national life. For instance, there is need for value re-orientation, since this change must first occur in the mental faculty of the Nigerian youths.
We also need true leadership – leaders who would be role models, those who would inspire hardwork and diligence, those who would set examples worthy of emulation. The lack of true leadership had lured many youths into adopting music legends and football stars as their role models.
At least, they inspire them and can relate with the source of their wealth. Also, a holistic approach is needed to address the problem of youth unemployment, such as declaring a state of emergency in the employment sector.
Any employment strategy without structural framework will not be potent enough to totally address employment problems in our country. In the education sector, the curriculum should be overhauled to reflect compatibility with the realities of the modern world.
For other aspects of the Nigerian economy, it is essential to develop programmes to impact positively on these sectors.
Now that what is left is governorship, the youths should demand the practical plan to be taken to reduce maternal mortality, child trafficking and ensure infrastructural development.
The youths want to know the strategy to be employed to diversify the structural base of the economy, particularly in the face of the current global crash in crude oil price to about $40 per barrel, and Naira exchange rate depreciation which is about N200/$1 in the parallel market.
Adesoji is director of the Centre for Allied Research and Economic Development, Ibadan.