Sanwo-Olu, youth empowerment and national development
According to former United States Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, “Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. If empowered, the youth can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies”.
The above quote further underscores the urgent need to include the youth in active participation and partnership in order to increase the public value of the entire society.
It is obvious that when the youths are fully empowered and engaged, the overall mandate of the government will be delivered effectively and therefore dividends of democracy will be judiciously enjoyed by the people without hindrance.
Apart from Afghanistan, Africa holds the record of having 20 of the countries with the youngest population, with Nigeria occupying the 16th place. The youth population on the African continent is projected to double by 2050, which will place more stress on already strained resources for the region. With recent estimates putting 50.4% of its 170 million people below 18 years, for Nigeria, the youth indeed represents the most dynamic group in the country.
When compared with French President, Macron, who was 39 when he ascended his country’s presidency, there is no gainsaying the fact that youth in this clime still have a long way to go in terms of political leadership. The political isolation of the youth is, no doubt, a serious challenge to the country’s political development.
It is from this perspective that one heartily views the passion of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, for youth empowerment, especially in the political space. His cabinet is a mixture of experienced hands with young and promising folks. Quite visible in the current Lagos State Executive Council are youths with dazzling pedigree, who provide needed impetus galvanizing the ‘Greater Lagos’ vision of the administration.
Prominent among them is the Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Ruth Bisola Olusanya, Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo Onaolapo, Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology, Olatunbosun Alake and Special Adviser on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Solape Hammond.
The common cliché that youths are leaders of tomorrow is no longer in tune with present-day reality. The truth is that what becomes of tomorrow is determined by what happens today. So, the more everyone grasps the fact that the youths are really the leaders of today and not tomorrow, the better for all. Looking at the example of the younger members of the Sanwo-Olu cabinet, one is bound to reaffirm that the future is now. Fortunately, they have not disappointed as they cover themselves in glory through trail-blazing performance.
In order to further harness the peculiar talent of youth in the State, Governor Sanwo-Olu has prioritised youth empowerment in the State’s 2021 budget. The budget was carefully designed to meet the aspirations of the teeming youth by focusing on sectors with job-creating potential like Agriculture, construction, technology and security.
The aim is to improve the economic conditions and social safety needed for the youth and all hardworking Lagosians to flourish. Resources will be committed to sectors that need to grow for the youth to become self-reliant and economically empowered.
A pivotal crux of the 2021 budget will be the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture among the youth. In light of this, micro, small and medium enterprises will be strengthened because their activities help to facilitate socio-economic advancement. A lot has been done to support the entrepreneurial aspiration of youth in the State through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF. In the coming year, more will be done by providing technical and financial support so that they can in turn generate employment that will stimulate equitable economic prosperity.
In order to utilize the skill of the youth in Information Technology (IT) for accelerated economic growth and job creation, the government will collaborate with major players in that space like Oracle, Microsoft and Google to prepare the youths for the IT job market. All these will be achieved through the cumulative budgetary provision of N148.57billion earmarked for human capital development.
It is a universal reality that any nation that denies its youth the necessary enabling environment to enthusiastically participate in nation-building does so at its own peril. This is, perhaps, why many have posited that the large population of idle youths in the country is partly responsible for high rate of negative activities such as kidnapping, raping, ritual killing, insurgency, militancy among others in the country. Since nature abhors vacuum, idle youths would naturally expend their bursting and dynamic youthful energy on other areas, no matter how volatile.
Without a doubt, youth are the foundation of any society. Their energies, inventiveness, character and orientation define the pace of development and security of a nation. Through their creative talents and labour-power, a nation makes giant strides in economic development and socio-political attainments. In their dreams and hopes, a nation finds her motivation; in their energies, she builds her vitality and purpose. And because of their dreams and aspirations, the future of a nation is assured. Hence, it is quite reassuring that the Sanwo-Olu administration is desirous of improving the lots of youth in the State.
Nation-building is a dynamic process involving all segments of the society, including the often-overlooked and undermined youth population that will provide an invaluable resource for the progress of any society as well as its development. As youth are brought into and connected with national issues and programmes (they have oftentimes been ignored/excluded), they can participate actively and contribute to decision-making at multiple levels.
As youths are engaged in more sustained positive relationships with adults, other youths, and national development programmes, apart from realizing that they are valued citizens of their nations, such collaborations and participation may lead to skill enhancement, empowerments and confidence-building, which will help prepare them for active involvement in nation-building.
It, however, needs to be stressed that the youth must equally strategically position themselves if they are to really optimize their potential nation-builders in the country. Rather than exploring the opportunities for securing better lives, facing the challenges of a rapidly changing world, and thinking about the future of their nation, it is quite disappointing that the majority of youths now embrace anti-social behaviours.
The youth that would be relevant in nation-building must be the one that is ready to take responsibilities and live responsibly. The present trend where youth act irresponsibly would not augur well for our nation. For our nation to actually draw useful inspiration from their bursting strength and vigour, the youth must reposition themselves as agents of positive change.
Ogunrinde is of the Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.