Situating Nigerian youth for national development
We do not need a bill to know that the youth are the foundation of positive and negative picture 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 all societies of the world, a virile youth is the bedrock on which national integration and development is predicated. The youth are the back bone and the building blocks of any nation. It is a fact that the stronger the youth, the more developed a nation is. The role of the youth in the nation-building process cannot be overemphasized as countries that develop and utilise their youth in the right directions seem to be more developed. The energy and brightness of the minds of youth act as torch-bearer for a nation. There is a confirmed connection between the prosperity of a nation and its youth development system.
The late British politician and writer, Benjamin Disraeli, had rightly described Youth of a Nation as the Trustees of Posterity. It is in the reality of this that many nations have made concerted efforts in galvanizing integrated approach in putting in place youth development structures that have a very high propensity to be a catalyst for their national growth. On the contrary, the countries which fail to realise the importance of the youth lag behind in every aspects of life.
It is, therefore, in realisation of the positive value that the youth could add to the growth and development of any society, that the United Nations set aside a week every August from the 12th day to celebrate the International Youth Day. First celebrated in August 2000, the primary objective is to draw public awareness to youth-related issues and values.
The 2017 edition of International Youth Day, themed: Youth Building Peace, was aimed at stressing the principal role anticipated of the youth in global peaceful coexistence among the people and the drive for positive change for development through the transformative and resourceful force of the youths which has been identified by national leaders globally including Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
Any nation that denies its youth the necessary enabling environment to enthusiastically participate in nation- building merely does so at its own perils. Nation-building is a dynamic process that calls for the participation of all segments of the society, including the often-overlooked and undermined youth population and youth resourcefulness that will provide an invaluable speed for the progress of any society as well as its development.
As youths are brought into and connected with national issues and programmes, they can participate actively and contribute to decision making at multiple levels. As they are engaged in more sustained positive relationships with adults, other youth, and national development programmes, apart from realising that they are valued citizens of their nations, such collaborations and participation may lead to skill enhancement, empowerment and confidence-building traits, which will help prepare them for active interest and involvement in nation-building.
It is important to note that young people play a crucial role in the prospect for development and should be included in all National Development Plans and Programmes. But reality shows that attention to youth has not been sufficient and more needs to be done considering the practical implications of shifting perceptions of youth and the role they can play in the society.
These conceptual issues related to the barriers to effective youth participation in national development, such as lack of education, unemployment, extreme poverty, diverse illnesses and diseases, discrimination and cynicism from both adults and young people themselves about participation competence, and institutional resistance.
In Nigeria, the greatest challenge confronting the youth today is unemployment which has become a great challenge to national security. Despite alleged success of various youth empowerment programmes across the country, over 54 per cent of Nigeria youth remain unemployed. The unemployment record in the country clearly portrays an increase in idle hands across the length and breadth of Nigeria. It is often said that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, so an unemployed youth is a disaster going somewhere to happen. Activities of groups such as Boko-Haram, Niger Delta militants, Biafra agitators and recently, the Baddo group have serious implications for national security in the country. Sadly, some of these rebellious groups have youths at the forefront of their nefarious activities.
It is a known fact that youths possess a transformative force. They are creative, resourceful and enthusiast agents of change. Therefore, the need for youth to be listened to and productively engaged cannot be over-emphasized in every context. Youths can determine whether this era moves towards a great peril and more positive change. Let us support the young people of our world so they can grow into adults and a true platform for more powerful leaders of coming generations.
Unfortunately, in our clime, youth are not being given the needed platform to freely express themselves. Though they have always been touted as future leaders since God knows when, our nation clearly needs a spiritual or physical veil remover for us to act the saying the future is now for us to stop saying the potential leaders of tomorrow are too young to lead alongside other flimsy excuses.
Around the world, there is a growing recognition of the need to strengthen policies and investments involving young people. We need a proper policy aimed at harnessing the potential of the youth. In Nigeria, the youth almost do not have a voice in the scheme of things. Unemployment, lack of opportunities, faulty educational system, repressive political system, dwindling economic fortunes, among others, are mostly responsible for the suppression of the voice of the youth in our dear nation.
However, it needs to be stressed that the Nigerian youth need to be more focused, creative and disciplined if they are to actually become real agents of change in the country. The Agric and ICT sectors, especially, represent areas where the youth could truly make enormous impact in the country, if only they could become more forward-looking.
The trend of rural/urban migration by Nigerian youth has drastically reduced the capacity of agriculture sector to sustain the economy which has capacity to provide job for over 70 per cent of the youth. Sadly, lots of youth idle away in cities rather than getting engaged in agriculture at the country side. Similarly, advancement in ICT presents numerous prospects for the youth to become creative, productive and prosperous. Unfortunately, rather than exploit the positive and resourceful sides of ICT, some youths have turned it into a tool of defrauding and tricking unassuming individuals through the infamous yahoo, yahoo syndrome.
On a final note, governments, NGOs, youths based organisations and other relevant stakeholders need to regularly enlighten and properly guide the country’s youth to take imbibe the positive sides of life. Also, our education curriculum should be reviewed to reflect contemporary realities that would assist the youth to contribute meaningful to national development.
Erezi is on industrial attachment with the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Lagos.