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Stowaway as metaphor for poor governance

By Editorial Board
18 September 2022   |   2:36 am
The fourteen-year-old stowaway boy found in an aircraft at the Ikeja Airport in Lagos is symptomatic of the frustration of the Nigerian youth with a system that has failed them serially.


The fourteen-year-old stowaway boy found in an aircraft at the Ikeja Airport in Lagos is symptomatic of the frustration of the Nigerian youth with a system that has failed them serially.

Even though despair and desperation may seem the only recourse, the youth have to recalibrate and chart a different course of action in spite of the enormous frustration confronting them.

On Sunday, September 4, 2022, a stowaway, Rasheed Mufutau was found in the wheel well of a packed aircraft belonging to United Nigeria Airlines (UNA). He had hoped to find himself in a foreign country, anywhere but Nigeria. Rasheed who at the time of finding him had become unconscious, told his interlocutors later that he was tired of Nigeria. He was also reported to have taken a certain illicit drug.

Stowaways are not new as few cases have been witnessed in Nigeria but the increasing frustration of Nigerians especially among the youth is a cause for concern. This frustration is manifested in myriads of anti-social behaviour like indulgence in illicit drugs, money rituals, rape, and suicide, among others.

For example, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s State of the World’s Children 2021 report shows that one in six young persons in Nigeria said they “often feel depressed, have little interest in doing things, or are worried, nervous or anxious.”

Similar figures can be found in many other areas of challenges to the well-being of the youth and, indeed, adult Nigerians. The report adds that the disruption of routines, education, and recreation, as well as concern for family income and health, is leaving many young people feeling afraid, angry, and concerned for the future.

In the midst of the turmoil in the upbringing of children and youth, it is pertinent to ask: Where is the sense of community that Africans were hitherto known for? A large proportion of the blame for the rot in society can be traced to the loss of a sense of community.

In pristine Africa, it takes a family to give birth to a child but it takes the whole community to raise the child. Sadly, however, society has been overtaken by individualism, crass materialism, conspicuous consumption and a general lack of empathy and sympathy for the neighbour.

The case of Rasheed, the stowaway, illustrates this point. He had lost his parents and had become an orphan. He needed the support of the extended family that was obviously not forthcoming; he could not benefit from free and compulsory education as envisaged by the sage, Obafemi Awolowo. Successive governments have failed the youth on this score. Other infrastructural facilities are not in place to provide an enabling environment for talents to blossom. The ingredients for frustration are almost complete.

Thus, it is imperative for society to allow a sense of community to flourish again even within the climate of frustration pervading the environment. It is in the overall interest of society to do so. Indeed, it is a survival strategy for the community.

As millions of frustrated youth mill around the neighbourhood, the safety and well-being of the community cannot be guaranteed. Self-preservation requires reaching out beyond the self. The well-being of the neighbour is an ingredient for self-satisfaction. Many successful people today were lifted by community efforts. It can still be replicated.

Government is once again reminded that its primary purpose is to ensure the security and well-being of the populace, and this sacred duty should be prioritized. The local, state and federal governments must take their duties seriously to avert an unravelled society.

The security measure at the airport is called to question. How did the boy beat the security network? If he had a mischievous or criminal motive, he could have succeeded in inflicting some damage.

The youth must also find a way of lifting their heads above the murky waters. Even in this topsy-turvy environment, some youth are blossoming through platforms provided by information and communication technologies.

The entrepreneurial spirit can and is being gingered by the pervasive unemployment in the polity. Necessity has become the mother of invention. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that the youth must embrace rather than desperate measures that may ruin their future.

There are many reasons to derail but there are many more reasons to endure and hope for a brighter future.

The prize, ultimately, belongs to that youth who in spite of all odds, see the possibility of a brighter future. As Shakespeare said, cowards die many times before their deaths.

Rasheed’s case also reflects poor parenting and weak mentoring. Parents and religious bodies do have a key role to play in steering the youth along a sane and exemplary path, for instance against indulging in illicit drug abuse.

Youths are emboldened to embark on dangerous, often illegal missions that may adversely affect them irreversibly or even occasion their untimely death under the influence of dangerous drugs, or in the absence of effective mentoring. But they don’t develop such traits overnight.

Parents and religious organisations can successfully intervene before they reach the precipice. Ultimately, the government must perform its obligations to both the old and the young, for society to attain decency and sanity in its evolution.