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Young people and challenge of purposeful existence – Part 2

By George Ehusani
23 August 2022   |   2:36 am
As we witness our young behaving like orphans abandoned to the streets, and are following the madmen and women who are dancing naked in the marketplace, I ask: What has happened to the pioneering academic legacies...

As we witness our young behaving like orphans abandoned to the streets, and are following the madmen and women who are dancing naked in the marketplace, I ask: What has happened to the pioneering academic legacies of Prof. Ishaya Audu, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, and Dr.Bala Usman of the Ahmadu Bello University? What have we done with the outstanding legacies of Prof. Ayodele Awojobi, Prof. Chike Obi and Prof. Eni Njoku of the University of Lagos? What have we done with the remarkable records in academics and leadership we have seen in such personalities as Prof. Solomon Wangboje, Prof. Grace Alele Williams, and Prof. Lillian Salami at the University of Benin? And what have we made of the giant strides in the Health Sciences made by Prof. Adeoye Lambo, Prof. Olikoye Ransome Kuti, and Prof. Umaru Shehu (of the University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, and University of Nigeria, respectively)?

What have we made of the truly exceptional records in the literary arts set by Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Chinua Achebe, and Prof. John Pepper Clark – exceptional records, which are still being celebrated in institutions of higher learning across the world, with Soyinka receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart being translated into over forty international languages? What have we done with the brilliant legacies of such towering Nigerian women academics as Prof. Jadesola Akande of the University of Lagos, Prof. Bolanle Awe of the University of Ibadan, and Prof. Joy Ogwu of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs? Didn’t we tell the inspiring stories of their phenomenal achievements to our children?

As our vulnerable and gullible youths applaud, lionise, and seek to imitate a gang of socially dysfunctional and ill-mannered personalities in our day, I ask the men and women of my generation, including parents and schoolteachers, as well as pastors and preachers: What has happened to the stunning records of lifelong service for the common good bequeathed by Michael Imoudu, Margaret Ekpo, as well as Tai Solarin (of the Mayflower College fame)? What have we done with the spectacular record of integrity in private and public life of the likes of Chief Akintola Williams, Chief Philip Asiodu and Dr. Christopher Kolade? What has happened to the extraordinary records in the legal profession of Chief F. R. A. Williams, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, and Justice Chukwudifu Oputa?

If our young people are enchanted by exploits in the broadcast and entertainment industries, then I would ask: What has happened to the decent legacies of such pioneer Nigerian actors and broadcasters as Joke Silva, Justus Esiri, Anike Williams, Tom Adaba, Siene Allwell Brown, Frank Olize, Eugenia Abu, and Cyril Stober? Did we not tell them about the meaningful lyrics and the sweet melodies of Oliver De Coque, Onyeka Onwenu, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Dan Maraya Jos, as well as Victor Uwaifo and Prince Nico Mbarga (of the Jeromi and Sweet Mother fame, respectively)?

How come today’s generation of parents and teachers failed to inspire their children with the dazzling lives of the above trailblazers in the educational enterprise, in the legal profession and in civil service, as well as in broadcasting and the entertainment industry? How did today’s generation of leaders end up creating such a regrettable gap in national memory that our children are now left to grope in the dark, and, confusing notoriety for popularity, they are now adopting as their models and exemplars, a bunch of brazen but vile entertainers, many of who are often struggling with depression, drug addiction, sexual perversion and suicide ideation?

To what extent have the men and women of my generation, who are now raising young adults, seen some of the above listed elders as exemplars, mentors and inspirers in integrity and purposeful existence? And what efforts have we made to introduce these trailblazing Nigerians in various fields of human endeavour to our children for their emulation? Are the pictures of some of these icons of our nation prominently displayed in our homes, our schools, and our offices, so the young people can get to know who they were, what they achieved and what principles they lived by? Shouldn’t we hold today’s parents and teachers responsible for the failure to project and signpost for their children and wards the brightest stars and the finest flowers that are truly worthy of emulation, whom the good Lord has blessed this land with?

Now tell me: How can we dissuade our young people from following and emulating those who have only recently catapulted their way to instant fame and rapid wealth, by their sheer audacity in the brazen and uncensored display of nudity and vulgarity, and the callous exploitation of the undomesticated sensualism of a good number of our youth population? How do we convince our young people not to take as mentors and models, the devious politician, the rogue public servant, the counterfeit pastor, the internet fraudster, and the drug dealer who on account of their ill-gotten wealth, are celebrated as successful men and women in the rotten environment of contemporary Nigeria? How do we rescue the multitude of our young people that are today racing towards the angel of death, because no one has pointed their attention to the many beacons of light that this country has all the while been blessed with?

Who will take on the challenge of re-instituting in our school system at all levels, a creatively new, dynamic, and functional study of history and civic education, such as will convince our children and young adults (many of whom have become so enamoured by the lives of the rich and famous with no antecedents or pedigree), that the Nigerian public square has not been bereft of iconic, honourable and adorable elders and trailblazers? Yes, who will help convince our young people that all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, post-independence Nigerian history is full of exemplary politicians, academics, professionals, entertainers and sundry achievers, who have left us with a legacy of decency, excellence, integrity, self-sacrifice and purposeful existence?
To be continued tomorrow.
Rev. Fr. Ehusani, executive director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation,delivered this as a commencementsSpeech at the 2022 graduation ceremony of Loyola Jesuit College,
Gidan Mangoro, Abuja, recently.