Young people and challenge of purposeful existence – Part 3
The task at hand is a very serious and urgent one, because we are about to lose millions of our young people whose teeth are on edge today because their fathers and uncles have eaten sour grapes. We are about to lose millions of our young people who are suffering constipation today because their mothers and aunties have eaten the forbidden fruit. True, many of our children have not been adequately parented, nor have they been sufficiently taught and mentored in the art of purposeful existence. They have often not been shown practical examples of truth and integrity, discipline and diligence, service and sacrifice, passion for justice and patriotism, such as were manifested in the lives of the above highlighted patriarchs and matriarchs – enough to motivate them.
We of the older generation must own up before our young people that we have betrayed our fatherland and failed to lay the necessary foundation for a wholesome future for our children. We must own up to the fact that we have often stolen food off the hands of our own children. Each one of us is guilty to the extent that we have contributed in some way to the mess of the moment. As parents and teachers, and as preachers and pastors, we have often failed to inspire our young people to see integrity, discipline, and sacrifice for the common good, as the pathways to wholesome existence and lasting happiness and fulfilment. As leaders and elders, we have often failed to serve as a beacon of light to the coming generation. Instead, many of us have been a source of scandal for our own children and the children of our country. Have we not seen in this country many so-called leaders and elders that are habitual violators of truth and honesty? Have we not seen how many persons who occupy high public office, constantly sacrifice the elementary principles of integrity on the altar of greed and the lust for power?
There is serious work to be done by all of us who belong to the adult society in Nigeria, if we are not to kill tomorrow before today’s sun sets. Those who seek to bestow hope on the coming generation must recommit themselves to such values that make for nation building as truth and honesty, and justice and equity. The time has come for repentance. For us who are believers in God, the situation may be bad enough but not hopeless. We should believe that redemption is possible for our land by the power of God who creates and recreates. We can experience rejuvenation, if today we begin to retrace our steps, and get back to the basics.
We should believe that from the rubble of our shattered motherland, a rich, powerful, peaceful, and united country can emerge, by the power of God who puts back flesh on dry bones. Those who seek to bestow hope on the coming generation must recommit themselves to the life of truth, justice, and righteousness. Parents must be ready to make sacrifices for the sake of their children, including the sacrifice of quality time with them, and not to think that they would succeed in raising good children if they can only afford to send them to expensive boarding secondary schools in Nigeria, or some ivy league colleges abroad. Teachers on their part must recognize that they teach more by their lives than by the content of their classroom lessons.
I now turn to you, my dear young people: It is true that we your parents and teachers, as well as your political and religious leaders, have often not shown you good enough examples of truth and integrity, service and sacrifice, fidelity and chastity. Yet if you want a better society for yourself, and for your children and children’s children, you must reject the foolish pattern of life which has led our nation to the mess of the moment. I urge you instead to seek after the higher values that will foster in each one of you, meaningful existence, as well as lasting happiness and fulfilment. If today you and your peers cultivate these virtues, then you would have laid the foundation for a more wholesome future for your country and for the world.
I believe that a better Nigeria and a better world is possible, but you must begin to work towards it right now. You must shun crass materialism, senseless consumerism, and blind pleasure, which have become the dominant passion of your generation. You will never realise your purpose in life if you allow the inordinate passions of the flesh to overwhelm and enslave you. Instead of seeking escape in the plastic wings of sensual pleasure and the vanity and vainglory daily offered by modern-day celebrities on social media, you must seek the fear of God, which Proverbs 1:7 says is the beginning wisdom.
If those of you who are here today, who happen to be among the most privileged of Nigerian youths; if you allow your lives to be shaped along the path of deferred gratification instead of the instant gratification that is now the order of the day, then the future may still be salvaged, and tomorrow may not be lost. If today you choose the culture of life in place of the prevailing culture of violence and crime; if you choose the culture of discipline, service and sacrifice in place of the destructive culture of reckless and unmitigated pleasure that is advertised and promoted everywhere today, then you are sure to have a brighter future ahead of you.
Finally, I will address those of you who are graduating today: In the course of the last six years, the administrators and teachers of this school would have done their best to inculcate in you some of the best humanistic and Christian values for your wholesome existence and for the transformation of our dysfunctional society, according to the well-celebrated educational record of the Jesuits worldwide.
As you leave today, the challenge is for you to let the seed sown in you these past six years grow to maturity and to bear fruits for yourselves, for your families, for your country, for humanity and to the glory of God. With the quality of education that you have received here, a number of you will surely get into positions of power and influence in the increasingly inter-connected global society. Wherever you find yourself in the short term and in the longer term, you must champion the cause of promoting integrity, disciplined, as well as responsible and purposeful existence, in accordance with the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I challenge you all to begin today to reflect upon and discuss seriously, creatively new intervention strategies towards changing the face of our society and the face of our world to the glory of God, for as Psalm 29:18 says, “where there is no vision, the people do perish!”
Rev. Fr. Ehusani, executive director, Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, delivered this as a commencement speech at the 2022 Graduation Ceremony of Loyola Jesuit College, Gidan Mangoro, Abuja, recently.