Sunday Dare: Choosing between entertaining and empowering the youth
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”- Franklin D. Roosevelt
One of the most deplorable syndromes among the African youths is that they would rather love to be entertained than empowered. As it can be seen in the just conluded Big Brother Naija(BBN) where millions of Nigerian youths were glued to their TV monitors and devices for close to three months (90 days) just to be entertained. Though the youths definitely need to be entertained, but things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. Youth empowerment and not entertainment matters the most. The new Minister of Youth and Sports Development of the Federal Republic Nigeria, Sunday Akin Dare will definitely have to do some things differently from the previous Youth Ministers if he is going to make a maximum impact on the Nigerian Youths. Previous ministers had paid more attention to Sports, especially football at the expense of youth development and empowerment. Mr. Dare must have a healthy blend and nexus between Youth and Sports development.
I have often reached out to the past Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung on several issues bordering on youth development, but it became so obvious to me at a point that he would rather prefer to be busy with NFA politics and trivialties than to create a sustainable path towards youths empowerment. It became very obvious that Solomon Dalung lacked concrete and workable blueprint on the issues of youth empowerment, youth opportunities, and youth inclusion in governance. He should have brought together youth gladiators and advocates to create youth-inclusive policies for Nigerian youths, but he was too busy with sports and its politics.
According to an independent research by the British Council, by 2030, “Youth not oil, will be Nigeria’s greatest asset”, but it is poignant to note that the demography has been continuously left out by previous governments in the re-engineering of the nation. The youths that will create a new Nigeria must not just be entertained but empowered! The honourable Minister should create more entrepreneurship platforms to empower the youths. He should create platforms to mentor the youths. He should create platforms that will generate educational opportunities for the youths. There is a goldmine in the Nigerian youths and your ministry is actually meant to mine it.
The Youth of nowadays are digital natives, that is they are born in the digital era, and the needs of the youths of today are changing day by day. An analog brain cannot lead a digital youth generation. Mr Sunday Dare must chart a new path in developing a total youth. He must realise that his Ministry is standing on eight different pillars of which only just one has constantly enjoyed the attention of his predecessors. The Ministry is standing on the pillars of Youth Entertainment (Sports et al), Youth Empowerment, Youth Employment, Youth Education, Youth-inclusion in governance/politics, Youth-in-Diaspora, Youth-friendly policies and laws and ICT- Corporate Relations (finding technology based solutions to youth challenges). In order for the Minister to make a landmark difference, he must strategically and meticulously design the ministry around these eight departments.
Design a department to look into the issue of youth unemployment and form a workable nexus with the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Design a department to look into the issue of youth empowerment and form partnerships with NGOs handling entrpreneurship e.g Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. Design a department to look into the issues of creating educational opportunities for youth and create a nexus with the Ministry of Education. Design a department focusing on Entertainment and Sports with partnerships with the entertainment industry and also making local leagues vibrant in all the states of the federation. Design a department that reaches out to the Nigerian youths in diaspora by collaborating with the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa. Design a department that handles the issue of ICT and evolve youths into digital literates.
Mr. Sunday Dare was previously the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholder Management) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and he is in a better position to know that the solutions to the problems of Nigerian youths must be technology based. Nigerian youths need technology based solutions to the avalanche of challenges that they are facing. He must be dynamic, strategic, inclusive and technology biased in solving the problems of the youths. We should stop using archaic and obsolete methods in solving a 21st century problem. Ignacio Estrada once said, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” If youths are given the right platforms and tools, they can find technology-based solutions to the issues of flooding, kidnapping, terrorism, climate change and others.
His ministry should also carve out a department that looks into the issue of youth inclusion in governance and politics. John F Kennedy said: “There is nothing stronger than an idea whose time has come.” The time for youths to arise against political extortion by people that have long occupied the political space in the nation is now. There is an army of youths brewing, and the political class and bigwigs must brace up for the inevitable- the political transfer of power. He should nurture and develop youths that will disrupt the political landscape of the country.
As a veteran journalist, he should create platforms to engage the Nigerian youths in contributing to their own empowerment. He should tap into the ideas of youth advocates to formulate youth-friendly policies. There are ‘languages’ of the youths and the honourable Minister should look for various ways to communicate his goals, ideals, objectives, deliverables, and roadmap to the teeming youth population so that he can be held accountable. He should convene a National Youth Conference and involve youth advocates, youth gladiators, Commisioners of Youth and Sports Development in all the states of the Federation, youth representatives in the Federal and State House of Asssemblies, youth columnists and journalists, representative of NANS, representatives of youths in diaspora and all stakeholders.
I also want to chip this in to the honourable Minister: you are not only the Minister of youths in Nigeria, you are also the Minister of Nigerian youths in the diaspora. Many of our youths have left the shores of this nation and have formed the backbones of the economy of other countries. They need to reach out to them also. Diversity, inclusion, best-practices, excellence, and accountability must be your watchwords and core values. You will need to broaden your horizon, think outside the box and make sustainable changes. Mr. Dare must totally dispense with the crude ideas of some state governors giving out money and stipends to youths. The real truth is that youths don’t need money; the only sustainable thing they need is empowerment and mentoring. Until we change the mindset of our youths, money won’t help!
We need to create platforms for the Nigerian youths to express themselves positively and productively. When youths are continually neglected and denied platforms of expression, the aftermath had historically been disastrous. When the latent potentials in youths are not given the platform to be expressed, the alternatives are mostly destructive. Nigerian youths have found other avenues to console their insatiable appetite for expression. Avenues like terrorism, kidnapping, prostitution, cyber-crime, armed robbery, peddling of fake news through social media and militancy have now become the order of the day.
Why are we not giving the platform to the youths to get involved in governance? Government should work towards ensuring equal opportunity for the youths, including eliminating discriminatory laws and policies. We must progressively adopt policies that will enhance youth’s inclusion in governance at the federal, state and local levels. The #NotTooYoungToRun bill signed by the President on the 31st of May 2018 has actually triggered the massive participation of youths in politics and governance. Mr. Dare should continue with this tempo.
I would also like to encourage the minister to infuse young and vibrant minds into his list of ‘masterminds’. Old ways won’t open new doors, and without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. We need vibrant youths with dynamic approaches to national problems that have defied conventional approaches. We need youths that will be so much preoccupied with finding remedies that they forget about finding faults. The Nigerian problem cannot be solved by the same level of people, perspectives and thought pattern that created it in the first place. Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”.
I will like someone that has the ear of Mr. Sunday Akin Dare to tell him that his ministry is not all about sports! He should not be so pre-occupied with sports to the detriment of youth empowerment. The Nigerian youths deserve more than sports; we deserve more than just being entertained. We want to be empowered; we want to be heard; we want to be seen, and we want to be given a platform to express our latent potentials. We are not lazy; we are not a liability; we are a great asset to the nation. We are full of possibilities!