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Solomon Dalung: The neglect of Nigerian youths


solomon-dalungFranklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” The future cannot be designed by omitting the youths; in fact, the youths are the future. The appalling state of youth negligence portends a great danger to the so-called ‘future of tomorrow’.

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 Nigerian youths have been systemically neglected by successive governments in the process of reshaping the nation. The demographic representation of youths across the country is presently pegged at an estimate of 68 million; it is therefore glaring that the youths are significant in redesigning the future.

“The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity.” – Benjamin Disraeli
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, on assumption of office assured Nigerians that Buhari’s administration would avoid those mistakes in the past that led to the non-inclusion of the Nigerian youths in policies, programs and empowerment initiatives that border on youth development. If the truth were to be told, it is very obvious that the Minister has become too much pre-occupied with Sports to the neglect of the core needs of the teeming youth population.

The minister is so much focused on sports to the detriment of youth development. As a youth coach and specialist of many years, I have come to realise that it is impossible to engage and empower the youths without designing a way of involving and reaching out to them. There are “languages” that they understand and people at the helms of affairs must come down from their lofty heights to feel their pains and provide them with a platform for them to be themselves.

It is apparently visible that sporting activities have taken Mr. Dalung away from attending to the nagging issues of youth unemployment. I personally do not see the Minister as a voice for the Nigerian youths. I doubt many times if the honourable minister has any concrete and workable blueprint on the issues of youth empowerment, youth opportunities and youth inclusion in governance. He should bring together youth gladiators and advocates to create youth-inclusive policies for Nigerian youths.

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion summarily states: “To every action, there is a reaction”. When youths are continually neglected in a nation, 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 and militancy have now become the order of the day.

The recycling of veterans in the running of the nation is seriously encroaching on the opportunities available to the youths. In 1982, at the age of 35, Audu Ogbe was appointed Federal Minister of Communications, and later became Minister of Steel Development. In 2015, at the age of 68, the same man was still appointed Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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. On May 26, 2016, the House of Representatives passed for first reading a Bill seeking to lower the constitutional age requirement for contesting for elections in Nigeria. Hon. Tony Nwulu representing Oshodi/Isolo II Federal Constituency of Lagos State sponsored the bill otherwise referred to as the #NotTooYoungToRun bill. This bill will create the platform for youth inclusion and participation in the political process at the federal and state level.

“Young people need models, not critics.” – John Wooden
I would love to passionately reach out to the president to totally separate the Youth Ministry from that of Sports, as sports events and its attendant politics have actually consumed and overshadowed the critical need for youth empowerment. I would also like to encourage the president to infuse young and vibrant minds into his list of ‘masterminds’. Old ways won’t open new doors. Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”, we need renewed thinkers as ministers and special advisers, young innovative minds that will come together to build an economic blueprint for a new Nigeria. I will like someone that has the ear of Mr. Dalung to tell him that his ministry is not all about sports! He is only presently pre-occupied with Nigeria’s qualification for Russia 2018. The Nigerian youths deserve more than sports; 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 a liability; we are a great asset to the nation and we are full of possibilities

Kurt Cobain said, “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” The youths should brace up to challenge the scourge of corruption. If this nation will be rescued from institutionalized corruption, then the youth must rise up to challenge the status quo. We are pivotal to the new order and a new Nigeria.

“Youth lives on hope, old age on memories.”-Anonymous
The legendary coach, John Wooden, once said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” I want to reach out to the youths to invest in preparing themselves for the future. Nobody must be the reason why you fail in life. Abraham Lincoln did not allow systemic failures to hinder his pursuit for the office of the President of the United States of America. He said during one of his losing streaks: “I will keep preparing myself, and some day my chance will come”. His chance eventually came in March 1861 as he was elected the 16th President of the United States.

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Solomon Dalung
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