It is a common saying in many societies that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, meaning that the future of families, organisations and societies hangs on the survival and success of their young ones.
Though this saying and belief also hold sway in Nigeria, even among the country’s political leaders, the country has never made any deliberate attempt to prepare them for the future by giving them good and qualitative education. Political positions have remained the prerogative of the elders.
These youth live in an uncertain environment where personal comfort, career prospect, job opportunities are limited and go to only those with strong connections. Life generally is short.
For socio-economic and demographic expediency, the youth in Nigeria and, indeed, other parts of the world, are classified as young people on whom the hope of a society’s future hangs. Their ages normally range from 15 to 35 years.
This age group forms about 64 percent of Nigeria’s approximately 200 million population. Their description as ‘leaders of tomorrow’, was coined by the older generation and because of their attitude to it, the youth take it with a pinch of salt.
A National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) survey which was conducted in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Youth Development notes that there were more females in all age groups except for those in the 15 – 19 bracket where the females were recorded as 47.2 per cent as against 51.6 per cent in other age groups.
The survey shows that Lagos state had the highest percentage of youths in Nigeria (6.1 per cent) followed by Kano State (5.7 per cent) while Bayelsa State had the lowest (1.3 per cent).
From the fore-going, it is clear that the youth constitute a good human resource that can contribute significantly to the economic and even political development of the country, depending however on the kind of environment they live in.
In Nigeria, both the story and the experience are different. The youth here are chiefly associated with restiveness which is, however, understandable.
This is because, comparatively, the youth have borne the most severe impact of bad governance in the country. For instance, as at the second quarter of 2020, the unemployment figures in the country stood at 21.7 million and the youth accounted for 13.9 million of this.
Governments at all levels do not have useful and sustainable plans for the youth, leaving many of them frustrated and susceptible to crime and criminal activities. Except those from opulent families, who have easy path to life, the rest struggle to get ahead.
It is really frustrating that a poor family would do all within its power to send the sons and daughters to school, hoping that those children would come out, get jobs and change the family story. But that does not happen always. Instead, they come out and for years there are no jobs for them.
Sadly, those of them that do not have the moral fibre to endure, especially the males, normally follow the wrong path to become armed robbers or kidnappers or both. The female ones often times take the ignoble path to prostitution.
It is worrisome to note that the youth of today are not like those of yesterday. They are generally impatient. Many of them have what, in street parlance, is called ‘hammer mentality’, meaning that they want to make it big in one fell swoop.
It is also sad to note that the society is not helping matters. There are many young ones whose parents are well off and they spoil their children with their wealth. Many of them stage lavish marriage ceremonies for their sons and daughters and these attract the attention of the less privileged youth.
It worries too that society does not frown at young ones who come into wealth through questionable means. Similarly, those who are caught in fraudulent activities such as 419 or those who obtain by guile are not given punishment enough to serve as deterrent to others.
All these influence the actions and behaviours of the youth, presenting them not as assets for the nation’s future but as liabilities which they would not have been if the environment were right, enabling and supportive.
We are, therefore, calling on all and sundry, families and governments particularly, to begin to invest in these young ones so as to make them assets for nation building. We believe in the time-tested saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
Many of these young Nigerians who have taken to banditry, armed robbery and kidnapping are products of the devil’s workshop. It is logical to say that if there were jobs for them, many of whom have gone to the universities, perhaps, they would not have taken to those bad activities.
Unfortunately, it does not seem to have dawned on governments that they are being smart by half because the resources they could have invested in creating jobs for these young ones and make them responsible citizens are now being deployed to fighting insurgency and banditry without success.
We, therefore, align with Dayo Keshi, President of AfriGrowth Foundation, to urge the society as a whole to create an enabling environment for the youths to thrive as it is clear that they are a key determinant for addressing social conflicts and achieving peace.
Organising series of youth capacity building through career expository seminars would be another good way to reclaiming these young ones and redirecting their minds and youthful energies to nation building.
Such seminars should involve potential employers to provide valuable information to aspiring employees. If all these suggestions are seriously addressed, we would have gone a long way to harnessing the energy of our youths for the much needed goal of national development.