THIS writer was invited to deliver a lecture to matriculating students of a tertiary institution in Lagos. The theme for discussion was “Can the youth step up where the adults have failed in their commitment to re-branding Nigeria?” After that engagement, the thoughts of Nigerian youths, especially the challenges facing them, their potentials, disillusionment, fate etc became the recurring decimal hovering on my mind – the thoughts eventually culminated in the decision to once again cast my creative eyes in their direction – to plead their cause and identify where the adults have failed in their responsibilities towards them and also to proffer what can be done to improve their plight.
To start with, the Nigerian youths are among the most talented humanity. Countless number of feats posted across the entire gamut of human endeavours are clear pointers to this fact. In the field of sports, the Nigeria youths are constant stars with light blazing in glorious achievements all over the global landscape.
Using football as a synecdoche for sporting accomplishments, from the time Nduka Ugbade led a team of school boys to capture the first ever cadet World Cup in the competition then known as FIFA/JVC U-16 World Tournament that took place in China in 1985, the youths have simply been irrepressible in their quest for honours for fatherland. Between that time and now, the youths of this nation have in their kitty three golden U-17 World Cups and two silvers; at the U-20 level, they have two silvers and a bronze. Add these to Olympic gold medal and Olympic silver, without even considering countless glories at the continental level, and the question would arise “How many countries can boast of these achievements at the youth level?
On the intellectual front, writers like Chimamanda Adichie and prodigies like Oluwatosin Helen Otitoju, who shattered the records at the Howard University, graduating with First Class in Electrical Engineering and set numerous other records in her post graduate studies, have all contributed in drawing attention to superlative talents of our youths.
But in spite of all these, it is unfortunate that the system has suffocated the youths – the older generations have managed the affairs of the country into such a state that the youth are left with minimal opportunities. They grow up in hostile environment suffused with corruption, unemployment, insecurity, moral decadence et al. Majority of them embrace the grim realities of unemployment or acute under-employment upon graduation from tertiary institutions. This comprehensive frustration explains why some of them are misled into secret cultism, fraudulent activities and other forms of criminality.
The entire system is infected with cancer of corruption; while the hopelessly outnumbered upright ones wait perpetually for the great oncologist that would undertake the surgical removal of the malignant cells, in the meantime the metastatic tumour keeps spreading with devastating consequences.
Transparency in the public life is an elusive virtue. For example, the government is yet to make public the names of individuals and companies indicted by the various probe panels set up on fuel subsidy, pension fund and independent power projects. The youths are watching!
In the field of politics, self-serving corrupt politicians are brimming in large number, frantically looking for the access to public funds to loot without compunction. Even in the religious circle, for every genuine man or woman of God, there are hundred charlatans who are nothing but “spiritual highwaymen” posturing as the angels of light with the mission to exploit the poor and loot the gullible.
Certainly, our system is wanting of genuine role models who can re-orientate the youths towards the path of righteousness and imbue them with self-esteem and courage to exploit their God-given talents for individual and collective progress. Where will youths look towards for moral redemption and inspiration? When they lack visible iconic role models who can set pace for them, they engage in unwitting “cultural vandalism” by denigrating their own values in preference for foreign cultures that are fully loaded with moral toxic waste! Just recently, this writer was relaxing at a joint when three young men entered; all of them wore “sagging” trousers. One of them plaited his hair like a woman and had an earring proudly clipped into his left ear.
I spoke to this most outlandishly dressed of the lots, asking him if he thought he looked better by dressing in such a queer way. His response was “Egbon, e e j’asi ni? ohun t’aye nse nsin niyen” meaning “Older brother, so you are not initiated into this fashion trend?, this is the in-thing nowadays” Imagine!
The current generation of rulers needs to reflect on how to re-orientate the youths by developing a comprehensive national programme tailored both to the ends of cultural liberation and economic empowerment. This proposed systemic youth mobilisation for a better Nigeria must be anchored on general national moral rebirth for it to work; for the youth must see that there is transparency and honesty in the system before they would emulate. Agreed this cannot be achieved overnight, let us, at least begin the journey for moral liberation now with sincerity of purpose.
By Kayode Ketefe
THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER, NIGERIA