Giving Our Youth A Chance

“Let us acknowledge and celebrate what youth can do to build a safer, more just world. Let us strengthen our efforts to include young people in policies, programmes and decision-making processes that benefit their futures and ours.”

— UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

The victory of Nigerian Golden Eaglets in the just concluded FIFA-Under 17 World Cup in Chile is another clear testimony to the innate ability of the Nigerian youth to rise above all deprivations and or challenges to make his or her country proud. Added to this salacious victory is the emergence of a Nigerian, Mr. Jighere Wellington, as the new World Scrabble Champion. The qualification of the Super Falconets for the 2016 U-17 World Cup championship completes the befitting tripod of this momentous occasion. These threesome victories by our young boys and girls have put noticeable smile on the faces of many Nigerians, making us the world’s best in cadet sports competition.

Very gratifying was the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, recognised the strategic importance of youths towards national development when the former through personal phone calls and the latter through a statement encouraged and spurred the boys to conquer the world in Chile. That PMB personally called the lads to do their utmost is salutary and that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki also charged the boys to remain focused and disciplined handsomely paid off as the boys ensured the trophy was returned back home to the admiration of all Nigerians and the entire African continent. Surely, winning the title for the fifth record time no doubt qualifies the Nigerian Golden Eaglets to enter into the Guinness Book of Record.

The victory coming at a time we are faced with dire security challenges make it of immense significance. For once, it has shown that our teaming youth population who today are tended to find outlets for their surging energies in crime and violence can be of tremendous blessing to the country if rightly recognised and harnessed. The contribution our boys and girls have made in lifting our country to such dizzying heights is unquantifiable. The victories had helped to drown other discourses premised on general insecurity as it motivated us to swing our bodies to self generated music in celebration of our new status as world champions. This is the more reason Hans Bernard expresses that “We all benefit by having young people exposed to the ‘way things are done’ in a democratic society. Isn’t it time… to ‘tap the power of youth?’ Similarly, Matt McCarte said the entire society stands to benefit if youths are well groomed and integrated in any country. McCarte added that “If it is clear youth will be encouraged and listened to, and preparations are well thought out, you are set up for success… Having youth on boards and commissions has been a rewarding experience for everyone involved. Youth feel their voice is valued and that they have an impact on city decisions. Adult members benefit from the fresh perspective, optimism, and enthusiasm youth bring to the table.”

In any way, it must be recognised by all stakeholders in the Nigerian project that youths are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also the partners of today. Young people are powerful social actors of change and progress. They are a crucial segment of a nation’s development. Their contribution, therefore, is highly needed. As it can been seen in world history, youths always have been the key to serious activities in the world be it war, politics, construction works, etc. It can be said that youths will continue to play critical roles in national assignments because they possess the hunger, desire, motivation, determination and high energy that can make all the difference in either destroying or building a nation. Therefore, proper guidance and direction are sine qua non for youths to meaningfully contribute to national progress.

For me, these victories remain a positive reminder that our young ones still hold the key to the much desired national prosperity and security if given the chance. I must say that it is time for other youths to be fully integrated in all aspects of our national life. We need the productive energy of our youths to attain our destiny as a nation. The youth need us to be able to actualise their dreams and personal ambitions be it in sports, industry, commerce, agriculture, medicine, aeronautics, space science, governance and engineering, etc. Need I say that the victory also helped to validate the assertion that young people in any country represent the future of that country because they have a vital role to play in the development of the country. We know that there are many ways that youths can really contribute to national development if given the opportunity. They can do so by working hard in any field they are involved in, be it in the teaching, mechanic, or farming field. Working for one’s nation with total devotion and commitment is an obligation for every citizen thus the need to have orientation events for our youths to teach them what national service is all about. However, to ensure the active participation of young people in national development, they need to be supported and encouraged by the government, the private sector, the civil society and parents. One does not need to belabour the point that there are many young people who if given the required support can contribute meaningfully to national development just like our lads have exemplified.

However, bringing such youths on board the development wagon becomes the responsibility of those in authority. Having said that, it is also essential to note that young people must also believe in themselves; that they can become a big asset both individually and collectively to national development if they work hard. The continued over-dependency phenomenon cannot take us anywhere, nor can it help us to meaningfully contribute to national development as expected. It is true that we are faced with many challenges as youths, such as unemployment and a tendency to take to violent and crime related activities, but there also exists opportunities to gradually overcome some of these challenges through assisted paradigm shift and national reorientation. In a situation where opportunities are limited – like nowadays – youths seeking jobs must avoid the habit of externalising their frustration through acts of violence or joining criminal gangs; instead they should learn to make do with what is available till they get the preferable. As they say, when there is a will there is a way.

Moreover, there is no debate as to the fact that this country needs more qualified engineers, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, tailors, economists and journalists, etc., to lead us to our developmental aspirations. However, it is painful that our universities cannot assimilate all our school leavers seeking admission into tertiary institutions across the country. This unwholesome situation continues to force many of our young men to seek university placement in other climes, where often they lose touch with germane national priorities. I don’t want to talk about the capital hemorrhage we suffer on a yearly basis as our young men pursue their dream of a university education outside the shores of this country.

I strongly believe that our youth need help to get to where they want to be and also enable them become effective contributors to nation-building. All hands must necessarily be on deck to be able to achieve this objective, as the youths need support and motivation. There is no gainsaying the fact that to enhance the participation of youths in national development, they must be given the opportunity to effectively participate in decision-making processes, especially on issues affecting their lives. On this note, the federal, states and local governments must heed the clarion call of the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, when he stated that, “Let us acknowledge and celebrate what youth can do to build a safer, more just world. Let us strengthen our efforts to include young people in policies, programmes and decision-making processes that benefit their futures and ours.” Also in a similar manner, Alvin Toffler had warned of the foolhardiness of neglecting the youths when he said: “The secret message being communicated to most young people in our country today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they – at some distant point in the future – will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear on how to successfully navigate our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.”

Since the term – nation building or national development, is usually used to refer to a constructive process of engaging all citizens in building social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability in a nation in an inclusive and democratic way, the conscious involvement of youths in national development is a must.

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