Youths Development: Having the wrong focus

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President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian youths behind #NotTooYoungToRun
FILE PHOTO: President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian youths behind #NotTooYoungToRun
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The Insight by Lateef Adewole

Tuesday, 12th of August, 2020, marked another commemoration of the annual International Youth Day (IYD). The theme of this year was: “Youth Engagement for Global Action.” It is centred on how the youths and young ones should be given a chance to partake in the activities which concern and affect them in particular and the world they live in.

With the current global dynamics, youths are expected to rise to the occasion and take the lead in governance from the front, rather than from the back, as it seemed they are currently doing. Zeroing in on Nigeria, such expectations might actually be pipe dreams if the current disposition of our youths and young ones are anything to go by.

If I may ask, how many youths even remember what day is dedicated to them globally? Well, for those who do, there’d be few Nigerians among them. Why do I say this? BigBrotherNaija, Lockdown Edition! In the last four weeks, the youths of this country have gotten so enchanted with the show, it has taken away their focus from whatever other things that might have been critical to their wellbeing as citizens.

Deal of the day

Big Brother Naija BBNaija

At such times, those in positions of authority in Nigeria get some reprieve from the usual “paper tigerish” vitriolic attacks the youths usually engage them with on various social media platforms. What has them preoccupied now, is the show full of inanities. Social media and other online platforms are now agog with news, posts, commentaries, information and entertainment reports from the show.

Many young people who cannot recall the capitals of half of Nigerian states can reel out all the data of the housemates off-hand. Worse still, the coronavirus has made it even more acceptable for these people to stay glued to their televisions for hours unending since schools are currently closed. The ragging discussion among them is how Erica is playing with Laycon’s emotions. How Kiddwaya does not really love Erica, how one housemate kisses another or even had sex on national television, and all other what’s not.

This is what has captured their interests now, not how government officials, elected and appointed, are stealing their futures blind, or how their fellow citizens are being massacred on a daily basis across the Northern part of the country. The increasing difficulties imposed by poor economic management, increased fuel price, collapsing national currency, and so on, are not their concerns now. And that will last for a minimum of three months. What a shame!

Even in the absence of the show, were our youths responsible, responsive or ready to partake in anything that has to do with the governance in the country? I watched as the politicians in their characteristic manner began to manipulate and use the youths again in Edo state, as the campaign for the September 19, 2020 governorship election in the state kicked off. They form the army of foot soldiers, voters and thugs who these politicians will use to get to power and immediately afterwards, they will be dropped like hot potatoes. Will they ever learn?

Former Nigeria president Olusegun Obasanjo hinted at Fulanisation and Islamisation of Nigeria
Former Nigeria president Olusegun Obasanjo

It is still a mystery that the population of Nigeria is made up of over 50 percent youths and young people but no young person has been able to govern the country democratically and even in many states as governors. If we put a figure to that, over 100 million are young people. However, no one from this group could win a local government election on his or her own merit, except anointed by the “Godfathers”. And it is still the youths like him that will be used against him during elections. Why can’t the youths see their “foolishness” in the hands of the greedy old politicians?

This must have prompted the statement credited to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in his message to the youth on the occasion of 2020 IYD. He said the youth can only get to power by “snatching” it from the older people as the older generation will never voluntarily relinquish it to them. This was not a call to arms or violence, but a sensitization to galvanize themselves politically towards 2023 and organize to take over democratically through the ballots. It is to be said though that when the blame as to the fate that has befallen the youths is being shared, Chief Obasanjo will also get a sizeable chunk.

With such a population, if properly deployed, the myth that the older generation created around the process of getting to power can be demystified. The usual criminally outrageous amount of money required for forming and running a political party, procuring forms to contest elections, get the party tickets at the primaries, and run campaigns in general elections and so on, can all pan to nothing if the youths know what they are doing.

All the existing big political parties rely heavily on the population of their youths and young people but are controlled by a handful of moneybag oldies, who use their wealth to highjack the structures and manipulate the processes within the party for their selfish interests. They still rely on some youths to carry out their nefarious activities. This is made possible because the youths prefer instant gratifications. And the “big guys” know this. They cash-in on it, exploit it and use it to their advantage.

Nigerian Youths at an event

Rather than the young people to organize themselves, collaborate and support one another, and use their population to defeat the old generation, they will prefer the crumbs falling from the tables of the older generation and work against fellow young people. Everyone wants to get their share of national cake “now now!” They prefer the few cups of rice shared to them at rallies, the half litre groundnut oil, and the few hundreds or thousands of naira given to them.

The consequences of which include the ruining of their future due to the schools that will not be built by these politicians when elected to office. Hospitals will remain dilapidated, and roads will remain death traps. The darkness that will continue to envelope the land due to power outages and other degenerating infrastructural collapse they will live with since they have sold their souls to the devil. They sold their civic rights. They sold their votes!

In the absence of BigBrotherNaija, there are other numerous ready-made distractions. Covid-19 tempered their indulgence in football for a while. We are gradually reverting back to the leagues in Europe that have remained their opium. “Baba Ijebu”, BetNaija, and other betting houses are other distractions. The same appetite for “quick money” is responsible for the youths’ involvement in betting. Many of them see it as a shortcut to success. What foolhardiness.

Like I once wrote, the addiction to mobile phones remains the primate. Unfortunately, it is the use to which they are putting them is the problem, not the phones themselves. Being on social media all day, watching films without end, listening to music, browsing the internet in search of irrelevance, watching pornography, and all sorts, rather than using their phones for education, learning, creative ventures and so on, is a problem.
And all of this second only to involvement in crime. In the olden days, the grownups were the ones majorly involved in financial crimes popularly referred to as “419”. Now, it is all-comers affairs, with the youths taking the lead. They have given it different nomenclatures. There are “yahoo-yahoo” and “g-boys and girls”. They involve in defrauding innocent victims of their hard-earned money, both locally and internationally.

When these are not paying as expected, they graduate to what is called “yahoo-plus”. This involves fetishism. Either using charms to influence their victims to part with their money or outright money rituals which entails all kinds of disgusting and heinous practices like eating feaces, being inflicted with sores and other wounds that will not heal, impotence, use of material items like female panties, baby napkins, women menstruation pads, and so on.

There are those inflicted with intermittent madness as their sacrifice and others who sleep inside coffins. The worst of all involves using other fellow human beings. This accounts for some missing persons, girls found mutilated with missing human parts, etc. They also get involved in violent crimes like armed robberies, kidnappings, insurgency, and banditry. The list is endless, all for quick money. Can the youths be entirely blamed? Without making excuses for them, the answer is no! The older generation is largely responsible.

Let us start from the society that we have. What has it become? The moral decadence is at its peak now. The only visible examples to the younger ones today are politicians and leaders who live ostentatious lives with no serious means of livelihood except being in political positions. People see their leaders spend money they cannot account for. It is either they stole it from public funds or other fraudulent means. Our political leaders exist in a different bubble, far from the suffering of the citizens who elect them. Everyone now sees politics as a shunt path to stupenduous “illicit” wealth. Hard work and sincere labour no longer pay.

The resources that the governments at all levels is supposed to use to provide basic amenities like schools, hospitals, power, housing and other infrastructures are squandered by them, while the citizens continue to languish in poverty. What else do we expect the youths to do? Who do we expect them to emulate? The time when young people dreamt of being the next Awolowo, Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Balewa, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, and the likes, is long gone.

The role models to this generation are the musicians who make it big, singing, the footballers, and the political thieves. Booze, sex, drugs, etc, are the in-things now. Sagging trousers, plaiting and tinting hair, body piercing and tattoos, crazy dresses, and so on, are the order of the day. Cultism is no longer exclusive to schools. It is now everywhere, including the streets.

What about the kind of education the youths now receive? It is far less than half-baked. It is almost “not-baked”. Going to school is now a joke. Many youths do not take it seriously. Those who are ready to learn, what quality of teachings do they receive? Hogwash. How will they even be encouraged to study when they see their elder brothers and sisters still roaming the streets after spending four, five or six years for higher education? They see it as a waste of time.

The statistics for unemployment (27.1%) and underemployment (28.6%) totalled at 55.7 percent as at Q2 of 2020 (NBS). That is about 44.6 million of about 80 million persons ready to work but no jobs or doing less than deserved jobs. With such staggering figures, why would anyone wants to join them? The level of unemployment in Nigeria is a great demoralising factor to youth development. It put them in a state of despair. Why waste time to go to school and be looking for jobs thereafter when you can simply join the “bad gangs” or politics and make it big? Afterall, many political office holders were found to possess all kinds of fraudulent certificates or none at all, yet, they still rule over us. So, poor quality of education is a major contributor.

While we can blame the youth as much as we like. Not all are completely “lazy or useless”. Majority of the same young people risk their lives to travel out of Nigeria to Europe, America, Canada and other countries. And if and when they get there, they do all kinds of menial and dirty jobs for survival. Many work two or more shifts per day to make ends meet. They are glad to do so because, there is reward for labour in most of these countries, unlike in Nigeria, where people who do the work get paid the least while those who lazy around in political positions collect “armed-robber” remunerations.

A cursory look into the remunerations of political office holders as compared to civil servants will expose such wickedness. Likewise, a comparative of pensions and gratuities of workers who serve for 35 years and those of political office holders who serve for only a few years; will reveal so much. That is part of dysfunction affecting the youths’ mentality. They see no dignity in labour in their country, Nigeria.

It is not all gloomy. There are a set of people who still make Nigeria proud home and abroad and they are majorly youths. In various schools abroad, stories abound of how Nigerians perform exceptionally well, delighting some of us. Nigerian youths excel academically in institutions across the world. Likewise in sports, entertainment, etc. Those given opportunities to work in these countries have proven to be great ambassadors of the country. “They are doing well!” This shows that it is our toxic environment that is limiting the potentials of many young people, and this is fostered by the older generation.

As the world celebrated another International Youth Day, I will firstly call upon the leadership of the country at all levels to have a rethink. They need to revamp the country to provide the enabling environment for the youths to strive and attain their God-given innate potentials. No country can be greater that her youths.

To the youths and young people, it is time to take their destinies in their own hands. Like advised by Chief Obasanjo, they should stop allowing themselves to be used and dumped by the older generation but rather come together to wrestle power from them. As young people, it is not totally abnormal to be distracted now and then, but to make it a habit is the problem. The time to shake the table is now.

Happy International Youth Day.

God Bless Nigeria.

Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator can be reached by email [email protected] or via WhatsApp +2348020989095 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter