Once upon a time in Nigeria, we had a Head of State who was 32 years old in the person of General Yakubu Gowon. Chinua Achebe was 27 years old when he wrote the international best-seller “Things Fall Apart”. Anthony Enahoro was 21 years old when he became the Editor of a major national newspaper- The Daily Times. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Head of State of the defunct Republic of Biafra was the Time Person of the year in 1967. Yes, Time Person of the year- the same award that President Donald Trump was crying that they did not give to him in 2017. More recently- Tayo Aderinokun, Segun Agbaje, Femi Pedro, Fola Adeola and others were all less than 30 years of age when they founded Guaranty Trust Bank in the early 90’s. Today, apart from the entertainment industry, you can hardly find any Nigerian youth achieving giant strides in any sector of the society. Despite an avalanche of Youth Empowerment Seminars organized by civil society groups, faith based organizations and non-governmental organizations, the plight of the youths seems to be getting worse by the day. Many graduates of the over 150 tertiary institutions in Nigeria cannot write a 500-word essay on the history of Nigeria, some will tell you that Jamaica is an African country and worse still, a few would tell you that Nigeria’s first President is Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
A famous American politician once said that “The youths are the trustees of posterity”. What can the youths do to realize their manifest destiny as the “Leaders of Tomorrow”?- apologies to General Olusegun Obasanjo. A cursory study of Nigerian youths today would reveal that their major problem is cowardice. This seeming lack of courage which often manifests itself in many forms is induced by a multiplicity of factors some of which i will examine in this piece.
Nigerian youths are currently engaged in the pursuit of vanity. By vanity, i mean things which have no impact on your future or destiny but which make you look good today. The overriding ambition of most youths today is the acquisition of material things either legally or illegally with total disregard for the concept of delayed gratification. The embrace of the herd mentality which is a revelation of the lack of courage to stand out from the crowd has only helped catalyze this pursuit of vanity.
The embrace of religion rather than spirituality has also served to keep the youths down in Nigeria. Religion has made many youths abandon logic and reasoning in place of superstitious beliefs and miraculous interventions.It has made many youths to spend hundreds of hours monthly in prayer vigils and church services seeking a miraculous intervention instead of spending those same number of hours at work, studying or developing their talents and abilities which will enable them contribute meaningfully and productively to the Nigerian economy. It has led to hero-worshiping of so-called men of God. Men who twist the word of God in order to make gain and who collect money from corrupt politicians while telling their members to accept rigged elections and unpopular government policies as the will of God. Closely related to this is the acceptance of the wrong aspects of African culture and tradition. The dictum that “It is wrong for a youth to question an elder” has only served to perpetuate the bondage of the youths. The youth who cannot question wrong practices in the church because of the fear of the anointing and the age of Daddy G.O or Papa will also not be able to lead a protest against the unpopular policies of a 74 year old President popularly called Sai Baba because of the fear of political power and his age. This has bred docility in humongous proportions in majority of our youths as regards political affairs, a fact that old-school politicians have rightly interpreted as lack of patriotism, lack of courage and excessive love of self. By the way, who wants to give power to people with such demeaning qualities?
The singular most important factor militating against the rise of Nigerian youths in the society is their lack of a reading culture. Most of Nigeria’s young population prefer to spend their money on vanities and inanities; clothes, phones, shoes, parties, cars e.t.c instead of building their intellect which has the capacity to deliver everlasting prosperity to them. How can a young man be dreaming of becoming the governor of a state when he doesn’t know the name of the first governor of that state?
The way forward for Nigerian youths is to quit the blame game and embrace entrepreneurship. By entrepreneurship, i do not necessarily imply the creation and ownership of business enterprises though that is also a part of it; rather i am talking about the employment of their divine deposits, gifts, talents and abilities in order to make a living rather than total dependence on the government for the creation of white-collar or blue-collar jobs as the case may be. This will also imbue them with positive virtues like faith, hope, courage, creativity e.t.c and eliminate the fear of the unknown since they now know that their destiny is in nobody’s hands but theirs.
Our youths should endeavour to abandon religion for spirituality. Instead of a rigid adherence to denominationalism and church dogma, they should embrace logic and reason while also adding to it positive spiritual values like truth, honesty, integrity, hard work, thrift, excellence e.t.c as they go about their day-to-day activities and in their worship of God.
Finally, let the youths embrace the reading culture. A popular adage says “Readers are Leaders”. We can also turn it the other way round by saying “Leaders are Readers”. The bottom line is that if you want to lead then you must read. Reading avails you the opportunity of knowing your rights, duties and obligations as a citizen. It also infuses courage into you to challenge the status quo. Ignorance is an enemy of progress. Our youths must go beyond ranting on social media about unpopular government policies, to writing opinion articles in national dailies, writing open letters to political office holders, writing to their representatives in the national and state houses of assemblies and writing to any ministry, department or agency of government that fails to do it’s duties in accordance with the law of the land. They should also learn how to engage in peaceful protests against unpopular government policies no matter how small their numbers may be. Let them join political parties and become active in the political process by standing for elective positions both within the party and for public positions. They should also register and come out to vote on election day instead of sitting at home watching MTV Base on cable television. Power is not given to anybody free of charge rather it is taken by non-violent force. Pardon my use of oxymoron. Let the youths rise and fulfill their manifest destiny. Nigeria awaits your rising.