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The Nigerian Youth: Building Community And Becoming Productive

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Sunday, May 1st, 2016
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The importance of youth in the development of any nation cannot be overemphasized. The youth constitute the backbone and future of any nation. Unfortunately, in most countries of the world, the youth are marginalized and excluded from governance and the development process. This is why it is necessary to focus on youth development so that they become productive and contribute to the development of society.

The Youth have great roles to play in the development of nations. In Nigeria, young people have been relegated to the background. In the first republic and during the first phase of military rule, young people played active roles in the governance of Nigeria. Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri became Federal Ministers in their 20s. Matthew Mbu became an ambassador in his early 20s. Col Yakubu Gowon became head of state at the age of 28. In 1976, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo became the head of state. I was in primary six. In 1999, he became the President of Nigeria. I had left the university for thirteen years. Nigerian Youth must reject the cliché of being the leaders of tomorrow. That tomorrow may never come.

The progress and future development of any nation depends to a large extent on the youth. This is why most nations have concrete development programmes for their youth. The place and importance of the Youth in society cannot be overemphasized.

There are certain unique characteristics of the Youth which include:

  • They are the future of any nation and serve as the bridge that link the present to future generations.
  • They constitute the most active and productive part of any nation.
  • They constitute the largest part of the population of most nations especially the developing nations.
  • They are relatively inexperienced and impatient but their spontaneity, adventure and daring disposition can be put to productive use.
  • They are very dynamic and can serve as agents of social change especially is societies experiencing moral degeneration.

The persons that fall within the age bracket of Youth is defined differently by different institutions and nations. The United Nations defines the Youth as those within the ages of 15-24 years. The NYSC puts its age bracket as from 18-30 years. But the youth policy defines the youth as all young persons of the ages 18-35 years. It identified the problems confronting the youth in Nigeria to include:

  • Inadequate parental care
  • Non-availability of suitable sports and recreational facilities
  • Moral decadence in the society
  • Lack of appropriate role models
  • Religious fanaticism
  • Cult activities
  • Political manipulation of youth organizations
  • Unemployment and underemployment
  • Poor education
  • Breakdown of family values; and
  • Indiscipline

There is the need for an urgent refocus on youth development by the family, community, religious organisations and government to enable our youth become more productive. This entails the following:

Need for Value Re-orientation

Values determine attitudes which in turn influence behaviour. Every society defines its values and engages in activities that will sustain those set of values. Today, there is a lot of indiscipline in every facet of life in the country. Integrity is no longer cherished by many people. The get rich quick syndrome and pursuit of easy money has reduced the dignity of labour. There is high level of religious intolerance and the love for the country is waning. Many Nigerians have no respect for our institutions and national symbols.

Youth Specific Projects for development

The specific youth projects should address the following issues:

  • Youth training programmes.
  • Entrepreneurship Development programmes.
  • Skills acquisition programmes
  • Provision of basic ICT infrastructure and services to enable re-orientation, good governance, enhanced business activities, improved commercial activities and accelerated economic development.
  • Establishment of functional digital libraries with relevant information for youth development.
  • Provision of recreation and Sports, including building of recreation centres and introduction of several competitions.
  • Provision of Social Security measures for Youth especially those that are living with disability, HIV/AIDs and from very poor backgrounds

Leadership Training for Youth

It is well known the leadership is one of the major problems militating against the development of Nigeria. Meanwhile, it is possible to train leaders. It has been documented that everyone has the potential, at least to some degree, to become a visionary leader that can help to create a desired future. It has been proven that leaders can be trained to become top strategists who will be able to envision the future and help to map out strategies on how to get there. Additionally, leaders can be trained to manage for success through people, policies, programmes and principles.

Building the Leadership for the Next Century

It cannot be overemphasized that leadership is one of the most important variables that determine the progress and development of any country. For the past one hundred years, Nigeria has not witnessed the kind of dynamic, strategic and visionary leadership that can turn the potentials of the country into real opportunities for the people. This is why it is necessary to build the kind of leadership to accelerate the development of the country in the next one hundred years.

It is very clear that the context of the past one hundred years will be quite different from the context of the next one hundred years. For instance, the amount of information available to leaders is going to continually increase in the next one hundred years. Future leaders will therefore have to develop the ability to access the most relevant information and differentiate them from irrelevant information. Similarly, the market has affected every facet of life in very fundamental ways in the last one hundred years. Future leaders will need to understand clearly the market and how the ideology of free market and deregulation has affected politics, the economy and every facet of life.

Youth Inclusion in Governance and Development

Participation is a crucial element of democracy. Deepening of democracy requires participation of all social groups and categories. The Youth constitute a majority of the population of most countries and it is a necessity that they participate in the democratic process. It has been argued that youth inclusion should be geared to achieve youth representation; improve policy outcomes for young people; enhance the capacity of political institutions to substantively engage with young people; provide opportunities for young people not merely to be included within consultative and participative structures but for them to be able to change the ‘rules of the game’; and develop young people’s sense of competency to engage as public actors.

The tenets of democracy will be completely destroyed if majority of citizens are left out. This is why efforts must be made to include youth in the political process. Since political parties are the major organs through which political activities for the capture of political power is organized, it is imperative that young people are included in party structures.

Unfortunately, the old people in Nigeria have refused to give young people a chance. In 2012, the youth leader in one of the major parties was reported to be sixty years old. It is clear that the old people in Nigeria will not create avenues for the young people. The young people must therefore improve their knowledge, organize and mobilize for social action and change. Young people should advocate for quota in political party structures and elective and appointive positions for the youth and women. The definition of youth in Nigeria must be in line with the national youth policy of 18-35 years.

Ways Forward

From the above, it is clear that young people are the greatest asset of any nation. They are the future of any nation and serve as the bridge that link the present to future generations. They are active, dynamic, and adventurous and can serve as agents of social action and social change.

Any serious country should devote a lot of energy and resources to building the youth to be productive. Any country that refuses to develop its youth will endanger its future. When the leadership potentials of young people are not developed, the seeds of failure are being sown. We cannot really talk about democracy and development without the participation of citizens including young people.

The development of the youth requires the active participation of the family, community, schools, religious organisations and government. The training of children starts from the family. The Bible makes it clear that when you train a child in the way he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov 22:6).

The community has roles to play in youth development. One of the things that make the African society unique is the community spirit which is being eroded by rapacious capitalism, invading western culture and market fundamentalism. There is the need to return to the positive aspects of African society especially those that do not conflict with the scriptures.

The schools have great roles to play in moulding the character of the youth. I personally owe my world outlook today to my University days when I was trained by the progressive movement on commitment, discipline, selflessness, sacrifice and struggle for the common good. There is a great need of reform of the school system.

Government has a great role to play in youth development. It is not enough to formulate a youth policy and do virtually nothing about its systematic implementation at all levels of government.

Finally, the religious organisations have great roles to play. Historically religious bodies have contributed to moulding youth of character and discipline for leadership.

However, there is no doubt that the elders have failed to put in place effective development programmes for the youth. It remains to be seen whether the youth will fail themselves and refuse to develop themselves and become agents of change. It was Frantz Fanon who said “every generation must out of relative obscurity must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.”

 

Dr Otive Igbuzor  (P.hd) is a Pharmacist, leadership development scholar and practitioner, social activist and researcher. He is the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD). He can be reached at otive.igbuzor@centrelsd.org. This is an abridged version of Dr Otive’s paper, we will place the full version complete with endnotes in the documents under the Resources section of abovewhispers.com.

 

 

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