Young people occupy an average population of most nations of the world and are seen as the strength and hope of any nation. Research has it that Nigeria, the most populous black nation, is home to about 200 million people with an annual population growth of 2.61%. Currently, over 33.6 million (16.8%) Nigerians are regarded as youths (aged between 15 and 35).
As many young ones are born and begin to socialize in any political system, it is expected that they learn the ethics of the state and gain mastery so as to fit in, and function actively in certain positions of the state in order to prosper and boost the productivity, growth and development of such state.
“Youths are the leaders of tomorrow,” as the saying goes, but how well is the future of the youths planned or put into consideration in a country like Nigeria where the hope of an average youth is dashed due to hunger, poverty, unemployment, retarded education, lack of quality healthcare and financial handicap? These have led many into a seemingly unending journey of terror, despair and frustration.
In the history of Nigeria, the youths were in the frontiers of leadership and affairs of the nation. They upheld the strength of the country during the pre-independence era. Men who made credible impacts on the nation’s building and country’s growth were young men in their 20s and 30s. People like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of the foremost and Nigeria’s West African nationalist, and the first president of Nigeria. Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister of independent Nigeria who made leading role in national policy making and constitutional reforms that led to the independence of Nigeria. Also, Shehu Shagari, the first democratically elected president of Nigeria, and all those who participated in the civil war, Yakubu Gowon, Ojukwu Odumegwu, and other brave men in the leadership of the Second Republic.
Reverse is the case in recent times. The leaders who were in positions of power 30 years ago are still there today and are also going to remain there in years to come. How much of tomorrow’s leaders does the Nigerian youth have?
The socio-political and economic circumstances of the Nigerian youth produced the “NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN” campaign (TYTR) and #EndSARS movement, two of the more recent expressions of youth’s frustration with the Nigerian status-quo. The average Nigerian youth who has just completed National Youth Service (NYSC) is compelled by the hostile economic realities to stay for years at home for lack of a good job. In leadership, young Nigerians are discontent with the performance; if the youths are recognized and certain leadership positions handed down to them through election/appointment and not making political positions a form of divine right that is held by the elite clique that are unchanging to times and standards.
The current economic hardship created by an expanding population unmatched by economic growth and social investment in education and healthcare are made dire by low economic earnings. This issue of low economic earnings is due to failure to move the discussion on the diversification of the economy from an economy beyond the talking stage. These can only be resolved by changing the nature of politics, improving governance through more inclusiveness and better resource allocations to cater for the needs of the population.
Since independence, the Nigerian state has not adequately attended to one of the biggest problems which is the neglect of its youths. It does not seem to us that the youths are the roadmap to a glowing, bright and successful future of the nation as the youths constitute the workforce of any given country. With the unemployment rate increasing, Nigeria’s development policy is yet to prioritize the youth into its economic policies. Failure to tweak developmental policies towards youth empowerment is a recipe for breeding an antisocial society.
The present state of the nation clearly depicts a nation that is individualistic in character and practicalizes “all man for himself.” It abhors collectivism by which all is responsible for each other and government responsible by performing its role actively in line with social standards; thereby leaving no segment of its populace unattended to. It is sad that up till the post covid-19 era, Nigeria has not learnt from history to move out of this mirage of leaving youths behind in state governance and other areas that will promote our collective transformation and societal development… leaving the future of the youths in a planless state.