A Brief for the Nigerian Youth By Idris Evuti
Elections, especially in developing nations have been characterised by violence; with the youth playing dominant roles in most cases. Recently, I had the opportunity of attending a seminar, where a political office holder was also billed to attend. On my arrival, I saw a group of young men hanging around the venue. Obviously, these young men are far from a decent life. With curiosity in my mind, I wonder if they were also prospective participants of the seminar. My doubts were however in no-time cleared when I heard them saying in Hausa: what has he done for us since he won; even with what we did for him during his campaign and electioneering. This suggests that the politician in question has indeed used them in subverting the laws of the land, intimidate his opponents and electorates alike, and to perpetuate all manners of electoral irregularities. And as he assumed office, he distanced himself from them. This is no doubt the reason why the youths are grumbling. This is just a splinter out of several ways Nigerian politicians use our vulnerable youths.
The classification ‘youth’ has been attributed to a wide range of meaning – agents of change, actors of violence and pillars of social vices, ex cetera. Being a youth neither relegate nor make one better in the community. What matters is your ability to add value to the community. And youthfulness goes beyond age bracket: it is productiveness, positive thinking beaconed on actions.
Historical records have proven that the Nigerian youth have always taken frontlines when it comes to political movements, and other socio-economic activities geared towards improving the lives of the common man. For example, the contributions of H.O Davis, Anthony Enahoro and nostalgically recounting the vibrant past days of National Association of Nigerian Students.
Nowadays, the Nigerian youths hardly have their voices heard in national issues. Rather the youth have been reduced to mere demographic class; regardless of their strategic roles in nation building. In a recent survey by the International Youth Foundation, the Nigerian youth was ranked the least happy in the world. The aspects been examined were citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, information and communication technology, safety and security.
What then could be responsible for the fast declining status of the Nigerian youth? Economic factor I hear you say: Because as humans there are reasons behind our actions or inactions. In this sense, economic factor refers to the ability of individuals to engage in something productive; in order to take care of their needs and to be able to contribute positively to the society, on the other hand.
As we fast approach election periods; our roads will be busy with trucks, pick up vans and other utility vehicles meant to transport goods and equipments; conveying youths in the name of political rallies and campaigns. Scores of Nigerian youths have lost their lives, sustained different degrees of injuries and deformities during political rallies, or as a result of electoral violence. Afterwards they retire back home with some few thousands of naira. This is unfortunate.
Many will wonder where are the parents of these youths? The parents may have also been consumed by the same economic factor. And this has made them unable to provide their children with appreciable education, take care of their basic and other humanitarian needs. Consequently, this often makes them to downplay their God given integrity by selling their votes for two hundred naira, sachet of cooking seasoning (maggi) and branded attires during elections.
It is regrettable that in Nigeria, the future of the youth is not only been played with; but has been mortgaged. Put differently: the youths are seen as commodities in the market with price tags; where the highest bidder(s) goes away with them. And of course, to disprove this, the youths must have to navigate very ‘very’ hard against this tide.
No doubt, for the Nigerian youth to reclaim what the future truly holds for them; a lot has to be done. The government on its part must as a matter of national interest create enabling environment for all and sundry to pursue their dreams. That is, the government must live up to its responsibilities of being responsible, for the provision of basic infrastructure and other social indices (security and economic opportunities) to make life comfortable for the citizens.
While, on the other hand, the youth must also wake up to the challenges of being responsive to opportunities. It’s never enough to fold our arms and expect manna to fall from heavens. As I’d previously advanced: the various youths associations need to give priority to sensitizations, social volunteering and other societal engagements targeted at the youth. By and large, as a people, we must rethink the significance of family and societal value reorientation; and attitudinal change.
Idris Evuti, is the senior programme manager, of Young People’s Initiative for Credible Leadership and he tweets on @idrisevuti.
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