“PARENTS LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN, WE ARE THE LEADERS OF TOMORROW, TRY TO PAY OUR SCHOOL FEES AND GIVE US A SOUND EDUCATION…”
As a child, we had so much fun singing the above primary school rhymes. Beyond arousing our infantile enthusiasm, the song leaves us with a message of hope that “we are the Leaders of Tomorrow.”
As a result, we grew up in the expectation that we would lead someday (tomorrow).
Well, we are here now, we are at the stage where we are suppose to be manifesting these leadership prophesies made since the days of yore, but, hardly can we find same materializing as our old leaders continue to recycle themselves at the helms of affairs… how sad.
It is commonplace to find various metaphors being employed to qualify the word ‘youths’. Such words as “Building Blocks” “Pillars” “Future Leaders” “Cornerstone” among others clearly shows the importance of youths in every setting. While this is utterly true, it is sad to note that the youth in recent times have been relegated to the background of nation building (Governance). Facts and figures clearly show that only few youths are actively in the governance of their nation (the youngest Governor in Nigeria is 45, the person of Governor Yaya Bello of Kogi.). Sadder is the reality that the vibes and energies of youths are now being harnessed to pursue vices which paint the nation black and mars our national integrity. (Youths are the major champions of internet fraud, popularly called “yahoo, yahoo”. They are also used as thugs during elections, to mention a few).
The exclusion of young people from elective offices robs society of their contribution to economic and political development. To say the least, young people have skills and capacities that can be transferred to political offices and other aspect of nation building.
This paper is an attempt to echo and underscore the roles youths have to play in nation building, at the same time highlights the challenges faced or likely to be faced by youths in an attempt to harness their potentials for nation building.
2.0 WHO IS A YOUTH
Simply put, youth is the period between Childhood and adulthood. What is more, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization clearly define youth to mean a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence. For sake of statistical accuracy, the African Youth Charter pegs the age of youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years. Similarly, In Nigeria, the youth Policy defines youth as all young persons of the ages 18 to 35 years.
2.1 THE UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUTHS
While older people are reckoned with as a result of their acclaimed experience which flows from their years of existence, the pride of a youth lies in the fact that he is ambitious, enthusiastic, energetic and promising. His greatest arsenal is his innovative mind embellished with creativity. Commendably, most world inventions, thriving entertainment, ICT and e-commerce are product of youthful thinking and vibrancy. To cite an example, the world greatest social media hub “Facebook” was founded by a 19 year old Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004.
3.0 CHALLENGES FACED BY YOUTHS IN NATION BUILDING/GOVERNANCE
While it is good to underscore the need for youth inclusion in Governance, this paper would be inchoate without highlighting the possible challenges faced by youths in Nation Building. Some of these are as follows:
- Lack of enabling environment for youth to unleash their Potentials: It is a workaday reality that the bulk of Nigerian youths are either unemployed or underemployed. As a result, most youth lacks the motivation to be innovative, instead they place premium on survival than discoveries and innovations. Youth these days, are quick to engage in vices in order to survive.
- Vulnerability as a result of Ignorance and Poverty: As a result of poverty and lack of education, most youths in Nigeria are vulnerable to manipulative tendencies by self-seeking politicians , religious and ethnic leaders. Without knowing the implication of their actions, they are ready to carry out the dictates of their leaders who try to use them to cause political or religious unrest.
- Constitutional Exclusion in Governance / Policy Making Process: Some countries expressly limit the participation of youth in politics. This is usually contained in their constitution or any legislative enactment. This was the case in Nigeria, prior to the passage of the “Not too young to Run “Bill, which reduced the age of running for elective positions for House of Assembly and House of Representatives from 30 year old to 25 year old, Senate and Governorship from 35 year old to 30 year old and office of the president from 40 to 30. Notwithstanding the passage of the Bill, the myth that young people lack the experience to lead still hold sway in Africa, as a result, young people are not giving the chance to have a say in governance.
- Prohibitive cost of electoral process: While the age to run for elective offices in Nigeria seems to have reduced, the cost of engaging in Governance is increasing daily. From expression of interest forms to funding campaigns, it is a sad reality that most youths can’t afford same.
THE WAY FORWARD
It is important to underscore the way forward, which I consider the most important aspect of this discourse.
- Youth should get involved in the process: the first step to youth inclusion in Governance is for youths to consciously get involved. There is need for a youth focused political party in Nigeria. Youths should form a coalition in terms of building a vibrant political platform. In addition, youths must be ready to vote for youths, during elections.
Interestingly, when we have a youth focused political platforms; it would be easier to get candidacy tickets, as well as pool resources to cater for the huge cost of elections.
- Governments at both the local, state and federal level should cultivate the habits of including youth in Governance. (I commend Governor Seyi Mankide of Oyo state, who in 2019, appointed a 28 year old Seun Fakorede as Commissioner for Youth and Sports in Oyo State in August 2019 and also Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara who appointed a 27 year old Joana Nnazua Kolo as commissioner). When youth are included in Governance at early stages, they build up capacity to take up bigger roles.
It would be safe to conclude with a quote from Maulana W Khan who reasoned that No Nation Can Ever Hold Up Its Head Far Less Take Pride Of Place Amongst The Nations Of The World, If The Individuals Of Which It Is Comprised Think Of Nothing But Personal Gain And Self Glorification. Youths must rise up to their responsibility as future leaders in contributing to nation building. Rather than become willful tools in the hands of desperate politicians, religious or ethnic leaders, the youth must come to terms with the fact that they have a greater role to play in building the unity, peace and progress of our dear nation.