There is much to worry about the recent trepidation expressed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo regarding the alarming level of neglect of the nation’s youths. The fact that youths are the largest segment of the county’s population is enough to entertain some fear if they should not be given due attention. Sadly, they are glibly referred to as the future leaders without ensuring that a deliberate measure to aid their quest for public service or entrepreneurship be put in place.
Unarguably, youths are the engine that drives the economy of any nation and if given the opportunity to lead, they will make the nation regain its pride of place economically and in the international community. Therefore, to paraphrase Obasanjo, we will not transform if we continue to ignore the youths.
However, over the years, the challenges faced by the youths due to neglect are unimaginable. It is sad to note that many who tried to break the jinx and become self-employed or gain employment in government ministries often hit a brick wall. Perhaps, such is the case why most young people are adamant to the plea not to leave the country. And no amount of Jacob wrestling with the angel will stop them as they chose to risk their lives on a perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in search of greener pastures in Europe.
The danger that may arise from the minds of the neglected youths is better imagined than experienced. Perhaps, that is what necessitated Obasanjo to raise the alarm that the country might be consumed by youth anger as a result of neglect. In this regard, it is important for government to provide jobs for the young bulging population, so that, the ticking time bomb may not explode like it did during the Arab spring.
At the moment, the rate of unemployed youths is still astronomically high and government’s lackadaisical attitude towards creating jobs shows that the trend may not abate in the near future.
Obviously, it seems that government at all levels lacks foresight of what the youths really need and how to harness their potential. It is not enough for an elder statesman of Obasanjo’s status to implore the youths not to wish him and his likes dead and for young people to believe in themselves and never to lose hope or be frustrated because we have a wonderful country and resources. It would be fairer for Obasanjo to question himself as well as past and present leaders thus: What foundation did we lay for the youths to believe in? Or is he speaking in order to be exonerated from those who blatantly refused to give the youths a chance? Besides, what makes the country and its resources wonderful when its youths are neglected?
Of recent, one of the roads most travelled by people is the path that leads to politics. On this journey, politicians pride themselves among others as servants of the people, bridge builders and the ones that bring social services and so on to the common man. Yet, the youths are neglected and without jobs while the majority of the citizens are languishing in abject poverty. This is very sad for an oil-rich nation like Nigeria.
In the face of all these inadequacies, political elders and politicians continue to enjoy life, wealth, power and privileges. While the youths and the masses are ravaged by poverty. The question therefore is: when would the elders hear the clarion call and allow the youths to weather the storm and lead? Or are they comfortable with the continued neglect and joblessness of youth?
Notwithstanding the neglect of the youths some of the so-called elders make young people to participate actively in protest to pressure government to reverse a policy not favourable to them among others. Indeed, there is no harm in protesting. But, they should rather protest against injustice, corruption, anti-people policies and so on. Young people should actively get involved in politics and other forms of leadership in order to help reclaim public confidence and faith in politics and government. Yes, Obasanjo is right when he said: “Japan does not have any resources yet it is one of the largest economies in the world”. But, he failed to tell us the age of the people managing such a large economy and why it is very difficult for Nigerian leaders to emulate them.
Regrettably, in these climes, sit-tight leaders abound. Political leaders find it difficult to relinquish power as they hide under the illusion that young people need to cut their teeth in politics and be properly nurtured and groomed before enough trust and confidence can be reposed in them to lead and hold sensitive political offices. In confirming the above point, Obasanjo said: “Don’t wish us dead, don’t wish us to disappear because you will need us …to mentor you and prepare you for the future…you need our experience…to guide you…” Certainly, young people need guidance but, not the likes in the Constitution which guides them out from contesting as president in the country with the age clause.
However, the youthful revolution burning like wild harmattan fire in the political arena around the world could serve as a lesson for Nigerian leaders, elders and political elite to allow young people to shoulder more of government’s responsibilities. This is because, allowing young people as leaders will serve as a mirror for the youths to see their own face and give judgment of other faces reflected there before. The recent appointment of very aged people as ambassadors and ministers is not only appalling but a slap on the youths. This is because the majority of these elderly people cannot function effectively in the new age of information technology as it is absolutely very strange to them. Indeed, one of the recently appointed elderly ambassadors confessed during the Senate screening that information technology is not for his generation. Yet, he will be an ambassador to mostly young Nigerians in the Diaspora whose source of information and interaction is the internet.
No doubt, the youthful 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, President of France will be an eye opener for Nigerian leaders and its youths. No doubt, Nigeria’s youths are brilliant, smart and courageous. But their interest in politics and leadership should be inspired by an enabling environment before they can hit the ground running to help build the nation. Indeed, it is unacceptable for successive governments to continue to keep the youths inactive, indolent and unproductive. Such uncharitable action exhibited by government towards the youths sooner or later may trigger Obasanjo’s fear of the youths’ anger which may consume all.
To avert a revolution by the youths, government should without hesitation invest heavily in projects that create real job opportunities for them and not waste resources on elephant projects. More so, an enabling environment should be made available for human capacity development as much as agriculture is made very attractive to young people.