Youth: the life of a country, the strength of a nation and the hope of innumerable generations. Their resilience is like the eagle in the sky, strong like a lion in the jungle, they are the fresh life line and the future of Nigeria. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2019) defines a youth as the early period of existence, growth and development. It is the stage in the life of an individual that is very crucial because it is the decision-making stage.
Jogging down the memory lane. I remembered how 12 professors were called to sit in an airplane. When the plane was about to take off, they were informed that the plane was made by some youths in the nation. They all quickly ran out leaving one woman who was sitting confidently. Surprised, onlookers asked her why she was still in the airplane and she said, ‘if indeed this airplane was made by our youths, trust me it won’t even start’. I think it is high time this mind-set changed.
I quite agree with Rachel Jackson who said “Our youths are not failing the system; the system is failing the youths. Ironically, the very youths who are being treated the worst are the young people who are going to lead us out of our nightmare”.
A Nation in need of Accountable Leadership
Effective and accountable leadership remains one of the biggest challenges to development in Nigeria today. Leaders in our nation have not always responded effectively to the needs of the country, but there is hope in the rising generation of youths who could play a critical role in building accountability for successful representation, economic transformation and public service.
Currently, Nigeria face problems that are common to all sovereign units. These problems are generally in relation to capacity building, governance, regional and sub-regional economic integration, tribalism, corruption, food security, unemployment, external debt burden, international trade and payment relations amongst others, all of which could easily be traced back to its calibre of leaders and leadership structures. The role of the youths in addressing and solving these chronic problems that seem second nature to Nigeria can never be overemphasized. This calls for the need to understand leadership objectively and within the African context, working towards educating, enlightening and empowering Africa’s next generation of leaders.
In our current generation, youths are trying to take on leadership roles that were previously reserved for seniors, a move that hasn’t been received in the most positive light by the elderly. Across the world, leadership thinking has shifted from the erroneous belief that age, experience and maturity were the dynamics that led to modern and innovative systems.
Most countries of the world are diverting significant resources towards securing the future of their countries – by preparing the younger generations for responsible and productive leadership in politics, business, technology and other areas for sustaining democracy. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case in Africa and Nigeria in particular. Former US President Barack Obama was young when he took over governance in America. It was the same with David Cameroon, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Both of the leaders performed brilliantly and turned around the socioeconomic lives of their countries respectively.
The recently appointed commissioner for youths and sports in Oyo State, Oluwaseun Fakorede and the youngest speaker in the country today, Hon. Sangodoyin are good examples of how the younger generations can lead their countries successfully. Indeed, leadership is changing across the world!
The Hope of today’s Youths
I strongly believe youth empowerment should be at the foremost pursuit of the Nigeria youths in taking on the reins of leadership in our country today. Youth empowerment is a process where young people are encouraged to take charge of their lives. It is a structural and attitudinal process whereby young people gain the ability, agency and authority to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other citizens in the nation.
I have always asked myself a couple of times the difference between youth empowerment and youth development. My search revealed the answer buried deep in the manifesto of the Executive Governor of Oyo State as regards youth empowerment and youth development. “In his words he said youth empowerment is different from development because development is centred on developing individuals, while empowerment is focused on creating greater community change and it relies on the development of individual’s capacity”.
Need I say that youth empowerment cuts across several programs the youths can empower themselves with through activities and experiences that will help them develop social, ethical, emotional, physical, and cognitive competencies which I believe includes the ability to analyse their own strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, have the confidence, motivation, self-esteem and abilities to carry them out (including the ability to establish support networks in order to effect positive social change and fully participate in community life).
Some of these programs include: Young African Leaders Initiative, International Youth Foundation, Young Africa, Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Foundation amongst many others.
Active Engagement in Community Service
The truth is that volunteering and active engagement in community service in order to help solve societal problems with others is another major form of civic activity in which the youths can engage themselves with, in order to take the mantle of leadership in the nearest future.
Let us be clear, the benefit from this engagement is of two-fold: Firstly, the youths can train or be a model for the general public, to monitor what the government does which I believe will help create more watchdogs to check the actions and policies of the government and by so doing prepare themselves for greater exploits in their leadership aspirations. Secondly, I believe that apart from building networks and gaining useful experiences with other people in the society, the volunteers can make themselves useful for the community and keep themselves well-informed of the current situations in the nation.
Also, participating in these activities help raise awareness of the youths about the current economic, legal, political issues and social development in the country, which will place them at a better position to check the government’s performance and aim higher in the future.
Education and Human Capital Development
I remember a popular legal maxim which states that nemo dat quod non habet (no one can give that which he does not have). However, Nigeria remains a stubborn exception to this rule. Our wizardry is so remarkable that we are capable of giving what we do not have and importing exactly what we have. In a knowledge-based economy, human capital development and its educational transformation into good governance and effective leadership is a challenge for youths who may want to challenge the status quo and take the mantle of leadership in the future.
Furthermore, since capacities, skills, know-how, knowledge, skills, ideas and commitments which add economic value to the nation are all categorized under human capital. Therefore; young people should focus more on the following topics – civic engagement, solidarity, volunteerism, nationalism and social trust – in the educational program. At school, for example young people need to participate in community relief groups, debate clubs, mock elections and students’ committees just to name a few, which I strongly believe are effective methods to evaluate a democratic environment. I believe that with this knowledge, youths will be able to make choices that support the development of life skills and the pursuit of educational goals necessary for national and local leadership positions.
A Paradigm Shift
Judging from a cursory glance, a major trend in Nigeria has been how our youths have chosen to take cover on social media to voice their opinions and use various hashtags to create unrest in the same social space. However, I am a firm believer that to advance citizenship in a sustainable way, our youths must progress beyond what I term the “virtual citizenship” to formal “political participation” at the grassroot and national levels.
I strongly believe our youths should be given the opportunity to proffer solutions and voice their concerns about policies and regulations. For these policies to be effective, I am of the opinion that institutional channels should be created to influence local policy at local youth councils. Also, National Youth Councils should be given a voice in national policy and reforms because youths are purpose-driven and full of potentials.
Youths are the driving force in nation building. Therefore, the country should ensure that youths have the necessary conditions to take responsibilities, develop at their pace, broadening as well as expanding their participation in cultural, political and socio-economic development.
- It’s time for the youths to take leadership in Africa retrieved from https://www.motivatingafrica.com/africa-today/its-time-for-the-youths-to-take leadership-in-Africa/
- How can young people help the government to be more effective and accountable from World Bank Cambodia.
- The Role of the Youths in Democracy by Eduzaurus.
- Human Capital: The link between Leadership and Organisational learning retrieved from Emerald Insight.
Oyinlola Abosede, a graduate of Chemical Engineering from Obafemi
Awolowo University is an intellectual fighter for emancipation.
and an advocate on social issues. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org