By Amir Abdulazeez
If we are banking on the majority of present day Nigerian youths as the custodians of a better and more prosperous country tomorrow, then we need to seriously reconsider. Many (not all) of the youths and potential leaders of tomorrow that we currently have are most likely to be worse than today’s leaders. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States once said: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”. The Nigerian leaders of today have so far failed woefully to build the future for our youths and more unfortunately, are grossly failing towards building our youths for the future.
Several factors have contributed towards our youths finding themselves in this sorry and unfortunate situation. First and foremost, many people aged between 15 and 35 in Nigeria have evolved through and under a time and circumstance when Nigeria is arguably at its most corrupt and adverse era ever. This era has helped in negatively shaping not only the thinking of our youths but their action as well. Unlike many of today’s leaders who relatively evolved through an era of decency and prosperity but later decided to be corrupt on their own volition, our youths have been romancing with all that is wrong with Nigeria right from their school days.
Secondly, we are at a time when the present crop of Nigerian leaders, most notably from 1999 to date is the most negligent when it comes to youth development and mentorship. If they had brought up our youths the way they were brought up by those before them, it would’ve been a different story. If they are willing to give the current youths the same opportunities they were given, we wouldn’t have had the same old brigades still jostling for political positions and relevance. A typical politician views a Nigerian youth not as someone who will take over from him, but as someone he can exploit for his endless political advantage. Those that ruled at all levels of government from 1999 to date are those who had the best opportunity to navigate away from the past and blaze the trail. Instead, most of them chose to set a bad precedent and made governance appear in the eyes of the youth as a lucrative venture thereby corrupting the minds of the young people. Thirdly, Nigerian youths themselves have generally and grossly indicated their inability to stand up to their responsibilities and their potentials due to many internal and external reasons which are both within and beyond their control. The few of them that were given rare opportunities to serve failed woefully and ended up giving the impression that they make no difference. The Nigerian youths of yesteryears are obviously different from those of today.
The real tragedy of many Nigerians is not the poverty of their pockets but the poverty of their mindsets. It has been our poor mindsets, probably more than any other thing that has prevented us from utilizing our huge potential. Present day Nigerians, especially the youths whom the country are looking forward to for future leadership are the worst afflicted in this regard. They have being brought up and made to develop a very poor and myopic mindset right from the word ‘go’. The fact that national development is far more behavioral and attitudinal than it is infrastructural and technological is more perfectly captured by the popular proposition that; if you migrate all Nigerians to America and all Americans to Nigeria, Americans will waste no time in transforming Nigeria into America just like Nigerians will degrade America back to Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the mindsets of our youths either by default or by design is not made to proffer solutions to the numerous problems bedeviling Nigeria; rather, it is made to add to them. The ground is being consciously or subconsciously made adequate for most of them to become divided, corrupt, irresponsible and unproductive. Out of the frustration that those on top have taken up all their opportunities, they don’t give a damn about what happens to the country. Some of them have resulted to armed robbery, fraud, kidnapping, insurgency and all other vices because they feel they have no future or the future of their country has no plan for them. The leaders are mainly after themselves and their immediate families; they reserve virtually all the goodies of the nation for their children and cronies.
Whether rightly or wrongly, one of the major arguments of the January 1966 coupists was that, politicians and leaders of that generation were corrupt and politically irresponsible. Several generations later, we still respect and refer to the first republic leaders as the most saintly and patriotic. Our condition keeps deteriorating with every generation that took over up till today and with the type of generation we are currently grooming, it seems our worst days are ahead of us. Those that ruled from 1999 to date had the best opportunity to mentor our youths and serve as role models but instead have ended up using them for their political advantage and leading them astray. They have taught the youths that leadership is all about amassing wealth and perpetrating impunity in the land. They have largely failed to provide good orientation, education and opportunities for them.
If you want to know the type of tomorrow’s leaders that we have, all you need to do is to spend some time on social media and monitor their activities. A large chunk of them are engaged in nothing but the spread of hatred, political hero-worshipping, sycophancy, fraud, ethnic jingoism and religious bigotry. While those at the top are mostly united by corruption, power greediness and self-interest, they at the bottom are being chained by mental slavery and political blindness.
The global modern day practice is that of mentoring and giving responsibilities to youths so as to make them prepared for future state challenges. In the United Arab Emirates, Shama Almazrui was appointed minister at the age of 22 at a time when Nigerian politicians employ people within that age group and higher to praise them on social media. The average age in President Buhari’s cabinet is 50, with many of the ministers well above that average. The minister of youths himself is a typical example. Even the Nigerian constitution will not allow a person with age less than 30 to contest any significant election, but doesn’t stop an old man of 100 years to contest. Most of our past heroes actually began doing what they did at their youth ages because they were trained by the colonial masters for such, but today even a 40 year old is considered only as a mere personal assistant to an office holder, except if he has the financial war chest to contest for elections himself.
In the course of the Rivers State re-run elections held recently, a youth corper, Samuel Okonta by name was killed. Four days later, Governor Nyesom Wike paid a condolence visit to the NYSC secretariat in Porthacourt and used the occasion to score some cheap political goals. He announced a N5,000 increment of the corp members state monthly allowance in what looks like an attempt to use that to calm their nerves. Whatever that increment was meant to achieve, the timing was simply wrong and it demonstrates that our leaders always view the youths as those in constant demand for money. Such are the type of vulnerable youths that we have who were made not to value their self-worth and responsibilities.
The youth agendas of most Nigerian governors stops mainly at some politically motivated and executed empowerment programmes which hardly change their lives. Even with that, when they recruit 100 youths for the so-called empowerment, they recruit 200 others or more as political thugs or neglect the education of 1000 others. One step forward, two steps backwards. Jonathan’s YouWin programme is however a significant empowerment programme, a sort of which if sustained, has the capacity to change the lives of its beneficiaries. However, it has since stopped.
Our carelessness towards how we place people in the name of political reward is also disturbing. I remember discussing with a friend some six or seven years ago who was narrating to me why he thinks the Nigeria of our dream may never come true. He told the story of a drug addict who was about to be recruited into the Nigerian Police Force (a regular practice of how politicians reward political thugs) and whom whether we like it or not may rise to become the Inspector General someday. This is a typical example of how we continue to pollute our system and its institutions.
As bad as some of our current political leaders may be, those waiting to take over from them may be worse. Many of our youths are not willing to hold their leaders to account; they are mainly interested in what they will get from them. The youths are not thinking of what they will do for Nigeria, all they are after is what Nigeria will do for them. That was how they were trained. Besides, many people in the position of authority are doing everything possible to make sure the people below them, most of whom are the youths, remain impotent, vulnerable, ignorant and poor.
From the look of things, I don’t foresee those at the helm of affairs currently doing anything significant and sincere to prepare our youths for the future. What I would advise is our youths to realize this, quit wasting their time in advancing the selfish political interest of their predators, unite and prepare themselves for future responsibilities so as to save themselves and their country.