By Denrele Animasaun
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style– Maya Angelou
There is a saying that “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. The Governor of Kogi, Yahaya Bello said this week that our youths have to” develop characters and attitudes that could guarantee a secured future rather than indulging in hard drugs that would only destroy their future. This is rich, kicking our youths while they are down. This is like blaming a whole section of the population and casting aspersions that the fault lies with our youths. I beg to differ; our young people are resilient and many have struggled against all odds to merely survive. Respective administrations have failed our young people. There is however, pockets of young people’s innovative programme including, the O’Yes programme in Osun and a few other places but not nearly enough.
There is far too many in disinvested and disenfranchised and denigration of young people at every given opportunity; really what else do they expect? Success without investment?
With Nigeria’s population at 182 million and more than half its people are under 30 years of age. According to one research: of the about 57 million out of school children globally; 10.5 million of them are Nigerian children, making Nigeria the country with the second highest concentration of out of school children globally.
The quality of education in the state public schools, where the majority of children attend is appalling, and keeps declining, and this is right across primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. The derelict condition of facilities, the inadequate or sometimes complete absence of necessary basic infrastructure in educational institutions, as well as the declining quality of teaching and non-teaching staff have all combined to create the monumental existential crisis and challenge facing the education sector in the country today, and therefore affecting the overall development and preparation of our youth for a purposeful and productive life. The writing indeed is on the wall: powers that be are spectacularly failing our young; it is a shame and a disgrace.
To further compound the issue, less than 15% of youths seeking admission into tertiary institutions ever get admitted annually. And yet, there are no viable alternative structured vocational and skills acquisition institutions of a tertiary status to accommodate these teeming population of youths excluded from all rounded education. There is gargantuan lack of provision and investment to accommodate the growing population in particular, with the nation’s shrinking economy and depleted oil revenue to provide adequate infrastructure, transportation, schools, social and health facilities.
So Governor Bello through his commissioner for Youths and Sport, Adoji, was addressing the Governor Sensitisation/Awareness Programme on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking organised by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in Lokoja on ‘Listening to Children and Youth: First step to help grow healthy and safe: In his address, the governor noted that what mattered in life and determined the future of an individual was his or her character and attitude! Seriously, this is like the pot calling the kettle black. In a society where politicians dictum is do as I say not as I do, this flies in the face of common morality; the truth is lost on the older generations and the politicians in particular. They failed to invest; they feathered their nest while squandering our future: our young.
It is obvious when the good governor points out that the youths are future leaders. So when have the youths been given the opportunity to grow and develop their leadership potential? When have they been given the tools and the skills to prepare them for the future? When and how? These are the salient issues and questions that should be posed to the so-called politicians in their ivory tower. They have lost touch with common man and the young. If the truth must be told, opportunities have come and gone when our young were used as political fodders to agitate and intimidate the populace for pittance during electioneering, the politicians set off a chain reaction where they arm youths with weapons, drugs and tools of villainy and expect these young people to come out lily white? I think not. The genie has been out of the bottle for far too long. So if there is any blame it should be levied at the foot of every single politician who has groomed our youths for life worse than useless. So I think it is rich for any politician to say that ‘ society expected them to avoid drug abuse and peddling of hard drugs, as ‘’drugs destroy your destiny”! And to rub salt into the wounds, “What we are seeing today among our youths does not connote the proverbial saying that youths are the leaders of tomorrow,” this is a bridge too far.
I do not get where he got his statistics from but according to him, 80 per cent of persons that commit various crimes in the society today are youths and noted that most crimes were committed under the influence of one form of drug or the other’ This is tarring every young person with the same brush.
It is ironic that he said that “The heroes that fought for the independence of Nigeria were youths who did it using their talents and determination” and urged youths to borrow a leaf from the nation’s past heroes none of whom he said was up to 40 years. Yes, that is true, but that is because, these incredible people were standing on the shoulders of giants, they did not do it on their own, they did this because people who came before inspired them and encouraged them to become great and do great things. That cannot be said of subsequent generations who are hell bent on holding on to the vestiges of power. That is the difference, somewhere; somehow the good governor and his likes have failed to understand that the youths of today are the reflection of the generation before. Time to shine the mirror within and declare that the fault and the failures of today’s young people lies with the failure to thrive in an environment that failed spectacularly to provide and prepare them for the future. So I say, the legacy of the future of our youths lies in the genuine sustainable commitment and investment of this government. Five years ago, I wrote in generation X: ‘I have been banging on about the politicians consigning our young people to the rubbish heap and it is evident that the youths have no stake in their own future. They have had no moral role-models; all they see around them are grand thieves, corruption on a grand scale, murderers, violence, no opportunists , inadequate education and insecurities, with opportunity or given the chance to thrive from the onset and we expect them to know how to behave? We have failed them and so badly too. I see the finger pointing has begun and the young are blamed for the ills in Nigeria.