The Role Of The Youth In Nation Building
By Chima E. Obieze
WHO IS A YOUTH?
Some define youth as the period between childhood and adulthood. This definition has been faulted by many and I agree completely. This is because adulthood starts at 18 and to me that is when youthfulness starts. However, what is important is that it is the period where every aspect of man works most effectively starting from his brain, his organs and body system. Youth is a time of resourcefulness, energy, vitality, strength and vigor. It is the most useful period of a man’s lifetime. Most great men world over, became popular for struggles they led and achievements they recorded in their youth. Jesus Christ lived only for 33, Alexander the great, our own Ojukwu, Bill Clinton of America, Mandela, J.F. Kennedy, to mention but a few. Youth is therefore the best time to serve your nation.
WHAT IS A NATION?
A nation can be defined or explained to be a group of people bounded together by culture, religion, tradition and geography, who come together and decide to unite as one to fight for a common goal which is usually the preservation of their sovereignty, security of lives and property and provision of social amenities for their citizens. Nigeria became a Nation in 1914 and gained her independence in 1960. The Nation Nigeria has since 1960 gone through several trials and tribulations. However, we still hope that in time, through the efforts of her youth, we will get to the promise land.
THE STATE OF OUR NATION
There is no doubt that Nigeria as a nation is not in the best shape presently. From 0ur economy, to security, down to corruption, our education system, among others. It is even more painful that the bulk of the burden of all these falls on the youths. According to Michael Oputeh “Any nation that deprives its youth the necessary enabling environment to participate in nation building process does so at its own risk. This is because youth are the foundation of any society”. The prevailing unemployment situation in the Nation is regrettable. Our over dependence in white collar jobs is also not to be encouraged at all. Youth constitutes over 60 to 70% of Nigeria and about 80% of them are currently either unemployed or under-employed. The continued stay of old politicians within the corridors of power is also something that is worrisome. This is because this denies the younger generation the chance to contribute their bit to the development of our nation.
The mass unemployment, corruption and government failure have also given rise to many crimes and social vices – fraud, kidnapping, armed robbery, extremism, ritual killings and so on. The last recruitment of the Nigerian Immigration Services reveals a lot on how desperate and jobless our youths are. We no longer have room for vocational and technical schools, where our youths and students can be trained on basic skills and handwork.
In all this issues, the people of this generation, my generation, have a lot to do. In the words of the prolific singer, R. Kelly “There are miracles in life I must achieve, but first I know it starts inside of me”.
- Barr. Chima Obieze
ROLE OF THE YOUTH
PREPARATION: I am one of those who believe that there is no such thing as LUCK. I believe what we call luck is where preparedness and opportunity meets. Only someone who is prepared can arrest an opportunity when it comes. The youth of Nigeria will need to work on themselves seriously if they must make any meaningful change. We must work on our orientation. We must work on our character. The saying goes that … “ambition may get you to the top but only character can keep you there”. We must also guide our reputation and conduct for posterity sake. The book 48 Laws of powers said… “So much depends on reputation; guard it with your life”. The youth must strive on her own to be the change they want in Nigeria. It can be inferred without fear or favour that our elders have little or no plans for the youths of this nation. That is why we must on our own strive to take over. Not by the use of violence, coercion or crime but by showing that we are ready, by distinguishing ourselves in our respective fields of endeavors, by showing courage, grit and determination. Getting good education is immeasurable. However, our education must not necessarily be about class work and passing examination (my Facebook story about me and my son). We must make every experience educational. Good grades in school shows you are good, but your disposition and orientation beyond that, is what will make you great.
In the words of Bill Gates… “In college I failed in most subjects but my friends made all A’s, now my friend is an engineer at Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft”. That is why we must be innovative. In all honesty, we must not all be in politics. We can become leaders in our respective callings. If your calling is to be a man/woman of God it’s a call to serve your followers. The C.E.O of a company leads all the staff and investors. If you own a school you lead both students and teachers. If you are a teacher you lead your students. If you are just a staff you can lead the other staff, but by all positive means, strive to be different.
There is a saying; “Two good heads are better than one”. Our bright and best brains have to begin serious preparation NOW by forming alliances with each other. But it must be like-minds. Iron sharpeneth iron, so the connection or network must be with men of like-passion. The aim must be to develop ideologies in line with an overall National blueprint/master plan. During the anti-colonial struggle, some Nigerian and African youths used this strategy to support the fight for independence. Some of them formed the famous Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) and the Zikist Youth Movement (ZYM). They were prominent in Trade Unions and other Nationalist political parties of the period. Some were active journalists who made alliances with other reliable nationalists. In 1962, it was the then Nigerian University Students (NUS) who prevented the Nigeria government from signing a secret and unjust agreement, called the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact. That law would have allowed the British to leave their soldiers permanently on Nigerian soil despite our independence.
In the 60’s and up to the 70’s, the youth were at the very center of governance in the country. At age 19 or so, late Amb. M.T. Mbu was Nigerian’s High Commissioner to UK and he was Minister of Navy at 20 plus. At his early 30’s, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was already in his bloom in the Western Region of Nigeria and became the Western Leader before 40. Azikiwe, Akintola, Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Obasanjo were all Heads of State in their 30’s. Young people were permanent secretaries in civil service and military governors.
SETTING UP STRUCTURES
Fighting for change is all about affiliations and setting up bodies or structures. After setting up alliances, the next thing will be to create structures with which to pursue your common goal. It may be a movement but not the clandestine ones that eventually metamorphose to a cult with time. Just one that is built on the fear of God, patriotism, trust and the resolve to cause positive change. For instance, in 1943, a group of young men (mostly in their 20s and 30s) who felt the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa has lost its fires frequently met to discuss ideas to bring back the strength of the party. They felt the party had become the preserve of tired, nonmilitant, privileged South African elite, who are more convinced with protecting their own rights than those of the masses. The general consensus or feeling was that it was time for action. The move was what led to the formation of a YOUTH LEAGUE which lite up the fires of the party and spurred the leadership to a positive direction. Their proposal was at first resisted but in the end, it succeeded. The famous manifesto read… “The congress Youth League must be the BRAINS-TRUST and POWER-STATION of the spirit of African Nationalism”. May I inform you that, within years, the leaders of the Youth League, including Nelson Mandela, became executives in the main ANC. The importance of building structures cannot be over emphasized; most great governments are usually the product of a team assembled as a structure for the purpose of Nationalism and Patriotism.
This is my favourite part. I have said this in many of my public lectures and speeches. The time to be part of the action is now. This is no time to sit on the fence.
The Nigerian Youth must move away from the sidelines of political commentary and analyses into mainstream political work by joining and invading political parties, this is not for everybody though, but for those whose vocation and calling is in politics. We must be politically aware. We must make time to feed ourselves with vital information about our nation, government and other vital issues. This is no time for nonchalant attitude.
The leaders of Nigeria and indeed our elders have shown too much apathy to the plight of the youth. This is even the more reason we should take our destiny into our hands. According to Plato… “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. It is also said that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. (The story of the chicken refusing to attend meeting).
I believe that the youth of this generation have a great mandate… As Nelson Mandela posited … “To overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and it is the highest aspiration of every free man”
In 1985, IBB was the president and head of state of Nigeria. I should be in nursery school at the time; we were taught that we were the leaders of tomorrow. Twenty five years later the same IBB said unequivocally in an interview with BBC Hausa Service that the youths are not prepared to take political leadership in the country. What an irony. But we the youths of Nigeria can make a very positive mark and a great point. This is because statistics show that Nigeria is a nation of youths. Over 70% of our populations are under 35. This is a rude awakening and a clarion call on the Nigerian Youth in the area of responsibility and mass involvement in politics.
I hope that this discussion or presentation is not misconstrued to mean that the past leaders of Nigeria have all failed. The position is simply saying that they have done their bit in their time and generation. Now they must allow people of this generation to mount the saddle of leadership and make their mark. Yes, we need the wisdom of the old, but they must bow to our vigour. It’s about time for my generation to stop seeing themselves as too young to take up political leadership in this country. We must NOW get prepared, form alliances, and structures, join political parties and begin to TRANSFORM things from within. Enough of Facebook, Twitter and other social network criticism. Let’s join the fight and make our mark.
The truth is that our nation needs us at this time. That is an open reality. Some persons may try to discourage us, kill our dreams but we must persist against their resistance. We too are Nigerians. From every sphere of life we operate, press, legal practice, medicine, student, teaching, engineering, administration, banking, accounting etc. we must begin to make our marks and build affiliations. We must know that for our nation to draw meaningful inspiration from the bursting strength and vigour of the youth, the youth need to reposition themselves as agents of positive change. So help us God!!!.
I am concerned that as a man of character and principle I have made a pledge to Nigeria at least for the past 15years and so of mu life. You are also guilty of this pledge. I PLEDGE to Nigeria my country. Many of us do not know what we mean when we make this pledge, or when we sing the National Anthem. It is a commitment. So do not say it if you cannot keep it. Do not sing it if you cannot honour it. When we pledging all those hard words we gave no conditions, whether the economy is good or bad we pledge, whether security is good or bad we pledge, whether we eat or not we pledge. If we start today to respect our promises to Nigeria, then Nigeria will be great again.
“Ask not what your country will do for you, ask what you will do for your country” – J.F. Kennedy.
Note: The author, Hon. Comr. Chima E. Obieze (esq.), Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources, Enugu State House of Assembly wrote from Enugu.