Restoring confidence in Nigerian youth By Gbenga Kayode


It is often said that a hungry man is an angry man who, of course, can do practically anything to keep his body and soul together. Common among other social vices which such a man can resort to are armed robbery, thuggery, kidnapping, brigandage, prostitution, and the like.

This scenario is, indeed, a metaphor for the ever-increasing loss of confidence in the Nigerian system, as it certainly describes the obvious dilemma which confronts the average Nigerian youth as of now. Yet, the young population most of whom are confused about their future as the leadership, as noted in successive administrations, seems not having anything concrete in store for them to maximise their God-given talents and abilities for the advancement of humanity.

Unfortunately, this has been the plight of many Nigerian youth who are yearly being thrown into hopelessness and uncertainties, as largely fuelled by severe poverty and unemployment. To worsen their matter, research has shown the country simply lacks accurate and reliable data for development purposes, including job creation and planning of economic opportunities.

Since the aphoristic saying states, “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”, it is not surprising one bit in the country to realise that a great number of both the outright unemployed and underemployed young population who have jobs that barely sustain them find it heavy-going to make ends meet in these austere times.

The aftermath of this social-economic dislocation among many youth is well-evident in the high rate of their involvement in militancy, crime, political thuggery, prostitution, cybercrime, and other debilitating social vices predominantly out of frustration. Yet, this young, active population is supposed to produce tomorrow’s leaders.

A handy case in point is the untoward wave of serial kidnappings across the Nigerian Federation of recent. For instance, Mr. Wahab Oba, one of the four freed journalists and Chairman of Lagos State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) earlier kidnapped for a week in Abia State, South-Eastern Nigeria, while relating their horrendous experience at the hands of their kidnappers on a private television, said the kidnappers’ ages ranged from 18 to 26 years. Whereas, he added, the kidnappers’ informants’ ages too, were between 8 and 9 years. The desperation of these affected youth to make money through crime is increasing by the day.

Predominantly, the high rate of youth unemployment coupled with the lack of an enabling environment for the growth of small and medium scale businesses has been cited as a prime reason for this social malaise. The situation also, has led many graduates to continue to seek employment opportunities endlessly, since starting new businesses seems like a tall dream to many.

The utter disbelief among a greater number of the Nigerian youth regarding what is in store for them in the Nigerian project, and of course, their future has culminated in all sorts of social disruption. Many unemployed young ones, male and female, these days simply throw morality to the winds all in the name of fending for themselves to survive the taxing times.

To further worsen their diminishing socio-economic situation, successive administrations in the country, actually, have not been able to figure out what effective strategies to apply in creating realistic solutions to the rising youth unemployment.

Whereas some have made conscious attempts at starting developmental programmes and projects for mostly unemployed youth, implementation of such usually poorly-conceived ideas has remained a hindrance. It should be stated that the successive administrations’ failure to engage and integrate the nation’s youth into promising development efforts over time has been a clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s bid for accelerated economic growth and development.

There is no doubt that at this level of the nation’s life, there is an urgent need for attitudinal change on the part of all country men and women in all walks of life in general and leaders in particular, at least regarding a helpful approach to doing things for the benefit of the majority.

The Government at various tiers of governance should introduce implementable, development initiatives particularly targeted at youth empowerment and improvement so as to renew their fast waning confidence and hope in Nigeria’s system.

The country’s political leadership need to learn a significant lesson from United States President Barack Obama’s inference on America’s cherished ideals and their implication on future progress, when he said: “…the true strength of our nation (US) comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope…. We want our children to believe in the American dream which imposes no limit on what you can achieve, provided you are willing to work hard.”

However, is there the Nigerian dream in which millions of the nation’s youth can believe while making positive impact on the nation’s economy? Many think this question remains to be answered. Some self-seeking Nigerians, either in or out of government, carelessly continue to fan embers of discord among the Nigerians and sing the usual “zoning”, “it’s-our-turn”, or “Federal Character” mantras. Many believe it is no wonder that ineptitude and mediocrity persist to cripple the system, since competence, patriotism, efficiency and values-based leadership have not been allowed to take prominence in the nation’s affairs.

Perhaps, the essence of good governance seems not lost on all those entrusted with leadership positions after all. Specifically, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria, in Sunday Champion, a Nigerian newspaper, while going spiritual in his manner of warning his colleagues in various positions of authority against bad governance recently, was quoted to have declared thus: “Today, we are faced with the challenges of nation-building. God will not forgive us if we do not make life bearable for those we govern.”

As Nigeria prepares to mark its 50th Independence Anniversary, it is quite necessary that certain elected and public officers who, by virtue of their positions of authority mindlessly, cut chunks of the “national cake” with impunity, for personal use should genuinely reflect on how gross financial recklessness, as inflated contract sums, 100% increment in personal and constituency allowances, phoney projects, outright stealing, money laundering, and diversion of budgetary allocations into private accounts has nearly ruined the nation’s economy in the last fifty years, and the need to change for the better.

Indeed, following a critical glimpse of Chief Anthony Enahoro’s 87th Birthday Celebration on a private television station in Lagos recently, one could not but wonder aloud if this is “Nigeria” the foremost nationalist and his late counterparts including Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa among others dreamt of when, against all odds, he dared to move a landmark motion for Nigeria’s Independence in 1953.

Since image is everything in the international arena, as the Re-branding Nigeria Project does advocate, leaders need to allow the message being passed across through the project to make consequential impact right from the top down to the man in the street by changing their attitude to governance and doing what is right at all times so that hope could be renewed in the system.

It is also significant to recall President Obama’s timely reminder to all creditable leaders across the world, as regards leaving a good legacy for their progeny: “Let us ask ourselves: if our children should live to see the next generation… what change would they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call…. This is our time –to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids, to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace….”

It is high time the nation alleviated the plight of many of Nigeria’s youth who have been reduced to a state of hopelessness by poverty and unemployment. Leaders, can you do just that? “Yes, we can” ought to be your answer!

Kayode, a media and communication professional, writes from Lagos.