Image: Benue State governor, Dr Samuel Ortom
Arising from a summit of Benue youth across sectors, ethnic groups, and political divides at Sky Lodge, Judges Quarters, Makurdi, Benue State on 23rd October, 2015, the resulting Communiqué – or declaration – was passed unanimously by those in attendance:
We recognize the notion that the youth remains one of the most debated explanations and what constitutes it. We understand that the concept of youth has been viewed from two major perspectives; biological and cultural. On the Biological front, youth is a period between puberty and parenthood while the cultural perspective sees the youth as a distinct social status with specific roles, rituals and relationships.
We are aware that the Benue Youth is found in the middle of this definitions as it is hard to peg the age of the youth bracket due to the culture of dependence which thrives on absence of economic opportunities for young people to take on responsibilities that aptly qualify us as independent adults while on the other hand, the society views us as a distinct social class with clear roles and responsibilities expected of us.
We are victims of an unjust system. Our schools are corridors of shame and frustration that make many young people lose interest in education, life and to an extent they even lose hope. The quality of education is on a steady decline with obsolete infrastructure, curriculum, technology, poorly trained and motivated personnel which is not in tandem with the realities of the labour market. This does not provide potentials for post-graduation employment for us even as the cost of education in the state at all levels is on a constant rise. The resultant frustration and low self-esteem makes many young people embrace social vices of drugs, cultism, prostitution etc.
We have established the total absence of social and political mentorship in the state. Instead, the system has availed ample support and encouragement for thuggery, ethnic and communal crises that are a direct product of political machinations. The political elite are continually sowing ethnic and religious sentiments to pursue their appetite and greed to corner the collective wealth of all. These have robbed us of our sense of patriotism, ideals and concrete identity.
On the premise of the above, we Benue youth across ethno-politico-religious divides unanimously DEMAND:
– The political elite in Benue desist forthwith, all acts including but not limited to tribalism, favoritism, and nepotism targeted at entrenching discord amongst young people in Benue.
– The political elite must cease forthwith from using young people to achieve their selfish political, social and economic interest to the detriment of the youth.
– The current unemployment indices in the state among the youth are highly unacceptable. Therefore, we demand immediate prioritization of youth development programmes, and inclusion in ALL government policies and programmes.
In view of (3) above, considering that 55 percent of the total population of the State are youths (NPC 2006), we therefore demand for gender sensitive inclusion of young people in governance with a minimum base of 30 percent as best practice.
The Government should take cognizance and support Investment Ready Concepts (IRC) by youth to serve as a catalyst for job creation by young people and for young people. Government must also eschew multiple taxation of young struggling entrepreneurs.
With due appreciation for the youth friendly disposition of Benue’s Development Blueprint ‘Our Collective Vision for a new Benue’, we are discontented with:
The initial process of the blueprint development as it totally excluded the youth.
The vagueness of the plan which fails to adequately address youth challenges and aspirations.
However, we are already in the process of engaging the OCV document and appropriate responses shall be communicated to the government.
In appreciation of the fact that for Benue to take her rightful place in the annals of history and destiny, we have a core responsibility which we may not have satisfactorily fulfilled hitherto. Therefore, we undertake thus;
To shun all negative, unsafe and useless ethnic and political sentiments in all its forms and reject them in totality.
We condemn all forms of social media slander to include use of pseudonyms to attack and denigrate fellow youths and elders alike. We reiterate the need for positive use of social media for the social, economic and political development of the state.
To encourage all youth to develop themselves in their areas of interest, skills, gifts and talents to contribute meaningfully to the development of the state.
To serve as a model, we have undertaken to embark on a community service on the 31st of October, 2015 to clean specific locations within Makurdi Metropolis.
To continue this interaction as Benue youth both online and offline as the need arises.
We have awakened to our collective responsibilities as Benue youths. It is our desire to depart from the culture of complacency, ignorance and bickering. We have come out to take our rightful place in the scheme of things and events. We therefore call for cooperation and support from all stakeholders in the actualization of a greater and prosperous Benue.