Nigerian youths as agents of change

Nigeria’s Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr Sunday Dare

The Nigerian youths can be described by anyone from any perspective depending on the telescope with which one uses to estimate them. In this report, SUNNY ELEOJO IDACHABA examines this class of people that have drawn global attention to Nigeria in recent times.

To some persons, Nigerian youths are simply lazy, but in the estimation of others, they are not, but a bunch of creative and determined people with a sense of forebearance that is second to none in Africa.Investigation reveals that the Nigerian youths have passed through many phases but in the last three weeks, it has become clear to every discerning mind that not only are these youths creative, but are indeed long-suffering. This is not only as a result of their perseverance in the now disbanded #ENDSARS protest organised to stop police brutality, a development that sent shocking waves across the length and breath of the country before it was hijacked by hoodlums; rather, their exploits in the world of entertainment and information technology has also added a boost to the economic development of the country. Therefore, they have become a force to reckon with. No wonder a good number of youths are serving in various capacities in the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.Is President Buhari misquoted?
It was indeed President Buhari who was allegedly said to be misquoted about the state of Nigerian youths when he threw up the issue in London, 2016. This was when he made reference to the state of affairs back home. During a response to a London Telegraph Newspaper inquiry about the reason for youth restiveness in the country, he said, “More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30; a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country; therefore, they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare, education for free.”He went further to say that some Nigerians in the UK, mostly youths, are disposed to criminalities and should not be granted asylum there, saying many of them failed to convey the reality of Nigerian youth’s exploits.
Analysing Buhari’s statement
This assertion by the president whether rightly or wrongly was interpreted by many people to mean that he had disparaged and castigated his own fellow citizens before the international communities as a bunch of lazy youths who are not willing to work for survival, but are waiting for the government to provide everything for them. No wonder while reacting on the matter, a newspaper columnist, Solape Lawal- Solarium, like others, picked a hole in the president’s comment. He said Nigerian youth have never had it well in the political, social and economic configurations of Africa’s most populous country.According to him, “The Nigerian youth have always struggled to find a space to fit into an overcrowded political space. Constantly struggling to make a way out of limited or virtually non-existing roadmap to a secure future, the Nigerian youths have relied on their sweat and blood to make a success story out of a painful, tedious, unpredictable and bumpy journey. His journey can be likened to a lion’s cub abandoned by its mother to survive in the wild laden with packs of hyenas, crocodile infested rivers, fellow feline rivals and a hostile climate.”In his opinion, the survival of Nigerian youth is likened to the survival instinct of a baby lion definitely resting on its doggedness, resilience and perseverance unto finally becoming a full-blown lion capable of protecting its territory and family. He said, “Hence, it is understandable to see the reactions that greeted or trailed the alleged utterances of President Muhammadu Buhari at the Commonwealth Business Summit recently, berating that important and productive human demography that holds the key to the country’s today, tomorrow and future.”From every indication, it was from here that this whole narrative about the lazy nature or otherwise of Nigerian youths started. But the question analysts are asking is how far Nigerian youths have fared especially in the present day Nigeria.
The Nigerian youths
Prior to the mass protests that rocked the country in the last three weeks, the youths were perceived by many as generally docile and willing to accept whatever is thrown at them. For decades, the saying that youths are the leaders of tomorrow has been a sing-song, but has refused to be translated into a reality. Rather, the youths had always witnessed a recycled, vicious leadership mentality perpetrated by the ruling class against the yearnings of the teeming, youthful population.Writing on this development, a celebrated newspaper personality, Azu Ishiekwene, said the youths have learnt that not only had previous governments robbed their parents of decent dignity, but had dehumanised their psyche; therefore, they have decided to take their destinies in their own hands.According to him, “The good thing is that no matter the distractions and efforts to obfuscate things, the recent protesters, for example, are largely clear about what they want.”And they know that the arm-twisting to make them relent is worse than giving SARS another welcoming party.”The protesters don’t want government money because they’ve seen protest leaders paid off and nothing changed.”They don’t want a ‘seat at the table’, because they have seen white papers on police reform turn brown and things only got worse.”And yes, they’re not burning tyres or looting shops because they have also seen genuine protests hijacked in the past and watched reactionaries use such incidents to compromise or blackmail demands for action.”They have learnt from the mistakes of their long-suffering parents and at least learnt a lesson or two from their striking teachers who were either lied to or who lied to themselves that change is best served piecemeal.” To Mr Ishiekwene, the Nigerian youths have taken their destinies in their hands since the elders and leaders have failed to guarantee it. That appears to be the summary of Nigerian youths whose protests sent waves across the country recently.According to a trending report about the twin difference between the Nigerian ‘elite youths’ and ‘hoodlums’, Blueprint Weekend learnt that there is a big difference between the two. While one was responsible for the needed change that happened in the country two weeks ago, the other is responsible for the destruction that had trailed the noble ideal of the protest by the elite youths. The report categorically said that hoodlums have seized the opportunity of the current situation in the country to go on a rampage. “They frustrated the genuine protest of the elite youths and now have constituted themselves into hooliganism, plunging shops, malls and houses in search of their commonwealth.”What exactly did we expect? Are they not youths as well?  The truth of the matter is that both the EndSARS protesters and hoodlums are twins from the same womb. Expectedly, the two have turned out differently due to the different circumstances under which they were raised. However, right now, they are demanding for the same thing but through different means. They want an end to bad governance; they are being civil with their demands to be heard and listened to while the hoodlums are going about it the only way they know, which is crime! “The reason for this dichotomy is not far-fetched:  the EndSARS protesters are educated and well-raised in average Nigerian homes while the hoodlums are from the dregs of our society. “Another thing is that the hoodlums have been nurtured by the political elites who use them for evil purposes and then discard them afterwards. Now that the tables have turned on the political class, the same class wants to reject them publicly. Even though these thugs or hoodlums are regularly engaged by the powers that be to cause mayhem, they are not happy with their situation. They also hope for a better country, a Nigeria where they can be dignified and respected citizens.”The report appealed to political leaders by saying, “Dear political leaders, you created these monsters. You cannot renounce them now, you must tend them. They only hail and cheer you because you have left them with no choice. You think they don’t resent the constipated opulence which you brazenly flaunt? You think they don’t know that you have sacrificed their future at the altar of your political ambitions? The fact remains that Nigeria has failed these young ones! “Sincere condolences to the truly innocent people who have lost loved ones, properties and businesses to this carnage. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this critical time.”According to a newsletter ‘Conversation’, the youths are perceived erroneously based on physical appearances, but as the saying goes, looks can be deceptive. “It is quite absurd that people get arrested and tortured simply because of how they look or what gadgets they possess, but this is the daily reality of many young Nigerians. The iconic #ENDSARS protest placards flooding social media have wider implications. “One of these is that they reveal Nigeria’s ongoing and deep-seated struggle to establish itself as a modern democracy. They also point to a new generation of Nigerians rising to take their place in national affairs. This seemingly courageous and crop of young Nigerians use the social and traditional media to make their voices heard and fight for their country’s endangered democracy.”The report further said #ENDSARS movement of which the youths are largely involved is symbolic of many things, one of which is a generational divide in ideological posturing. “The older generation seems intractably establishmentarian while the younger generation is becoming increasingly radical.”This is probably why former lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani said, “The Nigerian exploding youth bulge is a paradox in pushing the contours of good governance and national development deep into the 21st century and beyond. “This bulge is not only a Nigerian challenge but also an African reality. It can herald the promise of the current and future times for greater positive national, political and economic transformation or it may be the engine that will accelerate the dissolution of the nation if not well managed. I mean youth unemployment, poor educational systems and curricular that adversely affect their employability apart from out-of-school, poorly educated youths, acute lack of political and economic opportunities and social and cultural access.”Why are Nigerian and other youths easy recruits for the Boko Haram, violent cross border herdsmen, Niger Delta militants, IPOB, OPC, YOLICOM and other separatist agitational groups?” he asked. “I want to underscore the fact that Nigerian youths have a huge role to play in growing the nation’s civic spaces and re drawing its corporate governance model to be more aligned with the complex knowledge formation and utilisation systems of the 21st century. “They can do this through structures that help in empowering visions, deepening social and cultural dialogues, enabling inter-generational conversations, opposing oppressive conditions and bad governance, engaging in sustainable networking that grow businesses and start- up industries and participating in global citizenship enterprises from politics to economics and from culture to civic spaces responsibilities.”

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