There’s no gainsaying the fact that the youths form an integral part of our society, nation, country and state. I choose to write on this topic because of a light heated conversation on Facebook about 24 hours ago, which centered on Nigerian Youths and their “leadership” participation with respect to the ongoing National Conference in Abuja (Confab) . For the sake of the uninformed readers, this conversation on started on Facebook when a friend of mine commented on the recruitment of prospective individuals by the Nigerian Immigration Service and the on going Confab Conference which is currently being held in Abuja. A friend said, “the youths are not represented at the forum because they feel we are not relevant”, another friend countered and said, “no the issue is that, the youths are not matured enough and as such, they have to wait for their elders who are more experienced to deliberate on issues concerning their future”.

I was stunned and shocked by the last comment and as such I decided to put up this article. I narrowed it down to Nigeria as this will help send the right and desired message. Again, I think and feel its hi-time the youths realize who they are, and what they can offer to the society in this 21st century.

It’s pertinent to note that for a country, nation, state or society to thrive successfully, it is imperative for them to have the youths at the back of their mind if not on the forefront. As the saying goes… “The youths are the leaders of tomorrow“. If this statement is true, then, the youths ought to be at the center of any issue pertaining to the development of their country and their well-being. Many civilized and advanced countries have taken advantage of this concept in order to take their country to the next level. No wonder they have invested heavily in Research and Development, skills acquisition and vocational training. They have also discovered that, education per se, is not the yardstick for one to be productive and successful in life. They have therefore resorted to other ways/avenue to improve in order to ensure productivity in both the economy and manpower development.

However, the story seems to be different with third world countries which Nigeria is part of. Nigerian leaders, I must say, have failed their citizens. By this I mean, two-thirds of the leaders who have ruled the country have not been able to live up to their promises and expectation of the citizens. They have no plan for the future of the country and the youths, they only think of themselves, their families, friends of interest and unborn generation as opposed to thinking for the future of the country and the youths. In the words of John F. Kennedy one of the greatest American President during his Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961, said “Ask not what your country can do for You but what can you can do for your country”. I will likened the youths to this quote in the sense that, they ought to think of what to do for themselves by looking inwardly to know their talents, skills, and abilities like being an entrepreneur as opposed to waiting for the government to offer them jobs or give them opportunities.

Any leader of any country that would love to move the country to the next level must see themselves as servant leaders as opposed to warlords whom their subjects must worship. In America for example, their leaders endeavor day and night to make the country a better place, but the citizens seem to believe their efforts is not good enough. Now, contrast this with Nigeria, and most third country countries where their leaders are looking for avenues to amass wealth for themselves, in addition to slicing the throat of their subjects who have refused to die. Sounds funny right? But that’s the truth and irony of the reality on ground.

The big question is, what is the place of the youths in nation building? Youths all over the world have a unique role to play in nation building, the developmental affairs of their countries ranging from government, social political, cultural, education etc. In civilized climes, the government have been able to provide enabling opportunities for the youths to thrive. They do this by creating a conducive environment which promotes and encourages interested folks to learn in addition to providing infrastructural facilities. Also, they believe in skills acquisition program. They do this by encouraging anyone they discover is  skillful or creative in a particular field of life. It is by so doing the youths can contribute to nation building and can be regarded as experts later in their life before they reach the age of forty depending on when they start. Now let’s contrast this with third world country, a case study of Nigeria. It’s no doubt that, two- third of leaders in Nigeria don’t have the youths at heart. They fail to prepare the youths for the task ahead. Little or no vocational centers for learning, little or no encouragement either in form of moral or financial assistance. Put it in a nutshell, they don’t have the youth in their picture forgetting that, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

By 2030, Nigeria is estimated to be one of the few countries in the world that will likely have a bountiful supply of young workers. Out of a current projected population of 169 million Nigerians, young people account for over 43 percent of the population. What this means is that there are currently over 72 million young people in the country. Thus, youths, compared to oil, could be Nigeria’s asset in the following decades, depending on how this demographic reality is managed.

It’s indeed mind-boggling and disturbing that, there appears to be no strategic plan towards tapping the great potentials hidden in a growing youthful population. With a current youth unemployment rate of up to 50 percent, the growing menace of kidnap cases perpetrated by disgruntled youths, massive recruitment of young people into terrorist gangs and the ever-growing number of desperate young people willing to become thugs for self-seeking politicians, the country is really moving towards abyss  if proper care and measure is not taken  to curb such societal ills, because the  “supposed” future leaders are fast derailing from their supposed track

Having taking a tour on the holistic view of the place of the youths in nation building, the radar now changes to, are the youths occupying their rightful place in Nigeria? In order to effectively answer this question, I’ll like to quote Benjamin Franklin — In failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Yes, the ball has now been shifted to the youths. I ask, are you doing what you are supposed to do, in order to assume the desired positions and leadership you have always wished and aspired to be in? I agree the government needs to provide the enabling environment in other for the youths and all concerned parties to thrive.

I ask again, what are you doing now in order to get to that desired position? This brings me to the question to the light heated conversation that reared its ugly head yesterday on Facebook where a fellow youth said the youths of Nigeria are not ripe to take the mantle of leadership and as such they have to wait for the experienced men and women who are currently in the scene and who are more experienced in the art of leadership in addition to being prepared.

I was stunned by that statement. I can agree, if he was honest, per “majority of the youths are not prepared for the task ahead, because they lack the necessary skills and vocational training needed to effectively do the job”. Although, I gave him reasons why the youths are more than qualified to address the issues facing the country at the Confab conference, he was still bent on insisting his points are more valuable and credible. It is a fact that, 1/3 of most folks who applied for the immigration job lacked the desired skills and training required. Yes, I agree having a degree is a plus, but there’s more to it when employers are hiring. They look at what each candidate can offer. What will they bring to the table? How productive are you? What have they done/achieved? What makes them more resourceful and valuable when compared to other individuals competing for the same job? It’s a fact that most of this folks would be better utilized and resourceful if they acquire more  skills or vocational training as this will make them more productive in their host community. But it’s quite unfortunate Nigeria youths are lacking in this area.

Furthermore, we all know the saying as you make your bed so you lie on it. Nigerian youths and youths all over the world should cultivate the habit of thinking outside the box. Apart from the inability of the government to facilitate the hiring process, I implore the youths all over the world to improvise on ways to ensure sustainability. You can’t just be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. It’s because of creativity that Mark Zuckerberg who is just 29 years changed the face of the world by creating Facebook. So, I believe we have more than capable minds to lead our country . If we don’t work on ourselves, we will definitely be screwed because the government cannot provide all the jobs we need and it is a fact jobs are created by the private sector not the government. The government only provides the enabling environment.

According to Thomas Edison ” If we did all we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. According Marianne Williamson “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”. I believe given every equal opportunity every person is a potential achiever because we don’t have dull brains only brains undeveloped. Let’s face it, it is because the youths have fallen short of the expectation/demands expected of them, the government of Nigeria have now resorted to relegate them to their rightful place in addition to been left out in the scheme of things.

Taking the lead is not always an easy task, however it is paramount we believe in ourselves. According to Anatole France, “To accomplish great things. we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe”. The journey of 1000 miles indeed starts with a step in the right direction. We must take charge of our destiny. According to Barack Obama “We are the change we seek”

I am not concerned about the yesterdays’ men who ruled in their 20’s 30’s 40’s as the case may be, I strongly believe in the present. Yesterday is past, today is present/gift and tomorrow is a mystery. According to the Greg Anderson, “I believe in the dream of what might be is more important than the record of what has been, we must however be serious about that vision”. Just like my learned friends in the legal profession will say, ” Justice should not only be seen to be done, but it should be manifestly seen to be done. Apportioning blame will lead you to nowhere, you must assume responsibilities by fixing the problem. You might think, it’s hard to achieve success judging from the look of things in the polity and the realistic view of achieving this feat. In the words of  L.P Jacks had this to say ” The pessimistic sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. I really believe there’s always light at the end of the tunnel if only we can be steadfast.

Moving closer to the realistic goal requires perseverance. No doubt, a lot of courage, curiosity, confidence and consistency  is needed, as this will shape how we decide to take our possession and desired places from our failed leaders. Lin Yutang opined “It is not so much what we believe in that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action”. It’s a fact, passion is stronger than power. Therefore, the Nigerian youths needs to move in a positive aggressive mood to posses their possession. We have to picture ourselves and our society how we want it to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now. Therefore the time to start is now.

Finally, Lyndon Johnson nailed it “The test before us as people are not whether our commitments match our will and courage, but whether we have the will and courage to match our commitments” .Therefore folks, I implore each and every one of you to adopt and practice the wise words of Albert Einstein ” We have to do the best that we can, this is our sacred responsibility”. The future belongs to us and it is only to the measure we push/work hard for it, it will never come to us. Just like the proverbial saying of Martin Luther King Jnr “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Think positive, be energized and be fruitful!

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Henry Ukazu is a graduate of New York Law School. He is Founder and President at Global Empowerment & Mentoring Initiative. A trained life coach, prolific writer, and passionate youth advocate, he is also a highly sought-after public speaker. He is author of the acclaimed book, “Design Your Destiny- Actualizing Your Birthright to Success.


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