YOUTH: THE NIGERIAN DREAM

                                    nysc

A memorandum submitted to the 2014 National conference for discourse.

 

Introduction: We have heard endlessly that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow; a dream poignantly reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s song ‘Tomorrow never comes’. The Nigerian youth have18 representatives amongst 492 delegates in the national conference, yet we make up 61% of the population. If the youths are truly the building blocks of a better Nigeria, we have to correct the belief that holding public office is a means to amass wealth. The average youth has been an uncommitted onlooker at several owanbes as politicians spray money with Chinese techniques while dancing the skelewu dance. He ponders on the lives of his leaders who have built castles in the ground for themselves and in the air for people like him who grapple with no power, unemployment, national insecurity, and the economy. They have successfully passed the notion that ALL wealth is appreciated and that honesty, hard work and commitment to societal values are of no use. Up north it’s worse, the rich feed the poor, hence the poor remain poor with the belief they are better off uneducated and feeding off a rich man.

Statement of facts: Corruption is our biggest problem. Most Nigerians argue that if corruption is taken care of, every other sector will flourish. Corruption started in the hearts and minds of individuals who at the onset of this republic, agitated for transfer of power to the youth; they placed the bracket for youth at 50, at another point 40. The maximum age for the NYSC is 30, by this anyone above 30 is no longer considered eligible. Consequently, that age is the minimum to qualify to run for the house of reps, whilst 35 is for the senate and 40 for the presidency, yet the twilight men still run the show. According to Wikipedia; in philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal.

Our second biggest problem is infrastructure; it is the grandfather of education, rural women empowerment and provision of health facilities. Education and empowerment of youth, women and children between the ages 40 and 10 through formal, non-formal and vocational training will help the eradication of old, detrimental traditions like child marriage and circumcision while teaching societal values and inculcating discipline. There is a noticeable lack in morals of the youth visible in our airports as travellers are begged, coerced or even manipulated by personnel of the Immigration, Customs, Drug Law Enforcement Agency until they extract a tip. It is more shocking when one recalls that the youth have watched their honourables — men thought to be of exemplary moral conduct — throwing punches, maces amidst swinging chairs. An emerging democracy takes time, yet at 53 we are not youth. Counting only the 15 years of the present democracy some may say we are in our youth, alas youth and craziness are not mutually exclusive.  Even Barrack Obama said the most important investment any country can make is to educate its youth and provide skills to compete in a highly technological world economy. The youth are the spinal cord of the nation; so university and polytechnic strikes contribute crippling effects to the economy.

Unemployment is a top cause of youth restiveness, seeing that over 300,000 pass out from NYSC every year to add to the existing jobless force without a change in the availability of jobs. This is further buttressed by PhD holders applying for driver jobs, and the recent immigration recruitment incident.

 

 

Issues from the statement of facts: In talking about youths, a recurring decimal is the NYSC established by Act 24 of 22nd May, 1973 in line with the Federal Government’s post war policy of reconstruction, reconciliation and rehabilitation. The NYSC mission statement reads thus: To mobilize and groom graduate youths for the promotion of national unity, sustainable development, self reliance, and prepare them for the challenges of leadership.

 

Certain youths are unwilling to heed the NYSC clarion call; they see it as a lost cause because conditions are below standard in postings across the country.

In providing empowerment or education for the youth and rural women, our first Ladies have at several times initiated different pet projects with several areas identified as critical; they include: agriculture, food processing and preservation, primary healthcare and illiteracy. Maryam Babangida initiated the Better Life support programme (BLP) in 1987, which was followed by Maryam Abacha’s Family Support Programme (FSP) and Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP) in 1994. Fatima Abubakar’s Women Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) came on board in 1998. In 1999, Stella Obasanjo introduced the Child Care Trust (CCT) and categorically stated to the Governors’ Wives and the Wife of the Vice President that the problems of the society were enormous and it would be unfair for her to impose a particular project on all states as was done during the military era. In 2000, the Family Reorientation Education and Empowerment (FREE) was initiated; its emphasis was on the girl child as it sought to reduce illiteracy, collapse of family values and underdevelopment. Community literacy centres were established which attracted the Confucius Prize for Literacy in 2007 awarded by the United Nations Education, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  Also in 2007, Turai Yar’Adua established the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP) while Patience Jonathan has been operating Women for Change Initiative since 2010.

The African Union recently declared 2014 the year of Agriculture and food security due to population increases in the continent without a corresponding increase in food production.

Arguments in support of issues:

We need to return to the spirit of hard work, positive competition and fairness as youths have to occupy more positions and be involved in key policy making. Obafemi Awolowo was 37, Samuel Akintola 36, Ahmadu Bello 36, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa 34, Festus Okotie Eboh 27 after the death of Herbert Macaulay in 1946. Only Nnamdi Azikiwe was 42 as they struggled for independence. In the 1966 coup, Kaduna Nzeogwu was 29, Murtala Mohammed 28, Theophilus Danjuma 28, Sani Abacha 23, Yakubu Gowon 32, Odimegwu Ojukwu 33,Muhammed Buhari was 24. Matthew Tawo Mbu became foreign affairs minister at 23.

If these great minds were entrusted with the leadership of this nation when they were youths, why is it difficult for us to lead the nation while the twilight men stand aside?

In the course of implementation of the first ladies programmes, the targeted beneficiaries — rural women and children — have in some cases been side tracked and the programme hijacked by the elite, thus rendering laudable programmes almost useless.

On 11 October 2011, Goodluck Jonathan launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) which he stated was an innovative business plan to harness creative energies of the youth.

Corruption has tap roots in the system and will take only a determined and focused government to reduce it. The anti-corruption agency (EFCC) is grossly underperforming, as it makes us doubt the courts.

 

Reliefs/prayers sought: A famous man Gandhi said: The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle, pleasure without conscience, wealth without work, knowledge without character, business without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.

  1. With reinforced strides in universal basic education and a secondary and tertiary initiative introduced by government, under the UNESCO approved 26% of the budget slated to education, youths will discover and develop potential and gradually eliminate illiteracy which is top on the millennium development goals. This will also put a stop to recruiting of illiterate almajiris to bomb places of worship or kill others in the name of Boko Haram.
  1. Garri processing, palm oil processing and grain processing dominate the activities of the rural women. This should be intensified via the agricultural transformation agenda in establishing staple crop processing zones to assure food security, reduce expenditure of foreign exchange on imports, diversify the economy, generate foreign exchange and create jobs. This agenda can be linked with the ONE.org collaboration involving Dbanj, Omawunmi, Fally Ipupa and other African musicians that produced the ‘Cocoa na chocolate’ song currently rocking our tv sets, to invest in youths and small holder farmers.
  • Instead of changing names and projects, incoming first ladies should take off where the former stopped; this would bring concrete achievement and improve the lot of the rural women and children. There is the need to have a legislated budgetary allocation dedicated to maintaining these programmes and instead of saddling individuals with the disbursement of funds, cooperative societies should be formed to ensure access to revolving loans. Empowerment should not stop at the level of education but at utilization of the education. It is suggested that implementation of these programmes should include all stake holders including the community, traditional, political leaders, and women opinion leaders.
  1. Infrastructural developments in electricity, schools and hospitals should be concentrated on. Research experts have claimed that these three are the most vital for development. It has been claimed that education and healthcare alleviate poverty faster than foreign investment.
  1. YOUWIN should partner with the NYSC to relieve the burden of unemployment as change has not been noticed due to psychotic corruption and nepotism.
  1. Round pegs don’t fit in square holes. A lot of government agencies have become redundant because the heads of such agencies do not have the prerequisite knowledge to head such institutions. We should begin to engage professionals to head agencies. There are professionals who are politicians. Having the right people in the right position is a step towards rebuilding our nation.
  • The courts of law need to be gradually overhauled and an introduction of juries, as there are loopholes suspects take advantage of. The immunity clause encourages corruption and should be abolished. More investments in information technology is important to create a virtual distance of politicians from the money. We have remained a cash economy and done little to upgrade Information Technology.  The national conference would not be using a yahoo email address if our information technology has been upgraded.
  • The police and judiciary have to be strengthened. The police are closest to the masses and it is important for the citizens to trust the police. The judiciary is the hope of the poor who see the courts as their last resort.

We can hold as many conferences as we want but the truth is that if leaders do not give youth the chance there will be no change.May God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the ones we can, and above all the wisdom to know the difference.

Contributors;

Adebola Falade–Lagos, Nigeria

Apata Gbenga-  Moscow, Russia

Ekiotenne Tonbra – Bayelsa, Nigeria

Fajemisin Adeyemi- Glasgow, United Kingdom

Sine Oghenegaren -Warri, Nigeria

GOODLUCK WILL YOU BE OUR VALENTINE?

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What is your name? My name is Mutiatu.

Where are you from? Nguru, Gashua, that’s in Yobe state.

What are you doing in Delta state?  My family relations from my mother’s side, my uncles living in the south came for us, and brought us to stay here. Our house has been run down by insurgents and taken over by the destitute.

Do you celebrate valentine? Yes I do, even though this is the first Valentine I will be spending away from my flowers and our rice farm.

Do you have a boyfriend?  No I don’t

What are you doing for valentine? Nothing special for many but a trip to the cinema is special for me, I would be going with my cousins. Last valentine was very different, I spent it in the sun tending the soil alongside Mutiatu and Sherifat ensuring that the paddy seedlings had enough water to survive in the parched earth. Now we hear that Mutiatu was killed by a suicide bomber when she went to buy kerosene.

What is your wish for valentine?  I wish the insurgency would come to an end, not because I want to go back there but because the wetlands of Hadeija, Nguru have been overrun and over 250 species of flora and 136 aquatic flora are in danger of extinction due to these activities. My one wish for valentine would be to go to the cinema with Mr President.  I would tell him, how we wept for joy when we heard he had created a university, 8 hours away by car in Gombe, bringing university education closer to the people. We heard tales of new almajiri schools from the odd returners from Gashua.  Sherifat’s sister said he is the first President that paid ASUU to avoid future strikes.

Why should Mr President say YES to you? Do you know that Maigida ran our home like a military boot camp that produced good robots but not good children? We never lacked knowledge of what he wanted us to do daily; he told us regularly via slaps- arabic classes, and farm work. He tended to use the cane often, it seemed his motto was- if a little helps, a lot cures. I for one believe no child should be spanked when a parent is angry, it made me feel like a release valve for his frustrations. Maigida is an uninvolved fan of CHANGE, even though I LOVE HIM and watched his preferred candidates’ interviews, I and my cousins do not take the same stance. Under military rule, the HOS answered to no legislature and made laws for the courts, so in this democratic dispensation, we want to ask his candidate a few questions:

  1. Is it a heinous crime against humanity and the girl-child to be married off from ages 5-17 and even be subjected to rape in the name of religion?
  2. Is the war against Abubakar Shekau who believes girls can be sold in the market, a war against the Nigerian people?
  3. In his statement of December 13, 2014, he said acts of terrorism carried out by the people whose actions are not sanctioned by any religion will not succeed in breaking us. Will acts of terrorism sanctioned by religion succeed?

Mr President, you are my president, just like every Nigerian and a father figure nationwide, so I want you to consider me a suitable valentine.

Any last words? We want history to be returned to the curriculum, because if a people do not know and take record of their mistakes, they will keep going round and round in circles. We want the UNITY & FAITH emblazoned on our coat of arms to be taken seriously in the civic education of the population, especially the unborn.

GOODLUCK WILL YOU BE OUR VALENTINE?

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As a CEO, I share a feeling of seeming detachment from reality as do all my colleagues. It sometimes feels like watching a procession from the pent house of a tall building. As an African, I grimaced all through reading George Frederick Lugard’s auto biography “The Dual Mandates”- his description of the typical African- (His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asian, and exhibits something of the animals placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the state he has reached) left me in anger but with objectivity, I can see evidence of this statement all over Africa.

Nigeria, is reported as topping lists of happiest people, surely if the NO 1 citizen was happy as a university lecturer, being President should make him delirious. Me thinks, because it gives him the opportunity to lecture fellow countrymen and women, who are in high spirits this election season; we wonder if it would be a repeat class or border on the CHANGE bandwagon of the opposition. We heard tales of your past; you said you were like us- had trekked with no shoes to school for several kilometers. Money would be a priority, having come into money, I know that happiness is not generated by money. Many of my friends say it is a means of keeping score, others say it is not the money that excites, but the idea that they’re doing a job worthy of what they are amassing. Observers firmly believe the happiest people are not the ones with the most money, but the ones who truly enjoy their lives.

Even though the Nigerian culture is such that a child would never turn against a parent if he/she set a good example, Nigeria is failing because families as building blocks have failed, remember charity begins at home. For I, and a few friends born in the same decade, our mothers warned us about the Yoruba’s. They said they possessed natural diplomacy yet were equally cunning. Growing up, whenever we heard the word Hausa, the first image that came to mind were abokis, gatemen, shoe shiners or kiosk owners, so we had arguments wondering why they always claimed ruler ship via coups and counter coups. As an Igbo man Daddy had a boisterous lifestyle and affinity for trade in the community we lived in, amongst Isokos who were rumored to be stingy, the Urhobos who maltreated their wives and a spattering of others. Our penchant for TRIBE is one of our failings, and has to change. We are glad you chose TRANSFORMATION- it falls in line with having a GOAL- (an ongoing pursuit of a worthy objective until accomplished).

My life with my wife is a happy one, she is full of smiles whenever I help clean our apartment or wash the dishes. Happiness to me is having work that I love so much that I would do it without pay. Happiness for us is having a future to look forward to, our family like majority of Nigerians are independents; we register, but do not vote. Mr. President we want to use this medium to THANK YOU for a few things:

  1. YOUWIN and SURE-P: Small businesses indeed are the ideal solution for economically depressed times, either as small manufacturing facilities (cottage industry) or professional service providers (pharmacists/lawyers). Indeed not every entrepreneur like my church member (Rosemary) who is a YOUWIN beneficiary, plan to develop a conglomerate- she simply wishes to support her family while practicing a trade.
  2. Actual practice of freedom of speech and information. We have read, listened and observed several insults thrown on different personalities including yourself without a recourse to the ways of the old days. This has had impact on politics, agriculture, finance and other aspects of general life.
  3. Privatization of PHCN, and further consultations with other organizations to channel power into the national grid. The struggle must indeed continue, as the cabal of generator importers must be broken.
  4. Women and gender emancipation- Women are beginning to have a voice in a New Nigeria. In your cabinet- First Opec female president, in our time- First female presidential/gubernatorial candidates.

Mr President, will you be our valentine? If your answer is yes, all we would talk about is directing the transformation train towards Technology and Health. They are greatly interrelated but for this letter I will treat them separately. A man must dance the dance that reigns in his time. In this time, the reigning dance is Technology, so we must take rapidly paced advantage of its potential. We want you to consider investments in IT, simply put- a technological city in the realm of the Silicon Valley. A mega project between the corporate world and the Government to foster the growth of Nigerian technology (Vis-a Vis -Vehicle Assembly &Production, Mobile Application development, Inventions and Scientific research), will also mean education for leaders who need to be more responsive to present day happenings.  This project will enhance the restoration of security, management of the economy and tackling of corruption as it will create a virtual distance between politicians and cash. Ample land abound which essentially belongs to the government so a world class infrastructure, central business district, university campus, parks and recreation centers, finally housing shouldn’t be too hard to provide.

As a mother, my wife knows it is more important to talk to our daughter than to wash her school uniform. We taught her how to take care of her personal chores as soon as she could; it has made her stronger and independent. We believe children should have family duties regardless of financial circumstances. Hmmmm, health issues are never expected but it is good to be well prepared- we were not prepared for Ebola. Ebola paid us a visit and claimed eight lives; Stella Ameyo Adadevoh; granddaughter to Herbert Macaulay, chose a path less travelled, her life rings in consonance with the paradox; He who loses his life, finds it. Ebola has also visited the UK, Usa, Germany, Uae, and several others on high alert most especially this past holiday season. The Ebola virus is wormlike and devious in attaching itself to cell surfaces. It invades, replicates, then causes cells to explode, sending infectious particles flying. It infiltrates the immune system then infects the liver, kidney, spleen and the brain. We are worried that the only quarantine center was in Lagos which is grossly over populated, most samples had to be taken to one hospital also in Lagos, and it took two days to get the results in a nation of 167 million people.

The elections will come and go, sadly so will a few lives, because this is Africa. In both religions we claim to profess especially in this election season, there are certain sins we MUST avoid muscles without strength, friendship without trust, opinion without risk, change without aesthetics, age without values, food without nourishment, power without fairness, facts without rigor, degrees without erudition, militarism without fortitude, progress without civilization, complication without depth, and fluency without content.

NDI CHARLES is an African youth with a passion for stories, an excerpt from his first book PERKS OF EAGLES is featured in in the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) review 2014. He graduated from Delta State University, and works in Lagos.

GOODLUCK: WILL YOU BE MY VALENTINE?

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 What is your name madam? Grace Eyankwaire, she shifted and sat down, noticing the camera of the Iphone 5c hovering in her direction.

How old are you madam? I am 67 years old.

Where are you from? I am from Otu Jeremi, Delta state.

Which work you de do? I de sell fish for market and I get farm.

Who be your valentine? mmmmm, I don too old for valentine na.  I nor get husband sef, we don divorce as e nor wan let small small girls rest. Na Big brother send una? Oya come near, my valentine na my Presido, Goodluck Jonathan.

Why you talk so? Dis your question sha, you know say dis Delta State na Maradona create am 4 1991. New state I hear say e get how dem de create am; dem suppose create am according to old provincial style but nor be so Maradona do am. Asaba wen near Onitsha (Anambra state), far from Warri- wen be our old head quarter nai dem choose. Asaba nor de our province b4 oooo, some say na becos Maradona wife Maryam come from Asaba. Oda people say Urhobo, Itsekiri, Isoko and Ijaw nor fit agree on location for new capital. 23 years don pass na d same matter de ground, Ijaw and Itsekiri nor fit agree on EPZ, Urhobo, Ijaw and Ibo nor wan gree on governor for dis election wen de come. Dem de hala so so EQUITY, EQUITY. Dem say Mr EQUITY talk say- Delta central and Delta south don be Governor before, so na Delta North turn now. Mr Goodluck, I de ask dem why oooo; nor b d same Delta north get CBN oga plus Finance madame di madame? Me na Urhobo, we de occupy eight council pata pata and even spread enter two coucil for Delta South. Nigeria fashi us since, no recognition for so many donkey years; make I nor talk dat matter for hia. Since 2003 till 2007 our Urhobo candidate when everybody like de win election but Oga at the top nor gree ooooo. Dis opportunity wen de now, na Goodluck cause am, like Ekiti and Osun, e go be free and fair election.  We go come see d thing wen I de talk. You see this my E- Wallet number, e mean say I be registered farmer, nor be Goodluck do am?

What would be your ideal first date? I go carry am enter market, I go show am the big big cassava and yam tubers, fish and fresh tomatoes wen my farm for my village de supply us now. Dem say na fertilizer and better seeds wen nor de before nai de make difference. We go see as paddy rice sef don boku, plenti plenti local rice don full market.

Why Should Mr President take you on a date? Any Unique features?  Mmm, my pikin, Mr Goodluck na our presido, everybody presido. Na how you tell am he go do for you, you don ever drink d wine wen dem press d day dem born you?

Which kain future you de find for Nigeria? D future de bright, as I don de use POS de sell my market, Goodluck we need more technological wonder. I know say you go do am!

NDI CHARLES is an African youth with a passion for stories, an excerpt from his first book PERKS OF EAGLES is featured in in the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) review 2014. He graduated from Delta State University, and works in Lagos.