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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- YOUWIN should partner with the NYSC to relieve the burden of unemployment as change has not been noticed due to psychotic corruption and nepotism.
- 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.
Adebola Falade–Lagos, Nigeria
Apata Gbenga- Moscow, Russia
Ekiotenne Tonbra – Bayelsa, Nigeria
Fajemisin Adeyemi- Glasgow, United Kingdom
Sine Oghenegaren -Warri, Nigeria