THE challenges confronting the Nigerian youths are enormous. The so-called experienced are aging but are recycled to the eternal detriment of the “inexperienced” youth. What happens when members of the gerontocratic class become senile and are unable to perform the functions of their offices is anybody’s guess. Quite clearly, the overwhelming majority of the country’s youth have been brazenly dislocated from handling the challenges facing the country today. Yet, the situation has not always been like this. Time was when the Nigerian youth were truly future leaders. They started leading from early in their lives.
The youths of the 60s, who won Independence for Nigeria, of the 70s, who presided over the affairs of the nation’s military era and the early 80s, when they occupied primal places, in comparison with their current status. In 1960, Awolowo was 37, Akintola, 36, Ahmadu Bello 36, Balewa, 34, Okotie-Eboh, 27 and Enahoro, 27; only Zik was 42 at the time. In 1966, when the military interrupted the Nigeria democracy, the coup plotters were in their mid-twenties. The first coup was led by: Kaduna Nzeogwu (29) and countered by Murtala Mohammed (28), Theophilus Danjuma (28), Babangida (25), Nanven Garba (23), Sani Abacha (23), Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (23), and brought Gowon (32) into power; Ojukwu was 33, Obasanjo, 29 while Buhari was 24. While most of the military administrators who governed the states under the successive military regimes, were under 30 years.
The brief democratic dispensation which interjected the military interregnums also saw the House of Representatives populated by majority of members under 30 years as well as some senators. The under-30s, were also not in short supply with appointments; we have examples of MT Mbu who became Foreign Affairs Minister at 23; and Pat Utomi who became a Presidential Adviser at 27 years.
Successive military administrations went from ripe to rot by legalizing corruption; when the Nigerian youth began taking mental notes, which they displayed when the opportunities knocked at their doorsteps. Nigeria experienced the era of fraudulent Speakers from the Toronto- to Harvard-trained, who acquired unlimited wealth during their tenures. The Governors that would go under barbed wires to escape security scrutiny, the youthful Governors who rode on the golden Horse, to cleverly siphon dried-up state resources and use their youthfulness to stop any investigation of their performances during their tenures.
Ironically the Nigerian youth of today did not experience regular power supply, when Nigeria’s educational products were in high demand across the world; functional healthcare facilities, good roads, little or no crime in the communities, when countryside people could sleep outside their homes to enjoy the brightness of the moon; when the surroundings were clean; adequate water supply with unpolluted wells.
Currently, the Nigerian youths are unable to take advantage of the increased opportunities that globalization provides and are increasingly powerless and marginalized, as most of them, often times than not, go through the backdoor to obtain their degrees as compromised by their teachers. Evidently, most Nigerians youths are unable to integrate into the global economy, for lack of functional and qualitative education. They lack basic skills needed to support their post-school life. Unemployment or underemployment kicks into their lives and they resort to illegal practices of wanting to get rich over night.
The consequences of the overexposure to the western culture, through the use of modern technology have negatively impacted on the behaviour of the Nigerian youth. Most of them engage in drug use and abuse, violence, promiscuity, access to ammunition, cultism; all of which distance them from the cherished Nigerian cultural values. All of these negative factors have serious adverse effects on the level and quality of their culture of duty, work ethics, social and civic responsibilities, sense of dignity of labour, productivity, honesty, transparency and respect for elders.
The Nigerian youth have been exposed to the culture of greed and corruption, as they were born and raised during the darkest era of Nigeria’s economic history, characterised by greed, misrule, recklessness in the management of national resources, deprivation, marginalisation in the name of QUOTA SYSTEM and unbridled poverty in the midst of plenty. They were indeed born into a culture of institutionalised corruption in every facet of the national life and were psychologically sedated to imbibe the lifestyle of greed, selfishness, fraud, examination malpractices, a get-rich-quick-at-all-costs mentality, disrespect for law and order. It is being perceived that an average Nigerian youth today is accustomed to violence and fraud.
Under normal circumstances, the expectation is for the well-cultured youth to have good thoughts for the country, gaining from the experiences of the older citizens and doing a better job. We are of the opinion that for Nigeria to progress it is imperative for the current administration to focus on the reformation of youthful leaders in building the future growth of Nigeria and gear them toward patriotic behavior.
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