By Tunde Oladunjoye
I cannot hide my feelings. It is with regret that I note that the Nigerian nation has been most ungrateful, and most discouraging to Nigerian youths in general and the students in particular. The country owed its independence to the struggle, sweat and blood of the Nigerian students and youth. Herbert Macaulay formed the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1923 and the Lagos Youth Movement (LYM) W’s founded in 1934 by H. 0. Davies, Dr J. C. Vaughan, Dr Kofo Abayomi, Ernest Ikoli, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo, which later transformed into the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) in 1936.
It was these youth and many others that mobilized, organized sacrificed for, and actualized the struggle for Nigeria’s independence attained on October 1, 1960.
If the head stinks, the whole body is rotten. The problems confronting the youths today is not only in the area of academic (dis)empowerment, but also, and sadly so, in the area of overall development of the youth; educational, socio-cultural, economic, political and even spiritual.
Such inadequacies include, but not limited to, lack of access to quality education, lack of access to quality nutrition and health facilities, near total absence of role models ( and good examples), in fact, we should not waste our time. Let us just summarise the inadequacies burdening the youth as lack of access to good things of life that can ensure quality living and overall development of the human personality.
The fallout of this organized and endemic disregard for the people, especially the youth, has resulted in the increasing involvement of the youth in human kidnapping and trafficking in human beings, prostitution, drug trafficking and usage, advanced fee fraud (popularly known as 419), examination malpractices, cultism, and other violent crimes. If you read the newspapers or monitor the electronic media nowadays, most of the people arrested for crimes are usually the youth with ages ranging between 20 and 40 years.
The Nigerian youth today have become useful tools in the filthy hands of many wealthy people especially the politicians, who engaged them as body guards and thugs to commit crimes and perpetrate violent attacks on real or perceived enemies.
Few of these youth, I have taken off the streets via little but effective empowerment. Many of them, I usually interact with in order to re-orientate them. I usually tell them to ask politicians and other people who used them to foment troubles one big question: “When a politician or “big man” asks you to go and fight, attack and foment trouble, one question you should ask them is: where are your children?” If they cannot bring their children to join you, don’t go”. Of course no Nigerian politician or “big man” will ask his children to join his thugs. Never!
The Nigerian youth today is academically retarded. The quality of education has fallen highly and retrogressively. As we sit here today, the justified strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), since July 2, 2013 over the failure of the Federal Government to implement the agreement it willingly entered into with the university lecturers in 2009, has entered its sixth week. The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, said few days ago that Nigeria is broke and cannot afford to pay the university lecturers!
The question to ask in this circumstance is whether the money requested by ASUU (either it is N92billion or N87billion or N100billion) is the just entitlements of the lecturers or a gift? How on earth will a country that is broke spends N1billion on feeding at the Presidential Villa? Why will a country that is broke continue to maintain about 13 jets in her presidential fleet? Why will a country that his broke organize a wasteful electioneering jamboree of women in Abuja yesterday that brought people all offer the country and from outside the country to Abuja, spending hundreds of millions of naira, if not billions on first class tickets, food, ice cream, and what have you? What is the priority of this government? Some Nigerians have said that, there was no attention to education in the past because we had Presidents who were not graduates, what difference do we have now that a doctorate degree holder is at the helms of affairs? Education is the best legacy, which, from what we can see, the present administration is not committed to.
From the look of things, Nigerian youth is challenged to take their destiny in their own hands. The right to education, as well as others, like the right to life, human dignity, freedom to receive, impart and disseminate information, is a fundamental right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Nigeria is a signatory to both documents.
It is true that today, there is acute scarcity of role models and good examples for our youth to follow. However, we must still look for the few good ones for direction, mentoring and so on.
Self education is what the youth must also be engaged in. The youth must read far and wide and beyond what is being taught in the lecture halls. It is very important to have broad knowledge of our history and culture.
Youth Quota Demand should also be a form of affirmative action in a country where grandfathers are competing with their grandchildren for public offices; and you have people of 65 years and above occupying the positions of youth leaders in political parties !
It is good for youth to migrate. It helps the youth to migrate. It broadens the experience and worldview of the youth to migrate. But there is no paradise anywhere. Those who migrated from the villages to Lagos and Abuja now know better. Those who have migrated outside the shores of the country now know better as 98 per cent of them clamour to return home (since they have suffered racism, harassment, sexual exploitation and discriminations).
For the leaders of the nation, most of who went to the best colleges and universities and military training institutions all over the world on the bill of the government; who occupied prominent public positions when they were in their twenties and thirties; those who now treat issues affecting youth, especially in the area of education with levity and wanton abandonment, even as they continue to send their own children abroad, build private universities with tuition fees that are clearly out of reach of the common man, and steal blindly in preparation for their generation yet unborn, this is my message in the words of James Baldwin: “These are our children We shall either pay for or profit by whatever they become.”
Nowhere is like home. Let us stay here, strategise, organize, mobilize and hold our leaders accountable. Let us take on the revolutionary responsibility to save our country from the hecklers, the rent seekers and collectors and their dominating offspring. The future is today.
*Being excerpts from a lecture delivered by Comrade Tunde Oladunjoye at the 2013 International Youth Day by the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Ejigbo LCDA Chapter, Lagos S BY THE NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL OF NIGERIA, EJIGBO LCDA CHAPTER, Lagos state on Friday, 16 August 2013.