By Olufemi Adediran, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed his fear over the high rate of youth unemployment in Nigeria, warning that if not addressed soon it would lead to youth explosion.
According to Obasanjo, Africa and indeed Nigeria is currently sitting on a gun powder ready to explode with the huge number of youths that are without any gainful employment.
Obasanjo spoke on Sunday at the maiden edition of the “Youth Governance Dialogue”, a programme, organised by the Youth Development Centre, an arm of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta for secondary and university students. The well attended event was held at the OOPL Conference Hall.
The reason for organising the event which attracted student participants from 10 Universities, including University of Ibadan (UI), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Bells University of Technology and University of Benin, according to the Chairperson of the Youth Centre, Mrs. Bisi Kolapo is to analysis some of the various challenges confronting the youths and fashion out lasting solutions to them.
The former President stated that his greatest fear for Nigeria and the African continent was “youth explosion” which according to him might arise as result of youth anger, frustration, unemployment and lack of opportunities.
Obasanjo further expressed the fear that if majority of the youths in Africa are not gainfully engaged as soon as possible, they would “explode and that might consume the entire African continent.”
The former President however, said his greatest hope for the country was also the youth, stressing that if every child in the country is given even only nine years of primary education the country would be transformed for good.
Obasanjo said, “My greatest fear for Nigeria and African is youth explosion as a result of youth anger, frustration, unemployment and lack of opportunities.”
“Youth explosion in Nigeria and Africa may consume us all. If the youths are not gainfully engaged, their anger and frustration may lead to a chaos that may consume us all.”
“But my greatest hope is also the youth. Imagine you give all children in Nigeria a minimum of nine years of qualitative and quantitative primary education, we will transform this country.”
He charged the participants, “As youth you must believe in yourselves, part of our problem as human beings and as a nation is that we do not believe in ourselves. I own case I grew up as a nobody, I grew up from what I will call the muld but I don’t let that wiegh me down because I believed in myself.
“One of the major problems Nigerian youths are facing today is that they do not have opportunities but they have facilities unlike in my own time, we had opportunities but no facilities. Youths of today don’t have opportunities as we did and the government is not helping them but you all have to help yourselves.”
“When I left secondary school, I got letters of job offers from five different places but today when you leave the University how many offers can you get,” the former President recalled.
“We can mourn, we can complain, we can get angry but that may not solve anything. You must begin to think of what you can do for yourself and not what the government or anybody can do for you,” he told them audience.
He challenged Nigerian leaders, “Those of us who are lucky, those of us who have opportunities must begin to help the youth. But the youths also should not wish us dead, they should not wish us to disappear because you may need us in the process of growing up. You need mentoring, advice and assistance of those who have gone before you to succeed.”
“You should not loose hope and be fastrated because we have a wonderful country but when you begin to look at the resources of this country, you will ask why are we not getting it right because we have all what it takes to be a successful country.”
“Be ready to pay the price for what you believe in. You must be known for something and stand for it because those who do not believe in anything will fall for anything. You must strive to do well all the time and you must be consistent.”
“I believe in talent hunting and when I get a good talent I use it. We want to make this place (the youth centre) a centre of transformation for the youth in the country.”
Obasanjo spoke even as the Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal stressed that one of the most critical debt that each generation owes its successor is to ensure the training of highly experienced young people to take over affairs when the need arises.
Tambuwal who was one of the lead speakers at the event, insisted that “By so doing we are sure to sustain the leadership recruitment drive that was known of our founding fathers.”
According to the Governor, “If we don’t make good provisions for those who will take over from us, we run the risk of leaving our country in the hands of know nothing, angry and naive young people. Since the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, we must use our today to prepare them for the future roles as leaders, for the sake of our tomorrow.”
Tambuwal said, “Moreover, we need to ensure that we make policies and programmes that will engender a vibrant economy with job opportunities for our teeming youth. One of the great tragedies of our country is to see large numbers of young, educated people eager to contribute their quota to the development of this nation wallowing in indolence.”
Speaking further Tambuwal said, “We have to find the means to reduce unemployment and we must commend the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for making this a major priority. Indeed, there is no doubt that the current diversification policy of this government will eventually provide broader opportunities for self employment.”
“As I have noted, those who hold public office must at every point in time be on the look out for promising young people to mentor so that succession can be coherent. By so doing we are sure to sustain the leadership recruitment drive that was known of our founding fathers. I am talking of the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir. Ahmadu Bello, just to mention a few.”
“Leadership is not magic and unless we prepare our youth for leadership we will end up with surprising leaders. One of the most critical debt that each generation owes its successor is to ensure that it trains a crop of highly skilled, highly motivated and highly experienced! young people that will take over the affairs when the time comes, Tambuwal added.
Also speaking, the former Aviation Minister, Chief Osita Chidoka, told the audience, “Our national aspirations should inspire the next generation and provide them with the existential meaning of Nigeria. A meaning that transcends geography, natural resources and ethnicity. To grow Nigeria we must build a society that harness human resources, provides equal opportunities and develop capacity for innovation”.
Chidoka who spoke on the topic, stated, “Towards a Guiding Political Philosophy for Democratic Nigeria,” affirmdecried the absence of a guiding philosophy for Nigeria and the trouble with Nigeria is leadership and other have asked when is a nation? Some insist that the absence of ideology is at the root of our political crisis. In all the views the constant is the agreement that there is trouble with Nigeria. The leadership question is key”.
His words, “At independence our leaders failed to define the qualities of an exceptional country so diverse yet so similar that other African countries can discern a Nigeria no matter the ethic origin. The emphasis was on replacing the colonial matters and enjoying the benefits of a distributional and extractive governance philosophy primary redesigned to enrich the home government of the colonialist.”
“The defining quality of our country in the past 45 years has been the distribution politics fuelled by oil revenue. This revenue stream that may be impaired by developments in alternative energy should be the seed capital to develop the manpower and infrastructure for a post oil economy. This thinking can be the basis of a new covenant that places the Nigerian at the center of governance and guarantees him irreducible minimums that aids him in the struggle for daily bread”.
“I however, propose that all our former Heads of State, their deputies, former Senate Presidents and their deputies, former Speakers of House of Representatives and their deputies, former Heads of Service and Secretaries to Government of the Federation, Heads of all Ethnic Associations, Heads of Professional Bodies, retired Service Chiefs and Inspectors General should meet and draft a new charter for Nigeria”.
“The charter shall contain the reason for our union, the purpose of the union and the guarantee of the basic rights, privileges and obligations of citizens. This charter should be presented to the National Assembly as a bill to amend the constitution and if passed would replace chapter 2 of 1999 constitution and would be justiciable”, he concluded.
Earlier in her opening remark, Chairperson of the Centre, Mrs. Bisi Kolapo, said, “The Youth Development Centre was established two months ago to deal with issues of youth development, empowerment and employment and that is the main purpose of organising this programme.”
“Over 65 percent of Nigerians are youth under age 35 years and 60 percent of these youths are unemployed and we believe that this is an issue that needs immediate attention by all. We believe that at the end of the day, we will come up with a detailed analysis of situation at hand and to see all what sectors and groups can do to these issues.”