By Prof Protus Uzoma Nathan#
Youths of our dear country Nigeria, are you from the north-east or north-west, south-south or north-central and Abuja, south-east or south-west, you are all the same in fate. As an Irish Priest, Jonathan Swift, once said, “we are so fond of one another because our ailments are the same.” Every youth in Nigeria is same in fate and situation as the other. We have been maltreated by our society that mocks than call us future of tomorrow, yet in every tomorrow, they tell us again that the old good days have gone. We don’t know where to heat to. The same people that yesterday assured us that our future is bright are today telling us sorry. A Chinese writer, Bing Xin, certainly knows our plight before he declared that “Yesterday you told me the world is joyful, yet today you tell me the world is disappointing.” Where do we follow? The result is having no focus.
What is wrong with the tomorrow which future we are said to be? Has it ceased to come? Does it come unnoticed? I believe that the saying that ‘the youths are the future of tomorrow’ is a false maxim, and as a French politician once said, “a new maxim is often a brilliant error.” What do we do to correct this error? Do we sit by the corner of the forest and cry being maltreated? Do we turn better Nigerians, meek and dumb, dying in poverty? Do we accept our situation that gets worse every day and ask God to forgive our elders in the country that have neglected us thus? Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Prof Wole Soyinka, an intellectual icon, told us that “the man dies who keeps silence in the presence of anarchy.”
Our lives have been battered, our hopes ruined, our joys for the future cut off. What do we do? Tomorrow is unknown, the present is unbearable. Do we fold our hands and watch our lives end thus unfulfilled? It is said that God helps those who help themselves. Pestalozzi, a teacher from Switzerland once said that “Whoever is not willing to help himself cannot be helped by anybody.” If it is mistake, we have all made it, but above all, we need to correct it now. As the Chinese Philosopher, Confucius said “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” Prof Wole Soyinka also added that “When the present is intolerable, the unknown harbours no risks.” Our fathers, mothers and elders have neglected us and pretended they don’t know of our sufferings. They have refused to listen to the advice of Arnold Bennett, a British writer that “The people who live in the past must yield to the people who live in the future. Otherwise the world would begin to turn the other way round.” And today, the world has truly turned the other way round as the youths have turned to carrying arms as militants, insurgents, kidnappers and robbers, etc.
The youthful human resources in our country today are treated with levity, yet it is evidence that dedication and activism, and proficient efficiency and productivity have their peaks at youthful age. Just look at the Nigerian Super Eagles (which today typify the Nigerian bureaucrats and technocrats that politicise even patriotism), can they be compared with the Flying Eagles or the youthful Golden Eaglets (which today represent the Nigerian youthful human resources), which among the Super (adult) Eagles and the Golden (youthful) Eagles are more proficient than the other. Watch these Eaglets as they join the rest of the country in their diplomacy, technocracy and bureaucracy. That is the contemporary and rebranded Nigeria. Since Nigeria has been rebranded, everything about the youths are set aside. Yet these are the future of the country.
There are many educated youths, qualified to hold various positions, yet have no job. Many wallow in hunger and penury. And one wonders why being born into this sort of living condition. Tillie Olsen, an American writer regrets that “Better mankind born without mouths and stomachs than always to worry about money to buy, to shop, to fix, to cook, to wash, to clean.” Thus, by means of getting themselves involved in one skill acquisition or the other, they prefer taking to crimes, believing that an abandoned person does not need to abandon himself. Some of them are hired as thugs and henchmen of political warlords and comprador bourgeoisies. These corrupt elders introduce them into get rich quick syndrome of which they are hired and are paid upfront for election thuggery, assassination, etc, and are abandoned the moment they are paid, only to be remembered the next four years.
What has come over the youths in Nigeria today and the elders of the society? These days parents watch their children taken as thugs, bearing fire arms given to them during elections; some contracted by their parents who are political stalwarts of do-or-die politicians. In most cases, these politicians, parents and elders watch the youths and their children die in their presence, which is abomination to watch your child die in a battle because you have paid him to carry ballot box for you, and he dies and you bury him.
The number of unemployed youths in the country grows in alarming rate. Let NNPC, Customs, Prisons, Civil Defence or Immigration, or any other parastatal in the ministry of interior advertise and see the number of people that will apply. These show that Nigerian youths are in distress. There are not means of livelihood. Today, it is common to see a well eloquent and dressed young man walk up to you and ask for transport money. Ask him his qualifications; he is ready there with their Master Degree certificate. Our old men talk of the good old days, but how many youths today can talk of the good old days? None! This is because we have not seen any good day.
This is not a call to violence but to mental revolution for the youths to think-out how to live better and create a new world in the world that has rejected them. And as Liu Binyan a Chinese writer advised, “Smashing a mirror is no way to make any ugly person beautiful, nor is it a way to make social problems evaporate.” But, go to prisons, police cells, you will see the youths in large numbers. Why? Is it how the government wants to remember the youths? Is it how the youths will be paid back for being born in their fathers’ house?
An Italian poet, Eugenio Montale said that “The new man is born too old to tolerate the new world…He looks but he does not contemplate, he sees but he does not think. He runs away from time, which is made of thought, and yet all he can feel is his own time, the present.” This is common in Nigeria with regards to affairs of the youths and the future of the country. The new man of Nigeria, the elders, is only thinking about themselves, their today, amassing and hoarding wealth forgetting to build on the patriotic Nigeria that the founding fathers laboured for. And as the Spanish philosopher and writer, José Ortega y Gasset, rightly said in his The Revolt of the Masses, “Whoever has not felt the danger of our times palpitating under his hand, has not really penetrated to the vitals of destiny, he has merely pricked its surface.” Until the problem of the youths and unemployment, equitable consideration of youths participation in electoral and appointive leadership positions are addresses and redressed in the country, all government efforts will remain unproductive as it they have been for decades now.
An American statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin nearly 300 years ago declared that “A little neglect may breed mischief,…for want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.” And this is the genesis of the problem of Nigeria today. Nigerian youths should be incorporated in leadership of the country, in skill acquisition programmes, recruited to take over from the ageless civil servants. And as the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher once said, “Let our children grow tall, and some taller than others if they have it in them to do so.”
Our fathers should ask themselves what they are bequeathing to us, and we the rejected youths, what do we have to bequeath to our children? Perhaps, rejection and levity more than our parents and with this, will there be a Nigeria in future? With this attitude of the Nigerian elders today bequeathing zero legacy and high level of unemployment to the children, in the next 100 years there will be no nation like Nigeria. It is thus suggestive that the Nigerian society should create a ministry that will look into these problems of the youths and raving rate of unemployment and crime, in order to depopulate unemployment and thereby reduce the rate of crime.