Youth and Development in Nigeria.

While surfing the internet months back, I came across a report by McKinsey, a leading consulting firm in the world. This report stated that by 2050 “Nigeria’s greatest export will not be crude oil but human capital.” Haven gone through this report, I asked myself a very important question, taking cognizance of grammatical blunder; What type of export will Nigerian youths be in 2050? On 12th may 2012, an article by Still Africa, a leading journalistic firm known for astute journalism, projected that by 2050, “Nigerian youths will comprise 28% of her population.” This report showed the enormous responsibility the government has, in order to productively channel the youthful potentials at her disposal. The report went further stating that the best policies that must be promoted must be targeted at ensuring the empowerment of youth. It should be noteworthy that such recommendations are not finding their way to Aso rock for the first time. But, when you have a nation bereft of a good understanding of her youthful potentials and the plights of her citizens, the results are not far-fetched from the sardonic and baleful experiences of our dear nation.

One major factor that I find as stumbling block to realistic national development is the mobility of our youths. A recent study shows that the youths in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most mobile set of people in the world, and Nigeria, a major country loosing her youths to foreign and neighbouring countries like Ghana. This report reminds me of the lyrics of one of Nigeria’s great soul musician; Beautiful Nubia, which says “…I see them in Europe, America and all over the world looking for home…” The true state of our nation can not be far fetch from that lyrics. Surprisingly, our youths who have achieved unco stride in music, literature, sport etc. internationally, tend to see themselves as more foreign than Nigerian. They spend ample time meandering in foreign lands in the name of professionalism while their hamlet is being fleeced by rudders who call themselves leaders, paddling our nation to extinction.

A few months ago, the name of a book came to mind; The anatomy of female power and I remembered the author and one of Nigeria’s most celebrated critics of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, a man who had no surname: Professor Chinweizu. I sought to know his whereabouts. The responses I got were that he seemed to be residing in Ghana. I was stupefied!!! my response was; “Ghana? Why Ghana for such a brain like Chinweizu and not Nigeria?” I got no answers.

Perhaps, we will have to ask ourselves how often our award-winning authors like Helon Habila, Ben Okri, Chimamanda Adichie and others frequent their homelands? or do we care to know when our celebrated Bill Gate of Africa (Phillip Emeagwali) will eventually settle in Nigeria? When next you see Chimamanda Adichie remind her that it took people like Camara Laye for her to believe she could exist in the literary world when her books were taking ginger beer. Therefore, it also takes her input for the Nigeria-girl dropping out of school at an obnoxious rate to believe in herself that the future holds invaluable resources for her. When this happen and our celebrated heroes sees themselves with the bifocal lens of professionalism and responsibility to mentor and motivate the youths in achieving their conceived dreams; we will as a nation in the eyes of foreign observers, experience a shift from what Chimamanda Adichie described as the single story to what Chinua Achebe called a balance of story.

I have heard our elders talk about the good old days and the glorious beginning of this nation. Well, my history classes never lend a young mind like mine the existence of such beginning. Rather, it reminds me of military repressions, coup de ‘tat and senseless wars that deluged us. However, if we must pick the brain of our elders and hold their testimonies of great historical precedence with hinge of truth. Then, I am not mindful to include that there were glorious youths setting the pace for such an enviable past. What do we say of our head of states who were in their mid 30’s driving the wheel of such an epoch-making events. I think history has given us insight to the invaluable height our nation can reach if we effectively engage our youths and give them the right environment with excellent equanimity for them to effect growth.

Many political analysts have attributed the lack of development in Nigeria to failed policies, lack of true federalism, corrupt government officials etc. As much as I tend to identify with those factors, it behoves me to emphasize that the true identity of a nation stems from the thought pattern her citizen consistently hold. Many youth have become advocates of the retrogressive cliché “Youths are leaders of tomorrow,” when we know that the prophets of our past and the library of the present never prophesied or gave thesis of a future. Many youth lack the ideal mindset relevant to place this nation in its right place and as Edgar Roberts rightly put it “every mind is a great slumbering power until awakened by keen desire and by definite resolution.” The slumbering power of our youths needs to be awakened by definite resolution on their part not to settle for anything less. They need to see themselves as an entity of change responsible to this nation. They need to see themselves far beyond the prejudice of religion and ethnicity.


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