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IMO YOUTHS AND POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT IN 2015.

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On October 11th 2014 at the auditorium of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education being venue for the Mass Movement for Jonathan Imo state Chapter inauguration, i was officially honoured by Imo youths as their spokes person- The Mayor of Imo youth. This programme was attended by many Imo political gurus including the two times Senator representing Owerri Senatorial Zone Senator Chris N.D. Anyanwu. The reader could recall that i have been on the front line giving talks at different occasions on the matters concerning the youths of this State.

I sincerely wish to thank the entire Imo youths for this noble honour as i pledge my support to move on with the crusade of emancipation of the youths from the cocoon of political bondage. I am very happy to know that 70% of Imo youths are behind me. I shall not disappoint you at all. I shall soon invite all the Imo youths to my Local Government (ISU LGA) for the celebration. The date shall soon be communicated to you all. At this point let us begin by x-raying one of the papers i delivered during one of my youth enlightenment programmes.

The commonest definition of the term 'youth' in all English dictionaries around the world is that of 'the period between childhood and adult age,' and as 'young people considered as a group.' For Thomas (2003:88) 'youth' simply means 'the stage of constructing the self-concept;' this self-concept of youth is influenced by several variables such as peers, lifestyle, gender, and culture. In line with this perceptive of youth as a phase of self-concept construction, John Wing Jnr (2012:9), defines the term 'youth' as 'the time of a person's life in which they make choices which will affect their future.'

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 'Youth' is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood's independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community. It further states that: 'Youth is a more fluid category than a fixed age-group. However, age is the easiest way to define this group, particularly in relation to education and employment. Therefore “youth” is often indicated as a person between the age where he/she may leave compulsory education, and the age at which he/she finds his/her first employment. This latter age limit has been increasing, as higher levels of unemployment and the cost of setting up an independent household puts many young people into a prolonged period of dependency.'

Similarly, for statistical consistency across regions, the United Nations Organisation (UNO) defines 'youth', as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States. All UN statistics on youth are based on this definition, as illustrated by the annual yearbooks of statistics published by the United Nations system on demography, education, employment and health. But, for activities at the national level, for example when implementing a local community youth programme, the term “youth” may be understood in a more flexible manner. In this backdrop, UNESCO will adopt the definition of “youth” as used by a particular Member State. It can be based for instance on the definition given in the African Youth Charter where “youth” means “every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years”.

Generally the common understanding of the phrase “a youth,” is a young person who has not grown up to full adulthood or who is partially or provisionally under

the continual care of parents or guardians in the society. Consequently, the youths belong to the ones under parental care. It also involves anyone who is learning as young adults, mid-career adults or those who are taking vocational training in established learning or training organizations.

The Psalmist (Psalm 127) while exhorting youthful age declares “like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver filled with these arrows!” The youths are these arrows that the warrior (the nation, the state, our senatorial zone, etc) uses to fight in order to conquer, in order to save its territorial integrity and ensure its continual future existence. Thus, standing the youths on the rock of veritable survival and position in the society is comparable to the Psalmist filling one's quiver with the arrows. That is why the problems of the Youths are the problems of the society that wants growth and development. And the best and lasting form of desirable future development a clairvoyant society could envision and embark upon, is youths' grooming and enthronement into desirable positions that will ensure socio-economic stability, others are preliminary urgencies that have to be attended to.

Unfortunately, the general situation of Imo youths today is like the declarations of the Biblical Sheba son of Bichri (the Benjamite) who blew his trumpet and declared 'everybody to his tent O Israel,' (Samuel 20:1). The youths sitz in leben in the State today is also like the poetic insight of W.B. Yeats who (in his poem, “The Second Coming”) declared that “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is formed around the world. The best lacks all convictions while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The well educated, trained and zealous youths roam the streets unemployed, while there are men of 65 years and above who are holding up to four payable positions in the society, without relinquishing any even after their death.

Regrettably, our society today remembers the youths not as the most vital stakeholders of the present day society and the leaders of tomorrow, but as employable adults who are 20-35 years below retirement age, and this remembrance occurs only when the already siphoned employment opportunities are made public. Our society and government today, divide the youths into qualified and unqualified ones. The qualified ones (in terms of academics) amount to millions from our universities, about 70% of which are in search of opportunities to be saved from denials of means for self-subsistence. Graduates roam about the streets in search of jobs. On the other hand, those who are unqualified (in terms of academics), end up as debased factory-hands and sex solicitors. Many of these trekked from Nigeria across the borders to outside countries (such as Spain, Algeria, Libya, Italy, Morocco, etc), and in most of the cases, a great many of them got rot away in countless jails on allegations of sundry crimes, etc.

The very few that have the courage to stay back in the country, have to battle with dilapidated infrastructure, mass youth unemployment which the World Bank recently put at 38 per cent. With the near collapse of the education sector, only the children of the favoured few have access to quality service delivery either in one of the many mushrooming private universities now dotting the landscape of Nigeria or seek for greener pastures in Europe, Canada, the United Kingdom or the U.S. Some prefer nearby Ghana where Nigerian parents spent a whopping N140 billion in only three universities in 2012.

The flip side is for the youths with low tolerance level, are now actively engaged in armed robbery, kidnappings, acting as thugs for politicians, massive crude oil theft, and cyber crime called 'yahoo-yahoo' and the senseless killings of innocent citizens in the garb of Boko Haram terrorism. For how long can we go on this way? Are these the sort of youths that God predestined for our society and your generation? Or has our society not made the type of youths it wants to have? Are you contented with the type, quality and calibre of youths that your society today and its government want to turn your generation into? If you are, then be what you are and where you are. If on the contrary, you are not, then, rise and take a leap across the chasm of subjugation. Make the envisioned generational shift and attend the desired new life status and sitz in leben.

The term politics is derived from the Greek words politika, politicos- 'for the citizens', 'civil or civic', 'affairs of the city' which was formed from the etymon polis, meaning 'city', 'citizen', and the Greek suffix -ics, which denotes a body of facts or knowledge. Literary, politics means knowledge of being a citizen. With active involvement of men in the running of their city affairs, the term politics became the total complex of relations between people living in society, and the activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government.

Schmidt et al (2011:5) recalls that the great political scientist, Harold Lasswell defined politics as 'who gets what, when, and how.' For our brother and great social scientist, Patrick C. Nneji (2012:116), this definition 'means that politics is all about what politicians get from it. It is all about what people attract for themselves, family and community-' Thus, the need for students to know their roles in societal politics.

The role of youths in politics is not a modern status but a historical one. J.S. Coleman (1958:224) remarked that in 1936, when Nigeria began the quest to emerge as a nation, it was Nigerian youths who began the first nationalist movement, which called for the unification of the ethnic groups through the search for a common ideal. These youths included H.O. Davies (from the today Ekiti State, the founder of the Nigerian Youth Movement- NYM), Herbert Macaulay (who led the National Council of Nigerians and Cameroon- NCNC), Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe's (Zikist Movement), Olu Alakija (who led the West African Student Union- WASU) and Obafemi Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola (who pioneered the Egbe Omo Oduduwa).

These youths (particularly from southern Nigeria) engineered anti-Colonial tendencies, and thereunto encountered great challenges until Independence. Coleman (1958:121) also noted that one of the important motivations for the rise and growth of Nigerian Nationalism was frustration among the educated classes, among the students whom the British government then deliberately tried to keep away from qualifying for positions that will grant them self-reliance and self-rule qualifications and worthiness. This according to our brother and great historian, Okwudiba Nnoli (1980:140), created a sense of solidarity in (both the in-group and out-group) membership of the nationalist movements, together with the identification and pride in the successes of the various unions.

These earliest nationalists were all then students of universities and colleges, undergraduates, graduates and adherents of the various schools of thoughts initiated by the Missionary Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowder, Dr. Samuel Johnson and Surveyor Herbert Macaulay who among others lived on borrowed ideals with little or no mentoring and guide, but their passion to make bold their independence of mind, intuitions and determinations of African people and their home country in particular to conduct their own affairs by themselves on the altar of selfless service and good leadership. Their efforts to champion the public cause and their societal politics as we have today are a long chequered history.

It was these goal-oriented youths that courageously confronted the limitations of their day's government and the inability of the people to fulfil their public aspirations. By dint of their outstanding doggedness and sense of purpose, they later became statesmen in life, worthy of mentioning, specially the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano and Michael Imoudu to mention a few. It was worth noting here that most of these youths were below forty years but their historic acts in the nationalistic struggles later became the bedrock of national polity on which we dwell and engage on concepts of leadership aspiration, public and national interest and good governance to define and determine national policies till date. None of them were thugs and touts but founders of political parties which regenerations still survive today as most of our present day great political parties where great leaders of our various societies, states and country have emerged from.

Students and youths of all spheres of life in the country then picked up same spirit, same focus and objective- To take the destiny of their societies in their hands. It was the zeal from the public opinion mainly dominated by Nigerian youths then that later resulted in the Military Revolution orchestrated by youthful soldiers (of your age and status) led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu Kaduna in January 1966, the first military putsch in Nigeria. It was the youths that led the military revolution and youths that executed the counter revolution. It was the outcome of the active participation of youths in societal politics that led to the personality differences between the then youthful military leaders: Odimegwu Ojukwu and Yakubu Gowon; which culminated in the Nigeria-Biafra war in which innumerable human and economic losses were encountered and many students, the likes of late great literary artists Christopher Okigbo, J.P. Clark, etc., lost their lives in patriotism to their father lands. This history is too painful to recount, especially because the youths then had no patrons, enlightened elder statesman and stakeholders as you students and youths of today have. If they had enlightened parents and predecessors as you have today, perhaps Nigeria would have been among the first five most developed nations now.

It is historically true that great many Nigerian youthful students and graduates have actively participated in the democratic process of their society, either as members of the civil society or within groups that mounted pressures on dictatorial and unpopular regimes, through their activities at different times between 1960 and the last few years. Some of them through their literary works tried to make their societies worthwhile. They include. Late Prof Chinua Achebe, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Bala Usman, Late Prof (Mrs) Flora Nwapa, Late Prof. Awojobi, Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti Late Chief Bola Ige, Late Chief Akin Omoboriowo, Barrister Bamidele Aturu, Rev. Fr Dr (now Bishop) Matthew Kukah, Arch. Bishop Okogie, Barrister Femi Falana, and Barrister Opeyemi Bamidele, Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chief Gani Adams, etc.

From these brief historical highlights, it is obvious that the high points of democratic victories witnesses in Nigeria in recent years came from the roles students and youths societal politic, and in the enthronement of democratic process and principles, especially the eventual restoration of the popular mandates of Governors Rotimi Amaechi, Adams Oshiomole, Segun Mimiko, John Kayode Fayemi and Rauf Aregbesola, Rochas Okorocha, etc. Certainly too, the youthful status and role of these political leaders earned them public recognition that turned their political participation into popular mandates as elected popular leaders even when they were initially deprived of their mandates in the electoral process. It is historically true that almost all of these Governors later treated the youths with ignominy. This is so because in our context and according to Napoleon Hill, “A successful politician is one who is long on promises but short on keeping them.” The level of injustices melted out on our youths is a serious threat to justice and development.

Today and in the forthcoming elections, it is again in the hands of the students and youths to elect political aspirants of their youthful status who will not only give students from particular higher institutions in the State free education as Governor Okorocha does but who will extend it to all Imo students around the country. It was William Shakespeare that enthuses “Spearing injustice feed iniquity.” The free education is today a serious hogwash.

It is left for you students and youths that statisticians record as constituting about 40% of every society's population to source for credible candidates who are youth-oriented and who when given mandate will ensure at least a 30% affirmative appointment for the youths in the State. It is left for the Imo students today to call the various political aspirants in our societies as His Grace, Archbishop A.J.V. Obinna did in last the last gubernatorial elections for political dialogues, debates and expositions of packages they have for the Imo youths (who are basically students, unemployed graduates, skilled and unskilled youngsters of same youthful age-bracket). Following the 2011 political dialogue organized by the Arch Bishop, we have all learnt from defeat and according to Zig Ziglar, “If you learn from a defeat you haven't really lost.”

Prof Protus Nathan Uzorma (The Reformer& Mayor of Imo Youths)

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Articles by Nathan Protus Uzorma