Youht Leadership As Panacea For Development

Source: Prof. Nathan Uzoma Protus
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Prof. Nathan Uzoma Protus

For a very long time, I have been speaking out against anti-government policies that have neglected our youths. I warned our leaders at various levels not to joke or trifle with the future of our youths; all my warnings and admonitions went into deaf ears. Today, and in view of what has happened our leaders and especially those who have ears to hear have woken up from deep slumber. Though this is just the beginning of what is to come should our leaders at various levels fail to do the needful. The youths of my country especially my state of origin Imo, can bear witness to the very fact that I have not relented to speak on their behalf which earned me the award as “Youth Mayor.”

In 2015 I led all the youths in Imo to a peaceful protest in the state and the youths made their demands which were completely ignored by the then governor of Imo state Chief Rochas Okoroacha. I completely align myself with Nigerian youths in their peaceful protest and must continue to encourage them to remain peaceful and shun violence and looting. The civic manner in which they carried their protest should tell you that most of our youths are more educated, enlightened, and well coordinated than most of our leaders.

Dear youths of our dear country, today, we have to put our heads together to ensure that we take up the responsibility of our lives by ourselves. Today is the long awaited day for change, and there must be change in our society as we learn how to fit in into the leadership steering of our circle and future not by violence. It is of recent that youths in Imo State came to realise the need to have frequent summits wherein their affairs, wellbeing and future are to be discussed.

Like I use this chance to re-echo the voice of Prof Eyo Ita in 1934 (as the National Leader of the Nigerian Youth Movement, NYM) who then declared that “Youths in other countries are driving forward, building themselves and their people, making their homelands beautiful, bright and stimulating, raising them to higher heights. This is the day of the Nigerian youth. It must build a new social order for whereas yesterday belonged to our fathers, today and the immediate tomorrow is ours. We can and must shape it according to our needs and desires.” I say same to you today, that you must build a new social order, a solid youth leadership, which certainly is the panacea for rapid societal development.

The first question is who is a youth? 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.’

Generally the common understanding of the phrase “ayouth,” 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, declared that “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 (in this case our country Nigeria, our state Imo, our senatorial zones and LGAs, 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 true 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 more reason why whatever can put to stop the general and excellent percentage of the problems of the youths, has truly become a cure, a Balm of Gilead and thus panacea for the quick development of that particular society. And the best and lasting form of desirable future development a clairvoyant society could envision and embark upon, is youths’ grooming, empowerment and enthronement into desirable positions that will ensure socio-economic stability, any other societal efforts are elementary urgencies that have to be attended to by anybody (male or female, adult or youth, able-bodied or deformed) on whom the affairs of the society are entrusted upon.

Unfortunately, our society today only remembers you the youths as employable adults who are of the ages of 20-35, which is below retirement age, and this remembrance occurs only when the already siphoned employment opportunities are made public for a externalised bureaucratic efficiency that is purely a mockery on the youths and their life careers. Our society and government today, divide you 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.

I don’t need to be told that most of our youths are already graduates from reputable higher institutions of learning and with classical results and agility to change the affairs of the society. The great question here is, will you be given the opportunity to do such? Will you not be clued at this youthful age with your results, talents and enthusiasm to permanent frustrations and servitude? Today, our graduates roam about the streets in search of jobs. It is only very few of you that today have the luck of being employed in our brigaded private companies, and thus end up in debasing factory-hands and as sex solicitors. Many of your colleagues on daily basis trek from Nigeria across the borders to outside countries (such as Spain, Algeria, Libya, Italy, Morocco, etc), and in most of the cases many of them got rot away in countless jails on allegations of sundry crimes, etc.

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 Haramterrorism. For how long can our youths 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?

Youth leadership simply means the practice of teenagers and post-teenage adults exercising authority over themselves and others. According to Wehmeyer et al (1998), it isa part of the youth development process and support that young persons in developing the ability to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and have the self-esteems, confidence, motivation, and abilities to carry them out (including the ability to establish support networks in order to fully participate in community life and effect positive social change); and the ability to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence the opinions and behaviours of others, and serve as a role models.

The central and often the end point of youth leadership project is youth empowerment or youth voice. According to Bruce et al (2006), youth empowerment or youth voicerefers to the distinct ideas, opinions, attitudes, knowledge and actions of young people as a collective body that brings together a diversity of perspectives and experiences, regardless of backgrounds, identities, and cultural differences. And these are commonly associated with the successful application of a variety of youth development activities especially leadership training and enthronement. As these are gathered, the youths project it as a collective conscience and goal in life that every member of the group faithfully determines to achieve.

Any society that fails to engage its youths into proper channels for success in life has planned to engage them in proper channels for the destruction of the society itself. That is why Zeldin (2004) strongly opines that the proper engagement of youths or youth voice is an essential element of effective organisational development in any society and youth-serving organisations.

The term panacea, is a Latin word that was derived from the Greek Panakeia- The name of the Greek goddess of universal remedy; from the root word: Panakes- meaning ‘All healing’ (and from the etymons: Pan- ‘All’ and akos, akes- ‘Remedy,’ ‘cure’). It signifies a universal solution or remedy for all difficulties, a universal answer or solution for all problems or difficulties. As a universal remedy, it is bound to ensure the development of any society that employs it in all spheres of its life.

This shows that the word panacea has close practical links with human or societal changes or development, as that which impacts or effects result to societal changes and thus development. Because a panaceais seen as a remedy, it signifies a healing or restoration that is testified by visible positive changes in the society. The implication of this is that, whatever can heal, cure or remedy a badly-situated condition of life of the youth as in our country today, is fit to take it to real positive changes and we all know that there can never be any change in human life or society without development being witnessed.

The youths mediate between the adult age of the society and the infants who look upon them as role models. In this mediation, the youths are groomed as worthy sons and daughters of the society (in all life endeavours) who are full of vigour, talents and swiftness for the mechanisation of the society. Consequently, youth leadership, which as we have seen above is a part of the youth development process and support that youths in developing the ability to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and have their self-esteems, confidence, motivation, and abilities to carry them out (including the ability to establish leadership-support networks in order to fully participate in societal life and effect positive social change and thus rapid societal development). Thus, this youth’s developmental process and support fray for the development of their leadership qualities (which every youth-lover must sacrifice all to ensure its realisation) and their assumption of this status in the society is the nexus of societal development that due to its complicity, every government in power tries to dodge and shy away from.

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