Agree Or Disagree, The future Of Nigeria Rests With The Youths

It is not an exaggeration to say that not few Nigerians were taken aback in 2019 when the World Population Report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) disclosed that Nigeria’s population stood at 201 million.

According to the UNFPA report, Nigeria’s population grew at an annual average growth rate of 2.6 percent in the last ten years as at then. The Report went further to reveal that between 1969 and 2019, Nigeria’s population grew by 267.4 percent. In 1969, Nigeria’s population was estimated at 54.7m people, while as then, 2019, it increased to 201m.

The reason why many were taken aback upon the release of the Report by UNFPA was due to the fact that the country’s population was young: Also, the report further showed that Nigerians within the age group of 0-14 years ranked second, comprising 32 percent of the country’s population, while Nigerians within the age group 10-24 years came third, constituting 32 percent of Nigeria’s population. Lastly, the least population of Nigerians at the time of the Report was released in 2019 fell within the age group of 65 above, comprising just 3% of Nigeria’s population.

Again, not few Nigerians were taken aback as the Report suggested that Nigeria had a very high prospect for economic growth, only if the country can harness its growth potentials in having the highest population in the working age category. It further stressed why unemployment is at such a high rate in the country.

In a similar vein, the United Nations’ Department of Economics and Social Affairs (Population Division) in one of its Reports released in the past stated that there were 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 years globally in 2015, and which at the time accounted for one out of every six people worldwide.

Then, the UN projected that by 2030, the target date for the sustainable development goals, the number of youth would have grown by 7 per cent, to nearly 1.3 billion, and asserted that youth can be a positive force for development when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to thrive. The body noted that in particular, young people should acquire the education and skills needed to contribute in a productive economy, and they need access to a job market that can absorb them into its labour force.

Without resort to seeming boring explanation in this context, it suffices to cite an African proverb that says, “It is the young trees that make up the forest.” What this means in the present context is that Nigeria’s youth will determine its future. Indeed, Nigeria will not rise unless young people provide leadership and leverage their tech-savviness to mobilize for the realization of better policies; policies that promote inclusive development.

At this juncture, not few readers of this piece would be wondering on its essence, particularly as can be deduced from the title. The reason why it is titled thus cannot be farfetched as it was obvious that the powers were literarily determined to exterminate the entire youth population if there were reasons that seemed justifiable in their understanding to do so. Luckily for the youths such opportunity never came as Nigerians’ right to protest is constitutionally guaranteed.

It is against the foregoing premise that individuals, groups and even some concerned countries vehemently kicked and condemned against the wanton killings that occurred at the Lekki Toll Gate last month. At this juncture, one of Mother Teresa’s quote in her lifetime unarguably provides an exhortation in this perspective as she warned, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?” and, “A nation that kills its children in the womb has lost its soul.”

In as much as this writer has been avoiding being the one to hit the nail on the head on the veracity of the foregoing assertive title of this piece, it is expedient to resort to what world leaders said in 2018 when they converged under the auspices of the UN, and deliberated that without young people, global goals will not be achieved. In a similar vein, and in this context, it is germane and expedient to say that without Nigerian youths, national goals will not be achieved.

The reason for the avowal cannot be farfetched as today's young Nigerians are more connected, dynamic and engaged than ever and the Nigeria’s goals cannot happen without them as they are more connected, dynamic and engaged than ever.

At the event, it was sounded loud and clear that young people can no longer be dismissed as the rebel fighters; the terrorists; the disenfranchised. They are the innovators, the solution-finders; the social and environmental entrepreneurs.

Some few years back, when Akinwumi Adesina was addressing G7 leaders at an international forum, he said, “The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe; it should not be at the bottom of the Mediterranean; it lies in a prosperous Africa. We must create greater economic opportunities for our youth right at home in Africa.” To me, the statement still holds true for Nigerian youths as happenings that precipitated still prevail.

At the time, Adesina said, “Current statistics put Africa’s overall unemployment rate at 8%, while the youth unemployment rate hovers around 13%.

Sixty per cent of unemployed people are young women and men. Of the young people who are employed, many are trapped in low-productivity work in the informal sector. Providing young African people with the education, skills and capacities for gainful employment is considered an urgent priority”. Without any iota of exaggeration, nothing has changed. Rather, things have been going from bad to worse.

At this juncture it is apropos to implore the powers that be that they should look beyond the EndSARS protests, and embark on the empowerment of the youths. What is the empowerment of the youths in this context?

For the sake of clarity, empowerment is the process by which people gain the ability and authority to make informed decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people. It is a means through which people try to do better themselves, and also make great impact in their society. This is done by taking action to improve access to resources and transforming consciousness, beliefs, values and attitudes.

At this juncture, it is expedient for the government to kick off intentional efforts towards continuously bringing the collective dream of Nigerian youths to reality as it would be very essential to do so. More so, it is trite fact to reiterate the assertive title of this piece that says, “Agree or disagree, the future of Nigeria rests with the youths.”

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Articles by Isaac Asabor