What hope for Nigerian youths?

Now that the 2011 general elections are over, what is the hope of the Nigerian youths in this dispensation? The youths have done their best in ensuring victory for the President, National Assembly members and State Governors. It's time to pay them for their support.

Who is a youth? Despite diverse definitions according to diverse fields of study, it is generally believed that a youth is a young person between the teen and early twenties or from 18 to below 40. It is the period of human life between the childhood and maturity. With this definition, one may ask when a Nigerian or African child is regarded to be mature.

In one of my poem collections titled, Man in the Mirror, there is a poem titled Independence where I said thus: The maturity of an African child; Is full dependence and sluggishness; Eighteen is of the European West; And a double is uncertain for ours; For we know not yet after forty years….. So it is quite difficult to ascribe exact year of maturity for an African child. Yes, the world is too much with us in Africa.

There is no doubt that the youth is the strongest segment of any given society. They are also the largest in number although in some of the underdeveloped nations, they are the worst hit by marginalization, neglect and even frustration. In Nigeria for instance, the youths have fallen victims to misuse by some of the politicians.

A critical review of elections in the country has shown that most of the electoral frauds

and political thuggery are abetted by youths under the influence of politicians who do not do a proper homework but would wish to win elections by foul. It is unfortunate. But Nigeria is learning and Nigerians are growing more and more politically conscious especially

with the events of 2003 and 2007 rigged elections, the 2011 elections and all the attendant consequences.

One hopes that our youths have learnt a lot of lessons from the past and would refocus for a better future. It is the duty of the youths to determine who should rule this country. They have often allowed themselves to be misused and dumped. So it is time for them to start displaying their strength positively.

Our youths and students especially are not only misused by politicians as thug and electoral manipulators, they are often lured into playing politics the old way, thus the inability to forge a new political course for the country. It is known that the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) often warns its members to desist from those activities inimical to the smooth progress of education and study life in campuses of the universities across the nation. But a reflection on the past glory and vibrancy of the Nigerian youths and students in the policy-making of the country, shows time to have come for them to regain their relevance and become real stakeholders in the nation's socio-economic being.

I see the problem with the youths deeply rooted in the poor living conditions of majority of Nigerians. Poverty and joblessness are most times the causes that lead the people into all sorts of criminal activities. It has been observed that some of those used by politicians for electoral frauds are the young people. A lot of our students are poor, very poor. Go to campuses and see how some of them are battling with life and studies.

At the end of the hardship at school, they come out to face the harder one with unemployment. So, some of them take it an opportunity to make little fortune during political dispensations through thuggery and box stuffing business. But one would ask how much they make at the end. Some of them may collect as little as ten thousand naira or less for these dirty jobs.

Although events since 1999 have proved that our democracy has come to stay, our youths have not proved that they have grown to maturity to be able to control conduct of credible polls that would be acceptable to majority. Look at how the youths, particularly the NYSC members were killed during and after the just concluded general elections.

If I were to suggest the percentage of political office positions to be given to the Nigerian youths, I would say 40 percent be allowed for them. That will be five percent above that recommended for women by the United Nations. Let the leadership explore the vibrancy and lively experiences of the youths in handling the political positions. The old generation politicians who have been recycling themselves to the detriment of the whole nation should see reasons in this proposal. The youth have never had a so-friendly government.

First of all, these positions which the old politicians get by force should be for the youths. It's time for the youths to stop being used as political jobbers. Let them give dignity to their image and they will see that the future of the country will change for good.

President Goodluck Jonathan has ever shown interest to be youth-friendly. We believe that only such president can reposition the Nigerian youths for better. Many state governors show little or no interest in involving the youths in their governments. Some of them, though having distinguished themselves in politics and development have failed the youths. It's time for them to uplift the youths in their different states.

Surely, experience, political will, dedication, patriotism, love for humanity and the fear of God are needed to make good leadership at any level of governance in this country. Nigerian youths have all these qualities. However, one thing I must repeat is that our youths and especially the students should stop being misused by politicians as thugs and electoral manipulators. Let the youths, students and religious groups help in this aspect through aggressive enlightenment programmes by themselves. Again, let Nigerian youths be involved in the political train of the country so as to be able to establish their relevance and get their rights.

Youths must assist this country in moving forward towards the right direction. And we all must be ready for this onerous duty.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah