Dear Nigerian Youths,
– As Youth Celebrate the International Youth Day
Today is your day, the International Youth Day. Congratulations.
I bring you greeting from Cambridge, UK. I humbly write you this personal letter in the hope that you would read it with an open mind. I write to you because I was born on the day that Nigeria got its independence, and have watched Nigeria grow from nothing to something that it is today. I am therefore very passionate about Nigeria.
I write you today with the hope that as you celebrate your day; you would continue to focus on getting our country out of the present mess. Nothing seems to be working. But as someone once said, in every mess there is a message; and this message is what you must take as a challenge to make our nation the best in the world.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s we never had a day set aside to remember the youths. Most of us never grew up with silver spoons in our mouths; we ate with our hands, bath in rivers and walked to school. We wrote common entrance examinations and only few went to post primary schools, and much fewer went to universities. We were among the lucky ones to be taken to ABU Zaria to see computer for the first time. The computer we saw filled a whole room and there were only few terminals that we huddled around to be shown how to do data processing. We had to write our instructions in FORTRAN and later in BASIC language. Growing up, we were forced to read and write letters in the primary schools and went to debates in secondary schools. Out of these challenges some of us had the privilege of travelling to Europe and excelled. By the grace of the Almighty, my research is still a reference point at Cranfield University, UK.
When we were growing up, we were mostly judged by character. Universities were for catchment areas to provide equal opportunities for neighbouring States. Our communities were driven by our elders, usually the Imams or Pastors in the community in addition to parents and village heads. We didn’t have proliferation of mosques and churches.
We learnt respect and contentment. We looked up to our elders for wisdom, not wealth or money. We floundered in life; got few knocks here and there because we didn’t have mentors, but today by the grace of the Almighty we are still alive.
Many years ago I sat two of my children down and told them that, whatever mistakes they may make in life, it is likely that their father had made same mistakes if not more, so they do not have excuse to make same mistakes, except if it was inadvertent or they decided to ignore their father’s wisdom. I gave them four keys to life:
1. Wisdom – I told them that intelligence does not bring wisdom. Wisdom comes through mistakes made and fights fought in life. So do not look for a person of means, instead look for a person of wisdom to guide you. Wisdom will give you wealth not money, and wealth is the capacity needed. Money is only an element of wealth.
2. Focus – Never get distracted by the noise around you. There will be enemies and those are good for focus. There would be accusers, blackmailers, and haters; and those are good for focus too. I told them that their strength would lay in how they would handle such critical experiences, especially when dealing with false accusations. I told them that ‘truth, no matter how long, will stand the test of time’.
3. Integrity – Integrity is all you have. Haters and enemies will always want to destroy your integrity; and ones your integrity is hit, everyone will leave you including your own shadow. I empathised that most people celebrate bad news, never hear the other side before deciding to judge you, and the best pass time for Nigerians is judgmental attitudes. Do not struggle to defend your integrity, your integrity will defend itself. Just be yourself, do what will make you happy, and enjoy life.
4. Finally, I told them to get life skills added to their qualifications; so that the day they do not have employment they have a fall-back plan. From nothing they will arise again.
As you the youths celebrate your day today, I really wish you the best of today and the future.
Nigeria’s greatest mistake today is to leave the youths feeling totally left.
During our days circumstances left us with nothing but today it is the society that seems to leave the youths with nothing. The private sector that should be encouraged and supported by government to create manufacturing and construction jobs and enable youths employment have been killed by past bad governance. The mechanisms that would have enabled the life skills empowerment for our youths have been high jacked by corruption, and even MSME funds is only served as political paybacks. Politics is now an industry that would make people to kill for. Thuggery and gangsterism would now get political contracts that are never completed or accomplished. Banditry and kidnapping is now being defended in our religious houses. Our politics have become very corrupted and this has led to financial corruption and economic corruption. However, whether thugs, gangs, kidnappers, bandits, accounts clerks, hired killers etc, most of these are executed by our youths under the tutelage of vampires called elders or leaders. These have become the graveyards of our youth’s dreams and ambitions. I agonise for our Nigerian youths this day; this International Day of Youths.
So what would our Youths be celebrating today?
I think we need to be honest about our youths. There will be more of depressive situation than celebration for the Nigerian Youths today. For sure today the Nigerian Youth feels
– Ignored by the economy – no employment
– Being used by politicians – no reward system for them.
– Used in wrong endeavours such as thuggery, gangsterism, banditry etc.
– The political class does not celebrate them.
– No one cares.
So what should the Nigerian Youth celebrate today? There is a glimmer of hope in this government. The Tinubu government seems to be touching the root causes of the present deadness in the economy. Whether corruptionwould allow him to reap the rewards, time will tell. But here are the hopes:
1. That we have a new government in place that is appears to be ‘youth friendly’.
2. That we have social media that can be used to reach the President, Governors, etc directly which the Youths can use.
3. That the Youths can band together nationwide through social media and make their voices heard.
So this is the Youth’s time to celebrate, create relationships, explore opportunity, focus, and seek the wisdom of life to live.
I wish all our Youths a very Happy International Youths Day.
Prof. Yakub Abdalla: Chair – Africa, Middle East & Turkey (AMET) Study Group, London, UK