Nigerians from all works of life have continued to condemn President Buhari for calling the Nigerian youth lazy at the just concluded business meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of governments. This write up is not to discuss the rightness or wrongness of his utterances against his own country outside the shores of Nigeria, but calls for sober reflections and self-re-examinations of our own selves towards our love for our mother land called Nigeria. Before we condemn the President, we should answer the following questions: do I love Nigeria as my country? Am I ready to lay my life in defence of its unity? Am I ready to abandon tribal and ethnic considerations and promote the concept of ‘one nation one destiny’ in all my dealings with other Nigerians?
If your answer to the above questions is “NO”, then you don’t have a moral right to condemn President Buhari, but if on the other hand your answer happens to be “YES” then welcome to this section on self-re-examination, or call it, the truth section. The President’s negative comments about Nigeria, in and outside the shores of the country is indeed a true reflection of how we Nigerians feel about ourselves and our country which many commentators have also constantly called MERE GEOGRAPHICAL CONTRAPTION put in place by the British Colonial Master. This means they do not believe in it! The truth is that something you don’t like will constantly reflect in your utterances, actions and in-actions about the thing, the best you can do is to pretend.
This perhaps is what the President does not know how to do, that is; to pretend. But even when we pretend, some people have a way of reading in between the lines or seeing through the veil of obscurity. There is one adage that says; “if thou seest not thyself; others discover thee more plainly”. It is obvious that those condemning the President about his constant negative comments about Nigeria each time he speaks to the foreign media actually wants him to pretentiously commit himself as a lover of Nigeria which many of us are yet to prove that we are. But, is it easy to give what we do not have?
According to this writer’s PhD thesis, titled, “Nigeria’s True National Integration: The Role of NTA and FRCN” more than 70 per cent of the respondents agreed that Nigerian’s integration is yet to be achieved. Though the respondents from FRCN and NTA blamed governance for their poor role in this regards. The majority said that NTA and FRCN being government controlled media, the government use it to promote their hold on political power rather than national integration. 93 per cent of the youths interviewed said they are not ready to lay their lives for Nigeria in comparison to an average American. At present there are insinuations that the APC government is condoning ethnic cleansing. The question is, if you love Nigeria, will you go ahead and kill Nigerians no matter the ethnicity? The second question is, if you love Nigeria, will you condone ethnic cleansing using political power? The thesis here is, can anything good come out of what you hate or what you don’t love. Nigeria is seen as a “No man’s land” where the leaders and the led alike, are only interested in plundering it to favour themselves, family and ethnic cleavages leaving the general good in jeopardy. This is why we have the lazy youths the President is referring to. A person that loves his country gives it his or her all, including what becomes of its youth, because the youths a country has is psychological linked to nature and nurture. In a book titled “youth empowerment” written by this same author, he said that what becomes the future of any nation is the synthesis of how the youth are nurtured and empowered.
According to the Holy Bible, Matthew 7, verse 18 Christ made it emphatic that, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”, also in Matthew 7:20 it states that, “wherefore by their fruits ye shall now them”. It is either the tree is good and the fruits good or the tree is bad and the fruits bad, here lies the point. A lazy country/leadership can only give rise to a predominantly lazy youth. The youths we have today is what we made them to be. They are our fruits; they are the reflection of who we are. Going abroad to berate them, is just exposing our weakness as a nation and the failure of our leaders. What this means is that we have failed in our duty towards upbringing of our children to become the citizens of our dream. For no one plants a cocoa yam and expects to harvest yam or a mango tree and expect to get palm oil from it.
The president is right, many of our youths are lazy and even unemployable, but this summarises our lack of love for our dear country, which leads to leaving our role in fashioning a good youth culture for the country because everybody is thinking about himself, his family and region as a nation. This write up therefore is to provoke thought as to what is our purpose for the Nigeria nation; do we have a common ideology which our youth should follow as a focal point, do we give equal chance to actualise their full potentials as citizens of Nigeria? Instead some less talented are encouraged and fully talented are discouraged and yet we go out there and call them lazy, yes because both the discouraged fully-talented and encouraged less talented will end up becoming wasted talents. This is what the president called lazy and lovers of short cut (lovers of prosperity without work).
In the words of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Mohammed Buhari knows and feels that Nigeria has many challenges and has accepted the mantle to fix the challenges, which he summarises on the APC’s “mantra of change.” It is this change that Nigerians are looking out for and it includes a productive and enduring youth culture.
According to Jennifer Donaldson, Richard Hinton, and Linda Nelson, (1995), school-to-work programmes are becoming increasingly important in school reform movements. They encourage curricular restructuring towards a contextual learning environment. This approach to learning is defined as “application learning”. With such a restructuring, the universal complaint of students, “why are we learning this when we won’t ever use it” will be laid to rest. Application learning makes formal education relevant to life. Nigeria needs functional institutions for career guidance and counseling, both at academic and professional levels in this regard.
According to Microsoft Encarta (2009,) a well-chosen career, based on a sound education and training helps the individual to achieve self-actualisation. Investing in career is prosperity for citizens and windfall for government. Jarvis, P.S (2003) in Ezeugonwa (2014). It is therefore imperative for governments to invest in the career charting of their youth as a prerequisite for holistic empowerment.
Sport: one other area that youths are easily empowered is through sports. School sports should be re-activated as a matter of urgency. In fact, the energy that youths deploy to crime should be harnessed for sporting activities and other positive ends if only we can observe them closely. Nigeria has not been doing well in swimming sports’, yet Ijaws youths are reported as been capable of staying ‘underwater’ for several minutes without suffocating. Government should make the area a national swimming centre to train the youth.
Economy: Nigeria is having problem in building new refineries, yet, we read in the papers how Army Joint Task Force (JTF) destroy what they call illegal refineries’. Why destroy what you cannot build? Capture them, learn from them how they do it and train them to do it better. That is empowerment! Instead of disempowering them,
Nigerian leadership has been severally described as a giant ship with millions on board but without a specific destination. “A nation must have a purpose, a goal, a vision; it is this vision that will be, the driving force of the mission. A nation without a strategic plan is laying its foundation on the wind ‘for its youth. Let us have one hypothetical example, “fix the light problem today in Nigeria, you will have provided jobs for millions”. This is because all the businesses the world over depend on power supply. Dr. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko, former Executive Governor of Southwest Nigeria’s Ondo State while addressing Nigerian students at a UK conference had this to say, “How can we create youth empowerment through education? We need infrastructures to be able to empower youth, as at today, we have infrastructural gap in Nigeria. South Africa with about 50 million people in population is producing over 35,000 megawatts of electricity but Nigeria of over 150million people is producing only about 3,000 megawatts of electricity, these are the issues that youth empowerment would solve, these are issues that would truncate empowerment in Nigeria.”
Nigeria has what it takes to institute welfare schemes around all the local governments and wards in the nation. This will help to reduce crime and create a sense of belonging in the youth”.
To support the above assertion, this is what Mimiko said, “The high unemployment rate in Nigeria is no longer an economic issue, it has transcended that level, it is not the issue of per capita income or GDP, it is now a survival issue, and what I know is that, if there is one issue that can heat up the country, it is not about religion or North-South dichotomy as we are often made to accept; It is the youth unemployment in Nigeria. Let us take for example, on the streets of Kano in the Northern part of Nigerian, we have up to 1.5 million youths, unemployed, who are just roaming about the streets to look for survival. In Mushin area of Lagos, you would see young, strong and able bodied youths in the morning playing draughts (chekers). These are the ready-made army for militants, Boko Haram members and what have you”.
Research is a major tool of national development including youth development; but many research institutes in Nigeria are at present moribund, mere conduit pipes for syphoning official resources. There should be foundries where molds for youth’s inventions can be fabricated. There should be a fund to encourage research, inventions and talent development. There should be research grants in universities to encourage research. Many youths today are wasted talents because of lack of encouragement. Nollywood is a test case, it shows that, with enabling environments, the youths will recreate their own destiny. The movie and music industries recorded such success because the technology involved is not as complex as production or invention of machinery. And the market is already there because movies and music have emotional impact on the masses. When we talked about changing school curriculum, it is government with purpose that can spearhead such a programme and sustain it until it starts yielding fruits.
Every generation out of relative obscurity must discover its vision and mission; they will either betray it or fulfill it.” And this will manifest in the youth they have. Youth empowerment should occupy a prime position within the budgets and research should be budgeted for. What our youth becomes today and tomorrow must be a regular agenda of the National Executive Council meetings. This is because all the noises about what Nigeria become in future is about the youth. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is about them. The government plan about youth empowerment should be both strategic and tactical. The tactical phase should be goal oriented and measurable. For example, one year out of the six years of secondary school should be devoted to compulsory vocational/trade acquisition in all aspects of life. This will be backed up with a separate certificate to make the youth employable at that level as they move up to the career ladder.
Therefore, our leaders, from today on, lead us with the love of Nigeria in mind every other thing will fall into place. Nigerian youth need love and care not condemnation; for theirs is a sad plight indeed; a generation hoping against hope.
*Innocent Ezeugonwa, a Mass Communication Lecturer and Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos