Nigeria is a big country with
large population. It is estimated that Nigeria’s present population is about 150 million. Those between the ages of 15 to 35 form more than 50 per cent of the total population. These comprise students, employees, workers, farmers and persons from various professions, including the unemployed but educated or otherwise. These young people constitute a large force; they are energetic, enthusiastic and full of zeal.
Unfortunately, a large number of them are without any direction, and we all agree that it is dangerous to allow them remain idle as it would increase their frustration. A larger number of them are capable, devoted, and dedicated to work. Their frustration is as a result of their unemployment status. It is a great national wastage if these energetic hands and brains are not provided with some sort of work to meet the needs of the nation. Nigerian youth have never lagged behind when called upon to meet a challenge. It is the duty of national leaders to mobilize their abilities and provide the youths with a direction.
It is no longer in doubt that the Nigeria youths have enormous strength, power and capability to change the course of direction of a country. They have the capacity to turn around the fortunes of a nation, if given the opportunity to contribute towards national development. Their counterparts elsewhere have helped change governments in their respective countries.
In fact, it was youths of Indonesia who overthrew President Suharto. It was also the massive youth movement in the former Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) that fought and won the battle against the military invasion of their country. The history of Cambodia, Cuba, France and Pakistan provide evidences of the invincible progressive force of the youths. The history of North Africa and the whole of the Middle East cannot be written anymore without mentioning, in significantly bold letters, the role of the youths in triggering national revolt and revolution that has today changed the face of leadership in that part of the world. Take, for instance, the uprising led by youths in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Syria, among others, which have witnessed dramatic turnaround in bringing about democratic rebirth and forced sit-tight leaders out of power since early 2011.
During the colonial days before the partition of Nigeria, the youth played a very inspiring role in the freedom movement. Even after independence, the power of the youth has not changed. The June 12 agitation was pioneered by the youth. Most of the agitations for equity and justice in Nigeria have been led by the youth across the nation. Imagine the agitation of the Ogonis for environmental freedom, the people of Umuechem also cried out against the pollution and despoliation of their land. Egbesu youths fought for the Ijaw nation. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also took up arms against the Federal Government for various reasons, including more political space at the centre and the need to plough back significant oil revenue for the development of the region. And today, the story of Nigeria cannot be complete without reference to that episode. The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has also been fuelled by the youths desire to get Ndigbo back into reckoning in all affairs of the nation again. The Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) militant wing and the Afenifere were driven by the youths. The Arewa Consultative Assembly could not have made any impact without the zest shown by the northern youths. Even the various ethno-religious violence and agitations, some destructive though and undesirable, had been motivated by youth expression of anger. These have, in no small measure shaped the development process of Nigeria.
The truth is that if we exclude the youth, the rest of the population will comprise old people and children. And these cannot be called the real manpower of any nation. So, I think that if the youth of the country are not galvanised to devote their energies to the task of national reconstruction, the whole manpower of the nation is wasted, and it could such country hundreds of years to meet up with others who prudently put the energies of the youth into useful purpose.
Of course, the task of nation building is enormous. And at all levels, the role of the youth is vital to achieve success and the objective principles of the state. Now if the youth are assigned responsibilities according to their capacities and capabilities, in a honest and sincere fashion, there is no doubt that they will help transform and change the development pendulum of the nation.
This is because the youth have the energy, time, zeal, determination, resources and creative imagination to achieve new levels of excellence and push the button beyond the ordinary boundaries. And come to think of it: the youth are eager to make name; they want to be famous; they want to break new grounds; they want to change the way things have been done in the past, and reinvent the present in order to give a new meaning to the future. And these in mind, the youth are encouraged to contribute their quota to move the nation forward beyond meeting the aspirations of the mere pedestal of national growth and development.
In any case, whatever the governments, at all levels, do to promote nation-building affects the whole society. And because the youth form the majority of the whole population, the impact is felt more by them. Therefore, any policy or programme aimed at moving the development agenda forward must bear in mind the place of the youth in driving such policies and programmes to logical conclusion.
It is on this basis that I propose an inclusive youth policy that exploits their potentials for the benefit of the nation. I know that it is not difficult to mobilize the youth for nation building. It only takes a serious government with an open heart, transparent and accountable to do what is right, which is taking steps that would fire the imagination and creative abilities of the youth so that they can unleash more than enough resources and energies to achieve set national targets.
There are several ways to engage the youth in meaningful endeavours to engineer national development. Of course, a number of schemes, projects, and programmes abound to elicit the total involvement of youth to yield quick and better results in development. Thus, the youth can play a pivotal role in the social-economic regeneration of the society, instead of engaging in vices that stifle development. I think that if the youth are connected with the raising of the level of production in agriculture, a new level of consciousness for better farm yields through improved techniques and proper use of fertilisers and pest control, and food security and sufficiency will be achieved.
On the economic front, youth desire to make a difference would come to play as they dissipate their energies in moulding public opinion in favour of eradication and prevention of vices, thereby promoting economic development through new investments, employment generation and national economic opportunities. In peace-building, information and communication technology infrastructure development, war against corruption, industrialisation, innovation and creativity, policy implementation and the mobilisation of national consciousness for development, the youth are veritable engines of success, if properly deployed and engaged.
By enlisting the involvement of the army of youths, the government will have successfully mobilised the idle manpower and saved the nation from falling prey to vices. By employing the youth in some socially useful ventures, the possibilities of demonstration, violence, unrest and turmoil will be largely minimised. It is, therefore, in the national interest that the youth are attracted towards some sort of development activities. Such involvement would generate a sense of pride and self confidence in them and raise their morale. It will also provoke among them more sense of patriotism, and push their nationalistic outlook beyond limit.
This is the spirit we desire of our youth. And it is only possible with government’s willingness to engage them, and make them contribute to nation-building.
Worlu, a Mass Communication student of RSUST, writes from Port Harcourt.
Glory Chidinma Worlu
Taking The War To The Enemy
Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself – King Henry VIII.
On July 30, 1966, a message intercepted in some monitoring quarters read as follows: “It is not over yet. Battle will be taken to the enemy’s home camp”. Without giving away further details, any serious investigator can find out what happened in Nigeria between July and December 1966, commonly called counter or second military coup in Nigeria.
When the current Inspector General of Police came to Rivers State recently to flag off a security outfit, there was a statement about taking the war to the camp of the enemy, rather than wait to be attacked first. Without revisiting the Nigerian Civil War, what gave rise to it and matters arising from it, there is a need that we be honest with ourselves. Being honest with ourselves would include admitting that the intercepted “top secret” message of 1966 was a clarion call in some quarters. In a similar way, it would be naïve to ignore certain utterances and actions coming from some quarters since 1966.
A hackneyed idiom that “Rome was not built in one day” is a reminder that the task of nation-building takes quite some time, patience, honest collaboration and patriotism. Yes, mistakes had been made in the past which included tolerating and pampering wrongs that were swept under the carpet. Similarly, we did not have the courage to tell ourselves that a war indemnity was cleverly imposed on a certain section of the country, since 1970.
Let us admit that what was known colloquially as the “Kaduna Mafia” came into existence and in connection with the intercepted security message of July 30, 1966. What became alarming to the few people privy to that message was a threat that “future generations will continue to pay for this audacious assault”. What was the audacious assault? That would be revisiting the military coup of January 15, 1966, which had been interpreted in some quarters as an assault on the North, by Igbo Army officers. Was it?
Let us admit that despite the “revenge coup” of July 1966 and the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), that threat about future generations continuing to pay some price was neither empty nor is it over yet. The tag of hate speech would definitely not include saying the truth, so long as the way the truth is revealed does not jeopardise national security or unity. The purpose of what is being said here is to admonish that when vengeance is taken too far, it can become counterproductive. That is the essence of the quotation at the beginning of this article, coming from Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII.
Those who have taken the pains to study the trends of the decline of various powers and regimes in history, would have cause to express some fears about the future of Nigeria. The habit of showering praises and flatteries on rulers and leaders rarely demonstrates utmost good faith or patriotism. Rather, any leadership that thrives on and encourages such practices rarely hears the footprints of the ants. It takes deep introspection to be able to explore the “grapevine” in any system of management.
To say that security is a major challenge in the country currently is correct to the extent that prejudices can be kept aside in any effort to explore what brought us to where we are now. Surely, every country has its peculiar challenges which also include security. In every genuine effort to address security issues, it is expedient to look inwards in an honest self-examination. While it is easier and more common to blame everyone else when things begin to fall apart, wisdom would demand that we search ourselves first before pointing fingers at others, using the language they understand.
For quite a long time, a few honest Nigerians have been pointing out where things are going wrong in the country, with nothing serious being done to look into them. The most current is the Petroleum Industry Bill about to be signed into law. One Rev. Canon Chuka Opara, apart from pointing out how Southern lawmakers allowed themselves to be outwitted by their more alert Northern counterparts, said something revealing: “never you be eager to befriend anyone whose desire is always to cheat you” – ref. The Tide newspaper: Monday 12/7/2021.
To put the matter bluntly, there is a growing awareness in Southern Nigeria that there is a cheating game going on in the country. Was Femi Fani-Kayode wrong to say that “President Buhari’s Fulani cabal has conquered Nigeria?” After an unguarded statement by one Badu Salisu Ahmadu that there is a standing Fulani Strike Force ready to take over Nigeria, was he arrested or interrogated by security agencies? Neither did Dr. Obadiah Mailafia cry wolf when there are none.
It was late Senator Francis Ellah who raised the issue of a clever imposition of some penalty on South-Eastern Nigerians arising from the Biafra issue. But rather than address the issue with honesty, there have been series of acts of subterfuge and intimidation, making the people feel more bitter and estranged. Neither do we have the honesty to admit that the rising agitations from that part of the country has to do with disenfranchisement of the people of their natural resources. The issue of resource control is obviously dead now.
The more brazen acts of disrespect for the rights of South-Easterners include the invasion of their farmlands by marauding cattle, with no visible action seen to be taken by the Federal Government to check the impunity of herdsmen. Rather, there were appeals for Southern states to provide lands for Ruga and ranching, as if cattle business is state business rather than a private one. Even with a belligerent attitude of the organised body of cattle dealers, Miyetti Allah, the impression Southerners get is that they are being treated like a conquered people.
Partisan politics apart, the impression must not be given that the APC-led Federal Government is out to intimidate or oppress South-Easterners. Currently, the Ijaw ethnic nationality is holding consultations on how to leave Nigeria, quite apart from the Sunday Igboho issue. The time has come to ask if a section of the country is not unwittingly creating or heating the furnace so hot for us to bear. We were told that there was no victor, no vanquished in 1970, but there are overlords.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Big Brother No More
The Sierra Leonean High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Solomon Gembeh, was recently reported as saying that Nigeria spent over $13 billion on the liberation of his nation and Liberia. According to him, Sierra Leone would remain ever grateful for Nigeria’s ‘big brother’ interventions in the fratricidal wars that were launched by rebel groups in the two contiguous West African neighbours.
Gembeh emphasised that Nigeria’s assistance came out of goodwill, with nothing demanded in return, unlike a situation where such help (especially from Western nations) was paid for through the staking of national assets. He said that funds from Nigeria and the African Development Bank (AfDB) were efficiently being used to train Sierra Leonean children, particularly the girls.
“We provide what we enjoyed when we were in primary school, we enjoyed lunch served; you have free buses to take you to school; you eat there; and there are teachers everywhere.
“People are beginning to get computers, trying to get Internet services all over the schools; places that are hard to reach you make sure that they don’t walk so many miles to get to school,” said the diplomat.
Gembeh used the opportunity to remind the Nigerian government of its unfulfilled funding pledges to his country and hoped that such friendly aid would help restore the education system for a generation of Sierra Leonean children who lost a decade of proper schooling as a result of the civil war.
It would be recalled that the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Civil Wars were fought mainly between militia groups which craved to control the rich diamond mines in these countries. It actually started in December 1989 when Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) attempted to oust the military government of Sergeant Samuel Doe.
The internal struggle spilled over to Sierra Leone when a splinter gang of the NPFL, known by the ULIMO acronym, which occupied Liberia’s western region crossed the border into Sierra Leone to fight Taylor’s forces from there. The Sierra Leonean Army would have none of that in their country. But ULIMO was too hot to handle. So, Guinea and Nigeria had to ship in military supplies to help Freetown chase out the intruders. While this lasted, an indigenous rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh and suspected to be supported by Taylor, sprang up in 1991 to take up territory of its own. And that was how a brutal civil war ensued in the once tranquil former British colony.
A multinational force was raised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), named as ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), to restore and monitor peace in both countries.
In her usual character to always play the big brother in Africa, it was reported that Nigeria had readily opted to contribute the bulk of the troops and materiel that went into the regional peacekeeping effort. This obviously accounted for her anger and immediate takeover of the ECOMOG high command when President Doe was captured, brutally tortured and killed under the nose of a Ghanaian commander, Lt. Gen Arnold Quainoo.
One is not averse to Nigeria playing major roles in regional and global affairs. After all, isn’t that the dream of every patriotic citizen of any country? I still remember a CNN footage of troops of the Nigerian ECOMOG contingent fanning out in the Liberian capital as they were ferried ashore from a warship and under heavy attack by Taylor’s men. Honestly, I had never felt prouder of our soldiers as they moved quickly to liberate Monrovia and save people from further anguish. It reminded me of those pictures of World War II Normandy Landing in 1944.
If indeed Sierra Leonean primary school kids are beginning to be bused to school where they eat free lunch, have access to good teachers and Internet facilities as claimed by Gembeh, then they can be said to be already ahead of their Nigerian contemporaries.
Down here, reliable statistics have always placed the number of our out-of-school children at a conservative 10 million. Some of those considered lucky to attend school do so trekking long distances or paying their ways to and from school. Save for the few states where a federal government-sponsored school-feeding scheme has been introduced, Nigerian kids mostly fend for themselves while in school. As for Internet access, many rural kids may not even have seen a computer since registering at school.
Liberia, Sierra Leone and other beneficiary countries should please make do with whatever helps that came from Nigeria in their most trying times. They should forget any outstanding pledges because the so-called big brother is now in some dire straits of his own and wishes that those beneficiary nations begin to act as big uncles to him. And who said Nigeria is not at war right now; what with al-Qaeda’s Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgents in the north east and the itinerant bandits elsewhere in the land? Surely, Abuja will greatly appreciate a return of any previous favours and goodwill at this time.
What’s more, during our major bloodlettings in the 1960s only Ghana’s General Joseph Ankrah made any serious attempt to try to mediate between Colonels Yakubu Gowon and Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in order to avert the kind of carnage that was witnessed in the Nigerian Civil War. The rest of Africa took sides on the sticking points at Aburi or were simply not interested; including the then Liberian President William Tubman and Prime Minister Siaka Steven of Sierra Leone who were not moved by pictures of gravely kwashiorkored Biafran kids.
Enough of this African big brother histrionics, please. Even the US is rethinking her global big brother posturing.
By: Ibelema Jumbo
For A Stronger Opposition Party In Nigeria
For want of a better phrase, I will describe this week as a period of “push me, I push you” for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party in the country, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
It started with the PDP Governors in a communiqué at the end of their 11th meeting in Bauchi State on Monday, accusing the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the APC of turning the Presidential Villa to the new APC headquarters and using underhand tactics to arm-twist some PDP governors and other stakeholders to join the ruling party.
Then the Presidency which in its usual manner cannot take such allegation lying low, through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, lampooned the opposition party, boasting that “between now and 2023, there would be more confusion in their ranks and there would be more depletions in their ranks, so that is why they say anything,” he said.
According to him, “We were in this country when President Obasanjo was in power and the BOT meeting of the PDP used to hold at the Presidential Villa.
“We were here when President Yar’Adua, and President Jonathan was there, they held meetings at the Presidential Villa. What are they talking about really? Meaning, yes, we (the APC) are using the villa as a party office today because you (the PDP) used it in the past.
So we are still where we were in 2015 when PDP left office. Nothing has changed? The wrongs of the now opposing party are still being perpetrated despite all the promises to bring about change? Maybe this mentality of “business as usual” is the reason the three major campaign promises of the ruling power tackling insecurity, improving the economy and fighting corruption are yet to be realized.
From the realities on the ground, it is obvious that the country is not any better today than it was six years ago. We have seen a complex form of insecurity threatening to tear the country apart. Many citizens have been sacked from their ancestral homes by bandits, herdsmen or whatever they are called; hundreds of people are being killed every day, kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative business; many farmers can no longer go to their farms for fear of being raped, maimed, kidnapped or killed.
Economically, there is little or no visible improvement. Currently, Nigeria is topping the list of countries with the most people living in extreme poverty in the world. Unemployment rate is on the increase and the value of the Naira continues to depreciate. Corruption is now the order of the day. Some people liken corruption in the country to cancer that has destroyed every part of the body.
Yet, all we hear is that the government is doing a lot for the country. The Presidential spokesman, Adesina, announced a few days ago that the Buhari government will unveil massive infrastructure in the country by 2022. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and see what they have in stock and what impact it will make in the lives of the numerous poor citizens.
But the desired change is not the responsibility of the APC alone. Put differently, the blame for the lack of change should not go to only the ruling party. Has the PDP as the main opposition party been able to put enough pressure on the APC to bring about change? By this, I do not mean the frequent press releases and communiqués whose impact is hardly felt.
Has the PDP demonstrated good governance styles in the state they control which can put pressure on the APC to sit up? In the aforementioned communiqué the PDP governors supported the need for a free, fair and credible election in the country and asked the National Assembly to entrench electronic transmission of results of elections in the nation’s electoral jurisprudence.
The big question is, have these governors done the same in their various states? Have they given free hand to their respective State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to conduct free, fair and credible elections that will be acceptable by all or they have made their state electoral umpire an extension of their political party?
Yes, it is good to criticise the federal government and the party in power when things are not going as expected or when their actions and inactions are causing untold hardship and pain to the citizens, but as leaders of government in opposition party controlled states, the governors need to go beyond criticisms and attacks. A lot of Nigerians will like to see them exemplify their own alternative good governance style so convincingly that people in states controlled by other parties will want to support or vote for PDP candidates in their areas so as to be able to enjoy good governance.
Again, the PDP governors demanded Electronic Transmission of 2023 Election Results and many have been wondering why, as a party, they can support such a course while some senators elected on the platform of the party voted against it and some stayed away on the day the Senate voted to decide the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act.
It is, therefore, time for the leaders and members of the PDP to come together and think of a better, more effective way to play their opposition role if they must effectively challenge the APC in the next election. The ongoing zonal congress of the party should be free and fair, devoid of imposition of candidates or overbearing influence of the party heads so that the party will be united and not fractionalised, going into the 2023 General Election.
By: Calista Ezeaku
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