The phrase ‘youth restiveness’ has become a cliché to Nigerians over the years. This epidemic which has undoubtedly become endemic has been given different colourations. However, I view it as the uncontrolled, violent and unpleasant ways by which youth communicate their dissatisfaction to the government or people in authority over a perceived neglect of their demands and expectations.
The origin of this menace could be traced to the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria, where the youths felt that the government of the day was not living up to their expectations and yearning, and as a result took to arms, vandalisation of oil pipelines and kidnapping of expatriates just to drive home their points. This strategy, however, took a negative turn on the economy as oil companies relocated their headquarters to Lagos and other parts of the country while expatriates ran for their lives, thereby crippling growth and development in the region and the country at large because the Niger Delta region is the region that generates the largest revenue for the Federal Government.
Today, we have experienced the proliferation of many restive groups in the country. Apart from the Niger Delta militant groups, there exist MASSOB, OPC, OMBATSE, the defeated Boko Haram and many more groups avenging one grievance or the other. Granted, these restive groups had or are still perpetrating unwholesome acts and gaining government’s attention wrongly, one cannot pretend not to agree with the fact that life is all about cause and effect and to every inaction, there is an action; to every reaction, there is a responsive reaction.
This then brings us to the big question; ‘what could be the causes of these unwarranted restiveness or are they actually warranted?
After much pondering and wondering, the following factors were deduced as the possible causes of youth restiveness.
Unemployment: This factor has become a protracted ailment in Nigeria. There are over 20 million unemployed youths ranging from graduates, skilled to unskilled teeming youths who have been denied the opportunity to make a meaning out of their lives.
Every electioneering period, politicians and political parties would acknowledge that youths need jobs; they would promise an overnight creation of millions of jobs in their manifestoes, but once they get into power, it becomes mission impossible. These youths who have worked and hoped for a transformation, on the assumption of office of their leaders, would be kept in the waiting room without attention until the tenure is over. This frustration and neglect drive the youths from the waiting room to the emergency room in search of a quick solution.
Since the government always acknowledges this factor to the point that they reflect it in their manifestoes, they should rise up to the occasion and do the needful to create job opportunities. Although the Federal Government is gradually stepping on the pedal, the state governments are expected to synergise.
For some years, now, power tussle in Nigeria has become a do-or-die affair, a battle for only the strong hearted, politicians now distribute arms to the youths for electioneering purposes, political assassination, ballot box snatching and thereafter, abandon them without engaging them in meaningful enterprises or retrieving the weapons they gave to them. These weapons are later used to terrorise the populace through robbery, kidnapping, cultism etc.
When this act of restiveness has fully heated the polity to the point of explosion, even the pot-bellied politicians run abroad for safety, thereby turning the hunter to the hunted.
The fact that Nigeria is corrupt is now stale news. Nigeria is now globally renowned for corruption to the point that a search for the word ‘corruption’ on the Internet will likely pop up the suggestion ‘corruption in Nigeria’. That Nigerians are a striking example of the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty is now a cliché.
Although, some patriotic Nigerians may be in a haste to point out that Nigeria is not a lone ranger in this wilderness of corruption. But unlike in other countries where corruption is peculiar to the ruling class and high ranking public officials, corruption in Nigeria is a horizontal cankerworm that is clinging to the fabric of all, from the ruling class to the ordinary Nigerian. Corruption is everywhere in Nigeria, even in the air we breathe. Who will then bell the cat?
However, I think there is still hope for Nigeria, especially now that the current administration has made fighting corruption its major agenda. Nevertheless, I urge the government to look into the following suggestions for possible solutions to this menace.
Firstly is the value reorientation of the youths. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) should embark on massive sensitization and re-orientation of the youth, acquainting them with their rights and responsibilities as citizens of this great country.
Secondly, government should continue to show serious commitment to the eradication of corruption by ensuring speedy trial and punishment of corrupt persons to serve as deterrent. Nigeria today is fighting to survive from the clutches of economic recession or retrogression as I choose to call it. This economic downturn from all indications was occasioned by the way and manner previous administrations, starting from the days of tyranny under the reckless regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha, to the immediate past administration, mismanaged the country’s fund with reckless abandon.
It is a paradox that a country so blessed by God with resources is now in a precarious situation, looking for help from within and outside to survive.
I applaud the efforts the current administration is making to bring corrupt public servants to book. However, it will be more rewarding if this fight against corruption is holistic enough and not targeted at the opposition alone. It should not be used as a tool to silence the opposition. This sanitization should cut across all and sundry who wears any label of corruption. Only then would Nigerians beat their chest and say ‘freedom at last’.
The government should also make serious efforts to create jobs to reduce the high level of youth unemployment which has been pushing the youths into crimes. The youth is the most vibrant and active wing of any country’s population and as such should not be allowed to be idling. An idle mind, they say, is the devil’s workshop. When the active and adventurous mind of the youth is not meaningfully engaged, it engages itself.
Lastly, the government should promulgate laws stopping the use of thugs by politicians and rely more on the Department of State Service (DSS) and the police force for their protection.
It is not a crime for the youths to agitate for their rights, but the way and manner such agitations are communicated is of great concern, especially when it is done in a violent way. Therefore, I appeal to the youths of this great country to use constructive approach borne out of dialogue and good conscience to express and communicate their grievances to the government. It is only when this is done that we can be perceived as true leaders of tomorrow.
Mgboh writes from Port Harcourt.