Benjamin Disraeli once said that the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity. Although there is no universally accepted definition for youth, it’s more than just a fixed age bracket. It’s a state of being. It’s a transition from dependence to independence, a transition that our nation has only been able to make on paper and not in reality. Youth are often characterized by zeal, passion, radicality and strength which are major catalysts for change and development. As from a caterpillar to a butterfly, development is evident. For a nation to be described as being developed, it must have the capacity to improve the social welfare of its people by providing basic amenities like clean water, good roads and quality education. It’s more than just implementation of political and economic policies, It includes full-growth and expansion of our industries, educational and social institutions. National development is a dynamic process involving all segments of the locality, including the often-overlooked and undermined youth population. Youth in Nigeria make up over half of the nation’s population. This means that our actions and inactions can make or break a nation. The role of youth in national development cannot be overemphasized, they constitute more than 50 percent of the nation’s labour force which is the bedrock on which economic, political and social development lie.
My generation grew up telling ourselves that we are the leaders of tomorrow, a saying that has been recycled and is now used by the generation after us. It’s either we have refused to become leaders or perhaps tomorrow has not come, but I choose to believe that tomorrow is here. There are a number of ways that youth can contribute whether locally or globally. The first thing young people should know is their rights. It’s not news that the main activists in Nigeria are youths, but do we really know our rights or are we just fighting because we are affected? What happens when one of us gets into power? We then realize that we are no longer affceted by that problem and so we no longer fight it. This is because in the first place, we never cared about what was right, we only cared because we felt it’s impact. Knowing our rights will help us know what is right which will in turn help us to recognize a deviation from what should be the norm.
Some youths don’t even treat the right to vote and BE VOTED FOR as their right. We complain everyday about the leaders and national authorities. If only we knew how much power we carried. Elections are the hallmark of democracy and may decide whether we remain on one spot or we move from where we are to where we need to be. In a population of about 180 million consisting majorly of youths, we can decide how the 2019 general elections will be. If all we do is sit and complain on social media then all our ranting is as useless as the “p” in psychology!
Furthermore, youth should be encouraged to use their creativity. Learning goes beyond the four walls of a classroom. Learning is not just thinking outside the box sometimes its thinking like there’s no box. Gone are the days when people would wait to finish school and get a job, gone are the days of studying so hard to get a first class in hopes of getting a six figure salary in future. Creativity is the future. As stated earlier, youth is a transition from dependence to independence. If we do not move from having a sense of entitlement to being self reliant, we are headed for great danger. If you have a talent, develop it, pursue it and make a living out of it. Nigerian designers have recently experienced great global success and visibility. For example, Amaka Osakwe has been pushing the limits of Nigerian fashion under the brand name “Maki Oh” and has gained the attention of leaders in the fashion industry in the United States and abroad. In 2014, she was invited to the White House by Michelle Obama, an admirer of her work, and her designs have been worn by Lupita Nyongo and other A-list celebrities. The world has moved from the era of “how much do you know?” to “what can you do?”. In an article in The Sun newspaper, dated 18th December 2017, the headline reads, “how Nigeria’s creative industry can accelerate economic growth”. Creativity can be a tool for improving Nigeria’s economy. There’s a lot of money to be made if young minds can engage in more creative thinking. Nigeria’s creative industry has big potential to create jobs and generate foreign exchange earnings if the necessary facilities are put in place. Another great example is Art X in Lagos, founded by Tokini Peterside, West Africa’s first international Art Fair that is designed to showcase contemporary art from all over Africa. It has had over 15, 000 visitors since its inception in 2016. A perfect example of creativity and economic growth.
Another way to make not just make national impact but global impact is by building youth organisations to tackle specific problems. For this paragraph, I can’t help but use University of Ibadan’s very own Victoria Ibiwoye who is the founder of One African Child, foundation for creative learning. The foundation was created to solve the fourth sustainable development goal; to provide quality education for children. I also took the initiative to co-find a recycling club: University of Ibadan’s first ever recycling club to tackle waste management issues within the University which will later extend to the city and nation at large. Recognize an issue, get youth of like minds together, plan and execute! The greatest threat to our nation is the belief that it’s someone else’s responsibility to take care of it. Youth organizations are a great way to not just get people involved but prevent them from being idle. In addition, we can’t fight a problem we know nothing about and we can’t solve a problem until we recognize it as a problem. Youth should recognize problems within their community, they should see it as their responsibility to bring to the community. Is there an illegal dumpsite somewhere? Is someone being raped somewhere, report it. Is there a criminal activity going on somewhere around you, report it. Even if you see a friend of yours not disposing waste properly, caution him or her and if it’s you then exercise discipline. Change begins from one person before it takes on the ripple effect. You can’t make a change if you’re the problem. It’s important that we learn about local issues within the community, sometimes people are not aware that their actions have adverse effects on the environment or on the lives of people, you could also contribute your quota by making posters with inscriptions such as “Don’t Litter” or “Do Not Touch”. We shouldn’t always pass blames on the government, sometimes we, in ourselves are just enough.
There are many challenges facing youth today, particularly in Nigeria, ranging from drug addiction, cyber crime popularly known as “yahoo-yahoo”, the frustration of unemployment or even the rigorous procedures that one has to go through to secure admission and sometimes the victimisation that occurs before you get the degree. These are just a few of many challenges. What about the many taxes that plague many start ups? Not to mention the erratic power supply! We can do two things with these challenges, we can allow them to spur us on to greatness or allow them to eat us up psychologically and emotionally.
I believe in the youth of this country, I believe this nation can develop, but I also believe that the youth are the answer to the heartcry of this nation. We have the power to change what we don’t like. What we hate is what we are created to correct. We have the power to decide whether we are going to allow mediocrity and wrong ideals guide our decisions. We should not sit around and just believe that things will get better because the honest truth is, they probably won’t. There are many other ways that youth can contribute to the development of the nation. These are just a few. The important thing to note here is that whether you’re a student or you already have a job, you have a role to play in this national agenda. You have your own part in this story, you can choose to either be the change or be the problem.