It was Mary Mcleod Bethune that rightly stated that “we have powerful potential in youth and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power towards good.” If the events of the past few weeks have taught us any lesson, it would be that the Nigerian youths now constitute a powerful voice that can no longer be ignored. But the major challenge confronting the Nigerian youth is whether this energy is being channelled for a positive or negative cause? The answer to this question is as controversial as the question itself. This may not be a popular opinion but, beyond confrontation, the solutions to the myraid of challenges confronting the Nigerian youths lies in engagement and this is where open dialogue comes into relevance.
To isolate the youths from the critical process of political decision making is to create a recipe for disaster and this is why the recent interface between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and young parliamentarians couldn’t have come at a better time. Those young men and women were democratically elected by a constituent and they represent the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerian youths. The neglect of the problems and concerns of the Nigerian youths predate the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Regardless of your political affiliation, the truth is, this government has made deliberate efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian youths through social intervention but the question persists, is it enough?
During the recent visit of the young political parliamentarians to the vice president, he acknowledged the fact that “there are indeed important issues to be addressed” while noting that the crucial place of youths are not just a demography but they are in the majority, stating that, “what we need to do for that vast majority is what we must do for our country. We must find a way so they are represented as effectively as possible.”
The Nigerian youth do not expect the government to solve all of his or her problems, the least they expect from the government is to periodically engage them. In other words, the government don’t just sympathize with them but empathize with them. During the upheaval occasioned by the protest against police brutality, Osibanjo did his outmost best through the platform of the social media to make sure that the youths not only understand that their agitation was just but also bring to their knowledge that the government listen to their voice, their concerns are being taken into account and steps are being taken to implement their demands. In his contribution at the meeting, Hon. Luke Onofiok, from Akwa Ibom State, also commended the courage exhibited by the vice president in honestly addressing issues in the wake of the nationwide protest.
The truth is, you can’t build a country in isolation of the youths. All over the world, the incorporation of the youths into the governing structure of society has become the norm and Nigeria shouldn’t be an exception. The misdirection of the endears movement and subsequent mindless looting of public infrastructure is a warning and also a pointer to the fact that the average Nigerian youth, if his or her energy is not channelled towards a positive cause, their negative energy may consume us all. Youthful inclusion not just in politics but the critical process of political decision making is no longer an option but an imperative. Now, more than ever, the Nigerian political outlook should be a government for the youths, by the youths and for the youths. Incorporating the youths into the governing structure of the country is now a must. Beyond rhetoric, deliberate attempt must be made to include the youths in the vital process of political decision making that affect their lives. The youths are no longer voiceless, but their voice and energy must not be channelled towards a negative cause. We don’t need another ENDSARS movement to understand the Nigerian youth is aggrieved. It won’t be fair to assume that the President Buhari administration is not doing its best through social interventions deliberately targeted at ameliorating the sufferings of the youth, but, more needs to be done.
By Abdullahi O Haruna Haruspice
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