Nigeria youths and weapons of constructive engagement -By Steve Orji

Filed under: Democracy & Governance |

Nigerian Youths


Nigeria, like India, has a sprawling resource gift of a green youthful population. Nearly 500 million people in India are 19 or younger; an outstanding demographic profile that ensures its workforce will keep growing for decades. This has positive economic consequences.

“The biggest reason India has more long-term growth potential is simply (that) its population is younger and growing more quickly than China’s…Now, though the top talent from the Indian institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management are flowing into the mid-sized sector…the Indian companies of the future are more dynamic…” (CHINDIA, Pete Engardio)

The Buhari government and perhaps the past ones have not been able to find a good spot for the youths in the design of Nigeria’s social contract. Our policy frameworks, both in the short and long terms, seem to lack coordinated, visionary perspectives at evolving the capacities of youths in both the business and political leadership of the country.

Muhammadu Buhari, 74, emerging as Nigeria’s President, through an omnibus political arrangement, is a dim metaphor for a nation that has strategic people and youth assets in every facet of human endeavour. Yet, determined to drag itself through the eye of the proverbial needle, burdened to breaking points, by the self-serving choice of running Nigeria, in a 21st century climate, with a crew of old, whimpering leaders.

The odds are clear as they are self-indicting. Buhari has shuttled the United Kingdom at four different times, the longest being the present, over 90 days, away from his desk. In his absence, his youths, the Nigeria youths, now at the fringe of desperation, those Nigeria failed to engage, are the linchpins, flying the kite of Nigeria’s dissolution.

The political thinking that “bankrolled” Buhari’s choice as President was the same mindset that evolved the quota system and the federal character policy, a typical Nigeria scheme, with admission criteria defined by such narrow contexts as tribe, political affiliation and of course does have the imprimatur of political elitism. The politicians are the ones who could decide who gets appointed to what position, and how far they can go in such appointed positions.

And it has little reckoning or deference to the modes and character of efficiency and excellence.

Nigerian youths suffer severe collateral damage to the politicking and stifling political culture that seek to perpetuate the throne of the “godfathers”. The Nigerian youths are gifted, talented and aggressively innovative. Not many amongst them have the blue blood or the family clout to put them in touch with the eminent, omnipotent “godfathers”. Does Nigeria have plain level playing field for everyone?

The loss of productivity and wealth creation arising from politicising the Nigeria scheme is sovereign. Who is engaging the youths of Nigeria? Beyond the modest interventions of the private sector in driving youth initiatives in both entrepreneurship and wealth creation, what should be the corporate response of the government?

Has the Federal Government thought about engaging the northern youths? Evolving policies should target resourcing youths along the path of their native strategic advantage.

What about prioritising policies that target the development of agriculture and animal husbandry, awarding scholarships and vocational incentives to youths in the northern part of Nigeria as a matter of national policy?

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is walking the minefield of youth insurrection and trying almost unsuccessfully to douse the flames of youth agitations. Has he or his proxies been to Aba, Onitsha, Benin or Lagos? What can the youths in such places do?

They have no stake in the Nigeria project. The only horizon they could see is the one lined with broken promises and a futile hope. It is not enough to spur people through motivational speeches and snap them up momentarily from the grip of despondent fate. That is just about the moment, what about their tomorrow and long term future?

Nigeria’s policies in the main seem to de-enfranchise a segment of the nation in the quest for resource balance. This has led to a severely disproportionate involvement of the government in the affairs of the constituent states. Does the government want Nigeria to grow its footprints locally and industrially in local manufacturing of fabrics and clothes and shoes? What then has it planned for the Aba youths?

What about its wrought iron and furniture making industries? Can the Edo youths get incentives to put Nigeria on the map of household and corporate furnishings? What has happened to the Nnewi automobile national project? Is Lagos not due for a world class cyber and IT industrial park for techno-geeks and software development to equal that of India and China?

Those who stand against restructuring along fiscal federalism should at least forge an argument in favour of policies that buoy and empower the youths in their native occupational endeavours.

Steve Orji, wrote in from London, United Kingdom