The Youth and the Used, By Tola Adeniyi
I have always been fascinated by the words ‘youth’ and ‘used’, especially in their onomatopoetic rendition as they relate to the youths of Nigeria and their fathers and grandfathers who still delude themselves that they are young, and have refused to yield grounds for the young ones.
About twenty-five years ago Afro-Juju super star Sina Peters crooned that the dawn of the youth had arrived and the old should give way for the new. ‘Asiko awa youth reee, e maa binu wa’, this is the time of the youth and elders should not begrudge us, he pleaded in a strong voice.
Twenty-five years down the line, nothing has changed. If anything, the Nigerian youths had been exposed to the most trying times imaginable. Millions of them have been left wallowing in poverty as they roam the streets of major cities in search of non-existent jobs and opportunities. Several graduates of tertiary institutions have been forced into crimes and criminality, and those of them who are not very physically daring have taken to fraud and all sorts of shady pre-occupation. The young women in this frustrated class have taken to disguised prostitution or full-blown harlotry.
In jokes with the younger ones, I always tease that they are the youth, and I am the used! Of course as a septuagenarian, one is clearly and definitely used, unless one belongs in the school of Enrich Ibsen’s Solness in the Master Builder. But today I am not joking. I am referring to a major issue confronting our country in the face of the Change we clamoured for which is due to take off come May 29.
One of the greatest challenges the Buhari government is bound to confront is the issue of the restless, almost hopeless Nigerian youths and how they will be immediately rehabilitated.
In an article, “The Vote of the Unemployed”, I analysed how the majority of those who were likely to vote for Buhari and damn Jonathan were the millions of unemployed citizens of this country. Specific reference was made to the teeming youths in their millions, and entrepreneurs whose factories and plants have been forced to close shop due to the Federal Government’s failure to provide succour to its citizens.
In a conversation with a younger colleague, Dr. Akinniyi Sowunmi last week, the highly cerebral communications scholar opined that while he recognised Buhari as the symbol of Change, it was the vote AGAINST Jonathan that won the election for him (Buhari). If Buhari (and the APC) would not like to be voted against in four years time, work must begin from today to prevent such eventuality.
The youth rejected Jonathan and voted against him.
What this means is that the Buhari government about to take off must assign a big role to the youth who believe rightly that this incoming government is their own. Even though we are not particularly good with records and statistics in Nigeria, if proper check is made it will be confirmed that the youths were clearly in the majority of those who took the trouble to vote on March 28.
It is unfortunate that Nigerian youths have been short-changed for so long and as I lamented in an article, “Nigeria’s Adult Children”, 45-year-olds in certain circumstances are still considered as youths in Nigeria. There are hundreds of thousands of 40-year-olds who are yet to find their feet in Nigeria. Many in the age bracket 35 to 40 are still in tertiary institutions, jobless, unmarried and heavily dependent on their parents and guardians!
This is why this piece will include 50-year-olds who have never had any opportunity to actualise their dreams within the youth bracket. The youth of Nigeria must be empowered. They must be given a big role in this incoming government of Change.
This is where the ‘Used’ comes in. The Used in Nigeria have made themselves a recurring decimal. Some have served as Governors, Senators, Ministers, Local Government Chairpersons, Chairmen of several boards, and yet they simply refuse to go and yield opportunity for younger ones – the Youth.
It is gratifying that the President-Elect has assured Nigerians that there would be no room for proven corrupt individuals in his administration. But he should go further to ensure that all those who have made a career of politics and political jobbery do not crowd the corridors of power in this government of Change, except in special cases of those who made huge contributions to the emergence of the new government and who in the process have suffered hugely in the hands of the Opposition. Without going the whole hog of mentioning names, there are past governors, progressive legal luminaries and other top-class technocrats whose expertise will enrich Buhari’s government, even if such individuals have held government positions before.
However, the Used should please take a back seat in the incoming government. There are hundreds of thousands of top-notch technocrats amongst the youth of Nigeria and they must be sought out, even if they are currently in the Diaspora. Nigeria is blessed. Let us try the untainted youth who are eager to serve their fatherland even at the topmost level of government. We cannot afford to continue to deny our youths opportunities in governance.
Our President will be 73 in December, let the bulk of those who will be in his administration be in age bracket of between 30 and 50. Chief Richard Akinjide was Federal Minister of Education in the First Republic at age 27. M.T Mbu was Nigeria’s High Commissioner in the UK at about the age of 25. Bode Thomas was about 30 years old when he held sway as a Leader of the Action Group, while Chief Sonibare accomplished all he did before passing on at 43!
My generation and others before mine had kept deceiving the young ones that they were the leaders of tomorrow. The question our restive youths are now asking is ‘When will the tomorrow come?’ For many of them the tomorrow is yet to come even twenty years after graduating from the University!
The Buhari government is believed to be set on fixing the moment and preparing a greater future for Nigerians. If the future belongs to the youth, they have a right to be involved in that preparation. If the dinner is meant for them, they should be involved in its preparation and even in choice-making regarding the kind of meal meant for them.
The Youths should be given the opportunity to prove their mettle. The Used should thank God for all that they have had the opportunity to accomplish. And if I want to go with a grave yard humour, I would say: the Young shall grow and the Old shall die!!!
Otunba Tola Adeniyi has been a notable journalist over the decades and was a former Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria.