In Nigeria, the youths make up more than half of the population. These are some of the hardest working, smartest and most intelligent young men and women you can find anywhere in the world. Their successes in the creative industries as exemplified by the entertainment, arts world in general, and in fact, wherever else the people are in charge, as the government have very less of an interest, is a testament to that, and to what they could achieve with the right backing from the government.

However, in the larger context of the society, the youths have been sidelined and marginalized to an alarming extent in our country, especially since the return to democracy in 1999. It has been greatly so because the youths have not stood up in one voice to press home their demands, but allowed the politicians to use the divide and rule technique on us through tribal, ethnic and religious affiliations in lieu of our ignorance, and the question now is; where has that led us?

We have been made so insignificant in the scheme of things to the extent whereby, even in the commonest of positions as political parties’ ‘Youth Leader’, the occupants of such seats in most of the parties cannot in the right sense of the word be described as youths. How then do we participate and influence the parties’ programmes to enact youth-friendly policies in the event of their emergence to power?

In reference to the National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) data, which indicated that: Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 23.1% of the workforce by the end of September 2018, and UNICEF’s report, which also indicated that education accessibility rate in Nigeria is as low as 20.1 percent, it is clear to us that youths are at the receiving end of these years of maladministration, and the reason is simple; we don’t have a voice!

Truth be told, looking at policies on education in this country over the years, the children have been deliberately denied adequate education, just so they can grow in ignorance and subjugation without raising their voices. This was the only justification for the cancellation of ‘History’ as a major subject in the basic and junior secondary schools’ curriculum, which was later reversed following public outcry. Just in the same way the youths have been denied economic emancipation over the years, to enable us remain downtrodden and political tools.

Disappointingly, most opportune and privileged ones amongst the youths have not lived up to the expectations when given opportunities. To paraphrase the words of the great Bob Marley; we must ‘emancipate ourselves of mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds’. We must sing this ‘redemption song’ not only to ourselves, but to the consternation of those our political elites and the bourgeoisies of our time both foreign and nationals, whose evil connivance and machinations have kept us and the country perpetually in lowly places. We must change our mindset from that of a defeated people, to that of winners and leaders, and we shall be victorious!

Our oppressors do not understand the concept of ‘building the youths to build the nation’. This is the right time for the youths to arise as a body, though we have many branches. We must work our differences out, come together and find a common ground. We must understand that we are the next in line to the dynasty of this nation. But make no mistake about it; it would be a struggle, as the powers that-be won’t let-go easily. But one thing is certain, our generation cannot afford to fail Nigeria, as the repercussion would be a disaster.

We have an opportunity to start making things right during the upcoming general elections, but the journey continues immediately after. The youths must demand good governance, transparency and accountability. Above all, we must start preparing and positioning ourselves for leadership, don’t be taken by surprise. I say again, Nigeria is doomed if we fail as a generation, our time starts now!

Youths! We must arise for Nigeria!

Patrick S. Jr

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