My young friend, Rekwi Sunday Musa, ruminating some weeks back, had stated his puzzle. He asked, when did being young become synonymous to being stupid? In local parlance he asked, “dem do us, or we simply enjoy stupidity?”
Even youths in the villages are not left out. These evil, blood-sucking old men go into their meetings and fight bloodless battles without exchanging anything beyond harsh words (not even a slap), and they come back into the village square and feed gullible, agile young men and women lies about boundary, ethnic superiority, politics, etc, and we thoughtlessly move like pawns in a chess game and start killing ourselves on problems we didn’t cause and tribes we didn’t choose to belong to.
These elders should be careful. They are crisis entrepreneurs peddling war for financial gains and political relevance. Their nemesis is around the corner.
My fellow youths, please, turn a new leaf. Say no to bigotry. Resist these elders and seek wisdom. Let the elders go and fight in the field. Whether you are in town or in the village, we are not useless. We are only used-less; at least even a dead clock shows time correctly twice a day. STAY ALIVE, STAY USEFUL.
As I read the young man, I smiled. But, sadly, my take is, as one door sharply bangs shut in Benue State, another opens in Plateau. One opens in Zamfara State, another window in Sokoto, whether it is Katsina or Ogun or Abia. That is the nature of our struggles.
In 1859, Friedrich Engels wrote: “History often proceeds by jumps and zig-zags.” To imagine history as a linear line that moves in a progressive direction is bewilderingly incorrect. It is romantic to believe either that history is conservatively circular – so that change is fundamentally impossible – or that history is progressively linear – so that everything improves in a scientific manner. Neither is plausible.
Human history is a struggle between the imagination for a better life and the constraints of the present. Some of these constraints are material, and some are social. Inadequate material conditions and the rigidities of class can hold back human progress. Whether in Kano or Lagos, it is the same, and the culprit, victim, loser, is that young person who is used-less, not exactly useless.
For Nigeria, youths are not just a failed or lazy bunch, but they are ‘used-less.’ And I want to talk about it. There are several kinds of Nigerian youths: the successful Nigerian young person; in recent times, the ones described by Mr. President as lazy Nigerian youths; the ones described by my friend, Nasir el-Rufai, as the youth with a sense of entitlement.
There’s the youth who is the modern-day revolutionist. He is upset at everything, full of grammar. He tells you tales by moonlight of the ‘not-too-young-to-rule,’ yet give him a ruler, the measurements in centimetres and meters all confuse the lad. We have the Indian-hemp smoking, drug-abusing, Sniper-hearted young men and women littered all over our landscape, from Owerri to Daura, Jalingo to Ado-Ekiti.
The nation is blessed in their thousands with all kinds of baked youths, unemployed but unemployable, unbaked, half- and quarter-baked. Magazine life-styled young persons, the Davido N30 billion in their account and Naira Marley crew. The social media lot, whose lives are on Twitter and Instagram, while their real lives are messed up by a political bourgeois class that continues to perpetuate their own dynasty, sharing the country as it were, a personal estate. In case you do not understand my drift on the “used-less” youth, this is it. Youth in Nigeria includes citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18 to 29 years. Variances in chronologies are used in defining youth and are addressed by members of the state in accordance with their particular society. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with one of the largest populations of youth in the world, comprising 33,652,424 members. Excessive mortality from HIV/AIDS results in low life expectancy in Nigeria. As a result, the median age is 17.9.
In former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s words, “Youth constitute Nigeria’s only hope for a real future.” The Nigerian government characterises youth as “ambitious, enthusiastic, energetic and promising. They are considered vulnerable in society because of the rapid pace of change they experience at this time in their lives.” Sadly, the future is blurry, the “used-less” youth is on the edge.
We have a National Youth Development Policy created and designed to advocate for youth and youth development. The policy was to view youth welfare as vital to the Nigerian nation and its socio-economic development. This policy was seen as a youth participation project versus a project identifying problems and needs. But till date it is a mirage, a false shadow of reality where 70-year-old men masquerade as leaders of youth wings of socio-political groups.
The National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) was founded in 1964 to be the voice and the umbrella organisation for youth organisations in the country. The Youth Council is a non-governmental, non-partisan, and not-for-profit organisation, but, like NYCN, like the national students’ body, NANS, they continually toy with a population of 200,962,417 with the direct consent and participation of old political Yahoo-Yahoo discussants at the national dialogue of the Nigerian state.
While the system continues to battle in holding itself, our youths are products of a corrupt educational ecosystem; sons and daughters of the same (magicians and politicians) continue to toy with the future, while our youths are lost in the conversation or at best made redundant participants. We will remain here because our leaders are politicians, bazaar experts at sharing and auctioning out the national heritage and treasury. The social contract is at best dilapidated and at worst does not exist, our leaders are sacrificing the present for the future, sacrificing the young generation for the numbers.
The youths are a term used as headcounts, for political gains, as tools, and conflict drivers. Leadership is a choice, it is not a rank. Our youths need to stand and be counted. They need to start posing the right questions, or else the answers would be as expected. How long will this generation stay on the rough path? At what point do we see a population that is useful in wholesome proportion than scattered showers? Or are we doomed to the current state where they are “used-less,” when will the youth realise that the fight in them is much bigger, and issue a nation-changing ultimatum?
•Dickson, PhD, is a development and media professional.