Involving youths in peace, security agenda to end societal violence

Some Nigerian youths on rampage

World over, most crimes are commonly committed by youths who often see violence as a means to an end. This ugly trend, some stakeholders say will be prevented with the inclusion of youths in the nation’s peace and security agenda, UJUNWA ATUEYI writes.

The average Nigerian youths, learned or unlearned are easily incited. A little provocation brings out the reckless attitude in them. They are always eager to unleash mayhem at any slightest scenario that plays out in the society. The urge to kill, maim or destroy is never far away. The hunger for violence increases by the day.

Many communities in the country are beset by violence on all sides, high levels of societal violence. Almost on daily basis, the news of killings, kidnapping, rituals, drug peddling, trafficking, abuse and all manner of anti-social behaviours filters through, and the perpetrators are usually the youths. Research however has shown that to a very large extent, they do not appreciate the value of life and peaceful coexistence.

In the country’s tertiary institutions, the story is also the same as evident in the multiple cult-related activities and protests in some of the nation’s ivory towers. Before now, students’ protest is usually a means of expressing displeasure to the authority over burning issues affecting the students. It is commonly observed by carrying placards, chanting solidarity songs, and making appeals; but today, all that has changed.

As displayed in the last protest at Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), students protested and destroyed medical facilities of the college worth millions of naira, over the death of their colleague, whom they alleged did not receive adequate treatment, while she was ill.

Also at Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Ekiti state, fauthorities of the school said property worth N120.5m were destroyed by the first and obviously the last protest of the students.

The above scenarios represent only a teeny part of what is going on round the country. It is indeed a pointer that grooming youths in character and in learning in the contemporary Nigeria is a daunting task.

At the secondary education level, the situation is also same as tales of cultism and ill vices are not unlikely. Even security agencies have decried the rising cult related cases in Nigerian secondary schools.

If truly the right to life and liberty is the first priority of virtually every human rights instrument and is the precondition for the enjoyment of other human rights, then government and concerned stakeholders must rise and indeed seek viable means of coordinating the youths to be responsible and reliable.

This perhaps is part of the reason, the Youth Orientation for Development (YOD)- a non-governmental organisation for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Orgainsation (UNESCO), is suggesting that government at all levels begin to recognise youths as critical actors in conflict prevention and resolution.

The group recently observed the 2017 International Youth Day Celebration, tagged: “Youth Building Peace.” President of the organisation, Ambassador Emmanuel Ejiogu, lamented that non-inclusion of youths in the nation’s decision-making process is the major cause of crisis in the society.

He said the programme was intended to actively engage the minds of young people in Nigeria in appreciating the effort of UNESCO in building culture of peace the world over.

“We all know that peace is a very essential commodity which our world needs so badly for its survival and wellbeing. No meaningful development can take place without peace. The cost of forestalling the breakdown of law and order we all know is far cheaper than that of restoring and keeping peace. As the world keeps experiencing different kinds of uprising and militancy, there is no better time to consider the value of maintaining peace than now,” he said.

He said all hands must be on deck to end all forms of violent tendencies among young people, which are capable of triggering ethnic, religious and tribal divisions in the country. He said youths should be regularly informed to engage themselves only in the activities that can bring unity to enable them become vanguards and ambassadors of peace.

He added that the spirit of oneness irrespective of tribe, ethnic group or religious backgrounds, should always be highlighted as a way of inculcating culture of peace in the youths.

He said, “Since youths are recognised as the agents of change and critical actors in conflict prevention and sustenance of peace in the country, they should be included in the security and peace talk at both national and state level. The 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development is committed to fostering peaceful and inclusive societies, but sustainable development could not be realised without peace and security. Therefore, young people’s inclusion in the peace and security agenda is key to building and sustaining peace in the society.”

“With different tribes fighting one another, different groups causing disorderliness in the society, we need to be bothered. The situation is getting worse by the day; we are no longer tolerant. If our youths are violent at this age, what will be the future of this country when they grow? There is no other way we can impact on the society without going to the youths, if we are talking about peace, if we are talking about imbibing that culture of peaceful coexistence as a nation, they are normally the agents of change.”

For an international motivational speaker and coach, Mr. Seif Eldawla Merbah, the fact that all human beings share one soul despite their colours, religions, races or tribes, is enough reason for peaceful coexistence, “and since the future of Nigeria lies in the youths, they should be properly guided and included in policy making to achieve nonviolent society.”

He said youths must be taught how to trust, love, embrace and tolerate one another; eschew violence and overlook their difference; show and share love with one another, as well as make impact in the society.

Also, President and Founder, Global Centre for Drug Eradication, Keji Hamilton, blamed the situation on the ill acts of some African leaders, who always capitalise on the vulnerability of youths to use them to perpetrate electoral and other violent activities in the society.

Challenging youths in the country, to stay out of drugs and crimes and not to allow themselves to be used by politicians anymore, he urged them not to allow religious, language or tribal sentiments tear them apart.

He said, “Do not to sell your conscience for a paltry sum of money, which is tantamount to selling your rights, note that criminal tendencies will jeopardise your future, as well as contribute to lack of peace in the society. Government on its part must meaningfully engage the youths.”

The organisers of the 2017 international youth day, who are championing the course for Nigerian youths to be peace ambassadors, believed that if young people were made to understand and embrace peace in their mind, the society would be saner.

Chatting with The Guardian on violent activities of youths, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Lagos State University, Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Dr. Olayinka Atilola, described the scenario as a social problem. He said there is nothing mentally wrong with Nigerian youths, except that the families, government and leaders across the board have failed to live up to their responsibilities.

According to him, “Young people have the higher tendency to be easily influenced by what they see around them. And for some time now in this country, we have not been very successful in terms of resolving our internal crisis or internal disagreement by other means, other than violence. We have seen on national television how members of the National Assembly sometimes degenerate into violence to operationalise their differences and they are supposed to be people that a lot of young people look up to.

“Also, if you look at our national political rallies, and how they usually end in one form of violence or the other, then you pity our young people the more. We need to create an environment for children and young persons to develop ability to have superior argument and be able to fashion a way forward based on that superior argument.”

Stressing that the most fundamental unit for a child to develop into a responsible adult is the family unit, he said, “there is need for the society to strengthen the family unit which is fast degenerating. Pressures of survival have taken parents out of the family space and children are left to socialise through what they watch on the Internet and in the national television.

“We also need to re-orientate our young people about the core values of what it takes to be a good citizen. We must help them develop the skill of tolerance and being able to make an intellectual debate without resulting to violence, so that when they become young adults they would have inculcated enough problem solving, self-esteem, and social superior argument skills.”

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