You are not too young to count
“The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity.” - Benjamin Disraeli
One of the most outstanding business leaders of the twentieth century, Jack Welch (former Chairman and CEO of General Electric) said, “Control your destiny or someone else will”. One of Satan’s most effective ‘wiles’ is wait awhile! In my meetings with youth advocates and coaches, I have vigorously reiterated that youths can’t be the leaders of tomorrow if they keep procrastinating. Youths must not be deceived into waiting any longer; nothing about us without us is for us. It is a pitiable truth that the future of Nigeria and Africa is in the hands of the next generation. As much as the wisdom of the elderly is needed in the nation building process, the strength, ideas and versatility of the youth cannot be overlooked. Old ways won’t open new doors.
Adolf Hilter said, ‘’what luck for rulers than man do not think’’. It is high time the youth began to think strategically and intentionally. Clueless leadership is an offshoot of clueless youths. We must positively tinker with our thinking so as to reach our desired destination. It is relatively impossible to feature in a future that we can’t picture.
The election into the United Kingdom parliament some days ago was a true test to the emergence of the youths in taking over from the older generation. Seven Nigerians were elected into the UK Parliament with some shocking results. Olukemi Olufunto Badenoch (37), Bim Afolami (31), Chuka Umunna (38) and Fiona Onasanya were the youths among the seven Nigerians that pulled the crowd. The one that is note-worthy is that of Fiona Onasanya, a Labour Party youngster that routed out the 52-year-old conservative candidate, Tory Stewart Jackson. It is interesting to note that Jackson had been Peterborough’s MP for 12 years.
Albert Einstein once offered one of the most fascinating definitions of ‘insanity’ when he said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In many nations of the world, the reign of power is now drifting to the direction of youth-inclusiveness. All around the world, there has been a paradigm shift as there is now a clear realisation that inclusion of youths in governance is of utmost importance. It is sympathetic to know that Nigeria is yet to catch up with the rest of the world in this respect. In France, the minimum age for the President is 18! It was, therefore, not shocking news when Emmanuel Macron, 39, became the president of France on May 14, 2017.
Former President and political veteran, Olusegun Obasanjo, openly owned up and admitted that his generation has failed Nigeria in their efforts at taking it to the “Promised Land.” It is obvious from the plethora of self-indictments that the older generation should give the youths a chance. If any nation deserves an award for recycling old and past leaders, Nigeria would be the first!
Instead of dissipating our energy on clueless arguments, division and ephemeral dividends, we must streamline our strength and refocus on changing the dilapidating orders of things in the nation. Kurt Cobain once said, “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption”. We must vigorously but not violently challenge the status quo. An incorruptible youth is an asset to the future. Politics and policy-making are still in the archaic stage; youths need to be involved for it to evolve.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - Frederick Douglass
We are mortgaging our destiny by playing second fiddle and not being assertive in our drive for change. Where Nigeria is today might not be our making but we must refuse to be spectators in the affairs of things in the nation. It is appalling to know that while the demographics of leadership around the world is getting younger, ours is getting older. That we have lost hope in the present must not be the reason why we should be oblivious of the future. The former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan said, “Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.”
Involving youths as partners in making decisions that affect them, increases the likelihood that the decisions will be accepted, adopted, and become part of their everyday lives. While youths are 60 per cent of the present population, they are 100 per cent of the future. It is absurd to try to solve the problems of the youth without involving them. It is mostly in Nigeria that adults sit around and decide what problems youths have and what they need, without ever consulting them.
Youth involvement must not be seen as a rebellious act; it is the normal order. Our rulers today came into power not today, but many decades ago. Youths are gradually taking over and the handwritings are very clear on the wall. This is not class warfare, this is generational shift. Youths must stop following and eulogizing the same crop of people behind the country’s degeneration. You can’t be following “the problem” and claiming to be part of the solution.
“For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.”-Alvin Toffle
Thomas Edison said, “There is always a better way, find it”. The world is in dire need of dynamism and change. In chronicling the trends of past revolutions, it has been observed that the youths have always been the rallying points and initiators. When youths are continually neglected in a nation, the aftermath had historically been disastrous. When the latent potentials in youths are not given the platform to be expressed, the alternatives are mostly destructive. Militancy, cyber-crime, terrorism, armed robbery, prostitution and kidnapping have all become silent and ominous baits for the Nigerian youth.
“Young people need models, not critics.” - John Wooden
The simple truth is that the future won’t be any different from the way things are now if we continue to recycle those people that initiated the present problem. If we continue to do the same things in the same way, then we would have sabotaged the future. It is a blatant truth that we cannot be part of the problem and also be part of the solution. Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created it”. In order for the youth to make a lasting impact, they must do away with the pedestrian thinking that brought us deep into the present decadence.
Government should work towards ensuring equal opportunity for the youths, including eliminating discriminatory laws and policies. We must progressively adopt policies that will enhance youth-inclusion in governance at the Federal, state and local levels. The #NotTooYoungToRun bill that is geared towards creating the platform for youth inclusion and participation in the political process at the federal and state levels must be given all the necessary support at the National Assembly.
In April 2010, while being interviewed by the Hausa BBC service, the former Head of State, General Badamosi Babangida, issued a demeaning verdict when he outrightly said that the Nigerian youths are not capable of leading the country. The verdict has been proved over the years to lack substance as the Nigerian youths have risen from political obscurity to pioneer unprecedented changes. Youths of today are critical thinkers, change makers, innovators, communicators, influencers and enterprising. There are many Nigerian youths who are doing well and uplifting the image of Nigeria, Africa and excelling at global stage.
We need to forge unity in the youth bracket of this nation. We need strategic orientation and re-direction. It might seemingly look as if we do not know enough but we must not be deceived into believing that we are not ready. Pearl S. Buck once said, “The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation”. The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown; this ‘unknown’ over time in generation past has always made a difference.
The legendary coach, John Wooden, once said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” I would like to reach out to the youths to invest in preparing themselves for the future. Nobody must be the reason why you failed in life. The 2019 general election is just around the corner. Zig Ziglar said, “The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you think you can only do a little”. Youths, Arise!
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