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Nigeria: Coming to terms with the youth factor

The festering state of insecurity along the Zuba-Kaduna highway recently assumed an international dimension with the killing of Faye Mooney of the United Kingdom. Killed…

The festering state of insecurity along the Zuba-Kaduna highway recently assumed an international dimension with the killing of Faye Mooney of the United Kingdom. Killed along with her by the attackers was Mr Matthew Ogwuche. Also at the location of the killing of Mooney and Ogwuche, three other innocent persons were kidnapped and taken away by the assailants. The Kaduna Road killing comes against the backdrop of several other unfortunate instances in different parts of the country, which recorded avoidable deaths of innocent Nigerians and foreigners alike.

Senators took turns in the course of a motion sponsored by Senator Shehu Sani at the Senate plenary on Thursday to decry the development, with some of them blaming the situation on the ubiquitous ‘youth factor’ in the country. Among the contributors in that direction was Senator Andrew Uchendu, representing Rivers East who made a remarkable yet retributive contribution, by suggesting that the Senators should sell three out of the five official cars allocated to each of them, and deploy funds so recovered for creating jobs for the youth. Incidentally, Uchendu and the Senators in his school of thought are not the only commentators who see justice in bleeding the legislators of some of their perks of office to address what has become the real emergency facing the country,- the embittered and restive youth. Even the Emir of Kano HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had earlier called for the review of the remunerations of the lawmakers in order to recover funds for restructuring segments of the economy. By and large there is a growing consensus that trimming the largesse of the legislators, remains the core success factor in resolving the burning economic challenges of the day.

Given that most of the culprits of these criminal activities are understandably youthful persons, Uchendu and his fellow travelers have a point. Their concern seems to gravitate around the changing persona of a growing number of the Nigerian youth, from the traditional, obedient, loyal, impressionable and manageable fawning acolytes of their parents and elders, to the now dominating, uncontrollably agitating, unscrupulous as well as soulless actors. And the reason for such drastic transformation of the youth is the syndrome of economic exclusion and attendant poverty.

With respect to the popular culture which drives the present generation of the Nigeria youth, they are trapped in poverty while being daily assaulted by pictures of richer cultural lifestyles outside the country, courtesy of advances in communication. As they imbibe the richer cultures they also develop expectations of maintaining living standards associated with the advanced lifestyles as well as new forms of deviant conduct that remain unknown to even the parents and other mentors of today’s youth. By and large therefore, the degrading state of affairs among large sections of the Nigerian youthful population is reinforcing the widely held view that the country may have lost a widening swathe of the present generation of youth, along with all the negative implications that go with such a tendency.

In a situation where the society’s youth constitute its future, it must be disturbing to see these leaders and drivers of tomorrow grow up with a faulty template. It is therefore ostensibly to arrest a creeping loss of the youth that Uchendu was recommending the legislators sacrifice just three of their five official cars for the creation of jobs for the youth. Incidentally his suggestion tallies with a bigger argument which holds that the country’s political class should be more committed in real terms to the youth factor of the day including relinquishing some of their jumbo appurtenances of office, which should be recovered and redirected to resolving the acute deprivations of other segments of society.

Insignificant as the expected sacrifice of the political class may be in the light of the humongous scope of the ‘youth factor’ challenge, it qualifies to serve as a wakeup call to the political class that the society requires more from them if there will be a Nigeria for them to lead in the near future. The ‘youth factor’ in this context refers to the situation when a society downplays the management of the energies and potentials of its youth and allows some of them to degenerate into undesirable and therefore unmanageable condition. The society ultimately pays a high price for such indiscretion.

While the ongoing spike in crime across the country remains a matter of concern for the security agencies, the causative factor is not a mystery. The Nigerian leadership community is out of tune with the youth across the country. Against the backdrop of the core needs of the youth the governments has only been providing lip service, which solves no problem. While it may be traditional and convenient to blame the youth for a plethora of antisocial tendencies, it should also be considered how far the leadership of the country has fared in providing the necessary environment for the youth to thrive in.

For instance, it is not yet a standard contemplation by policy makers that behind most crimes, there are economic factors. The upsurge in criminal activities is actually driven by desperation of the criminals just to pay bills. That is where the problem of wide spread joblessness attracts equally a proliferation of cases of criminality. Rather revealing is the mapping of areas of criminality with the respective levels of poverty and youth criminality, restiveness and even insurgency.

For instance, the ongoing spate of unending insurgency in the North East owes much of its origin to a long lasting spate of failure by generations of governments in that part of the country to consolidate on the development vision and foundation laid by the former Premier of the Northern Nigeria Sir Ahmadu Bello, whose unparalleled, futuristic strategies were disposed to turn the area into paradise on earth. Even in an era that was bereft of modernity, he envisaged the transformation of the North into an economic power house the world will not ignore. It is on record that he established textile mills, a bank, a university, dairy factory including the legendary Bauchi Meat factory, which thrived into the eighties before it succumbed to the plague of mismanagement. One can easily imagine if Bauchi Meat factory was thriving today, it would not only have been supplying meat and related dairy products. Even the ongoing farmers-herders clash would have enjoyed a more civilised treatment.

Take Zamfara State in the North West, where bloodshed was rife and was in the news for so long that everyone wondered why it was so. The recent revelation that much of the conflict was associated with tussles over sharing of spoils of illegal mining of gold, remains instructive.

Nigeria can still come to terms with its youth factor, and curb youth violence, if the youth get jobs instead of handouts.

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