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Smile for Africa’s youths

This birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated in Africa with Scandinavian tribal rituals when the Sun ends its abandonment of peoples to a tyranny of…

This birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated in Africa with Scandinavian tribal rituals when the Sun ends its abandonment of peoples to a tyranny of long hours of darkness, freezing cold, and blankets of snow; as hope rises for sunlight’s journey back from the South Pole.  Africa’s tropical legacy has not inhibited celebrations of Christmas. Many commu-nities celebrate it as year’s end.
Cultural nationalist are yet to deport Christmas as an alien ritual; while its capture by Euro-America commercial consumerism makes it bloom under sweet promises for ‘’peace, love and joy’’. In Lagos, a tradition has grown of inventing new musical choral songs in Nigerian languages. On 20th December, 2013, the capital of Akwa Ibom State hosted a show of reggae music as it competed for space in Christmas dances and songs.  
The fact that most African cultures rejoice at childbirth as a moment of return of an ancestor, gives the Christmas myth a familiar echo. It is surprising that this affinity has not aroused a novel continental ritual of birth to symbolise renaissance and redemption from recurrent human failures. Popular anger at German economic colonialism over Greece has incited rejection of Christmas trees imported from German culture 150 years ago; for a return to boats crafted locally to express a maritime Greek ancestry. The growing bloom of a ritual which alienates the imagination of Africa’s children from tropical ecologies, raises the larger issue of the treatment of children in Africa’s polities.
Nelson Mandela said that during 27 years in prison, not seeing children or hearing sounds of children was one of the severe cruelties he suffered. On February 11, 1990 when he stepped out from physical prison, his tribute to youths rang out thus: ‘’I pay tribute to the endless heroism of youth, you the young lions. You, the young lions, have energised our entire struggle’’. He was recalling June 16, 1976 when secondary school children in Soweto township exploded in anger against intellectual prisons to be built inside their brains when taught Dutch or ‘’Afrikaans’’, but not English.
The police murdered them with live bullets. That rebellion would, however, roll into children destroying school furniture; attacking teachers with knives; and abandoning class attendance under the appeal of ‘’revolution before education’’. Standards collapsed. This anti-racism war by the ‘’young lions’’ rekindles a creeping despair and exhaustion among adults whose mass protests earned intensifying violence by a frightened government.
The youths of South Africa also used dance and song in their struggles to counter ‘’corrosive and belittling’’ violence by the police and white goons. Madiba borrowed their dancing and gave them his smile. Albie Sachs believes that the smile and ‘’Madiba jive’’ aroused in black people a ‘’sense of achievement and satisfaction’’ and made them ‘’share in his pleasure of living as a free person in a free country’’ after four hundred years of permanent harassment by white people in South Africa.
In Nigeria, the pandemic of television advertisements promoting dance and music is becoming a tool of subversion  of minds and ambitions of youths. It started with blatant and vulgar volcanic sexual vibrations of bottoms and loins on television during prime time.  Music videos and dance as a means of gaining stardom among peers followed. Despite losses to piracy criminals, limited earnings from the ‘’music industry’’, dangles vital hope to millions of unemployed urban youths.  Similar promises by religion have been regarded as opium for the masses, because it paralyses struggles for seizing political power.
A British friend showing me London expressed concern about sports stardom becoming a drug for luring young black youths – mainly from Caribbean families – away from embracing hard academic work for high-income professions in engineering, architecture, medicine and industrial entrepreneurship. We had both noted a similar malaise among black America youths for who stars in games of basketball, football, athletics and music provided heroes. College students recruited for their talents in sports graduated with low academic scores; with coaches often appealing to lecturers to lean lightly on them.
In Africa, stars being paid millions in foreign currencies for playing sports in Europe-  and in national teams in international competitions – raises crisis of morale among workers. A lecturer in Daystar University in Nairobi told a familiar story of her son asking her why she drives a ‘’wretched old car’’ unlike winners of international marathon competitions. Her loss of respect by her son demoralised her. It sabotaged her authority to discipline her children to do intensive studies with their eyes on intellectually taxing careers.
The absence of alternative routes to high social status for youths is a challenge. The absence of support by corporate bodies for youths willing to undertake cross-Africa trips on bicycles, motorcycles; donkeys, camels remains a puzzle. The lack of funding for youths climbing Kilimanjaro, Cameroun, Ruwenzori and Atlas mountains fails to give status to heroism earned by self-sacrifice, discipline, endurance, team work and risk-taking. The retort that surviving for one day in Nigeria trains these traits ignores their merit for building national character.
Ahmadu Bello University students took a lead in training students to see themselves as Heads of State other African countries and top officials of the Organisation of African Unity/African Union. While Nigerian Television Authority, Kaduna, and the New Nigerian newspaper consistently telecast and reported their summits, it only echoed in the birth of Student Parliaments for secondary school students. It remained starved of positive federal policy attention and corporate Nigeria with pan-African ambitions.  
The enthusiastic celebration of Christmas by schools, community groups and governments is very healthy. It compares poorly with lack of ’Children’s Science Invention Christmas Carnivals’; and ‘’Christmas of Youths ICT Festivals’. It yields brain dormancy and brain erosion. A season of smiling and dancing with youths, the way Nelson Mandela would wish it, must walk out of prisons.

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