Mr. Ambrose Igboke, foremost public affairs analyst, media scholar and crusader for good governance in Nigeria is one of those championing the course for societal rebirth in the country. In this explosive chat with CRISPNG, he talks about the struggles of the Nigerian youths and what they must do to foster the desired future as the world marks another International Youth Day.
CRISPNG: August 12 every year is the International Youth Day which commemorates the crucial role of youths as change agents. As the world observes this year’s edition, do you think Nigerian youths have anything to celebrate?
The Nigerian youth is one of the most unlucky youths of the 21st Century. Among the comity of nations, the Nigerian youth is one of the most abandoned . The youths are not being taken care of because the adult generation has relegated the worth of the nation that was bequeathed to them while they were also youth. The adult generation has left the Nigerian youth in a state of disrepair, a state of hopelessness. I remember sometimes last year, when the Nigerian youth was accused of being lazy. I went on air to defend the Nigerian youth.
Let’s cast our minds back to the 60s, 70s and even in the 80s when our rulers today (those in their 50s, 60s, 70s and above) who make up the Nigerian youths were being paid to go to the university alongside other allowances from the government. The Nigerian youths of those days were those who knew before they finish from school, they had jobs waiting for them already. They were youths who had automatic employment and housing schemes waiting for them upon graduation from school. They were they youths who had good schools, technical colleges, topnotch grammar schools, functional polytechnics and various universities. Therefore, the set of Nigerian youths that benefited greatly from the country are the leaders of today. But what did these leaders do in return to the system that nurtured them? They went and destroy the very fabric of what they gained from, leaving the youths of today with nothing.
So, our generation of youths (those who are between 18- 45 years of age) are the unlucky generation of the Nigerian youth, whose parents bequeathed nothing to them. Basically, I pity the Nigerian youth, there is nothing to celebrate for the Nigerian youth. The only thing we can say is worth celebrating is the resilience of the Nigerian youths, the industry of the Nigerian youths and the intelligence of the Nigerian youths that the government has refused to tap into. Unfortunately, such unexplored potentials have been bastardised. We now have youths using their intelligence to do fraud. Most of the times, they indulge in sports bets, reality shows, drama and other inconsequential things. The energy of the youths is like the torrent of a flowing river. If you don’t create a suitable path for it, it must find its level, a way out. So, because the Nigerian government cannot direct the energy of the Nigerian youths properly, it has brought about destruction.
Look at the churches which used to be the compass of morality and excellence in directing the youths, most of them have been compromised. What do we have now? We have churches which are telling the youths that they don’t need to work, that success comes by grace and not by work. So, if they (youths) go to churches to get inspiration to be lazy; they go to the government and all they can get at best is political appointees, then we can say the Nigerian youths have no direction and in the next 15 to 20 years, the Nigerian youths of today will become the leaders of tomorrow. Then, we are probably going to have the worst country than we have now, unless we suffer from something that will really sting us into the reality of the 21st century.
CRISPNG: You seemed to be blaming Nigeria’s faulty system solely for the youths’ failure. Critically, we have had cases of youths who transformed their societies through well-structured demonstrations, the Arab Spring, for instance. Don’t you think the Nigerian youths are complacent with the situation of things in the country and therefore also deserved to be blamed, at least, partly for their predicaments?
I have been asked this question severally in the past and I have answered it from different perspectives. There is a psychological saying that says a child is like a mirror that reflects what they see. The youths, ideally, are supposed to emulate what their parents or elders are doing and that forms the moral fabric of any young growing person. Such arrangement helps to mould the young one’s opinions and thoughts but the reverse is what we have today in the society today. That is why we have mostly unserious crop of youths today. It is parents that are even teaching their children how to cheat for West African Examination Council (WAEC), they are the one paying people to write Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) for their children and even common entrance examinations. What kind of youths do you expect such children to become?
Those days when we were growing up, if you come home with something that is not yours, your parents would question its source and maybe even punish you if you failed to provide convincing answer. Today, you will see a boy or lady of 20-year who brings an exotic car home and the first action of his or her parent will be to visit the church and say God has blessed my child. So, where do you want the children to learn from, where do you want the youths of today to learn from? You want them to learn from politicians who are their god-fathers? Do you want them to learn to pastors who have turned the church to a Ponzi-Scheme?
The common language they (Nigerian youths) mostly use today is “I wan blow” (a trend which reflects their quest to get money, not minding what it takes). This is because Nigerians celebrate wealth, Nigerians celebrate flashy things, not minding where they come from. On this premise, I will not blame the Nigerian youths because there is really nobody to learn from. Those of us with parents that have some modicum of morality should consider ourselves privileged. Those in their early forties are people who are in the bridge between the old order and the new order. At least, they were able to glean somethings from the old order that still helped them. But this generation that are in the millennials or those in the 90s, who do they learn from, looking at the fact that Nigeria has started diving into its moral abyss from the 90s? Where do you want them to learn from? You want them to learn that to become a Deacon in the church, you have to be rich, whether the wealth was stolen or not?
Where do you want them to learn the beauty of hardwork? Where do you want them to learn the beauty of integrity when the churches tell our youths that it is not about work but grace. So, I won’t blame the youths, because the elders of today learned from their own elders. The elders then gave them compass to follow and they became what they are today. The unfortunate thing is that these elders who were given the best in their youths have failed to replicate same to the younger generation.
Instead of showing light to the younger ones, they destroyed the very fabrics of what they benefited from. So, I won’t blame the youths because they have nobody to learn from. Who will teach them how to pass their examinations by themselves when their parents falsifying their age in the civil service. On what moral ground would such parents tell their children not to falsify their results too? To this end, instead of blaming them, I would rather pity them because there is basically nobody to teach them.
Finally, what do think should be done to salvage the situation, especially as we mark another International Youth Day?
The solution lies in the fact that the youths should strive to read about their history, because what the adult generation has done is to make sure that they don’t know about their past. They want to make sure that the youths don’t know that those who are ruling us today were product of a functional system are under obligation to do same for them. They don’t want them to know that there was a time they enjoyed life and Nigeria was paying for their school fees, feeding them and catering for their welfare generally. This where it seemed the youths of today are also not helping matters. There is now internet so little research can be done about things to enrich their knowledge bank. So, they should know their history so they know where they are coming from, know their political history, know about their background of existence and after that, they can now make projections for the future.
Also, the Nigerian youths should also try to know what the youths of USA, China, Russia and even our neighbouring Ghana are doing. This will help them know they are all competing in the same global space. They should not measure their future with the kind of decadence that is subsisting in the Nigerian environment. If they do that, they won’t be able to compete with their global contemporaries. The Nigerian youths should look at the fact that this present generation has failed them but they should not fail themselves.
Therefore, they should put themselves into the right frame to change the status quo. They should not just be used as political thugs; they should not just be used to fill up stadiums during politics or as marching ground for people to step on. They should know that they are human beings, respect their own dignity, find joy in labour, and know that it is not just enough to go to the university. They should try to learn skills, hands on skills. For those who went to school, they should learn professional skills, for those who didn’t go, they should learn some hand skills and whenever there is an opportunity to improve themselves, they should always take advantage of that, because the world is now a global village and competition is not just within Nigeria, it is now global.
The Nigerian youths should look at the fact that this generation has failed them but they should not fail themselves.