The issue of the place and role of youths in Nigeria and how they have fared as well as their future in the prevailing climate of growing poverty, unemployment and uncertainty is definitely going to be a campaign issue as Nigerians prepare for the crucial 2019 national elections.
The fact that the matter of youths and women would be on the front burner is predicated on the fact that in times of national uncertainty and crisis as we have today in the face of economic problems affecting the citizenry, and wanton killings across the land, the youths and women bear the brunt of these problems. When life is adversely affected, when war breaks out or when as we have today, thousands of Nigerians now find themselves in internal displaced persons camps, the bulk of those affected turn out to be youths and women.
The lives of youths and women, mostly their mothers are affected negatively when there is a failure of leadership or when the leadership in place in a country, as we have today, is failing to live up to the dictates of good governance.
It was for these reasons that when incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari described Nigerian youths as lazy and wanting the good life without hard work, it caused quite a stir. The social media, the conventional media as well as public discussions across the country was inundated and dominated by the angry retorts and analysis of youths who were livid at what they considered to be an unfair commentary on the long-suffering youths of Nigeria and their mothers who have been oppressed and exploited by most governments in the country’s history. At the same time, it is on record that the youths in Nigeria have been victims of several failed promises in the past and even the present to the point where those who manage to get an education through the toiling of their parents cannot hope to get an employment for up to ten years after graduation from a university.
That the situation of youths in Nigeria has become so bad today is not because resources are lacking in their country, it is due largely to the fact that since the 1970s till date, the country has lacked committed and honest leadership who care about development and progress and the welfare of the people. The issue of poor governance and maladministration is so bad that most of the financial resources of the nation were stolen and shamelessly appropriated by public officials entrusted with the good governance of the country and who are under oath to protect the nation and its citizens. The situation was so bad that corruption today has become the greatest threat to the well- being of the country as attested to by the billions of naira and dollars found to have been looted by public officials, elected, and appointed and those in the top echelon of the civil service.
Today, there is a list of accused corrupt persons or looters, prepared by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari and which is the subject of litigation in the courts. While some Nigerians and the political opposition accuse the Buhari government of not fighting corruption but witch-hunting the opposition, the Buhari administration deserves commendation for sensitizing Nigerians on the extent and deep-seated nature of corruption in contemporary Nigeria thus making all and sundry aware of the damage it has done and the class of Nigerians behind the virus.
Back to the issue of the youths whose life has been made more miserable by pervasive corruption in the country, Buhari when he alluded to them as lazy and having a sense of entitlement, touched a chord that rankles. Many Nigerians were of the view that he would not have gone as far as doing such a disservice to the suffering Nigerian youths no matter the amount of investment he was seeking from the Commonwealth Business Council delegates.
In his own comment on the matter, a leading aspirant for the 2019 Presidency on the ticket of the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar said that Nigerian youths are not lazy. Atiku said that on the contrary, the youths of Nigeria are hard-working, creative and innovative and that being an entrepreneur and businessman, he has interacted with them at different levels of business associates and employees and that their hard work and sense of duty and responsibility has contributed immensely to the success of his businesses and the wealth of the nation.
Atiku’s position on Nigerian youths tallied with that of several prominent Nigerians and those of Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda who criticized President Buhari and drew attention to the creativity, resilience and exemplary role of the youths in Nigeria whose singular effort in creating the film industry, Nollywood has enriched and ushered in a new era of African culture and pride among the Black people of the World.
Atiku Abubakar, an aspirant to the Presidency has now dedicated his political ambitions to the youth of Nigeria, their social and political emancipation as well as their economic and political empowerment and recognition. He said at a recent forum of a pro-Atiku Youth support group and restated it in several interviews, that if he emerged victorious at the 2019 polls and became President, he would set aside forty percent of positions in his administration to the youth.
The above means that Atiku Abubakar has become the champion of Nigerian Youths at a time when the majority of them are facing uncertainty and despondency at the hands of a grossly corrupt ruling elite who care only for themselves, their families and cronies leaving the mass of the people in poverty and want. Atiku has pledged to do everything in his power as an entrepreneur and businessman to create millions of jobs during the period he would be President, if elected.
Atiku and other notable Nigerians have confidence and faith in the ability and resourcefulness of the youths of our country. Several commentators and analysts even say that in the case of the youths in Northern Nigeria where President Buhari comes from and who are usually perceived to be lazy, one only needs to engage with some of these youths of Northern origin to know the extent of their confidence and longing for opportunity to make a difference.
A number of personnel of Non-governmental organisations who have worked in the Northern part of Nigeria with youths and women attest to their resilience and quick mastery of tasks when confronted with one. These observers, many of them foreign nationals argue that the youths and women in the North appear to be lazy because of the menial jobs and vocations which they engage in but which are all they have or are given by their rather lazy and greedy leaders. These development workers asked the question, where are the factories in the North and skill acquisition centers which could have given the youths a different and more elevating orientation? These are non-existent, yet states in the North and the South have people entrusted with their good governance and the welfare of the people.
With the many businesses and educational institutions that he has set up that employs and imparts knowledge and skills to thousands of youths in the Northern part of the country and the programmes to get the forlorn almajiri group of youths off the streets of his native Adamawa State and the North east region in general, there is little doubt that Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and aspirant to the Presidency in 2019, is the champion that Nigerian youths and their mothers have been looking for.
Musa Mohammed Zango writes from Bauchi