Future of Nigerian youths: Steering the titanic away from iceberg (1)

 (By Godwin Ogla)

Leadership goes beyond victory at the polls; in short, it is never a litmus test on whether the victorious candidate will actually deliver. It is just the beginning. A leader should have the attributes of being disciplined, foresighted, brave, prudent and also expected to exhibit unrivalled sense of patriotism and integrity. A crucial and yet often overlooked quality, which towers above the rest is empathy. It is empathy which allows the leader to break through every emotional and psychological barrier of the followers, reaching the inner recesses of their soul, to hear what they hear, see what they see and feel what they feel, thus, fostering a glowing sense of camaraderie

THE lessons of history are never learnt. Cataclysmic events that leave the soul in great distress when remembered never go away. They never go away, not just in our dreams, but stealthily struggle to appear in the portrait of the present, thus, making life seem like a wheel, inescapably conditioned to move in a vicious circle. It will not be so, only if we perceive events of history as not just ordinary occurrences, but as presenting us with their individually unique lessons to learn from. Lessons that will, not only prepare us for the present challenges, but for the future as well.

  What is the future, if one is sorely tempted to ask? So I decided to inquire into the true meaning of the word ‘Future’ that has become not only a sing song for the political ruling class, but has often been deployed as a weapon of deceit against the citizens of this potentially great nation. Targets upon targets have been set by different administrations, since our independence, for the conclusion of development projects that never materialised, with others becoming moribund a shortwhile after being commissioned. Economic development plans are continuously being re-adjusted with no end in sight. Sadly also, the current Vision 2020 is fast becoming a distant mirage.

   After a grueling introspection on the ‘future’, it dawned on me that the future as I understand, is nothing different from the present. The reason is that the future is merely a division of many present stages in our lives and conquering the future, to a large extent, depends on the calibrated contingency measures, put in place, to effectively tackle these challenges, as they prop up in these present stages. It is like the saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, but before the last mile, are 999 miles that must be conquered, with every mile forming an inextricable part of the larger future. Our conversion to this line of reasoning will prove invaluable to our candid assessment of the policies, plans and programmes of the government and help us determine whether or not, they are designed to succeed from the very outset. This is because the government cannot claim to have put in place the much needed socio-political and economic framework that would improve the lots of the Nigerian youths when all the results and likely results point to the contrary.

    The Nigerian youths and the titanic saga, any obvious parallel? One may be tempted to ask. The titanic event aptly captures the pitiable and sordid state of the Nigerian youths and the country at large. Nigeria is, unarguably, a titan in many respects in the comity of African nations. She prides herself as Africa’s largest economy and the most populous black nation in Africa, and by extension on earth. It is also not in dispute that she is the largest producer of black gold in Africa. The youths make up almost 65 per cent of the country’s population so, one will not be in error to say that Nigeria has a more youthful population and by comparison, the highest human capital resource in Africa. Nigeria is currently enmeshed in a myriad of problems that is threatening to sink her, with the youths as the dominant casualties, and youth unemployment, the very quick sand.

   The period of youth is a great period in the life of an individual, and as great also very delicate. It is a period where childhood dreams and aspirations begin to take shape, and where the world, hitherto closed, is open to one’s consciousness. It is also a period they become fully conscious of the workings of the society as childhood interests give way to youthful thinking and desires. Their appreciation of the country and nationalistic sentiment is partly fuelled by the capacity of the society to create rewarding vistas that would help them actualise their dreams and aspirations. In the very flower of their youth, they become a viable resource to the country, having mustered the requisite skills a quality education has to offer, and so, explores every avenue to become an added value to the society through productive work.

  Fresh from the university, they are ready to set sail, believing that their qualification, which they perceive as no mean feat, will ultimately give them a soft landing, like having one’s name written in the book of life and so, see no reason why they should not be granted access to paradise. At this crucial stage of their life, lies the acme of expectation. The country becomes a gigantic ship, they as passengers, and the leaders as sailors, saddled with the responsibility of taking them to their destination. In the course of the journey, the sailors, whose fate is, in a way, intertwined with the passengers, are expected to exhibit the highest skills and diligence in the performance of their duties, to forestall the occurrence of disaster of unimaginable proportions. It is incumbent on the captain to keep the ship afloat all through the journey, as this great ship carries in it, great destinies.

   The ready question that comes to mind from this analogy is, how well the many captains of the Nigerian ship have done in managing her affairs, and whether the current leadership has the capacity to steer her away from the current socio-political and economic uncertainties that hang over her as a sword of Damocles’. This very question strikes at the heart of leadership.

   Leadership goes beyond victory at the polls; in short, it is never a litmus test on whether the victorious candidate will actually deliver. It is just the beginning. A leader should have the attributes of being disciplined, foresighted, brave, prudent and also expected to exhibit unrivalled sense of patriotism and integrity. A crucial and yet often overlooked quality, which towers above the rest is empathy. It is empathy which allows the leader to break through every emotional and psychological barrier of the followers, reaching the inner recesses of their soul, to hear what they hear, see what they see and feel what they feel, thus, fostering a glowing sense of camaraderie.

   This deep mutuality in shared feelings, fires the spirit of all to work toward the actualisation of their collective objectives. But that is the problem as it is not the case. It is difficult to comprehend why both the sailors and passengers, who appear to share common fate in the event of any disaster, live in separate worlds at the same time. In other words, how can our leaders adopt a stolid indifference to the treacherous situations that can sink the very ship they captain? Do they not care if they perish like the perplexed passengers? It makes my mind to become a beehive of pandemonium. If they are not perturbed by the likely recrudescence of the titanic saga, playing out its entire script unaltered, then, something must be wrong somewhere and the reason is not far-fetched. They may have opted for the life boat option; leaving their compatriots at the mercy of the fiendish sea and watch them struggle to their tragic end from a distance. Little wonder the continuous rise in private jet ownership in the country, as politicians are ready to jet out at the sight of any unfolding Armageddon that may engulf the entire country. Running away from the problems, that is the very product of their design.

   The growing problem of youth unemployment in Nigeria continues to grow into a massive ice berg and yet we fail to see the handwriting on the wall. Year after year, government departments churn out impressive statistics, which flatter to deceive, about the progressive decline in the rate of unemployment among our teeming youths. It may be that such statistics reflect the mass exodus of our virile youthful population, who leave the country everyday as a result of the sheer hopelessness of their situation, thus leaving the rest to scavenge for the many phantom jobs the government has created; or could it be that the minister who oversees the employment portfolio, tinkered with the statistics figures with the help of conniving government officials, to massage the ego of the number one citizen, thus creating an illusory state of affairs.

• To be continued.

• Ogla is a youth commentator, public analyst and a legal practitioner based in Port Harcourt.

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