(By Toyosi Akerele and Akinbobola Omotuyi)

Most of our leaders have been in politics for over 35 years which clearly shows they observed the transition of our economy from stability to where it is at present and yet, they are still ruling. We wonder what exactly it is they still have to offer because if they had something to offer, they would not have remained in politics for so long. They would have contributed their quota and moved on for the next generation to come on board.

TODAY’S generation of youth—the largest the world has ever known, and the vast majority of whom live in developing countries—have unprecedented potential to advance the well-being of the entire human family. Yet too many young people, including those who are highly educated, suffer from low-wage, dead-end work and record levels of unemployment.

The global economic crisis has hit youth the hardest and many are understandably discouraged by rising inequalities. A large number has no immediate prospects and are disenfranchised from the political, social and development processes in their countries. Without urgent measures, we risk creating a “lost generation” of squandered talent and dreams. –  Ban Ki-moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations)

ON December 17, 1999, in its resolution 54/120, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, August 8-12, 1998) that August 12 be declared International Youth Day.

  August 12 is a day set aside by the United Nations to encourage both Member States and the general public to understand the needs of young people, to implement policies to help them overcome the challenges they face, and to help young people into the decision-making process. A day earmarked to celebrate youthfulness in its entire splendor, a day to reflect on what was and prepare for what is to be. A day for elder statesmen to look beyond the politicking and power tussle and critically look at what the future holds for the youths of their nations and generations to come.

  Dear Nigerian youths, is there much for us to celebrate? Often, have we looked back and reflect on our journey so far. Have we really celebrated youthfulness? Do we know the enormous power we own just being a youth? Does the average Nigerian youth have control over his decisions? Are the policies being implemented at various levels of Government in any way favourable to the youth of our Nation? Perhaps, the society has dealt with us psychologically that we have resigned to faith and accepted whatever it is that is swung our way.

  A National Conference was organised to determine the future, our future and we were sparsely represented. This scenario can be likened to a situation where a parent determines the career of a child even before birth. Not considering if the child will grow up to embrace that decision or not. Our life has been fashioned to be a roller coaster; we are constantly on the run to get whatever it may be that is being handed to us. Our destinies have been manipulated; our intellectual capability has been rendered ineffective. We have deviated from being creative and embraced mediocrity. We have become a generation that depends on our fathers and mothers for survival.

   We are products of society. A society that has constantly deprived us of basic amenities such as quality education, infrastructures, security and employment / enabling environment for job creation.

   We have been made to believe that material possessions are the true definition of success and we are in constant pursuit (a case of every man for himself) at the expense of job creation which is crucial to the growth and development of our economy.

   Most of our leaders have been in politics for over 35 years which clearly shows they observed the transition of our economy from stability to where it is at present and yet, they are still ruling. We wonder what exactly it is they still have to offer because if they had something to offer, they would not have remained in politics for so long. They would have contributed their quota and moved on for the next generation to come on board.

  Our mindset as regards politics and governance is basically that politics is a dirty and bloody game. Many of us as youths are petrified when it comes to politics and contesting for leadership positions while the few among us who are bold enough to go into it do it just for their selfish interests like amassing wealth. The kind of environment we all grew up in has actually influenced our mind set and poisoned our orientation into thinking that politics will always corrupt us if we delve into it and that there is nothing we can do but to engage in corrupt activities and follow the corruption trend if we are in politics or power.

   The average Nigerian youth does not know his right as a citizen; he has no idea what the constitution states regarding his benefits as a Nigerian because he has been fine-tuned to see his rights as favour. He is deprived of quality education and accepts mediocrity as privilege; he sees insecurity as a norm and believes it is only the politicians that deserve protection, he sees employment as a battle for the survival of the fittest and who you know determines your automatic employment, he automatically becomes a physician of himself as proper healthcare is meant for a particular class of people, he looks forward to the election period as the only avenue to notice an infinitesimal change in his neighbourhood, he refuses to vote because he is convinced that his vote won’t count. In summation, he is a directionless youth without a voice.

   In a country where the successor generation stays fixated on white collar jobs after graduation, even when we know they don’t exist, some of us are already thinking ahead of what will become of the youths of our nation if we continue to talk motivation and deliver colourful speeches rather than actually create opportunities for viable empowerment and employment for our generation.

   The opportunities are endless but we are not taking advantage of them. We are swayed with the lifestyle and glitz that comes with the three-piece suits and briefcases. We want to be seen as bankers, engineers, managers, consultants, and financial advisers.  When we can actually be addressed as chief executive officers and partners of small businesses that will not only put food on our tables but also give us the liberty of free will?

   In Nigeria, a litre of petrol is N97; a litre of palm oil is N300. Who says agriculture is then not more profitable to our economy and job creation than crude oil?

   Today, Nollywood is the second largest industry in the world and our entertainment practitioners in music and movies are far more influential in several situations than even our President or our legislators? Yet, we keep producing low budget movies as a result of lack of man power and professional expertise in the industry?

   The highest numbers of technology start-ups in Africa today are in Nigeria. We house the widest E-commerce and online shopping platforms on the continent. On Jobberman.com, there are more than 1000 jobs that are social media related roles; they offer at least, N50, 000 as monthly remuneration. That is a good way to start but alas, our favorite Latin maxim, states thus “Nemo dat quod non habet” which literarily means in English Language “You cannot give what you don’t have” Gentleman and lady *tap your shoulders from the back*, learn a new skill today.

   Everyone these days is a graduate. Not everyone can make magic happen with his hands. That is your competitive edge and advantage.

   In the end, it’s not just about earning a living. Your standard of living must not be at par with that of animals. If you have a brain in your head, a skill in your hands, you can tell your feet to go wherever in life you desire, whatever feat to which you aspire.

EAT should be the Focus of every Nigerian youth now. 1. Entertainment + Agriculture + Technology = EAT – All other sectors in our country depend on these three Key Areas in one way or the other. 2. EAT – To take into the mouth and swallow for nourishment; chew and swallow (food) – www.dictionary.com.

  It is the way forward, our people. The poor, the rich, the privileged, and the deprived – We must all EAT. It is at the core of our living. It should be the priority of our three tiers of government and the private sector.

   It is time we sought redress from our political leaders. It is time to know who that councilor, local government council chairman, House of Representatives member, senator, governor and president are. It is time to make our votes count. It is time for us to forget who we are and look forward to what we want to become. It is time to look beyond that degree and embrace skill acquisition. It is time to decide how you want to live your life, decide your career, fashion out a road map for yourself, break out from the routine. It is time for us to be more involved in our future. It is time for us to start celebrating.

• Akerele and Omotuyi are of Risenetworks in Lagos, organizers of the 2014 United Nations International Youth Day Event in Nigeria to critically analyze the challenges faced by Nigeria’s Youth and speak to the current realities that affect their mental state of wellbeing. Twitter – @risenetworks. Facebook – RISE GROUP

The YOUTHSPEAK Column which is published daily, on weekdays, on the back cover of THE GUARDIAN Newspaper, is powered by RISE NETWORKS, Nigeria’s Leading Youth and Education Development Social Enterprise, as a substantial advocacy platform available for ALL Nigerian Youth to engage Leadership at all levels, engage Society and contribute to National Discourse on diverse issues especially those that are peculiar to Nigeria.

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