(By Adams Abonu)
“Enter the pathetic state of the youths who are the very trustees of our national posterity. The quality of life of the average Nigerian youth has been everything but encouraging, saying the least. Not only has the values of hard work, industry, innovation, etc, gradually declined to an all-time low, there has also been little or no conscious effort on the parts of individuals, governmental and nongovernmental bodies, the civil society and organised interests, to reverse this negative trend which portends more calamity than being at present experienced“.
SOMETIME in 2005, as an undergraduate at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, I encountered Senator Saidu Dansadau, then senator representing Zamfara State in the National Assembly of Nigeria. This was at the sidelines of an event organised by the African Union Student Club which I subscribed to despite flouting the Studencaptionts Democratic Vanguard myself. After a well attended symposium at the Assembly Hall of ABU, where the Senator was lead paper presenter, I tried my best to tear through the crowd of admirers purportedly to have a brief interaction with him. I had watched him on national television during the constitutional amendment debates and his was always colourful and incisive which endeared me to his personality. Unfortunately, Senator Dansadau apparently mistook me to be one among the crowd of praise singers that usually besiege public officials in earnest expectation of their own share of “national largesse” as he charged past me with abandon, thus ending my anticipation for a fruitful engagement.
This scenario captures the plights of many a Nigerian youth in his quest for elderly mentoring that motivates his hopes and genuine aspirations for the future. Too often, the tendency to see the youths as a means to winning elections and or holding forth in office defines the relationships with the elderly generation and this creates gaps in leadership ideals.
This is a reflection of the interesting times we live in Nigeria. Our experience as a nation today betrays that Chinese adage which said “may you live in interesting times.” Our dear Nigeria isn’t only passing through trying and interesting times but we have also found ourselves in situations akin to a conundrum recently. From youth unemployment which culminated in the violence and brigandage that made a joke of our commonality recently—the Boko Haram conundrum, which proceeds the Niger Delta imbroglio, the reign of kidnappers in the East, etc- to dysfunctional and derelict infrastructural base which drove away a much needed investment sector, our beloved Nigeria appears to be dancing steadily to the brink by the day. With our current national challenges, it would only take the goodwill and sacrifice of all well-meaning compatriots to salvage whatever is left of our national heritage. And, we can get it right as a nation of great people if we consciously get a few things like mentoring the generation of the future right.
Enter the pathetic state of the youths who are the very trustees of our national posterity. The quality of life of the average Nigerian youth has been everything but encouraging, saying the least. Not only has the values of hard work, industry, innovation, etc, gradually declined to an all-time low, there has also been little or no conscious effort on the parts of individuals, governmental and nongovernmental bodies, the civil society and organised interests, to reverse this negative trend which portends more calamity than being at present experienced. For societies to grow and consolidate on the giant leaps of their progenitors, the need arises for the older generation to consciously inculcate in the youths the ideals that stood the test of times. We see how the founders of the United States (whom we like to imitate in all our dispositions) like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, et al, strove hard to bequeath a nation where the utmost priority of a fledging nation is the prospects of the tomorrow of the American people – their youths and the unborn children. These American leaders not only made the prospects of the future better for their people, they also made inspiring efforts in nurturing posterity towards sustainability. These leaders groomed successors that could build on their legacies and leave a more profound impact.
Agreeably, of the many scourges that ravage the Nigerian state, from the aforementioned to all other national woes, failure in leadership is at the centre of them all. These failures stem from the near absent leadership mentoring evident in all our national endevours. Looking back at the period preceding independence, the crop of leaders who graced national limelight that time had a pool of followers who could step into positions of power when the need arose. While the northern part of Nigeria paraded inspiring leaders like the late Sardauna of Sokoto Sir Ahmadu Bello, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Sunday Awoniyi, Adamu Ciroma, Yahaya Abubakar; the late Aminu Kano, et al, ardent followers such as Balarabe Musa, the late Abubakar Rimi, Sule Lamido, etc took over the demands of leadership after their principals quit the stage. Leaders such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and their contemporaries from the South provided a veritable platform for the continuity of their visions through replicates like Michael Opara, Sam Mbakwe, Bisi Onabanjo, Abraham Adesanya, Bola Ige, Lateef Jakande, Ayo Adebanjo, Olaniwun Ajayi, Bisi Akande and others who took up the leadership challenge after the demise of their mentors.
Unfortunately, instead of a leadership recruitment system where youths are positively influenced to embrace the challenges of leadership as observed in societies that aspire to greatness, what is obtainable is a system that exploits youthful exuberance to the detriment of our posterity. The story of an average Nigerian youth today is that of an individual who could be used by ambitious politicians to win elections and then discarded like an unwanted element afterwards.
When a debate ensued sometime ago between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida, the two most cerebral leaders to have come out of Nigeria on the responsiveness or otherwise of the youthful generation in leadership, what comes to one’s mind was the opportunities these duo had in recruiting a ready pool of leaders that could lead us to the new Nigeria of our collective dreams. While one may give credit to President Obasanjo for bringing in young and innovative leaders like Rabiu Kwankwaso, Oby Ezekwesili, Nuhu Ribadu, El Rufai and many others who did their honest best in moving our dear fatherland further on the path of development, the point need to be made for a more proactive approach to this strategic issue.
The robust population of the youthful generation provides Nigeria with a viable option to rediscovering the ideals of effective leadership. What remains is the conscious and concerted efforts in bringing out the best from this pool of human resource. Though there were instances when young leaders let down the people through unbecoming acts (remember Salisu Buhari, James Ibori, et al?), the youths of Nigeria today earnestly yearn for elderly mentoring as a panacea to correcting the many ills associated with our sociopolitical evolution.
As Nigeria grapples with the woes of leadership failure and its attendant consequences, the need arises to secure the future through rallying all critical stakeholders in the Nigeria project to give due attention to mentoring the generation that is thrust with the nation’s future.
Abonu, a citizens’ journalist wrote from Plot 1905, Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro, Abuja
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