The Nigerian Youth And Challenges Of Nation-Building (1)

(By Waheed Olawole)

Nation-building, from the word itself, means all efforts or projects embarked upon by all citizens to make their country worthwhile, prosperous, pleasant, united, peaceful and buoyant to the advantage of all.  We should not be deceived that building a nation is limited only to the establishment of socio-cultural, political and economic structures. It is true that developed states of the world stand on these structures. Certain elements such as co-operation, unity and friendliness, tolerance among others must be entrenched and developed before other structures highlighted above can work. Nation-building, unlike literal building, never reaches a terminal stage. It is a continuous project which every new generation will build upon and ensure its survival for the incoming generations.

“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember you can achieve”- Mary Kay Ash

THE above saying ought to ignite fire of motivation in us as youths. Most of us who are youths are fond of heaping blames on our leaders, forgetting the fact that if we play our roles well and discharge our duties effectively, we will overshadow the so-called elders in various leadership positions in the project of nation-building. Youths, by any definition, are the most active exuberant citizens who are always within the age range of 18 and 40. Youths in any society constitute the highest percentage of the population and a force to reckon with in the process and stages of development. Their presence in any given economy gives hope that such country would get it right if the potentials of youths were properly and effectively harnessed. Youths are the hope of underdeveloped, developing and developed states of the world. There is no territory in the world with population without a category of youths forming a significant aspect of it. The only area of sharp contrast  between the youths in developed countries and those of states like Nigeria is that policies are favourably formulated and institutions well designed to create an enabling environment for them to play significant roles in the project of nation-building in the so-called developed states.

  Nation-building, from the word itself, means all efforts or projects embarked upon by all citizens to make their country worthwhile, prosperous, pleasant, united, peaceful and buoyant to the advantage of all.  We should not be deceived that building a nation is limited only to the establishment of socio-cultural, political and economic structures. It is true that developed states of the world stand on these structures. Certain elements such as co-operation, unity and friendliness, tolerance among others must be entrenched and developed before other structures highlighted above can work. Nation-building, unlike literal building, never reaches a terminal stage. It is a continuous project which every new generation will build upon and ensure its survival for the incoming generations.

  Youths, as noted above, are greater in size than other nationals, so also their challenges of participating effectively and meaningfully in nation-building are numerous and complex. The first and most popular obstacle in the way of Nigerian youths is the inability of the sit-tight leaders to create equal and enabling opportunities for all qualified youths, particularly in the business of politics. Over the years, those who have been holding the reins of power have imbibed the culture of recycling themselves. They design the system in such a way that the children of average Nigerians, with all qualifications, talents and potentials, are prevented from occupying political offices. They create a system whereby children or relatives replace them when they quit either as a result of old age or through death even if such relatives are mediocre. Since independence, it is not surprising that same names keep echoing in government. In other words, nepotism in government circles frustrates and prevents the teeming Nigerian youths who are capable of building a virile Nigeria.

   In the history of western nations like United States of America (USA), virtually all youths have always had relatively equal opportunities to participate in developing their nations.  In the formative years of U.S, Britain was the only first and only industrialised country in the world.     She hid the secrets of Industrial Revolution from the rest so that she could have an edge in the global market. A young American, Samuel Slater, the son of a commoner residing in England at the time, learnt and memorised these secrets and went back home to divulge them for his country. This was a time America was far behind Britain. By early 19th century, the brave and patriotic effort of young Slater narrowed the gap between England and America. This bravery and patriotism did not go unnoticed. He was appreciated and compensated. This compensation from the government encouraged and motivated other youths in other spheres of life to take project of nation-building as a collective responsibility. The situation is almost the other way round, and has been largely responsible for the brain drain in our country. An average youth who have qualities and potentials to develop the country seek an escape route to Europe or America for greener pastures. This is happening because the haves in government are not implementing effective policies that can favour the haves-not; the haves shield the government from the latter. This scenario, no doubt, is a big challenge to the youths, particularly to those who are willing.

   The instability of the educational system, coupled with the unfavourable and irregular policies of both the federal and state governments, has posed a serious challenge to youths in their bid and willingness to participate actively in the nation-building project. All over the world, in fact, from the time immemorial, the importance of education in building a society has never been underestimated. Despite the fact that the educational system was not as wide as net and valuable before 20th century, the American patriots that sacrificed all manner of things were raised and bred through education. The likes of George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed good and uninterrupted educational system which prepared them to resist the British hegemony in the 18th century. This factor of good educational system, coupled with other related factors, finally became the tool the Americans used to free America and put her on the path of greatness. Today, the USA is hardly second to none in terms of greatness and development.

   From the above analysis, the importance or value of education in nation building is not in doubt. The system of education has not been favourable to our own youths. Strike has become a prominent feature of the system.  Today, it is an illusion for a university undergraduate to say with certainty at the point of admission that after a four-year programme he would be a graduate. Incessant strikes do not only prolong the period of any course, it causes loss of concentration on the part of students. Nigerian undergraduates, unlike their counterparts in developed countries, hardly find it easy to contribute towards nation-building project. The system, it would appear, has been designed in a way that will only make it possible for the children of the rich to have access to the university education. Talk of school fees. These have skyrocketed resulting in more children of commoners stopping at secondary level. The more school fees scare youths from having access to the university education, the fewer qualitative youths with the right tools to build Nigeria.

    The dichotomy between the rich and poor reflects more in our educational system. The rich and influential people hardly bother if the public schools are on strike or not because their children attend schools overseas and if for any reason it has to be in Nigeria, it will be private universities where fees are unaffordable for commoners. Most of the educated elite that participated in the fight for the country’s independence joined the struggle in their youths. The likes of Hebert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo enjoyed the educational system in foreign lands which enabled them to fight a successful battle for independence back home. It is a big challenge now that the system is not effective again to encourage youths to prepare the majority for a similar big project.

   The brain-drain syndrome is not helping the situation at all. Though many combined factors led to this which cannot make one condemn or blame outrightly a crowd of youths living or striving to leave the country in droves. More than 70 per cent of Nigerians relocating from the country in search of greener pasture are youths. This development does not augur well for a country that is struggling to achieve greatness. We need to learn from the history of the developed countries. There were times in America that lives and living were unbearable, particularly during the time harsh policies were coming from the British hegemony. The people, out of love and patriotism, stayed back, endured the situation and finally succeeded in salvaging their country. This act of patriotism endures till this day and is largely responsible for the greatness America and Americans are enjoying today.

    The Nigerian youths must learn and endure to sacrifice for Nigeria. Even if you win what is greener than Green Card through visa lottery, it is obvious that it cannot change the colour of your skin. God that created you in Nigeria did so for a purpose. So, everyone has one role or the other to play in building this country and those roles will hardly be played if one is far away from his country. It is a proof of greatness and development that America is building her population through visa lottery. America has achieved virtually everything but still needs larger population to complement her achievements and this is the reason behind the visa lottery.

  The ideas, potentials, knowledge and experiences we ought to channel towards achieving greatness for our country are tactically and strategically attracted away in the name of visa lottery. Part of the signs of nation-building is for youths to be gainfully employed right in their own countries. This will enable them to contribute at least by paying all forms of tax. Though there is a challenge that the economy is not favourable, it is surmountable if we have the orientation of staying together to solve the problem. I have a strong conviction that the attitudes of most youths nowadays are not being geared towards promoting the ideals of nation-building.

To be continued.

Olawole is a historian and public affairs analyst, (08033192133, kaakaki2005@yahoo.com)

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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