Youth Empowerment: Equipping The Future Leaders

(By Ahmed, Razak Oluwasanjo)

Youth empowerment means different things to different people. In Nigeria it is mostly ill-defined and wrongly perceived by parents, the youth themselves and the government. Parents as major stakeholders often perceive youth empowerment as the sole responsibility of the government. The youth themselves neglect self-development and empowerment, wholly depending on white-collar jobs; while the government sees youth empowerment as an avenue to initiate policies and programmes although the programmes make little impact on their lives because they are soon hijacked by corrupt government officials for self-aggrandisement.

GENERALLY, youths are called leaders of tomorrow. It is believed that considering their strength, creativity, potentials and their tendencies not only will they outlive today’s leaders they will outshine them. Youths are the pillars upon which a nation’s future is built. This group of young people with great potentials will be great assets to any nation if their energies and creativity are tapped and utilised.

   On the other hand, considering their large population, strength and exuberance they could pose a great threat to a nation if their empowerment is neglected.  Statistics show that Nigeria has about 23 per cent unemployed who are predominantly youths, and that our country tops the chart of countries with highest children out of school, according UNESCO.

  Why call youth future leaders when their today is taken for granted? What are leaders of today doing to improve their lives for them to be leaders tomorrow?

   It is surprising that in this part of the world very little or no effort is committed to the youth to bring the best out of them as future leaders. It is a fundamental question from the Nigerian youth which has spurred me to look into youth empowerment and how various stakeholders (parents, the youth, government) can work together to bring about improvement in the lives of young people in Nigeria and create a conducive atmosphere for the realization of their dreams and aspirations, which in the long run will create in them a sense of responsibility, patriotic spirit and a yearning to serve their fatherland with love, strength and faith.

  Youth empowerment means different things to different people. In Nigeria it is mostly ill-defined and wrongly perceived by parents, the youth themselves and the government. Parents as major stakeholders often perceive youth empowerment as the sole responsibility of the government. The youth themselves neglect self-development and empowerment, wholly depending on white-collar jobs; while the government sees youth empowerment as an avenue to initiate policies and programmes although the programmes make little impact on their lives because they are soon hijacked by corrupt government officials for self-aggrandisement.

  Youth empowerment simply means all positive efforts are taken deliberately towards improving the lives of young people; efforts channeled towards developing the capacities of young ones to draw out the best out of them, bearing in mind that they are truly leaders of tomorrow. It embeds efforts from parents, youth and the government to develop young people attitudinally and creating conducive atmosphere for realisation of aspirations which will translate into reduction in youth unemployment, criminality, human capital flight and above all national development. Bearing in mind the benefits of youth empowerment and the adverse effect of its neglect, greater commitment is called for on the part of all stakeholders.

  Parents are heads of families; a family is the smallest unit in a society. Families are blocks that make up the structure of a society. This is the very first place a child has contact with, it is where characters are moulded, attitudes are formed and discipline inculcated through good upbringing. It is upbringing which forms the right basis for other empowerment. Most social vices perpetrated by youth today are a consequence of parental failure to train their children and set good examples in conduct. Good parenting goes beyond providing food, clothes and sending children to school. It is the foundation upon which other empowerment efforts, either from individuals, the youth or government, are built. Train up a child in the way he should go, is an injunction. However, it is a sickening fact that many parents send their children to special examination centres, buy results for them, bribe for admission instead of teaching and inculcating in them self-reliance, honesty, integrity, hard work and diligence. I say this without fear of contradiction: No youth from a good family will ever compromise to pass examination, bribe to gain admission, or pay N350,000 to get a federal civil service job. Good parenting empowers a youth with basic ability to face challenges and overcome them.

   Youths as stakeholders in youth empowerment have a lot to do to complement efforts from parents and the government. We should not be carried away by exuberance and the saying that we are leaders of tomorrow. Leadership is earned. We need to change our poor attitude toward self-improvement and personal empowerment. Many youths these days spend more time on social networks chatting while their education suffers. Many graduates also do nothing to improve their own lives after school, feeling that being graduates automatically qualifies them for well-paying jobs in federal civil service, NNPC or other blue chip companies.  I expect young graduates to ask themselves these questions: what is wrong in acquiring entrepreneurial skills that can make them self-employed?  Aside being a graduate what else can I do to improve my life without having to brandish my certificate?  Our nation today is demanding what one can offer not the certificate. We need to face reality. No government in the world can meet the employment needs of its citizenry 100 per cent, and how much less the Nigerian government bedeviled with corruption and leadership problems. Having this in mind will help us as youth to add value to our lives, to attract values and also embrace self-improvement and personal empowerment for self-reliance to take our destinies in our hands.

  Government, as the machinery of the state for policy formulation and implementation, has a great responsibility in ensuring the youths are empowered.  It is no news that whether in the past or now government often uses youth empowerment programmes as avenues to enrich few Nigerians and the mass of the youths for whom they are intended do not benefit directly or indirectly from them. Youth unemployment has been on the increase as Nigeria’s higher institutions continue to turn out graduates yearly without an expansive, vibrant and formidable labour market to accommodate them. This explains reasons why many a frustrated youth resorts to criminal acts for survival since the government is ready to negotiate with any group of criminals in the name of democracy and for the sake of pretended peace. Youth empowerment is a veritable way of government controlling crime and maintaining peace in a nation. With empowerment the population of jobless youths is naturally reduced.

  With Nigeria currently topping the world ranking among countries with the highest number of children out of school, a clear picture of the future of our future leaders emerges and so the need for the government to take drastic actions to tackle the situation. I will suggest that government embark on serious reforms to make our educational sector more effective and efficient. Recruitment of quality teachers with concomitant adequate remuneration, facilities needed for practical studies of science, are imperatives. Schools should also be spread to rural areas and the less privileged. Entrepreneurship and vocational training should form a part of educational curriculum. National Youth Service Corps should be compulsory one year of entrepreneurship training and skill acquisition.

   The recent laudable collaborative efforts of some patriotic youths with the Joint Task Force officers in crisis infested areas in the North points to great potentials we have in the Nigerian youths across the 36 states. Youth empowerment will indeed be a good strategy and tool to tackling crimes, ensuring peace and stability, and harnessing youth talents towards national development.

By Ahmed, Razak Oluwasanjo.

“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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