Youth Empowerment and Development Drive: An Invaluable Step to Securing Nigeria’s Future Prosperity

By Ibukun Akinrinde
Recent statistics from the Ministry of Youth Development shows that 28.14 million Nigerian youths, representing 42% of the youth population, are unemployed. The statistics also indicates that 80% of the unemployed youth have only secondary school certificates and below. Some graduates have taken-up jobs that demean their worth. A number have fallen into crimes and social vices. Others have embarked on visionless emigration in search for ‘greener pastures’.
This appears irreconcilable with the fact that Nigeria has several growth reserves, which when spurred, could catapult the growth rate to 10% or more for a sustained period as China has experienced in the last two decades. For example, a substantial part of Nigeria’s productive resources remain idle – waiting to be mobilized. Only 40% of the arable land is under cultivation, with 60% lying fallow. Much of the natural resources – oil, gas, bitumen, limestone, iron ore, columbite, gold, coal, gypsum, etc. – remain untapped.
Nigeria has the 6th largest deposit of natural gas in the world, and in the next few years, income from gas will surpass earnings from oil. Also, Nigeria possesses a reserve of resourceful population which provides the potential of a sound bridge of the future. Our large and expanding youthful population could provide the continuing growth dynamite as opposed to the ageing Western population.
Then, what is the problem? No youth empowerment and development drive! According to Vivrus and Fletcher, “Youth empowerment is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people, including youths and adults.” Meanwhile, Pittman defined youth development as “the ongoing growth process in which all youth are engaged in attempting to meet their basic personal and social needs to be safe, cared for, valued, useful, and spiritually grounded; and to build needed skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives.”
A youth empowerment and development drive should take economic dimension, political dimension, and social dimension. The economic dimension should enable the youths to satisfactorily answer the question of how to meet basic human needs. Political dimension should give the youths a decisive say in governance. Social dimension will give the youths the platform to enjoy and protect social amenities provided and maintained by the government to enhance their physical and mental comfort. All these three areas of power interests are inseparable triplets. The presence of one is the security of the others. It is when the foregoing are achieved that the constitutional position that ‘the welfare and the security of the people shall be the primary aim of government,’ makes any sense in a modern society.
In light of this, the rest of this essay will be expounded from the economic perspective which brings the plights of youths Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) into consideration and how it can be resolved. This section also considers the importance of the civic virtues of volunteerism, patriotism, and philanthropy in nation-building and economic development. Another perspective is the political angle, which seeks youth involvement in national decision making process via youth-adult partnership; thereby proposing the establishment of a Youth Advocacy Council. The social perspective decries the erosion of morality, ethics and civic values and expresses the need for value orientation.
SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE
Need for Value Re-orientation
The issues of morality, ethics and values are critical to sustainable development of Nigeria. These concepts have been used by different people to mean different things, and meanings deployed depend on the cultural background of the user and the context of use. Generally however, morality, ethics or values could be collectively described as those standards of conduct that apply to everyone in the society rather than only to members of a special group. It is expected that these standards of conduct are those that every rational person in the society wants every other person to comply with. For instance, life will be lot easy if everyone queues up at the Bus-Stop, Bank/ATM, etc. In the Nigeria of 1960s and early 1970s when corruption was less pervasive in society as it is today, young Nigerians learnt from home such basic moral rules as: don’t lie; don’t kill; don’t cheat; keep your promises; don’t steal; and so on. These moral lessons were usually based on religious tenets, community mores or a combination of both. This means that by the time students were ready to enroll in the university they were morally oriented to face the challenges in the society.
Today, I do not think we can say the right level of moral preparation of young Nigerians exists in the society. In fact, some Nigerian youths have become skilled in corrupt practices by emulating the older generation, for instance, in cheating during examinations. This has further accentuated as the decay in the social values continued by the years with the attendant repercussion in terms of financial, economic, educational and political corruption.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, the incidents of and frequency of public discourse on corruption were minimal. Though corrupt practices existed in these early times of the Nigerian nation, the current dimensions have far exceeded what they used to be. The financial scandals in 2012 alone include pension funds (billions of naira), fuel subsidy (trillions of naira) and sale of OPL245 oil fields.  Corruption is now the top priority development challenge facing the three tiers of government in Nigeria.
As such, there is no doubt that all these have resulted to deep crass for materialism and poor political values (the ‘share-the-national-cake-syndrome’) among some aspiring Nigerian youths who want to get rich quickly by occupying public offices. Indeed, there is need for value re-orientation! The requisite values include exemplary leadership, integrity, concern for the welfare of the people, objectivity and truthfulness, faithfulness and reliability/dependability. The opposite of these behaviours must be avoided.
Ibukunoluwa Akinrinde, a 400 level Economics Undergraduate of the University of Lagos writes via ibukunoluwaakinrinde@gmail.com
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