By Francis Ewherido
One of my problems with some social commentators is the attempt to tie the destiny of Nigerian youths to bad governance of our leaders. If any critic has issues with politicians and government officials, criticize that official; shred him/her, if you like, but do not dampen the spirit of Nigerian youths.
While bad governance, no doubt, slows down the progress of Nigerian youths, it can never stop their march to greatness because, like Jeremiah (1:4), God has already blessed them even before they were conceived and He has handed over their destinies to them, not the government or leaders.
Nigerian youths should ignore the doomsday prophets and the pessimists. Like many other Nigerians, youths “are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”( 1 Corinthians 4:9). Eighty per cent of what will make you great is already in you by divine installation; only 20 per cent is without and that cannot hold you down. God has also deposited many talents in you to make you great. Do not dig and hide them in the ground; nurture them, build a plan around them and you are on your way to greatness. You will find many teachers and mentors along the way who will help you.
Nigeria is going through self-inflicted difficulties, but God in His infinite goodness has ensured that it is not all gloom. Progress, not all of them engineered by government, has been made. In 1995, I spent N6,000 company money (about N70, 000 today) on airport taxi and return ticket to Port Harcourt from Lagos just to stop our deputy director from a planned trip to Itakpe, Kogi State. Today such a trip will be superfluous because an SMS will convey the message.
In my university days, a course assignment can be stalled for weeks because somebody has gone to the library to borrow and “colonise” the material you need for that assignment. Not anymore; at the punch of a button, you can access the information you need online.
Technology has flung open the gates of knowledge to all. The digital age is a wonderful time to come of age. The internet is like an ocean. The opportunities and possibilities are limitless for focused and purpose-driven youths. It is also a double-edged sword; it is unbelievable what you see after some youths have used a laptop or computer. The history is one porn site to the other or fraudulent activities (“yahoo-yahoo”). The same laptop and time could have been used purposefully.
When they say standard of education has fallen, it is true. WAEC and JAMB results partly tell the sad story, but you do not have to be part of the mass failure. The school you attend might be an issue, but there are currently so many ways to acquire knowledge that any deficit from the school can easily be bridged. Some of the movers and shakers of the society you see today attended “backyard” schools.
Forget all the Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford you see on their profiles and bio-data; those were later acquisitions. Some of them are too embarrassed to acknowledge their humble antecedents or associate with their first alma mater. But the point I am making here is that if their shaky educational foundation did not hold them down why should yours, especially in this age of information avalanche.
In the 70s and 80s many students acquired degrees in computer science without ever setting their eyes on a computer. Today, even three-year-olds have access to, and know how to operate, computer devices. Financial poverty is not always the real issue because it is not all about money; lack of initiative and poverty of the mind are the real culprits.
In spite of the massive unemployment, there are employed people. They will not work forever. Some day they will go and others will replace them. New opportunities will also come for entrepreneurs to exploit and create new employments. Most times, only those who are prepared take advantage of these openings. Maintain a positive spirit; keep hope alive (what is life without hope?), flee from dream killers. Take advantage of that which is right in your environment, but also take advantage of that which is wrong by becoming a solution provider: That translates to income. Nothing good comes easy. That is why some people (the late Tai Solarin on my mind) put it bluntly that we should pray that: “may my way be rough”. The gold medal at the end is all that matters; ask Blessing Okagbare and other Nigerian Commonwealth gold medalists.
Bad governance has been with us for a while. It was there when comedians from paupers became very successful, same with musicians, music producers and music labels; actors and other movie industry players; IT specialists, sportsmen and so on; bad governance did not hold them down. Why should your case be different? There are 170 million Nigerians to feed, clothe, house, entertain, educate, inform, titillate and much more. You can do a lot in spite of bad governance.
The fight for good governance is everybody’s, so youths should be part of it. But fight harder to win your biggest battle: the art of self-mastery, which includes keeping your corner clean, because it is hypocritical to come to equity with filthy hands. That is my other problem with many social critics.
Finally, I borrow from former American President, Bill Clinton, by telling Nigerian youths that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria that cannot be cured, rectified, straightened and solved by what is right with Nigeria. Youths, you are mainly what is right with Nigeria. Go out there and unleash your enormous potentials on humanity. Tuesday, August 12, is International Youth Day. Happy celebrations.