By Rotimi Fasan
THE national focus on issues of corruption, the health of the president and the practice of federalism has taken us away from equally important matters of national existence. Day in and day out, from one month to another, Nigerians concentrate all their efforts on debating how the war against corruption ought to be fought, who should lead the fight and against whom. When we turn attention away from that we zero in on the closely related issue of the performance or otherwise of the Buhari administration, and how the health of the president might be complicating things on this end. At other times we are distracted, rather deliberately it’s becoming clear, by the perennial turf war between the executive and the legislative arms of government, most of the point of disagreement, again, caused by the good old issue of corruption and how to fight it. Rarely, these days, do we spare any thought for how life is being lived in other areas of our national life.
It’s for this reason that not much attention, it appears, is being paid to the education of young Nigerians. Indeed matters of education don’t seem to cut much ice with the country’s leadership. Except when we are confronted with crisis situations our leaders seldom have anything worthwhile to say or do about the education of the young. Yes, there are the laments about the poor standard of education; about the laidback nature of today’s school children. We talk all too glibly about how low the educational standard has fallen and about how today’s university graduates cannot hold a candle to the standard six school leavers of yesteryears. We are all, especially our policy makers who are part of the older generations, glued to the past, nostalgic about the ‘good old days’. But we hardly do anything to make today livable for those who have no experience of the past we so much like to rhapsodize about.
Our children and others of the younger generations grow right under our nose without us ever being aware of the kind of future we are creating or making inevitable for them. Thus in addition to our corrupt ways that have robbed young Nigerians of a meaningful future, we unleash unimaginable social and political violence on them but still expect them to remain the same and turn out to be good citizens. While our children are not being given any type of quality education, we are yet making them victims of the deadly antics of religious and social deviants who have turned everyone into objects of terror. Where they’ve not been turned into suicide bombers, they are bombed into oblivion by insurgents or kidnapped for ransom by common criminals who demand tens of millions of naira before they are released. Those able to make it beyond the level of secondary or university education cannot find jobs of any kind to compensate for the long years of struggling through school.
But the deviants our children transform into were in the making long before they made it beyond school. These days cultism have become a way of life in many schools and drug use, prostitution and sexual violence are now common practices among young school boys and girls. By the time they make it to the colleges of education, polytechnics and universities they would have acquired professional competence in criminalities of different kinds. Cyber crime, kidnapping and armed robbery would have become just another way of living among others. This is the point when society resort to panic measures aimed at making responsible citizens of people who grew up as social deviants and delinquents. But rather than accept its complicity in creating such dysfunctional human beings, the same people who failed to perform their role by their children go ahead to punish the so-called leaders of tomorrow.
It’s close to two months now when some ten school boys were abducted from their school in Epe. After many threats of arresting and bringing their abductors to book, all there is to show now are empty promises that have brought everyone to where the entire saga started from: the point of helplessness. The police don’t seem to have any clue as to how to bring the children back home and the hapless parents of these children have nothing to do but to run around to look for money they don’t have to secure the release of their children. If tomorrow comes and these children refuse to go to school, we would be the first to call them names and compare them to children from a past when the world was not out of joint, a past when children listened to their parents. But for now very little is being done to secure the future of the young or give them a sense that they have any stake in the society we deceive ourselves belongs to all of us.
It may sound like a cliché but it’s a cliché worth repeating over and again: the Nigerian system is failing the young so badly. This is a system that is not aimed at producing responsible citizens. The future looks ever so bleak that only a small segment of the population of young Nigerians can look to the future with hope. Many of today’s young people have nothing but bad examples to emulate. Not in a polity in which law makers are the first to break the law and so-called royal fathers fake their own kidnapping or are godfathers of kidnappers and armed robbers. Our leaders have thoughts only for themselves and how to amass wealth for their unborn generations. The race is always to outsmart the people and live opulently at their expense. The commonwealth which has since become personal wealth is used not for the development of the country. Everything is expatriated to other parts of the world where it is locked away in secret locations and bank accounts.
If truly the future belongs to the young, if truly Nigerian leaders believe themselves for a moment and have any trust in their worn claim that today’s children and other young people are the leaders of tomorrow, then they would stop their deliberate pillaging of the treasury. The wicked criminality of the Nigerian leadership is the very reason the youths of this country will see no point in buying into the argument that we are all equal stake holders in the future sustenance of the country. If there is much talk among the youth about the dismemberment of this country, if there is little or no regard for talks about the continued unity of Nigeria, it is because there is hardly anything good such unity has brought to the young who have had and have continued to bear the pain of being Nigerians.