June 26, 2020

Understanding the next generation of Nigeria’s leaders

Politics, policy

Nigeria Map

By Simon Abah

EARLY experiences in life shape a person’s worldview. Human beings are unique and complex and members of a particular generation are defined by their common values and mutual experiences.

I grew up at a time when the only television station, NTA, started transmission at 4.00p.m. I still remember the shades’ of the rainbow on Nigerian Television Authority before the national anthem leading to the day’s schedule of programmes? And NTA rounded off the day’s transmission at 12 midnight.

We watched only a handful of cartoons such as Voltron, Thunderbird and Thundersub. We saw a trickle of programmes such as Sesame Street, Muppet show, Cockcrow at Dawn, Village Headmaster, Mirror in the Sun, Basi and Company, Supple Blues, Behind the Clouds, Fortunes, Check Mate, Magana Jari ce; and on weekends we were treated to Indian movies and Tales By Moonlight.

We knew newscasters such as Frank Olize, Hauwa Baba Ahmed (soon after Hauwa Shuaibu Galma), Namsel Nimyel, Tokunbo Ajayi, Cyril Stober, Ronke Ayuba, John Momoh, Eugenia Abu, Elisabeth Nze, Ruth Benamaisia Opia, Sienne Razaq Lawal (Allwell-Brown).

We ran errands for our neighbours with joy and on many occasions we were reprimanded by them when we behaved badly. Girls plaited their hairs with thread, played ten-ten, never chewed gums because those who chewed gums making the tooting sound were considered loose in those days.

Many Nigerians of my era went to school by themselves, dragging the hands of siblings along, trekking distances. A lot of us didn’t have the luxury of being driven to school. Several worked after secondary school, bought JAMB forms themselves. For the most part, we knew no other form of government other than military rule; we saw the trajectory of successive governments give odd reasons to justify why they had to topple the government before them and they even behaved badly than their predecessors in office.

These happenings shaped the characteristics of my generation in many ways: we were loyal to the state, patriotic, never questioned authority, confident, principled, and sacrificed for the common good. Children born after my generation and nowadays have Helicopter parents willing to join issues with fellow citizens for correcting their children.

There are 24-hour television stations now with arrays of shows to choose from away from the ones we grew up viewing. Cartoon networks here and now pop up obscene scenes that need parental control. They were born in the technology era, with smart phones which they use to access ready information. Gone are the days when people born in my generation looked-for jobs and, worked their way to the top and remained there until retirement.

The digital natives now are in a hurry and have an entrepreneurial outlook; they transit from one company to another. They want to work in big establishments with massive corporate headquarters; these natives having watched their parents lose jobs and suffered financial downturns are in a hurry to be in the big-league.

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It is binding on the managers of the country’s affairs – those born in a different era- to not abandon the youths now because of the values which they believe in, values which are poles apart from the ones they worked with and believed in. Times are changing gradually, and with it some values. The abandonment of Nigeria’s youths because of their ideals, which by the way are values of the era they were born in, can push them to crime.

Nigeria cannot build the nation of her dreams without understanding the youths of today and what motivates them. The government should help youths to develop skills and abilities to contribute to the well-being of selves, society and the country. The understanding of each generation’s practices and preferences so as to communicate better with them for national growth cannot be exaggerated. An old adage after all has it that: “People resemble their times more than they resemble their parents.”

When I engage with youths around me I see that they have strong preferences for immediate access to information; they love to work in establishments that offer generous pay package, they abhor being startups, they learn best by observation and practice away from reading and listening and care more about money than people of my own generation.

I observe that they are far more socially alert than I was at their age; are not as conservative as I was at their age – intelligent, with a global outlook, and parents have a stranglehold on their career path than parents of my generation. Parents look for jobs for youths now and many find it hard to do such jobs, especially if they consider it beneath them. Some rather prefer to do ‘deals’ than to earn money monthly.

Youths of this era have a very short attention span because they are always in a hurry; they can multitask but not efficient in rounding off projects, they do not fancy being corrected publicly but privately and love to sidestep established authority to get their ways in the workplace, they do not believe in hierarchy.

These events shape the characteristics of the new-fangled generation in many ways: they question authority and the status quo; they have helicopter parents, born in an era of moral crisis, violence: Boko Haram, militancy, ritualists, 419, religious bigotry, herders and farmers clashes, banditry, politics without conviction, no national heroes, and mental thuggery, listen to music that must be loud with no content and they look for own interest not the common good.

Nigeria can benefit a lot from the next generations if proper strategy is deplored to understand them. Understanding must go with the acknowledgement that everyone is different and life’s journeys can never be the same. They are only different due to their experiences which are products of the time and space they were born in.

It would be a disservice to Nigeria to give youths of the moment leadership positions without grooming them rightly for these future leadership positions. This generation prefers to be set up for success unlike others before them that took the chance to be successful. They prefer to work to spend and not to save, how can they, therefore, save to build the national economy if not coached to do so? They need to be shown the future.

The members of my generation lived to work and enjoyed work, youngsters’ now work to spend if they even live at all. Coaching and mentoring clinics and programmes need to be established so they can learn the importance of collaboration, how to handle proper communication, and the proper qualities valued in national leadership positions such as honesty and integrity.

Abah, a teacher, speaker, campaigner and consultant, wrote from Abuja