We welcome with open arms the new Nigerian National Youth Day which has already been celebrated on Sunday, November 1, 2020. Coming so soon on the hot trail of the recently-ended #EndSARS protest, which involved the youth in 20 states wielding Nigeria’s flag, chanting patriotic songs and calling for better governance, the youth should see this Day as auspicious for the renewal of their commitment for the uplift of Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been extending a series of gestures to the youth since that protest which was later hijacked by criminals. He ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to carry out reforms which later culminated in the renaming of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad, F-SARS, to the Special Weapons and Tactics, SWAT.
He also pledged to ensure “far-reaching” reforms of the police, invited the youth for dialogue and has activated the N75bn 2020 – 2023 National Youth Investment Fund, NYIF, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The Fund is expected to cater for startups and existing businesses in vital sectors of the economy aimed at creating at least 500,000 jobs within the next three years.
These are commendable measures, but we consider them part of the immediate reactions to the demands of the Nigerian youth. They will end up being merely cosmetic and diversionary unless the systemic re-engineering required to make Nigeria a more progressive country is done.
For decades, the Nigerian youth had abandoned their role of being our socio-political dynamos and vanguards for genuine progressive change. Due to years of being abnegated and used to promote the criminal designs of military politicians and their civilian successors, the youth were satisfied to be used to scupper their own future. Youth associations, both on and off campuses, were funded by evil politicians and used to wreck our democracy and prevent good governance.
Many well-meaning Nigerians see the recent #EndSARS protests as a reawakening of the youth to the fact that Nigeria is sinking and doomed unless radical changes are designed and deployed to improve the quality and texture of governance.
It was a protest unlike any other. For the first time in living memory, aggrieved Nigerian youth upheld, rather than emasculated, the nation in their moment of anger and frustration. Working with their compatriots in the Diaspora, they shunned ethnic, religious and sectional schisms, catered for one another, desisted from violating fellow citizens and thus sparked worldwide buy-in support. It was government’s mismanagement of the event that brought out the hoodlums.
We call on the youth to see this opportunity as a renewal of their mandate to fight for and help forge a new direction for the country. They should not relent or return to sleep.
Their time has come.