TODAY, August 12, 2022, is the International Youth Day. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, set aside this day to celebrate roles that youths play in advancing society, and to draw attention to the challenges they face in their respective corners of the world.

The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Inter-generational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. In his message to mark this occasion, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, declared: “We need people of all ages, young and old alike, to join forces to build a better world for all…when young people are shut out of the decisions being made about their lives… we all lose”.

This wise saying by Guterres encapsulates the situation that Nigeria now finds itself in as a result of the selfish manipulation and marginalisation of the youth, especially those from the grassroots. Over 30 years ago when Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka lamented about the “wasted generation”, he was referring to the situation in Nigeria whereby young people who should be the leaders of tomorrow never get the chance to actualise that lofty dream.

From the wasted generation of the 1980s we have added another layer of unfulfilled youth which is already giving way to another generation. And, as the UN Scribe rightly put it: “we all lose”.

It is a sad irony that the immediate post-independence youth who served in the army and used it to dethrone our democracy, mounted the national cake like rapacious ants simply because they fought a civil war. Most of them are in their 80s, yet they are either still in power or plugged in their family members, cronies or acolytes.

This has created a system where the children of the poor find it difficult to achieve fulfillment. Poverty is weaponised against them. They are paid pittances to risk their lives to rig politicians into power. Once in power, the politicians forget all about them. The educational system has been impoverished and rendered epileptic. Youth who graduate from the public universities can’t find jobs. When they find it, most of them are “unemployable”.

After the #EndSARS protests which culminated in the Lekki Toll Gate massacre of October 20, 2020, the Nigerian youth have rediscovered their spirit. They are now ready to take back their country. The massive rush for the recent Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, registration and the unprecedented selfless activism for presidential candidates of their choice prove it. Over 70 per cent of those who recently registered for the INEC’s PVCs are the youth.

The 2023 general elections present not just the youth but the entire nation with a choice to maintain the status quo of the past 23 years or help rebuild Nigeria.

The youth must seize this moment!

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