One calm Sunday evening in the sedate and alluring green neighbourhood of Canaanland, Ota, I took a walk down to the home of a senior colleague and mentor, a professor, on a visit, with the view to engaging him in our usual discourse of the ‘National Question’. In our characteristic manner, we pick one topical issue after another, subjecting them to critical analysis and coming up with conclusions, sometimes cynical, and sometimes hopeful. But we always end up identifying a recurring variable that explicates the spectre of national abyss: the failure of the Nigerian State.
A particularly sore issue we identified that evening, and bemoaned was the perennial and melodramatic state of obfuscation in Nigeria pertaining to the disincentive toward its youths. For once, we left the issue of the complete disaster of national power supply. We ignored the perpetual state of ethnic and religious violence in relational contexts. We managed to leave out the booby traps and potholes in Ogun State and elsewhere called Nigerian roads. The spate of insecurity characterized by kidnapping, ritual killings and bombings were momentarily excused. That day, we were rather irked by the apparent lack of policy to arrest the growing haplessness of the Nigerian youth, who, by the obvious ineptitude of government, is reduced to a hawker, a survivalist of sorts, in the face of the enormity of dangers along the highways. Aside road mishap, there is also the tendency towards a metamorphosis into a gangster, armed robber, car jerker, ATM exploder, shoplifter, or pick-pocket.
The Nigerian youth is obviously not properly positioned for the future task of leadership. His nationalistic zeal, physical agility, value potential, and destiny are wasted against the backdrop of the absence of a systemic program or national policy to realize his potentials. Even the political space where most lazy and never-do-well school drop-outs end up, is congested with the old brigades and the only available vacancies are those for political thugs and jobbers for which the uneducated, half-educated, or the educated but jobless youths are employable. This is only possible in the animal kingdom where there is more of irrationality, irresponsible government and an unthinking populace.
As we continued our discussion in around 11.p.m. in the Professors’ Village of the Covenant University New Estate, I shared my latest encounter of how a teenager hawking “gala” was almost sandwiched by two trailers in front of the Union Bank in Oju-Ore in Ota, in the course of patronage by certain occupants of a Toyota Camry salon car. Generally, the numerous hawkers and touts at Oju-Ore in Ota present a picture of the looming disaster in the nation in the face of the breeding of irresponsible youths. The situation on all major Nigerian roads is the same. Hundreds of kids who should be in school pour into the roads during school hours to hawk snacks, bread, water, soda, newspapers, telephone recharge cards, etc.
Side by side the hawkers are the ‘area boys’. These ones are always on hand to uniquely “control” traffic. After “creating passage” for motorists, they hail them and demand grafts. The Thereafter, they head for booze and marijuana, returning, eyes red, voices cracked, to the roads. Interestingly but unfortunately, these trends have been noticeable right from our secondary school days; and yet the situation has remained exactly the same. One can imagine how many hundreds of thousands of youths have been wasted in the process. With perpetuation of poor leadership, the size of the wasted generation keeps increasing. One can then do a rough calculation of the number of potential leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs, and superstars that an irresponsible leadership from the late 1980s, has frittered away.
However, security is always the guinea pig to sacrifice on the altar of irresponsibility. One of the cost implications is that the underfed hawker or area-boy in the day time may turn out to be the armed robber, assassin, or kidnapper for ritual killers in the night. When out of office, the leader himself (or his relatives) might later become the victims of the gangsters he had raised by his previous poor leadership. Poetic justice.
The faces of the underfed and struggling youngsters desperate for survival that we see every day on our major roads are the faces of a hounded species. They represent the symbols of a wasted generation. Indeed, the phenomenon is symptomatic of a wasteful nation that has no vision or purpose for a systematic empowerment and ennoblement of its youths for a regeneration of the state. Such a nation, has signed a contract with Doomsday.
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To properly position our youths for the plethora of daunting tasks of nation-building ahead, a new education policy by which every Nigerian would be entitled to a qualitative and absolutely free education from the nursery to secondary school, has to be introduced. Money from excess crude profits alone could be utilized to run a free education scheme for the less privileged. Similarly, vocational centres of learning for those who do not have the capacity for formal education should also be established and managed by the Ministry of Education. The corporate world should enter into a synergy with serious-minded government to boost the poverty reduction schemes. These could be in the areas of provision of loans for farming, SMEs, transportation business, establishment of centres of entrepreneurial development studies for personal capacity development, and development of business ideas.
By these, the area-boys and political thugs would be brought out of idleness to be positively engaged. These would empower the youths and take them out of the cold…out of the wild world that could destroy them and by extension, the nation.
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