FEATURES: The youth, national development and security
October 27, 2011 15:45
NANFeature/Vol.5/No.230/2011 (Oct. 27)
The youth, national development and security
By Femi Ogunshola, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Chike, a 25-year-old man, was apprehended on the Lagos-Benin-Ore road while robbing commuters sometime last year.
The man later confessed that he got entangled in the armed robbery web, after failing to secure a job after graduation.
Rita, a 26-year-old graduate of a university in the southeastern part of Nigeria, said that she became a prostitute after failing to get a job in Abuja.
These two young Nigerians exemplify several others who got involved in crime and other anti-social activities, after making unsuccessful moves to earn a living in more honourable and socially acceptable ways.
Such instances compel concerned observers to bemoan the absence of good youth development and employment strategies and policies in the country.
They insist that for Nigeria to attain and retain sustainable development, the government should make tangible efforts to promote the interests of the youth, while nurturing them to become good leaders in the future.
This is because youths are generally believed to be the agents of change and growth in the society, if they are well-prepared, well-mentored and well-equipped.
However, the government is not unmindful of the pivotal roles it has to play in initiating and implementing youth-development plans and schemes.
The Minister of Youth Development, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said that Nigeria’s youth population constituted a critical resource for economic growth.
Speaking at a ministerial press briefing to mark President Goodluck Jonathan’s 100 days in office recently, Abdullahi said that youths, who constituted about 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population, ought to be groomed for sustainable development and national transformation.
The minister said that the contributions of young Nigerians to nation building had been compromised by challenges such as unemployment, limited marketability skills, low entrepreneurial bias and limited access to credit.
He observed that most of the country’s youth had consequently become cynical, disoriented, dysfunctional and alienated.
``Our present economic growth rate could mask the extent of youth deprivation in the country.
`` Rather than be taken in by the seemingly robust growth, we should learn proactively from the recent experience in North Africa and Middle East,’’ he said.
``Tunisia, for example, had a steady growth rate of about 9 per cent but despite that healthy outlook, it was the first country to erupt when the simmering anger of its deprived and frustrated youths eventually boiled to the surface,`` he added.
Abdullahi, nonetheless, noted that Nigeria was blessed with abundant youth population, adding that a projection had shown that Nigeria’s most important resource by 2030 would be its youth.
He reiterated that the youths, given their size, energy, passion and creativity, ought to be a critical resource for Nigeria’s economic growth, sustainable development and national transformation.
He, nonetheless, warned that Nigeria’s youth population could either turn out to be a demographic dividend or a demographic disaster, stressing that it was very imperative to harness the potential of the youth.
The minister gave the assurance that government’s policies and programmes would strive to remove the perceptible constraints to youth development, while scaling up investments to fully harness the potential of youths.
Sharing similar sentiments, Alhaji Idi Farouk, the Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), at a recent seminar on youth development and security management, stressed the need for decision makers to engage the youth in development projects.
He said that Nigerian youths had vital roles to play in facilitating sustainable development, adding that the rights of the youth must, however, be protected.
``They must be deliberately provided with the enabling environment to allow them to get directly involved in decision making processes, especially those that affect their lives and future,`` he said
Farouk said that youths, who had been adequately educated, trained, exposed and empowered with the right skills, were those who could meaningfully contribute to national development.
He implored the government and the private sector to provide an enabling environment for youth development, while calling on young Nigerians to develop their capacity, to enable them to become useful to themselves and the nation at large.
The NOA boss urged the youth to initiate innovative self-development schemes, advising them that the government alone could not provide jobs for every citizen.
``The youths should stop blaming government for the dearth of jobs; they should rather develop their latent potential and engage in skills acquisition ventures,’’ he said.
However, Mr Olawale Ajani, the President of National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), urged the Federal Government to look beyond job creation for the youth and focus its attention more on skills acquisition programmes.
``The Federal Government should empower people who want to start their own business. Government should look more into entrepreneurship and skills development schemes and talk less about job creation,’’ he said.
Ajani urged the government to look into ways of engaging the youths to start proffering solutions to issues that concerned them.
``The government intends to create jobs for youths; the young citizens ought to be directly involved in efforts to create jobs. The government should know what they want because not all of them want paid employment.
``There are those who want to learn skills, those who want to go into business and of course, there are those who want paid jobs. We must identify these groups and then provide the needed help,'' he said.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in its 2011 report on youth unemployment in the country, put the unemployment figure at 41.6 per cent.
Unemployed youths, under the aegis of Nigerian Unemployed Youth Vanguard (NUYV), once threatened to stage a peaceful protest on Oct. 1 over the worsening unemployment situation in the country.
However, the group shelved its plans to demonstrate on that day, citing security reasons thrown up by menacing threats by some groups, including the Boko Haram, to bomb some strategic locations in Abuja.
Besides, Mr Femi Osabini, the immediate-past President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), lamented that more than 70 per cent of the country’s youths were unemployed.
He stressed that issues relating to unemployment ought to be tackled frontally because growing unemployment could provoke serious security problems.
Sharing similar sentiments, an NGO, ``Childcare and Youth Development'' (CCYD), stressed that the youths had critical roles to play in tackling the menace of insecurity in the country.
Dr Isaac Abhuere, the Chief Executive Officer of CCYD, said that if the youths were productive and engaged in a more meaningful way, some of the crises bedevilling the country could have been avoided.
``Let us be very frank, check the NYSC members who are on national service, they have not been found wanting; they have been working and helping the community.
``So, the people who are used as cannon fodder in fomenting troubles are youths who probably didn’t go to school; those who are school dropouts and are probably doing nothing,’’ he said.
Abhure stressed that the youths had suffered a lot of neglect, in terms of economic empowerment and integration into national development schemes, thereby compelling them to engage in all kinds of vices.
He called on state and local governments to step up youth empowerment activities, so as to engage the youths and make them useful agents in the nation-building process.
``If each state and local government can initiate innovative youth empowerment programmes, Nigeria’s socio-economic development will be guaranteed.
``Failure to plan well for youth empowerment is tantamount to planning to fail,’’ he said.
Abhuere said that if the national youth policy was strengthened, there would be a better, well-structured development of the country’s youths.
He particularly urged the states to intensify their youth development programmes, adding that such efforts would invariably arrest certain trends that were inimical to the country’s development.
Abhure called on the government at all levels to see youth development as a priority venture, so as to avoid the menace of having a large army of unemployed youths.
He solicited collective action to tackle the growing menace of insecurity in the country, stressing that innovative youth development ideas and strategies should be put in place to combat it.
However, the Federal Government appears well-positioned to address some of the challenges facing Nigerian youths, according to the youth development minister.
Abdullahi said that the government would soon put in place a number of initiatives to tackle the problems of the youth.
He said that the programme, currently being designed by the ministry, would ensure that all the challenges facing the youth were addressed in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
``Little is being done to involve the youth in the design of programmes put in place for them. So, most of these youth-targeted interventions fail because they do not reflect the needs of their intended beneficiaries, `` he said
Abdullahi pledged that the challenges facing the country’s youths would be tackled in a pragmatic way via the National Youth Fund (NYF), which would enable youths to have access to finance for self-development projects.
He reiterated the government’s determination to protect the interests of the youth, adding that the policy thrust was aimed combating crime, youth restiveness, political violence and thuggery, as well as religious extremism.
He said that the focus of the government’s youth development programme was on skills acquisition, enterprise development and project funding arrangements.
All said and done, experts believe that the country’s youths will soon experience a remarkable turn-around, as they will be repositioned to play fundamental roles in Nigeria’s development process. (NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)