By Tufayl Olamilekan Adelakun
According to a recent study carried out by Mercy Corps, many of the active members of terrorist groups – especially in the West African region – willfully joined or were forcefully conscripted from the large pool of unemployed youth. The Nigerian youth must seek to contribute their quota to building a peaceful nation by embracing peaceful coexistence across divides.
When the Giant of Africa gained her much-expected independence from the British colonial government, the joy on the faces of Nigerians that witnessed the celebration had no bounds; there were great expectations that heralded the event. But alas! More than 60 years later, the sickening situation of the country has cast aspersions on her future. The question that keeps ringing in the heart of many is: is this the same country the founding fathers laid the foundations of in 1960?
Moving further, we have two options as we seek to address the challenges bedeviling this blessed country. On one hand, is managing the poor condition of the country where corruption, insecurity, poverty, and injustice are the order of the day. While on the other end, choosing to chart a new course for a new Nigeria where justice, peace, progress, national development becomes the order of the day. This can only be championed by energetic, passionate citizens who are hungry for development and greatness.
The global youth population: between the ages 15 and 24 years according to the United Nations Organization (UNO) is estimated at 1.8 Billion – 19% of the world’s population. Africa possesses the highest youth in the world, with Nigeria possessing the highest youth population in Africa. The youth is of course the key stakeholder in championing the course for a new Nigeria. The subsequent paragraphs suggest the roles the Nigerian youth can play in charting a new course:
Of utmost importance to building a better and new Nigeria is the need for young people to explore the political space of the country. Young people have innovative ideas that are useful assets to national development and as such, there is a need for them to participate in the political process. Reflecting on our history during the first republic shows us young people playing active roles in the governance of the country. Col Yakubu Gowon became the Head of state at the age of 28, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo became the Head of state in 1976 at a young age. Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Ibrahim Waziri became Federal Ministers in their 20s. This is a strong indicator that young people can be strong agents of national development in the emergence of a new and better Nigeria, provided that they are ready to play an active role in the political space.
Young people also have a key responsibility to play in building a peaceful and safe Nigeria because the young people across the globe are key stakeholders in peacebuilding. According to a recent study carried out by Mercy Corps, many of the active members of terrorist groups – especially in the West African region – willfully joined or were forcefully conscripted from the large pool of unemployed youth. The Nigerian youth must seek to contribute their quota to building a peaceful nation by embracing peaceful coexistence across divides.
The Central African Republic is a good model that has exemplified this. One of the key initiatives that were adopted by the young people in peacebuilding is through the inter-faith platform of the Central African Youth (PIJCA) whose aim was to prevent and manage sectarian conflicts in the country by promoting peace and rebuilding the affected communities. This group’s activities were very prominent at the peak of the violence in Bangui as the initiative succeeded in persuading the belligerent groups in working towards a peaceful mediation.
In addition, young people must learn to deploy their knowledge in addressing the challenges bedeviling the nation through effective means such as national dialogue. Algeria was able to interrogate the major factors that were responsible for the various challenges facing young people and find local solutions to these identified issues using peaceful dialogue methods. Dialogue remains a key tool in peacebuilding and, as such, there is a need for the voices of young people to be heard from the local to the national level by giving them the chance to express their grievances.
Going further, without any iota of doubt, young people across the globe have an extensive network within their various communities, and the fluency with which they use social media to disseminate their messages are unique assets to the promotion of love, tolerance, and national development across the globe. Social media, if properly deployed can be used to help spread peace, encourage dialogue, sensitize young people across all divides, religions, ethnic groups, political affiliations. The Nigerian youth must collectively deploy social media in promoting values that can strengthen national unity.
In Conclusion, young people represent not only the key stakeholders in national development but also a key risk factor if they are not properly harnessed. Hence, to build a new Nigeria, young people are the key pillars that the country depends on. The National Youths Development Policy asserts that:
Youths are the foundation of a society. Their energies, inventiveness, character, and orientation define the pace of development and security of a nation. Through their creative talents and labor power, a nation makes giant strides in economic development and socio-political attainments. In their dreams and hopes, a nation founds her motivation; on their energies, she builds her vitality and purpose. And because of their dreams and aspirations, the future of a nation is assured.
Adelakun Tufayl Olamilekan is a recent Graduate of History and International Studies from Lagos State University. He can be reached out to on: [email protected]