Drums rolling, National Youth Service Corps members in Benue State engage in a march past as the police band professionally plays away. “No time to tarry and stare, join the craze”, they seem to scream. This 2011 International Youth Day Celebration in Benue was tagged: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. In the past, I gloated about giving a speech during this high profile parade, but today I have lots of questions.
The International Youth Day (IYD) was started in 1985 by the UN to serve as: “a platform to strengthen national capacities in the field of youth development and to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people for full effective and constructive participation in society.” The theme for this year’s International Youth Day “Change our World” was a global invitation to youths to develop initiatives that transcends their local boundaries.
But I wonder, how can a young person in Nigeria change his world without “NEPA” – electric power? Nevertheless he must prepare for an examination he is not sure to write. Reason being that his lecturers are on strike and the school gates locked. How can a young Nigerian change his world? By employing himself in the English Premier League as an unpaid street commentator who can reel out names of every player on the pitch, analyze every move and tell how much each player was bought plus every other detail? He has no paid job as his government has shown no real commitment to tackling unemployment. In some quarters, he is called “half baked graduate”. Yea, how can a young girl in Nigeria change her world?
Faced by this blank nothingness, will it not be mere naive hope to dare change our world? With this gloomy landscape, who will prod the Nigerian youth to be this agent of change?
Yes we are plagued by odds, obstacles and obstructions but we truly have no other option than to transform our clime. For if we don’t, no one will. We must begin to act. Not just because we want to act or can act, but because this is our time.
Lately, there has been an awakening among young people. Platforms like the Vote or Quench and ACTIVISTA Nigeria point to the fact that just like me, many young people in Nigeria are tired of a system that promotes injustice, cruelty and immorality. But more, we also recognise that we cannot forever shrug our shoulders and blame the system. My trainer in the blogger swarm would say, never speaks of the problem without talking about the solution. Ken Saro-Wiwa is even blunter: “in a situation as critical as Nigeria’s it is idle merely to sit and watch or record goons and bumpkins run the nation aground and dehumanise the people.”
The international Youth day is not a day to politic as all over the country, our government does, but it is an avenue to bring youth issues to the fore. The UN Secretary General in his message to mark the day says that:
the international community must continue to work together to expand the horizons of opportunity for these young women and men and answer their legitimate demands for dignity, development and decent work. Failing to invest in our youth is a false economy. Investments in young people will pay great dividends in a better future for all.
If we fold our arms and look on, we WILL lose. If we get up and act, we MAY lose. I choose to join forces with the progressive who decide to act.