Prof Boniface CE Egboka
The fate and faith of our youths have been mesmerized in the national firmament; youths have been highly-neglected and badly-corrupted through fraud, corruption, ethic jingoism, Stateism, sectionalism, acrid poverty, religious dichotomy, societal dysfunctions etc. One does wonder whether our leaders, past and present, see what one sees whenever one travels out of Nigeria to European or North American countries in the use of their national resources to take special care of their environment and youths. If our leaders see what one usually sees, one wonders why we fail to have progressive changes for good in this country. Our development tends to be in a reverse gear. Our past and present leaders ought to have done their best; they ought to have done much more. As one writes this paper from Brampton, Ontario, Canada, one reminisces on various observed environmental scenarios one has experienced in different countries whenever one visited places. The situations seem to have remained the same in these overseas countries but for minor positive changes that may have occurred. People are happy and disciplined while you would see comparatively-sad and grave faces at home here and there when one moves around in Nigeria. Efforts are even made in these foreign lands to provide shelter and food to the homeless poor during the harsh winter. People are allowed to move about freely without much impediments/hindrances. The roads are well-paved and macadamised; transportation systems of rail lines, buses etc. are always working regularly; the airports are lively and busy all the time. Electricity, water supplies, internet facilities, security of life and property and basic needs/utilities are working; the shops are well-stocked with cheap foods and goods for efficient services and are working maximally. The schools/universities and health institutions are nonpareil. Everyone, including the youths are given opportunities to benefit from all these services accordingly. Almost everyone including the youths are gainfully-employed by governments, private sector or are self-employed. From Mondays to Fridays, people including the youths are busy working at various places painstakingly-scouting for daily bread. You do not see any vagrants or stragglers roaming around the streets, homes, airports etc. doing nothing but posing as threats to lives and property. Most of their youths are gainfully-busy in one assignment or the other; they are not abandoned to suffer in vain. Even the few who are not lucky to be gainfully-employed are given some welfare benefits to tarry along until they secure some jobs. Almost everyone is given a sense of living or belonging in his/her country. On Saturdays and Sundays, people relax in their homes, restaurants, hotels, parks etc. There is no fear of insecurity as local, regional and national Police are active in provision of security services to all concerned. For all intents and purposes, the needs of youths of these countries are properly-planned and well-programmed with maximum seriousness.
One is not saying that the people of developed countries of the US, Canada etc. do not have socioeconomic problems. Ofcourse they have some problems with their societies and the youths; but you can see definite but genuine efforts made to tackle/solve such problems to finality. But in our country, Nigeria, there is obvious laissez-faire attitude in the manner we handle the problems of our youths. Nigerian youths are very humble, obedient, resilient, determined and reasonable; they have taken their situations/tribulations with equanimity. There are condemnable utter neglects by successive governments; they are faced with poor educational facilities; there scarce employment opportunities; no defined social welfare schemes; they bear the brunt of the insecurity menace all over the country; are forced to become immigrants and in jails in foreign countries; they are misused to become indulged in drugs, fraud and corruption in dangerous facets of life nationally and internationally; are unduly-exposed to endangering indiscipline of political gangsterism, riotous impulses, armed robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, human trafficking etc. You can’t imagine the type of school environments where our children in primary and secondary schools study and learn; the buildings are collapsing or have collapsed and the pupils have to study under trees; no water supplies or sanitation systems such that bush toiletry is a common feature. Our planners/managers seem not to underscore the special importance of primary and secondary education in nation building. These schools are where children are exposed to basic educational roots and to acquire appropriate skills to tackle higher academic challenges in tertiary institutions and other aspects of higher intellectual lives. This is why what students admitted into tertiary institutions perform poorly and usually require some retraining in their first year in the Universities before they can proceed to confront higher classes for more serious academic challenges. Our primary and secondary schools-education should be upgraded, be made compulsory and free; and be well-funded and adequately-provided with well-trained teachers and technicians who can assist children develop entrepreneurial skills for life.
Our students in Polytechnics and universities study under very discouraging and discomforting conditions. There are few available University hostels for accommodation; most students live in off-campus buildings that lack basic utilities of electricity, water, sanitation, health facilities, security etc. Even at that, thousands of youths find it most difficult to secure admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Parents and their kids would do anything under the sun to secure an admission into a University of their choice as the situations become most desperate every year. While about 30% of those qualified, become lucky to be admitted, the rest unfortunate 70% would roam wild all over the country without requisite skills, struggling for what to do. Worst of all, those who complete their degree programmes successfully after compulsory National Youth Service are confronted by the ogre of unemployment. So, today, there are thousands (if not millions) of youths who are helplessly moving about all over the county as graduates or non-graduates, roaming about aimlessly/hopelessly. Even there are many of these youths, most of who are from the northern parts of Nigeria, who do not even have primary and secondary schools experience and are illiterates that pose special problems such as the societal cancer, boko haram that has made life unbearable for Nigerians and devastated parts of the northeast and beyond.
All these educated, non-educated, semi-literate and illiterate youths roaming about on the streets in Nigeria are a major potentially-destructive menace to the nation; very serious solution that is corrective and remedial must be found if the country is not to be cannibalized when their anger explodes. Nigeria is wealthy enough to garner enough resources to cater for the welfare of her youths if fraud, bribery and corruption can be properly-checked in the country so that whatever money that is budgeted for the uplift of the life of youths are not lost into private holdings. The nation should embark on statistical compilation of the youths in their different categories and classes to be able to decipher appropriately on the ways and manner to handle their different problems.
A brief on the way and manner we can improve the welfare and uplift the lives of our neglected youths is of the essence. It must be realized/accepted that whatever amount of money, no matter how high it may be that any government positively-expends on her youths is worthwhile. Every Ministry and Agency of the Federal and State governments must include some type of planned and funded programmes for youths’ development in its duty-schedules. The governments should make primary and secondary schools’ education free and compulsory in all parts of Nigeria. Our Polytechnics and Universities should as utmost urgency be adequately-funded; hostels built to accommodate all students; reasonable tuition fees must be paid by students in all Nigerian Universities in order to assist government funding; acceptable tertiary education system abhors a free lunch mentality; students must pay some reasonable fees to stake their commitment. Staff teaching in our institutions should be well-trained and –qualified and should also be well-paid. Tne National Youth Service Corps scheme should be reorganized and reinforced and the monthly allowance increased to N25000.00. The NYSC programme should be arranged in such a way that the Youth Corper should be eventually-employed in his/her place of assignment after a successful completion of service. As it is now, candidates are used and dumped while expecting the new annual batch-arrivals. There are games, drama, arts and humanities programmes that predominantly-involve youths; governments should provide professional and financial assistance to promote such activities. Governments should approach the business men/women and enter into some partnership with them to support some talented and skilled youths in entrepreneurial projects that can sustain them life-long. There are many youths, out there with training and skills who have good business proposals to start an independent businesses of their own but lack the necessary funds/capital to do so; the Federal and State governments, successful business men and women, Church leaders etc. should provide such youths soft loans of about N500,000.00 repayable at a reasonable period of time. The leaders of this country have wrongly committed economic crimes and wasted all their energies in a monoeconomy based on about 95% earnings of total revenue from petroleum resources; thereby, putting all our eggs to be broken in one basket. All the earnings from oil and gas were blown away by the wind of fraud and corruption over the years such as happened to so many development programmes and projects including the affairs of youths. Human capital was not fully-developed; necessary infrastructures of roads, bridges, rail lines, water schemes, housing etc. were not built; Agriculture was neglected but left at the hands of subsistence farmers; infrastructural facilities of government agencies and organization were allowed to decay and rot over the years; wars, riots and mayhem facilitated the widescale destructions of many government- and privately-owned facilities nationwide. All these if developed would have provided ample opportunities for employment and upkeep of many youths of our country. But it is not too late to make a change as canvassed for by the present APC administration. These destroyed ventures and opportunities could be recovered and recreated to provide the requisite employment opportunities for our unfairly-degraded youths.
- Prof Boniface C E Egboka PhD, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org