18th October, 2011
Some few weeks ago, our leaders and other Nigerians marked the 51st Independence anniversary of our great nation. Many political observers made a plethora of positive and negative comments concerning her failures and successes. Most of the comments, as expected, were ritualistic. We make the same negative and positive comments about our leaders and nation every October.
However, in as much as we seemingly analyse and predict the entire growth of the nation with precision, we have not been thinking of and considering the best way to lead the leaders of tomorrow to actualise their dreams of actually realising their collective dream of becoming tomorrowâ€™s leaders. If we say we do, we are not saying the truth because there are many facts on ground to show that we are doing nothing to make their dreams of becoming tomorrowâ€™s leaders to be realisable.
Children and youths are like tender plants. They grow in the direction they are nurtured or guided. Just like plants, they grow towards the direction of the sun.
If I may ask, are we literarily generating sunshine for our children and youths for them to truly become leaders of tomorrow? My consequent views in this write-up will answer the foregoing question.
The birth of a child into any family unit is regarded as a blessing from God. The birth of a child is usually greeted with fanfare. Happiness, celebration, blessing, joy and excitement; these preceeding words are, no doubt, variously used to graphically paint the picture that prevails in the wake of the birth of a child.
In Nigeria, the virtue of a child is highly extolled through the names given to him or her. Among the Ibos and some parts of Delta State, names like Nwabueze (Child is King), Nwakaego (Child is greater than money), Nwakunor (Child is greater than house) and the like are names traditionally used in glorifying the child. Also in Yoruba land and among the Binis, names that begin with the first three letters thus: â€œOmoâ€, are often used in extolling the virtues of the child.
It is always momentous to see a baby wear her first smiles. It is usually a moment of joy to see a baby pronounce the first word, which more often than not take the phonetical pattern â€œpapaâ€ or â€œmamaâ€ albeit in gibberish tone. A child is often greeted with applause, ovation and excitement when he takes the first steps in life.
â€œThis is my child,â€ are words a father uses to show off his childâ€™s photograph. The walls of many offices and sitting rooms are adorned with childrenâ€™s photographs. During any festivity the numerical strength of children and youths at any of the beaches is always impressive.
However, our uncaring attitude towards the children unfolds as they grow into their youthful stage. Some of us employ harsh words to crush the childrenâ€™s spirits. We call them names, browbeat and literally throw them into mind-polluting environments.
While we are literarily trapped in the â€œgo-slowsâ€ we often hear our leaders of tomorrow making renditions of â€œPure-water here, yesâ€, â€œbuy chin-chinâ€, â€œbuy fine-butter-breadâ€ to potential customers. Many of the youths we call leaders of tomorrow are at the moment jay-walking the streets without jobs. The society and the government have so much disappointed the youths that some of them may be thinking that God does not exist. In our todayâ€™s society, the same top government official that has made the phrase â€œLeaders of tomorrowâ€ his or her sing-song would be the same retrenching the youths, and destroying the markets where they sell â€œOkrikaâ€ fabrics.
Even leaders of corporate bodies that hypocritically acknowledge children and youths as leaders of tomorrow at business seminars and similar fora are in their various board rooms taking decisions, championing and endorsing the moves to throw the youths into the labour market for flimsy reasons. Such leaders and their companies would be the ones scrambling for the position of corporate leadership in the area of Social Responsibility and Community Relations.
No doubt, the foregoing betrays both the governmentâ€™s and corporate bodiesâ€™ insincerity of purpose and sense of commitment. The question now is, are we truly leading the leaders of tomorrow to realize their collective dreams.
If the answer to the foregoing question is not in the affirmative, we should begin to do that now. The leaders of tomorrow should be nurtured from birth. At individual level, philanthropists should search for one or more children and nurture them, through scholarship award or through sincere mentoring to youthful stage. Government should also begin to make policies and implement programmes, such as creation of meaningful jobs and provision of affordable education, that would favour both the children and the youths. Corporate bodies, on their part, should begin to draw Social Responsibility and Community Relations Programmes that have the youths and the children as central focus.
The essence of this article, through this popular and credible medium, is to influence change among decision makers, at all sectors of the economy and parents to re-examine their policies, programmes and plans toward making the children and youths truly the leaders of tomorrow. We have heard enough rhetorics. It is time for action. I am looking forward to the celebration of our independence anniversary that would be greeted with positive comments from all the cardinal points of the world.
I would be a happier Nigerian to see the youths in particular come out educated, and not ending up as jobless. Also, President Goodluck Jonathan and his ministers and special assistants should ensure graduates do not end up as buy-and-sell businessmen and as never-do-wells or ragtag and bobtails.
I detest the habit of children hawking on the streets. I know some readers of this article may argue that these children are being trained through hawking. But what happens when they are knocked down by reckless drivers or when the female-child is molested by unscrupulous fellow hawkers?
We are not sincere that these children are truly the leaders of tomorrow. If they are, most parents would not be failing in their responsibilities of raising them properly. Most mothers in Lagos now leave their various homes as early as 5.30am only to come back around 8.00pm. On the other hand, some fathers equally leave their homes in wee hours while some close from their various offices and head straight to beer parlours where sex hawkers are literarily wont to sway their hips into their pockets thus depriving many leaders of tomorrow the monetary resources to realise the educational to become tomorrowâ€™s leaders. Also, because parents are not always at home leading the leaders of tomorrow our future leaders are indirectly, through internet and satellite television and uncensored audio and video tapes and discs, being mentored by their musical heroes that have bohemian lifestyles so much so that some of these future leaders today greet their elders, â€œhiâ€ or â€œwhatâ€™s up?â€
Many a child is left under the care of a babysitter that is bereft of the emotional attachment to the child which is naturally ingrained in the biological motherâ€™s disposition.
The prevailing high divorce rate today can also be said to be unleashing a terrible assault on the psyche and future of children. Love boat that could have been rescued with â€œI am sorry darlingâ€ is left to float adrift until it finally sinks into the abyss of divorce.
Many children, no thanks to divorce cases, are now left to fend for themselves under the current harsh socio-economic conditions. Many conductors and hawkers of today arguably are from homes where devil-may-care attitudes are exhibited. At the bus-stops these children are exposed to all kinds of vices, especially that of smoking Indian hemp and consuming other mood altering substances. To say that many children cannot â€œsay no to drugsâ€ is never an exaggeration.
In conclusion, leaders should begin to lead our future leaders by ensuring that they thrive in education and employment enabled environment. The children and the youths are tomorrowâ€™s leaders. Yes, it is true! But we should also play our part to make this much hackneyed aphorism become a reality.
â€¢Isaac writes from Lagos.