2015, The Youth And National Security

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By Tayo Ogunbiyi

As we march towards the much anticipated Year 2015, the electioneering time, the heat, without doubt, is on. Considering on-going political crisis in some parts of the country, one does not need to be a prophet to predict that the coming days would be grouchy for motherland. Except on few occasions, historically elections in the country have always been plagued with troubles, pains and sorrows. Several lives and properties have been lost, in time past, to electioneering skirmishes in various parts of the country. Indeed, if past experience is anything to go by, especially bearing in mind that a particular national election was once declared ‘a-do-or-die’ affair by a former President, all stakeholders in the country need to tread cautiously in order to avert unnecessary  threats to national security as we prepare for the 2015 general elections .

One section of the country that has for long been at the receiving end of electioneering turmoil  is the youth. The reason for this, is of course, not far-fetched. The youth represents the most vibrant and adventurous group in any society. Usually, if the prevailing condition in a given society does not offer the youth the needed platform to channel their bursting energy into positive use, they readily embrace rebellious predisposition. It is a well known fact that nature abhors vacuum. Sadly, the high unemployment situation in the country coupled with the not too impressive state of the economy, naturally make the youth vulnerable to manipulation from scheming political actors and other anti-social elements within the polity. Recent statistics show that 60 per cent of the country’s population are youth  while youth unemployment rate is estimated to be over 50 percent. Similarly, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that an average of 1.8 million youths find themselves in the labour market annually, out of which 250,000 to 300,000 are graduates. Additionally, the unemployment rate in the country is said to be about 23.9 per cent.

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, recently revealed that while the Nigerian economy grew at the rate of seven per cent for the past five years, unemployment has actually doubled at same period. He stated that the present security crisis and internal uprising across the country are products of  chronic  poverty and mounting joblessness. The consequence of this is the participation of  the youths, who ordinarily should be genuine  tools for the development of any nation, in heinous practices and crimes . It is the same scenario that has turned our youths  into ready-made political thugs who are being used by unprincipled politicians to perpetrate all manner of electoral crimes.

The truth, however, is that the current trend, if allowed to continue unabated,  has serious implication for national security in the country. Idle youths represent latent threat to any country. Recent uprising in the middle-east suffice. It is possible for us, as usual, to wish away the possibility of the similitude  of the Arab spring experience in the country, but in as much as we continue to condemn our youths to a hopeless and bleak future we should not expect to sleep with our two eyes closed. The fundamental basis of  the law of karma is that you reap what you sow.  Except we begin to make conscious efforts to invest massively in the future of our youths, the much desired peace might continue to be elusive across the land.

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It is sad that same generation of Nigerians, who benefited immensely from the prosperity of the country , especially in the oil-boom era, plunged the country into the socio-political and economic chaos that now make our youths susceptible to criminal tendencies. In 1966, when fate beckoned on him to lead the country, as military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon was barely 32 years old, and a bachelor. Indeed, the period between the post war era and the collapse of the second republic was, perhaps, the most rewarding time for youths in the country as they had sufficient opportunities to excel across all sectors. Today, though, the youths are still referred to as the leaders of tomorrow, it is obvious that such perception might only remain in the realm of imagination.

To avert imminent disaster in the country, governments at all levels need to creatively fashion out programmes that would ensure that the youths contribute positively to nation building. For this to be effective, the process must begin with a radical overhauling of the education sector. We need to alter the curriculum of our tertiary institutions to do away with courses that no longer fit into present day socio-economic reality. Indeed, we need to lay more emphasis on technical education as well courses that de-emphasise the craze for non-existing white collar jobs. Similarly, we should make effort to promote social entrepreneurship among the youths. This could be done through the establishment of internship programmes aimed at giving youths the opportunity to learn valuable skills in contemporary fields such  as information communication technology, fund development, public relations, programme development, management and much more. Equally, corporate organisations, NGOs, individuals and government institutions should be committed to mentoring of the youths.

Perhaps, more importantly, the political class should desist from engaging the youths as thugs in their bid to acquire power. It is bad enough that the present order in the country is complicating things for the youths. It is, however, ungodly and callous for anyone to employ other peoples’ children as political hooligans while they keep their own children in the safe havens of Europe, America and other developed cities of the world. They should remember that what goes around, comes around! The law of karma is not a theory. It is a reality. However, it is important that the youths shun every overture from any quarter that could turn them into anti-social agents. While it is true that things are a bit tough in the country for now, that is not enough justification for the youths to become willing tools in the hands of unscrupulous individuals who do not have their interest at heart. Parents must also ensure that their children are sufficiently monitored and protected so that they would not fall into wrong hands.

It is a primitive idea to take election as a do-or-die affair.  Therefore, as 2015 beckons, nothing must be left to chance to ensure that the electoral process is as peaceful as it could be. In the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.