Barely a week ago, my course mates and I had a rather raucous but necessary debate. The bone of contention was whether or not Nigeria still had anything to offer the youths. Some of my colleagues, who had obviously begun to nurse the idea, wanted to know if it was justifiable to join the bandwagon and abscond from the country to practice elsewhere, as soon as they were done with medical school. They had become hopeless in their fatherland. The country no longer held beautiful prospects for them. This is a pointer to the fact that, first of all, something is wrong with our dear country. That accepted, one might now proceed to analyse and suggest possible ways in which the youths could be instrumental in bringing about an overhaul.
I remember very vividly the story of a young Nigerian who, on his convocation, made a rather notorious statement. Although the statement has become the subject of rib-cracking jokes over the years, I must state that I, however, still find it particularly distasteful, for it brings to the fore the mind-boggling and condemnable attitude of most Nigerian youths towards education. The graduating student, as a means of catharsis, had declared triumphantly that now that he was getting a “certificate”, he would never read anything again in his life, not even a lettered billboard by the roadside, let alone a newspaper!
There is an urgent need for reorientation among Nigerian youths as regards the definition of education. Education is not just what gives you some decorated paper with which you can apply for job in some oil and gas company. No. Rather, it is the enlightening of the human mind and the acquisition of knowledge to be applied in solving the manifold problems of mankind. The youths must see education in this new light, not as a boring customary rite or an irksome imposition by parents and society, for this would be pivotal in the quest to revamp our dear country.
Has it ever occurred to one why the rate of unemployment keeps skyrocketing; why poverty has become the cheerful companion of a greater percentage of the population; why the national economy is wallowing in the doldrums? The answer is not far-fetched: Nigeria is an overly dependent country. Just as the country’s economy is too dependent on crude oil, so are the citizens too dependent on the government. The youths must break away from this mainstream and take charge of their future. The acquisition of skills, exhibition of talents and execution of startup projects by youths would go a long way in improving the country’s ailing economy. Nigerian youths must come to the awareness that they do not necessarily need a white-collar job to impact or serve the community. In fact, both the country and the citizens stand better chances in gaining when an individual becomes an employer of labour.
There is this area of interest that has become a major worry to Nigerian parents concerning their children. It is the pervasive addiction of teenagers and adolescents to the social media. Stephen, a fellow undergraduate and an energetic youth, is active on Blackberry Messenger, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and 2go. He spends a minimum of four hours daily on all these social networks. Like a snail to its shell, he is stuck to his smartphone day and night. The only respite his phone gets is when the battery is low or when he finally decides to sleep, having chatted into the wee small hours of the next day. The following morning, he wakes up late and tired, and the cycle repeats itself again. Stephen is no doubt a paradigm of what most Nigerian youths are. But what does this kind of behaviour portend?
While the essence of these social networks is in itself harmless, being veritable means of connecting with loved ones and maintaining healthy relationships, it becomes a bother when the social networks begin to eat up large chunks of the youths’ productive time. Time is precious, and it is indeed the currency of success and failure, depending on how judiciously one spends it. Youths must therefore learn how to strike a balance, by dedicating more time to learning online, honing their skills, and doing other things that can develop them intellectually, as much as they keep in touch with family and friends on the Internet. Moderation is profitable. We do not want a generation of chatterboxes and ignoramuses. We want a generation of champions and innovators.
The apathy that most Nigerian youths display towards the political affairs of the nation is not to be encouraged. Even then, an appreciable fraction of those who bother to show little concern do so without the teeniest exertion of their mental faculties, when they submit themselves to the whims and caprices of political overlords to be used as mere pawns in the game of power. The youths need to turn a new leaf, get interested in the present day government, make a formidable coalition that would check the overbearing proclivities of the government, leaving the leaders with no choice but to involve them in the control of the nation’s affairs. The presence of vibrant youths would definitely increase the pace of work, and Nigeria would be the better for it.
The country Nigeria exists principally because there is a people – a people who individually define the reality and conception of Nigeria. Thus, Nigeria is a reflection of her component individuals. Logically, it follows that every singular act of a citizen somehow tells on the nation. As youths, we must therefore comport ourselves to always portray good images of our beloved country. Vices must be shun, and virtues promoted. Though battered, our love and loyalty to Nigeria must never be compromised. We must keep on believing, and keep on working, for this is the only way to reshape Nigeria.
Omoya is a creative writer, an aspiring public speaker and a medical student at University of Ibadan.
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