International Youth Day is TODAY, August 12, 2022. The United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, established this day in 1999 to recognise the roles that youths play in advancing society and to draw attention to the challenges that they face in their respective parts of the world.
This year’s celebration is themed “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages.” In his message commemorating the occasion, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated, “We need people of all ages, young and old alike, to join forces to build a better world for all…When young people are shut out of decisions about their lives… we all lose.”
Guterres’ wise words encapsulate the situation that Nigeria now finds itself in as a result of selfish manipulation and marginalisation of the youth, particularly those from the grassroots. When Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka lamented the “wasted generation” over 30 years ago, he was referring to the situation in Nigeria in which young people who should be tomorrow’s leaders never get the chance.
We have added another layer of unfulfilled youth to the wasted generation of the 1980s, which is already giving way to another generation. And, as the UN Scribe correctly stated, “we all lose.”
It’s a sad irony that the immediate post-independence youth who served in the army and used it to dethrone our democracy were treated like rapacious ants on the national cake simply because they fought a civil war. The majority of them are in their 80s, but they are still in power or have plugged in family members, cronies, or acolytes.
This has resulted in a system in which poor children struggle to find fulfilment. Poverty is being used as a weapon against them. They are paid pittances to put their lives in danger in order to rig politicians into power. Once in power, politicians forget about them completely. The educational system has been depleted and has become epileptic. Graduates of public universities are unable to find work. When they find it, the majority of them are “unemployed.”
Nigerian youth have rediscovered their spirit following the #EndSARS protests, which culminated in the Lekki Toll Gate massacre on October 20, 2020. They are now prepared to reclaim their country. The recent massive rush for Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, registration, and unprecedented selfless activism for presidential candidates of their choice demonstrate this. Over 70% of those who recently registered for INEC PVCs are young people.
The 2023 general elections offer not only the youth, but the entire nation, the option of maintaining the status quo of the previous 23 years or helping to rebuild Nigeria.
The youth must seize this opportunity!