Building a progressive nation, are the youths the answer?
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon into Jerusalem, and besieged it.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hands; with part of the vessels of the house of God; which he carried into the land of Shuar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
And the king spoke unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s people, of the princes. Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and tongue of the Chaldean.
The above was my opening speech at the Nigerian Model United Nations event at Lead City Conference center in Ibadan. Although the invite came just two days before the event, I couldn’t decline because it aligned with one of my goals for 2018; to positively influence as many young people as possible. Therefore, any opportunity that gives me such a window is embraced with all enthusiasm.
The students here had gathered themselves in groups to take on the United Nations Sustainable Development goals for the decade and I am proud to be one of the founding speakers at such memorable event. I am supposed to talk on building a sustainable nation, are the youths the answers?
I am beginning my speech with a story because history is fundamental to the future of any society. Sometimes if you want to know what your destiny or purpose is in life, look back into your growing up times and there you will see a hint. It is the way the universe works. Similarly, we can relate it back to our dear country Nigeria and the events that unfolded among our founding fathers. It is not in my place to say whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’ the youths are ready but at the end of this speech, we can reason together and decide on which side of history we want to be. The late Herbert Macaulay is referred to in history as the father of nationalism in Nigeria. After his studies in the United Kingdom, he returned to Nigeria as a surveyor with the British Colonial masters at the time. At 29, he was known for his disdain for the British masters’ way of ruling, no wonder in the beginning of the 20th century, he started an opposition movement. In 1934 at almost 70 years of age, he and other prominent Nigerians began a movement for the youths which had the young Azikiwe (30) as the national president and Awolowo (25) as South West coordinator.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the national coordinator of the Nigerian Youth movement and he later went on to form a political party (NCNC) at 37. Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory was 25 years old when he was appointed South West coordinator of the Nigerian Youth Movement and he formed the Action Group (a coming together of the Egbe Omo Oodua) in 1944. He was 35 years old. There are countless examples of people who achieved greatness for their countries at such young age and some still live among us today.
The question then is, why are we asking ourselves if we are the answer or not? What stops us from being the answer?
Let me be frank with you, the journey of leading a group or a country to greatness is not a joke. It requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice, tenacity and eyes on the end goal. The good thing is that history only remembers the bold. You cannot make a dent in the world by walking on the tips of your toes.
How then can the youths prove that they are the answer? It is very simple, be so good at whatever you are doing now such that whenever there is an opportunity for only one person in that field; it better be YOU. That is the hallmark of greatness. That is the way to start. That is what separated Daniel and his friends. They were found to be so good in science and knowledge that the king brought them before him. You cannot aspire to lead your community, constituency or country if you are not found to be excellent at the little things you.
On a final note, this is the best time in our country for young people to prove that they are ready. The coming year 2019AD will be a very interesting time and it will pivot the new direction for our democracy. By 2019AD, 55% of our population will be below 20 years and 14% will be between 20 to 35 years. The youths control a combined 69% of the population. Therein lies our problems or opportunities.
We would collectively stage a digital revolution that would change not only our leadership but the general electioneering process. Old politicians will have no choice but to succumb to the wish of the young ones. They would struggle with us and in their cunning way, want to bait us. The choice is ours to make; forward or backward.
Now to you my dear young ones, are you the answer?
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Adetunji Adeniran is the convener of YNAG, a brand that develops leaders and enables them win elections in their communities.