Where are the leaders of tomorrow?
By Melvin Umunna
While growing up, we used to sing a song on the assembly ground in my basic school, which, I am sure, readers would know. It goes thus: “Parents listen to your children, we are leaders of tomorrow, try to pay our school fees and give us sound education”.
In my adult life, I have been asking myself the whereabouts of tomorrow’s leaders we have been singing about? What has happened to their hopes? Have they all gone into extinction? At some point, I asked myself, did teachers tell us all that stories to make us strive for excellence in our studies? Was I deceived? May be the leaders of tomorrow have gone into oblivion I thought. At last, while searching, the veil was removed from my sight and I stumbled on the leaders of tomorrow in places not worthy of mentioning.
I saw some in gambling houses, trying to make sudden millions in predicting game. I saw some others engaging in cyber crimes. While I tried to understand if they were in productive ventures; before I could gather my thoughts on what the so-called leaders of tomorrow were up to, SARS officers rounded them up and hurled them into Black Maria. Then, I asked, when shall these leaders emerge?
In a country of over 180 million people, the youth constitute over 65 per cent of its entire population and I wonder why the political class has neglected this very important demography. We must understand that the future of this country lies on the shoulder of the today’s young people and what we invest in them would be a precursor to what the future would look like, whether gloomy or bright.
It is ruinous of the governing class to have forgotten that the most valuable and treasured resources we have are the youths. It is shameful that successive governments have appointed old people to decide the future of young people in the country. One would have thought that the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as president was a good omen for the youth in politics, but sadly, the youth suffered under his administration and we found our way back the old order.
It is not enough to trade blames, we as youths must come out of the delusion and come to terms with the fact that unless we develop and position ourselves strategically, we may never become the leaders of today, much less leaders of tomorrow. The youth of today are lost in a world of illusion brought about by the social media and the Internet. With large following in the social media, we are supposed to see ourselves as movers and shakers, and that we can influence the world from the comfort of our bedrooms. It is a pity that many of us are not using our influence in the social media positively.
Who still thinks political struggle and economic emancipation are a tea party? Prof Browne Onuoha, a foremost Political Scientist, once said for young people to become relevant in the scheme of things politically, “they must carry our political bag”.
We must get ourselves involved. Sadly, the youth of today are carried away with the flamboyant life styles of the Kims of this world, 30 billion gangs and that is why we see every young man wanting to delve into world of entertainment. We must have this at the back of our mind that those social media celebrities we choose to emulate have paid the price for their fame and glory. They toiled steadfastly through hard work, prepared and availed themselves for opportunities to create niche for themselves.
What have young people done to be truly and deservedly called the leaders of tomorrow? Are we ready to pay the price of hard work, diligence, patience, perseverance? It is not enough to shout “not too young to run”, what have we done to equip ourselves when the chances come begging? Ask Hebert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Odimegwu Ojukwu, Aminu Kano, MKO Abiola, Tai Solarin, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Gani Fawehinmi, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and others, they also passed through the trenches of oppression and repression.
Political revolution is neither a child’s play nor tea party. We would be building false hopes to assume that we would get liberated without challenging the obstinacy of the old order with better ideas.
I have discovered that one of the problems that has hindered the youth from being relevant politically, economically and socially is the declining level of education. Unfortunately, we have an education system that rewards only grades.
Also, I have discovered that sound knowledge of history played an integral part in the developed world. Take a critical look at China and how its embraces its history, culture and values and how its citizens have used this to foster development in the country.
A nation cannot develop when the youths have forgotten their roots. The only way we can embrace true development is to remember our history and we should not forget the labour of our heroes past.
In order to set things right, the youth of today must re-invent themselves, learn and re-learn. We must strive to better ourselves, educate ourselves, learn skills, embrace entrepreneurship, and participate in the political and economic processes. We must understand that the governing class doesn’t want us to have a mental emancipation, rather they are satisfied to have us educated enough to pay our taxes and uneducated enough not to challenge the status quo.
Benjamin Disraeli said: “Almost everything that is great has been by youths.” To achieve greatness as a nation, the youth must be incorporated into the developmental plan of the nation; they must also develop and equip themselves for opportunities in order to be relevant and reach their full potential.