At independence in 1960, Nigerian population was about 50 million. Currently we are an estimated 158 million, meaning that 120 million Nigerians are below the age of 43 years. If those above 60 years are only about 38 million, it therefore means those between the ages of 18- 43 years are the majority. That is about 110 million. Registered voters are currently 130 million according to Electoral Commission of Nigeria, clearly more than half of those eligible to vote are 18 years and above. The pertinent question is therefore: where are the rest of potential voters as out of the 110 million registered voters, only less than 80 million voted in 2007?
The hard fact cannot be bailed out, as more than 142 million people by the Nigerian law are eligible to vote, excluding the ex-convict and the de-franchised.
The greatest threat youth face today is exclusion and marginalization from decisions that affect them. Unemployment, crime, HIV/AIDS, neglect by the authorities and often abandonment to their fate because of various forms of discrimination top the list of problems towns and cities have to deal with. At the same time, urban youth in developing countries possess immense potential to contribute to social development if afforded the right opportunities. The challenge of putting youth at the centre of development strategies can be compared to the challenge, two decades ago, of putting women and gender issues on the development agenda. It is no longer conceivable to solve the problems of developing countries without focusing on the role of women. A similar paradigm shift is required with respect to youth in development.
Then the following ethical summations are put down figuratively:
. 20 million youth aged 18 and above have no Identity cards automatically eliminating them from the voting process.
. A significant number of them have no birth certificates therefore they do not exist.
. Majority (34.3%) of the youth who have votes are apathetic to the whole process. They feel their voting would not make a different.
. For the youth that vote, majority (32 million) vote for the wrong reasons such as: electing leaders from their ethnic groups even though they do not merit, electing those who have dished out the most money, peer pressure and often pressure from one’s family to vote for particular leader as a block.
. A large percentage of the youth watch at the periphery as they are ignorant of the importance of being in political party specifically in the mainstream politics were crucial decisions about a nation are made.
. Civic education has yet to fully incorporated and emphasized that there are youth who are great leaders and merit a chance.
As for those youth in mainstream politics, they face the following:
. Patronage; where senior party members do not create spaces for the youth to play crucial roles in the political parties.
. Lack of clear political party ideology and value system that guides the operation of the party and the conduct of its members indiscriminately especially on age and gender.
. Ethnicity where membership of most political parties is dictated by ethnicity stemming from the founders of the parties or the individuals that are funding it. This has caused chaos, and a lot of heartache for youth who find themselves barred from progressing or participating in crucial roles. The shift of loyalty, distrust, corruption and vertical solidarity determines who gets what within the political parties.
. Gender discrimination has had a negative impact on young ladies within the parties whose participation is limited and their contribution unrecognized. The culture of violence, mud slinging and character assassination has discouraged many competent young ladies from fully engaging in politics.
. Lack of resources, especially funding political activities and maintaining the required mechanisms.
In terms of the employment process, just like the political process and structure development paradigm, young people have the highest rate of unemployment and in many ways are the most vulnerable to the social depredations that are caused by unemployment and poverty. At the same time they are the promise of the future, and failure to invest in the young generation imposes great constraints on the potential for future development. Whether it is investing in the creation of decent work for young people which boosts the economy and lowers the demand for social services, or whether it be supporting peer to peer models of HIV/AIDS education, or supporting youth in creating food security for their community, research has shown that investing in youth brings about healthier youth and healthier communities
STRATEGY AND MOBILISATION FOR YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
The federal Government and its Amnesty group of trustees, and other stakeholders such as NGOs, CLO and other Private donors are a multi-faceted strategy that focuses on recognizing the on-going work of youth on the key urban issues of: economic development; urban peace and conflict; HIV /AIDs; and environmental degradation. These four areas that has become paramount a leverage to resolving the unending national and regional conflicts both religious and economically motivated, that 73% perpetuated by the Youths. The core of the SC strategy is the recognition that youth have the capacity to be meaningfully engaged in urban development programmes. The SC through various youth development initiatives will be a vehicle to mobilize resources to support those most marginalized youth populations in initiating and sustaining youth led programmes.
Creation of urban based youth resource centres that directly support youth led development issues, such as the Youth Development and rehabilitation, a program set up by various states and local government in Nigeria, especially glaring in the Nigeria Delta, Western, Northern and Eastern geopolitical zones of the country. The focus of these hubs will be a space for youth to organize youth-led programmes in the area of economic development, prevention of violence, and delivery of education and services on HIV /AIDs. This strategy is further outlined below.
Training youth as peace builders: The World Youth Report 2009 states that a majority of warfare takes place in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where an estimated 200,000 young soldiers between the ages of 10 and 24 risk their lives in the course of armed conflict willed by adults. Even in countries not plagued by armed conflict, the youth have often been misused in the political arena. While their energy and enthusiasms are powerful tools in promoting social or political issues, they are also vulnerable to being misled and misused, often leading to disruptive results. Youth need to be involved in violence prevention strategies, not just conflict reaction strategies. Youth can take the lead. There is also an implementation strategy through collaboration between Federal government agencies (MYA) and their subs, local and national youth organizations, NGOs and local authorities focused on creating effective and sustainable models for urban youth development and employment in Nigeria.
Plans are now in place to assist in the design of other regions/states of the country since by virtue of its implementation in Niger Delta with the following objectives:
Objective of the SC Youth Centres Project:
§ To encourage partnerships with relevant stakeholders in the delivery of youth development;
§ To increase knowledge, skills and attitude change of young people;
§ To respond to educational, socio-economic, recreational, emotional and psychological needs of young people in an integrated way;
§ To encourage youth to have greater ownership of development;
§ To offer leadership and mentorship to young people.
Six Key Areas of Intervention:
1. Employment and Entrepreneurship: To build capacity of yo
uth to participate effectively in urban poverty reduction through training and by offering employment opportunities in self-employment, formal and informal sectors.
2. Governance and Advocacy: To enhance youth contribution towards better governance by promoting increased youth participation in local government matters, particularly those concerning youth development.
3. Health: To provide services aimed at preventing and solving reproductive health problems amongst the youth by provision of information, skills training, education on reproductive health, counseling and referral services.
4. Communication and Information: To establish mechanisms to effectively communicate and disseminate information to youth, youth organizations and other partners involved in youth work.
5. Environment and Resource Management: To strengthen youth engagement in the protection and improvement of the environment by promoting their participation in environmental justice and governance initiatives.
Needs for financial support:
§ Establish satellite resource centres in informal settlements
§ Define and initiate employment creation programmes, micro-credit programmes
§ Enable more health services to be offered free
§ Build more networks and partnerships both locally and internationally
§ Provide the library with books and information
§ Provide computers for office work and internet access
§ Build employment training programmes including global mentoring and monitoring
§ Establish a youth trust/small grants programme for entrepreneurship
This partnership has been constructed in order to learn from each other best practices regarding how to address the diversity of challenges facing youth today in urban communities, systems to enable them to make sustainable decisions, and the inter-generational transfer of values.
THE OBJECTIVE OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT IN NATION BUILDING
A nation will add a feather to its cap and process of its development will continue if its ambitious, agile, virile and strong youths are guided on the right direction. The youths of a nation are powerful. They are agile and are inclined to work, but it is usually seen that the youths are unable to yield desired results for want of proper guidance. Consequently, whatever they do neither it gives satisfaction to them nor does it fulfill the needs of the nation. Under these circumstances to speak of the welfare of Youth in Nation Building, and Human Capital Development is meaningless; until priority is giving to its articulate program that will set them in vogue.
Needless to delve for information into ancient history, nor is it necessary to go into any details. Let’s look into the history of 1990s when the Nigeria youths engaged themselves in constructive work in right direction. What was the direction? We all know. The youths of many other nations too worked day and night in the hopes of getting out of the clutches of Imperialism and Colonialism and then building up their nations anew. Their efforts fructified to a great extent. All most all nations of the world became free and their citizens got the right of taking decisions of their own for their respective nations, this is called “Youth in Nation Building”. But independence was only a halting point, not the destination. People afterwards had to take steps for further construction of their respective nations. The enthusiasm of youths never slackens, and it continues to burn even in the midst of adversities.
The fact is that after independence the successive generations failed to carve the path of progress on right lines, simply because of the innocuous poor articulation of youths in government’s actions to make certain future decisions in terms of continuity. The moral question is, how can a nation be developed if its youths, those who are willing to undertake any kind of work, one would only but imagine how strenuous it will be, if they are not guided properly? It will ultimately result in a chaotic situation like the one we are faced with, such as the issues of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta and in other parts of Nigeria and Africa. The society is divided and trapped in the cob-web of problems. Self interest has become dominant, corruption is rampant and what alarms us most is that the national character is on decline.
In order to attend to the problem prevalent with youth restiveness and their role in nation building in the region, there is need for overall human capital development. Because development brings together the production and distribution of commodities, and the expansion and use of human capabilities. For youth to lead a long and healthy life there is need for intellectual and socio-economic enlightenment on their rights, thereby creating those articulate acumen to navigate their paths in accessing resources needed for their decent living, and their involvement in Nation Building. This is where investing in human resource development amongst the timid youths of the Niger Delta, as part of the Federal Government’s “Operation Youth for Nation Building” strategy is imperatively of utmost concern and urgency. There is no gain saying nevertheless that the productive capacity of youths is wider than all other forms of wealth taken together, which perhaps is the centerpiece of this caption.
Can we ignore the role of youths in building a nation? If not, how can they help in this work? How the youths in the Niger Delta Region divert their energy to the work of Nation Building? How should they act in right direction? These are a few burning questions the federal government is confronted with. It is now imperative that all intellectuals and prominent individuals of society should come forward without delay; it is also their responsibility of NGOs and donor agencies to assist the government in its task towards youth development. Unless they take steps after careful deliberation and create such environment as may enable the youths to perceive clearly their goal, it is not possible to build a nation. Without the guidance of the elder statesmen, political representative, youth leaders and activist, our society will not be unified and our problems will not lessen. Moreover, in the rate race of serving self-interests, the energy of youths will be channeled through wrong directions, such as political thuggery, and other ills that may disrupt the sanity of governance in the country.