3 steps Nigerian youth ought to take to save a sinking nation

by Emeke Ossai


In 1985, IBB was the President of Nigeria, and students then were told that they were the leaders of tomorrow. Twenty-five years later, the same man said unequivocally in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service that the youths are not prepared to take political leadership in the country.

“To overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and it is the highest aspiration of every free man.” – Nelson Mandela

In 1985, IBB was the President of Nigeria, and students then were told that they were the leaders of tomorrow. Twenty-five years later, the same man said unequivocally in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service that the youths are not prepared to take political leadership in the country. This is the unfortunate mindset of the ‘Baby Boomers’ of Nigeria (those presently in their 60s and 70s), and it is what has informed the pattern of leadership succession in the ruling party, so much so that a 60-year old is the national youth leader of the party. But don’t they have the right to think this way, when so-called youths in Port-Harcourt shamelessly went ahead to protest the Farouk Lawan Subsidy Report, which was hailed by all right thinking Nigerians as a courageous step in the right direction? Why would this not be so, when the future of the youths have been mortgaged for personal gain; when their minds have been denied the advantages of instruction and enlightenment because of the wreckage, neglect and rape of the education sector for almost three decades? When their value system has been warped by the bad example of leadership? But Nigeria is a nation of youths, where over 70% of the population are U-35! And this calls for a rude awakening on the part of the Nigerian youth in the area of RESPONSIBILITY if we are to deliver the future and save the next generation from utter destruction, and from the cold hands of the baby boomers and their stooges in government.

I have a certain mixed feeling concerning the future of Nigeria. It is one of pessimism and optimism. My pessimism mirrors the statement made by the eminent Professor Samuel Aluko (of blessed memory), when he said in his article titled ‘The Case For Rapid Indutrialization In Nigeria’ in April 1970: “Unless we take measures that will prepare us for a technological and industrial revolution, before too long, the Nigerians of the 21st century will become much more inferior to the 21st century inhabitants of Europe, America, Japan and Oceania than our fore-fathers were to their imperial masters in Europe in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century” – this seemed to have happened, unfortunately! My pessimism lies in the fact that a vast majority of Nigerian youths are grossly unprepared to function in leadership and in the 21st century. But my optimism is built on the truth that there is a remnant who have the potential to turn things around; for a nation is not saved by majority, but a few who decide to take RESPONSIBILITY. Taking responsibility is the foundation of leadership!

“A leadership commits a crime against its own people if it fails to sharpen its political weapons where they have become less effective” – Nelson Mandela

It is to be agreed that the average Nigerian youth is living in an oppressive sociopolitical climate that deprives one of opportunity and stifles productivity. The United Nations Development Programme concluded from a survey in 1990 that Nigeria had one of the worst records for human deprivation of any country in the developing world! Things have become worse since then. From research, an average Mexican living in Mexico becomes twelve times more productive when he migrates to the U.S. It is much more than that for the average Nigerian. Considering our enormous natural resources and favourable climate, this ought not to be so. It is this DEPRIVATION and OPPRESSION that must be overthrown. It has become necessary, therefore, that the average Nigerian youth be POLITICIZED, because according to OJukwu “The problem with Nigeria is political. It is politics that distorts everything, and it is politics that by an infernal dialectic, renders everything we touch putrid and poisonous.” To overthrow this oppressive sociopolitical climate is the CALLING of this generation of Nigerian youths, and should be our highest aspiration.

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors” – Plato

What then should be our response to this call? It is simple!

STEP 1: Our brightest and best brains should begin serious preparations NOW by forming alliances with each other. The preparations would involve both NETWORKING with like-minds and men of like-passion, and developing ideologies in line with an overall National Blueprint/Master plan.

STEP 2: Move away from the sidelines of political commentary and analyses into mainstream political work by joining/invading political parties (not for everybody though, but for those whose vocation and calling is in politics).

STEP 3: Set up structures that will influence the ideological direction and major policy decisions in such parties.


In 1943, a group of young men (mostly in their 20s and 30s) who felt the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa had lost its fire, FREQUENTLY MET TO DISCUSS IDEAS. They felt the ANC as a whole had become the preserve of a tired, unmilitant, privileged African elite more concerned with protecting their own rights than those of the masses. The general consensus was that some action must be taken. A YOUTH LEAGUE would be formed, as a way of lighting fire under the leadership of the ANC. To cut the story short, though their proposal was initially resisted, they succeeded in establishing a YOUTH LEAGUE whose manifesto partly read “…The Congress Youth League must be the BRAINS-TRUST and POWER-STATION of the spirit of African nationalism” (Emphasis mine).

Within a few years, the leaders of the Youth League (including Mandela) became executives in the main ANC!

In conclusion, we need the wisdom of the old, but they must bow to our vigour. It’s time for the New Generation to stop seeing themselves as too young to take up political leadership in this country. We must NOW form alliances, join political parties, and begin to TRANSFORM things from WITHIN. We cannot do it without!



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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