International Youth Day: The country hasn’t offered inspiration but her young people keep winning

In 2020, Nigeria also experienced its deepest recession in two decades, plunging almost 100 million people below the poverty line. A major cause of the recession is the decline in oil prices and oil bunkering that diverted precious revenue away from the Nigerian who need it the most. We are dealing with the fallout of the recession and the global pandemic, while worrying for our safety as security in the country deteriorates. Education is another sector that has been dealt a tough blow with federal universities on strike for almost 8 months. Inflation is in the double digits, forcing food prices skyrocketing. The future seems bleak for young Nigerians who only want a chance to succeed.  

But Nigerian youth are renowned for our resilience. We are not content with survival, we thrive. Across every industry we find ways to express ourselves and shift the culture. Almost two years ago, a small spark started a nationwide campaign and mass protests to end the injustice and brutality of a federal government-funded unit of the police force. This is just one of the many ways in which we are making our presence felt and our voices heard.

When users on Tik Tok started watching, engaging and sharing videos synced to music made by Nigerians, we made our presence known in the comment section with the phrase ‘Naija to the World’. You find us in the comment section of any foreigner sharing our music, films, sports, and even food. Coined by a writer, Kelvin Efinzouah, whose book bears the same title and popularised by Netflix Naija, it is a phrase used by youth that means “this is what we have to offer”. It’s a thing of pride.

The world has taken notice. Beyoncé’s afrobeats-inspired album, ‘The Gift’ featured Wizkid, one of the biggest artists in Nigeria’s history. He was one of several Nigerian musicians who collaborated with her on the album, easily the most important project of 2020. Collaborating with the biggest popstar in the world, piqued the collective interest of the globe, paving the way for songs like CKay’s ‘Love Nwantiti’ and Wizkid’s ‘Essence’ to dominate the global charts. We have made such an impact, that Nigerian songs have topped the British and American music charts. Established artists like Davido, Wizkid and Burnaboy are selling out international arenas alongside upcoming stars like Rema, Ayra Starr and Tems.

Nigerian youth are also distinguishing themselves in sports. It is hard to forget how proud we all were of Tobi Amusan, who overcame all odds to excel at the World Athletics championship, set a new World Records, the first by a Nigerian in athletics. She repeated this unprecedented feat again at the 2022 Commonwealth games, winning two gold medals. Team Nigeria excelled at the games, winning a cumulative 12 gold medals and catapulting Nigeria to the top of the medals table and top spot among the African competitors. It is even more impressive considering most of our athletes are self funded. But Tobi isn’t the only female athlete making us proud. Asisat Oshoala won the CAF player of the year award. She became the first player in the history of the award to win it five times, another record breaking feat for Nigeria.

It is hard to argue with people who no longer believe in Nigeria, because of how terrible our leaders have been over the last 24 years. But I don’t believe in Nigeria because of our leaders. I believe in Nigeria because of our youth.  Fintech is huge in Africa thanks to Nigeria’s role, our film industry is inking deals with the biggest film studios and streamers in the world and our food starts trends in Europe and America. We are doing great for ourselves, despite the situation we find ourselves in.

Diamonds are formed under pressure, and as unfortunate as it is, the state of our country forces us to be outstanding – to be twice as good as our peers to negate the conditions within our country and counteract the less desirable stereotypes Nigeria has become known for.

In the upcoming months, Nigeria is going to have a presidential election. What makes this election different from others is that it has a record number of registered youth voters and volunteers. We have a chance to take back our country and make it into one that supports the dreams of our youth and rewards our hard work and intelligence. This future that we all desperately need is within, if only we rise up to our responsibility and take it.

Seun Oluyemi (Otunba Seun) is a Media Consultant and award winning producer. His 15 years career spans radio, TV and event production. He is the current senior producer of the Rubbin’ Minds talk show.

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