Tunde Fagbenle: Anyone above age 30 doesn’t qualify to be called a youth

by Tunde Fagbenle

Tunde-Fagbenle-360x294Any unit, from the family to the village to the ethnic to the nation and to the race, has an obligation to devote all its energies and resources to the nurturing of its youths if the continued existence of such unit or society were to be assured.

What sticks in my mind the most was the spirit of kindness and responsibility that was instilled in us (in my youth). On your way to the Scout meeting you have to find some act of kindness to the aged or the infirm to perform. It could be as simple as helping the blind to cross the road, or helping an elder to carry his or her load some way along. And once done, there is a way you knot your tie to show you have been of service to the needy. One got to the meeting a miserable one who found no one to render help to on the way until getting to the meeting ground. What I find curious, today, is that it never crossed our childlike minds to “fix” the tie, anyway, to suggest you have performed the act whether you truly did or not! After all, no one would know!

Of course, we all (who lived then) know the more familiar things, societal values of hard work and honesty. We know we did many chores without thinking we needed to get paid or recompensed for them. We just did them because they were things to do, our part in the whole tapestry of life. We know how petty traders left their wares unattended and how a buyer takes what he wants and puts the exact money down, and thank goodness since the monies then were essentially coins the risk of being blown away by the wind wasn’t there.

It took a village to raise us: our parents, our teachers, our neighbours, and, indeed adults that are total strangers. Anyone who found us doing something unbecoming suddenly became our ‘parents’, scolding us and grabbing us by the scruff of our necks, leading us all the way home to hand us over to our parents who then completed the justice, first right before the stranger or whoever, and then subsequently for going out there to ‘disgrace’ the family!

As students when we went out, or travelled, our ‘dressing’ was not complete without a magazine or novel, even if they were just the little romantic stuff of Mills and Boon or the bigger ones of James Hardley Chase. You read something; well at least you hold something!

Then as we grew up and aspired, we grew to know our role models: the teachers, the lawyers, the doctors, the nurses, the tailors, the carpenters, the footballers, the politicians, etc.  And at college level, those of us who had the opportunity of knowing one, students of the University College, Ibadan (UCI) or the Yaba Higher Technical College, the precursors of University of Ibadan and Yaba College of Technology respectively, were the ones to marvel at and emulate. I was that fortunate as my eldest sister, the late Bisi Fagbenle, was, a rarity for a female then, as the Vice-President of UCI student union and of the World Students Union.

Enough of that romantic past. If you ask, every nation on earth has its romantic past in the progression of nations and humanity. So we ask, who are our youths and what is the state of affairs of the youth today?

Who is a youth?

In recent times, all sort of ages have been proffered as belonging to the “youth”. At the onset of this third (or is it fourth?) republic young politicians and aspiring leaders, feeling the return of the old brigade of politicians asphyxiating, and agitating for “transfer of power” to the youth, put the bracket at 50 years at one point, and then 40 at a later point, all in what appears a game of inclusion and exclusion to suit the purpose of those in the vanguard for “change.”

But for the purpose of this essay, we have our job cut out for us by the maximum age criterion prescribed for call-up to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). That age is 30. By this, Nigeria considers anyone above the age of 30 not to be a youth. Consequently that age is the minimum to qualify to run for the House of Representatives, whilst 35 is for the Senate, and 40 for the President.

Why the fixation on youth

It is the imperative of nature for the survival of any species to bring forth its fruit or offspring in a continuum of regeneration and at a pace and manner that would enable it to meet the challenges of dynamic times and environment. The degree and extent by which any living thing is thus able or unable to readjust its reproductive or regenerative capacity and evolve creative ways to meet those many challenges of time and weather is what determines the continued survival or extinction of such species.

Any unit, from the family to the village to the ethnic to the nation and to the race, has an obligation to devote all its energies and resources to the nurturing of its youths if the continued existence of such unit or society were to be assured.

Youths are the future of any country. If the leaders of a country wallow self-indulgently in luxury, lack the capacity or will to prioritise appropriately for the continued sustenance and development of the country, and abandons its youths to their own devices, then woe betide such a country for its perdition is only a matter of time. The youth of a country are the real resources and pride of a country; not oil. Why would it take such an effort and time for any country to realise that?

As morning shows the day so does the youth of a country show the future of that country. If one country is denying itself instant gratification but concentrates its mind and resources in raising a whole generation of educated minds, scientists, economists, computer whiz-kids; and another country is splashing everywhere, engaging in white elephants and artificiality, its youths left untrained, unfocused; paying scant regard to education of its youths; I doubt if it would take a rocket scientist to foresee the different futures, the trajectories for the two countries; to know which country has tomorrow and which country will be enslaved.

(Being excerpts from the pubic lecture Tunde Fagbenle – titled, The Youth & the Future of Nigeria: What Role for the Media? – on the occasion of the Lagos Television anniversary”Annual Lecture” at the LTV Broadcasting Complex, Agidingbi, Ikeja, on Monday, November 18, 2013. To be concluded.)

 

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This article is published with the permission of Tunde Fagbenle

 

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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