On Sunday, August 12, Nigerian youths will join their counterparts around the world to celebrate the International Youth Day under the theme: “Building a better world, partnering with youth.” President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Mr. Ajani Olawale James, said that youths face a lot of challenges in Nigeria because both government and private sector see them as liability rather than asset. He spoke with ENE OSANG in this interview
How would you describe the roll of youth in nation building?
Like our slogan ‘build the youth, build the nation’ it’s clear that there cannot be any building at the level of nation without the youth. When you look at the history, Nigeria got her independence through the vibrant commitment of the young people and there have been development all over the world due to the roles youth have played.
Recently, one can say young people are coming of age because most developed countries are governed by young people who have the will and power to make things happen and Nigeria is not an exception.
The roll youths have played is strengthening our democracy because a nation that is not democratically governed is more like a tired nation. We have play prominent roles like making sure that democracy thrive during military dictatorship and when democracy was finally achieved youths have worked tirelessly in making sure that it is sustainable by ensuring checks and balances, making sure that there is commitment from government to the people.
We have rejected policies that we believe are anti-people and so many other achievements. That is not to say that we have reached the height we should be but we are still in the development process.
Are you saying you are satisfied with the role Nigerian youth are playing currently?
I would say not fully satisfied because many of us play negative roles like engaging in wrong deeds not minding the consequences because of the economic interest attached to such deeds, but that is not the issue because the majority will always have their way while minority will have their say. This is part of democracy but I think Nigerian youths are coming up.
We can see that clearly not only in political platforms but even in the business and private sectors, it is a process because a lot of young people are no longer waiting for government to create jobs for them but they are now doing something to better their lives. We have little numbers of CEO’s who are doing well regardless of the challenges in the polity.
I would say that what we are, and because of the past militarization of the country, you cannot expect things to work easily. Also when you look at the current challenge of insecurity (Boko Haram), the number of people that have been arrested or killed you will see that they fall within the youthful age that is why I say that some people have moved from the negative angle to the positive because they believe that if Nigeria is not united, it will affect everybody. I would say on security issues that through dialogue and mutual understanding, we will get to the Promised Land.
What should Nigerians expect from the youth as they celebrate their day?
When you look at the theme for this year’s celebration ‘Building a better world partnering with youth’, I don’t know how we will have a better world without partnering with the youth. I have known from the past and still the same today that we are future leaders but unfortunately when is the future coming?
Fifteen years ago when I was in secondary school I do hear that we are future leaders, fifteen years after, I still hear the same we are future leaders, when exactly will we get to be those leaders we always do hear about?
Young people are problem solvers but unfortunately in Nigeria, nobody is ready to give the youths opportunity to show their talents. The economic, political or security problems faced by the nation today are problems that can be tackled by the youths but a situation whereby the public and private sector is not partnering with them because they see you not as asset but liability.
Go to most of the developed countries like China, India, America for example, their youths are fully engaged and that is why their economy is growing but here in Nigeria, politicians use our youths only during elections and after that they forget them. Why don’t they use the old during elections? We should not just be seen as temporary assets to be used and dumped at will but should be seen with as a people with long time usefulness.
What we expect as we celebrate our day is that governance, business and social platforms should be opened for youths, so that we can build a better Nigeria. We can source for information and fish out people with suspicious character in our environment but when that platform of partnership is not there it won’t work well.
I don’t want to believe that Nigeria youths are not industrious as speculated by some people because, we have seen many Nigerian youth both home and abroad doing very well. I have been privileged to travel to other countries and I see many young Nigerians working hard to sustain a living some of them do two or three different jobs so I know that Nigerian youths are industrious people.
The problem is that our leaders don’t believe we know much but they have forgotten that so many of them went to school when they were still using type writers but today we use computer, IPods and so many other modern day technologies. With the advent of technology there are a lot of things we know that they don’t know.
Your position on the allege that youths make use of social media negatively?
I would say generally that young persons have this exuberance and some are not happy with the situation of things in the country that is why they express themselves through social networks and you know that most of such comments are said by faceless or nameless people.
For me I would say it is better to come up with ideas of solving these problems rather than just criticising or insulting leaders, this is unfortunate. But a focussed leader should not be distracted by such things because whatever you do some people are only good at criticizing. Majority of such critics have not really held any strategic position in the society so might not know what it takes to be leaders, rather they are only good at critics. We have also seen many of such critics doing worse than those they criticize when they are called to head any position of responsibility.
How has NYCN tackled some challenges faced by youths?
There are so many challenges and the government has the responsibility to make sure that some things are put in place in terms of social amenities for young people. The youths also have roles to play but a situation where they don’t have access to education, information and so on, things get difficult.
The role of NYCN under my leadership is to give them access to information but we don’t have resources in terms of funding to support any youth, but we can create an enabling environment by providing information to the appropriate quarters from the national to state and local government we channel these information and anyone who can meet up the criteria can fit into this and benefit from it.
The problem of unemployment is quite unbearable these days but we still do not have the capacity to create these jobs but we are strategising in making sure that government see reasons why the issue of employment generation should be key in the agenda.
We also believe that young people should not just sit and wait for government before they can get a job. Like the American would say ‘think of what you can do for your country’ I will say youths should start thinking of what to do for themselves because it is only when you are okay that you can remember what to do for your country. The NYCN is trying to ensure that incentives are given to young business owners to help them grow, and hoping also in the next few months that we can have a platform where the policy makers will engage the young entrepreneurs.
How would you describe government’s commitment to employment for youths?
I think this administration is trying its best but the President cannot achieve this success alone if those working with him are not committed to their jobs. Secondly, the problem of insecurity is really killing the economy. No foreign investor would like to put their business in a place that is not secured these are some of the bane of Nigeria’s progress.
Filed Under: Youth Today