Obviously, the youths represent the hopes and aspirations of any society seeking to enjoy a brighter future. They are the bedrock for any effective and sustainable development. In fact, the youths are integral in building a virile and healthy nation.
Perhaps, this is why most advanced countries come up with programmes and policies geared towards equipping the youths politically, socially, economically and even morally for the future. At this age and time, investing in the youths has not only become a priority, but also a necessity.
Conversely, the story is rather a sad commentary in most developing and underdeveloped countries of the world where corruption, abject poverty, unemployment and disease have assumed a frightening dimension, thus threatening the general populace, including the youths. In some of these countries, the youths have suddenly become an endangered species with bleak and uncertain future.
It is, however, not surprising that crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, arms smuggling, rape, assassination, thuggery, vandalism, terrorism and sea piracy have become so frequent in most of these countries.
In Nigeria, for instance, youth unemployment still remains a huge challenge. It is one of the biggest challenges the present administration is battling tooth and nail to tackle. Despite efforts to create jobs via various government policies, youth unemployment currently stands at 50 percent. According to the World Bank, unemployment rate in Nigeria stood at 22 percent in 2013, while youth unemployment was at 38 percent.
The task appears insurmountable today simply because successive administrations could not summon the political will in addressing the rising youth unemployment. These so-called leaders were more interested in winning elections and holding onto power.
Unfortunately, these long years of neglect is gradually robbing off on the youths in terms of their potentials, abilities and responsibilities as future leaders. Thus, it has invariably led to the upsurge in crimes and youth restiveness across the country. Of course, the consequences of not investing in the young people in a country like Nigeria would spell doom for the country.
What does the future hold for Nigerians youths? What kind of legacy are our leaders leaving for the youths to emulate?
Are the leaders really interested in building a nation that will outlive them? Is the assertion that youths are the future still attainable and realistic?
No doubt, the present administration is making conscious efforts in investing in the future of the country and its resourceful and creative youths. In line with its Transformation Agenda, President Jonathan in 2011 inaugurated the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria, YouWiN Programme to address youth unemployment.
In as much as the YouWin programme has been applauded both nationally and internationally for its success, the gospel truth is that unemployment is still staring a good number of able bodied youths in the face. In fact, many unemployed youths roam the streets in search of government-paid employment. Every year, the various tertiary institutions in the country churn out hundreds of thousands of graduates without any clear means of absorbing them either in the formal or informal sector. Sadly, many of these young people end up on the wrong side of life due to frustration and peer pressure.
We are of the view that state and local governments should key into Federal Government initiative by having concrete programmes for the youths, especially in areas of education, skill acquisition, entrepreneurship and agriculture. Besides, vocational and technical education should be given priority attention. Young people with requisite skills should be made to fill the existing lacuna of inadequate skilled manpower in the country.
Also, the process of accessing soft loans in banks should be made less cumbersome. A situation where by young, fresh and highly talented graduates are unable to access as small as N250, 000 to start up a small scale business of their own is rather unfortunate.
Although, one would argue that it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs; but it is the onus of government to ensure a friendly environment for private investors to come in. Any policy initiative aimed at job creation should be encouraged and supported.
For Nigeria to be reckoned with in the years to come, we hold that its youths must be well groomed and nurtured in all facets of life. The future of Nigeria lies on the youths and the sooner our leaders come to terms with this fact, the better.