With each new day, the fast-paced advancement in global trends make it imperative for every nation to either develop or die; reform or retard. A nation’s development, however, does not happen overnight or by accident. Nation building is the result of intense efforts at building a community and homeland, a phenomenal task not undertaken lightly, but shouldered by a nation’s government, its public and private sectors, and its people. The people, however, are the fulcrum in the developmental equation because they drive the systems and structures within the government, the public and private sectors. Therefore, people-empowerment is the critical element in national development.
People are the real wealth of a nation. That we exist as a nation with territorial sovereignty is because we exist as a people with traits of homogeneity. The success of our people is the key to our stability and sustainability, as well as the source of our global competitiveness as a nation. The super power nations that are leading economic cum political interchanges across the globe attained their hegemonic status by utilizing their resources to empower their own people. Any nation that will flow with the waves of the twenty-first century tide must engage its brightest and empower its young talents.
Youth empowerment, as a developmental concept, has been misconstrued a whole lot within the Nigerian context. The term has been mostly associated with the large-scale purchase of buses, sewing machines, or tricycles popularly known as ‘KekeNapepe’ to give out to the youth as a tool to enable them put food on their tables. Such models of ‘empowerment’, within the social context, is a far cry from what the concept really is because it is skeletal, stereotypical, and systematically fails to take into account the destiny of the individual being supposedly empowered.
Permit me at this juncture to shed a little light on what the concept really is from my world, the motivational world. Youth empowerment is simply all positive effort made towards enabling the youth to consciously discover, conscientiously develop, and competently deploy their destinies for the effective service of humanity. It is all about enabling the youth to build capacity for service to humanity along the lines of their destinies.
In the light of the above definition, one can easily reckon that most empowerment programs for the youth across the states, though laudable in principle, are not truly effective in practice. When you give a ‘KekeNapepe’ to a man that is not passionate about transportation business nor have built sufficient capacity to serve the public along those lines, you didn’t empower him in the real sense of the word. As a precondition, an effective empowerment program for the youth must be intricately connected with the passion, personality, natural ability, and the creative and innovative potentialities of the youth.
Over the years, the government made budgetary allocations for investments in physical infrastructure without channeling funds towards developing the mental infrastructure of our young people. Such lack of concern for the strategic development of our young people, in part, remains the bane of Nigeria ’s inability to diversify her economy and maximize its true potentials. We explore our natural resources without exploring the natural potentialities of our young people. This has in turn, limited the flow of opportunities across diversities of sectors within the polity thereby creating an imbalance of sorts occasioned by too many hands chasing very few openings within few sectors.
The Immigration Saga of last year were close to eight hundred thousand youth nationwide were chasing three thousand five hundred sold-out immigration jobs is a reflection of this sad reality. In that eight hundred thousand people, we possibly have very good writers, artisans, musicians, traders, architects, journalists, caterers, consultants, and entrepreneurs that have discovered their talents, developed them but probably lacked the financial resources for start ups, hence they became easy prey for job scam. The government needs to step up and shoulder the responsibility of harnessing these natural human resources for the all-round development of our nation.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai noted in his book My Vision, “A diamond is nothing more than a stone until it is cut and polished; only then does it become a precious stone.”
In the light of this assertion, the Sheikh noted that the people of Dubai are the most important ingredient in the development process of Dubai as a nation therefore, considers the development of his country’s human resources as the gauge for the development of his country. He invests the resources of the nation to tap the potential of people, inspire them to generate great ideas, help them develop wealth, and transform their ideas into major projects and job opportunities. He reckoned, “If we fail to educate young people, develop their skills and generate the spirit of excellence and creativity in them, we will never, under any circumstances, have a successful development process.”
In the same vein, you will agree with me that the majority of the youth in Nigeria, like diamonds, are nothing more than stones until they are cut and polished; only then do they become precious stones.
This quickly brings to mind the life of Africa ’s leading entrepreneur, AlikoDangote. The historical account of his early life and development has it that he had an intense passion for business at a very young age. While he was in primary school he bought cartons of sweets and sugar boxes and traded them to make money. After years of developing this craft he received some funds from his uncle, founded the Dangote Group, and has built it into the biggest quoted and most diversified conglomerate in Africa. He is widely acclaimed to have done more than any other African entrepreneur to put the African economy on the global map.
Now, whoever imagined what would have happened if Dangote didn’t have the financial resources to bring to light the greatness he felt on his inside? This makes it imperative for the government to assist in providing these resources for young people to cultivate their ingenuity for the service of humanity.
The youths are the future of this nation. They constitute the prime target of any sustainable economic vision and developmental effort. Until we start cultivating the creative potential of our youth and harness their capacity for ingenuity we might not maximize our full potentials as a nation.
Chief Charles Nwodo, a political think-tank and a one time member of President Buhari’s campaign committee for the 2007 and 2011 presidential elections noted that, “For the Nigerian economy to grow and diversify across multiple sectors, the youth must be empowered enough to develop their ingenuity and practice their individuality.” Thus the development vision of the present administration should create the paraphernalia for the youth to cultivate their creative and innovative competencies thereby enforce the competitiveness of our economy in the light of emerging global trends.
Such feats of global consequence however, require change – a change in leadership mentality as well as in government procedures and priorities. In spite of the myriads of administrative activities, bureaucratic conformities, and ideological susceptibilities facing the administration of President MuhammaduBuhari (GCFR), he should as a matter of national urgency and in the spirit of equity and inclusiveness initiate a national economic empowerment policy that seeks to provide deployment funds for Nigerian youths that have discovered and developed their creative and innovative competencies for the service of humanity and our national economic prosperity.
Such an economic empowerment policy should not be run in the similitude of the ‘YOUWIN’ program of the past administration. With due respect to its facilitators, the ‘YOUWIN’ program was an elitist economic empowerment model that created an avenue to firstly, financially reward political cronies, and then provide deployment funds for enterprising Nigerians that have the wherewithal to pay consultants to conceive business ideas and craft winning proposals backed with a strong political connection.
Ideally, an effective economic empowerment policy should be people-based and driven by a patriotic spirit devoid of any iota of surreptitious agenda in order to make a positive impact across the personal, micro and macro economic levels of the social strata.
Some social commentators argue that the youth should look inward, find something to engage them and become productive because government does not have the ability to generate sufficient jobs for its teeming young population. In all sense of fairness, government might not have the ability to generate a million jobs or more every year for the teeming unemployed youth, but government has the capacity to facilitate a national economic empowerment policy that provides deployment funds for a million youth or more every year that have discovered themselves, developed their craft, and are willing to serve the society along those lines.
This advocacy for youth empowerment readily brings to mind the current state of Greece, a nation that led world civilization in producing great philosophers and craftsmen, as well as dominated world trade through maritime ingenuity but today seeks for a second or third economic bailout fund from fellow Euro zone nations because they lost sight of harnessing the creative and innovative potentials of their people. Cultivating the ingenuity of our young entrepreneurs will fully integrate them into the system, improve their social wellbeing, boost economic activities across the nation and make our economy more vibrant.
Nigeria has too many loose political funds flying all over the place to allow the creative potentials of our unemployed youth to go untapped thereby mortgage the future of this nation. From recovered loots, to excess crude, these resources need to be channeled towards the empowerment of our people. I believe very strongly that when the people have purchasing power through strategic investments in their craft, it will energize the economy, go a long way in winning the fight against corruption, and thereby foster sustainable progressive development.

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Danfod is the Lead Resource Person @ Passion & Living Resources International. He writes from Abuja via [email protected]

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