The Nigerian Youth And The Challenges Of Development


The problem of over- population in African has registered its effects in almost every aspect of human life and endeavour. Indeed, throughout the world, lots of youths migrate from the rural areas to big cities either because they have chosen such a way of life, or because the constraints of the environmental structures have left them with no other choice. In search for a "greener pasture" therefore, most are entrapped within the circle of the famous 'area boys' or agberos as it is popularly called in some cities; and often times, they may drop out of school, since they believe that school may not be helpful to them. Their usual place of refuge is the street; hence they may be referred to in some areas as "street boys". A closer glance at our streets x-rays a considerable presence of these youths who, because they are deprived of parental care and guidance, may take to some unexpected behaviours or characters. The plights of these youths are worsened in that they are submerged in a milieu of general underdevelopment. In view of this Izibili and Enegho have observed that: ' It is no longer news that Africa is plagued with so many problems such as bad leadership, the absence of many basic social amenities of life such as good roads, health care services, pipe borne water, qualitative education, good communication services and even the absence of peace and development due to ethnic/tribal and religious conflicts, etc, leading to underdevelopment

DEVELOPMENT AND THE NIGERIAN YOUTH Izibili and Enegho are of the view that development is the ability of people to live in modern or civilized world, by getting access to some basic necessary facilities or necessities like having good roads, qualitative health care service/education, good pipe borne water, even to the extent of having plenty of food. Some scholars also explain that it implies equal distribution of goods and services, and Dudly Seers, placed emphasis on equality as well as growth. He maintained the position that asking the question: what has been happening to equality? Among others, can help us better assess the state of development. Thus development must encompass social justice. The adopted National Youth Policy states "youths comprises of all young per¬sons of ages eighteen to thirty-five, who are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Youths are one of the greatest assets that any nation can have" As the future, and the pillars on which a nation would eventually rest, the youths possess a place of importance in the structure of a nation. Consequently the most developmental effort that any country therefore can present to itself is the conscious investments in the furtherance of the states of her youths. Contrarily, what is mostly obtainable in several African states with particular reference to Nigeria is the presence of youths who are grossly dejected, rejected, in a state of acute lack, deprived, unemployed and above all, underdeveloped. This has placed many youths in vulnerable positions: they are the pawns of the gimmickry of fraudulent politicians who employ them as tools to achieve their greedy aims; and as a means to survival, many have taken to car-washing, thuggery, petty-trading, money- begging, bus-driving, pocket-picking and prostitution. The situation is worsened when one realizes that the youths are submerged in the web of underdevelopment that pervades most to the African continent. Hence, "a careful study of African State has revealed that her problem, though numerous, chief among them is that of development" .

FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE UNDERDEVELOPMENT OF THE NIGERIAN YOUTHS Investigations and various specialized studies tend to emphasize the following factors as contributing to the problem namely: lack of adequate educational formation, the home (unsatisfactory parental affection), economic condition, political instability, and youth's vulnerability to choose between what is morally good and evil. Many have justifiably argued that the seed of today's underdevelopment in Nigeria was sown some decades ago, when General Yakubu Gowon, a one time President of the Federation, thought he was trying to be kind to the nation, when his government heartlessly and impolitely seized and took over schools belonging to the missionaries. Due to this seizure, what do we see around the world of youths today? Indiscipline, moral decadence, social unrest, social vices and above all we have illiterates, who are not given qualitative education, and hence lack the rudiments required for developing both themselves and the community. Samuel Okorie writes that any society, which may in any way neglect the education of the youths, simply is building a large edifice on sandy soil, it will without doubt crumble at the end. In building a developed society tomorrow, we must begin by inculcating and caring for the youth of today. In building a crime free society, Africans and in essence Nigerians should focus more on education, because it is an urgent need capable of freeing her youths from ignorance and poverty. When some youths are deprived of one or both parents, they become more susceptible to underdevelopment than those living in homes with both parents: Also lack of positive description within the home, conflict between the parents or other disturbing interfamilial relationships, such as serious poverty, deprivation or illness may mar the general well being of the youths. Underdevelopment is fundamentally the result of society's failure to provide a decent life for most youths and to develop a sense of social responsibility in its citizen. As members of a society, the conditions of the youths are largely dependent on those of the society. Izibili and Enegho write thus: The most fundamental obstacle to development... of the crucial ingredients of social changes and human development in Africa are, social-political.... In addition, the economic bondage in which African nations have been placed over time is yet another force fighting against African developmental moves. This is true in the case of Nigeria, where the economic conditions have-made many youths to become street traders, hawkers, prostitutes, almajirai in the Northern parts of Nigeria and area boys in the south. More so, unbalanced political system could also be a factor where those in power today would not like to step down for the other man tomorrow. And we find a state whereby the rich begs to become richer and the poor becomes poorer daily without balanced employment. Hence our government offices today are most times occupied by dictators, monoliths and authoritarians. According to The World Book, it is not easy' to say just why certain youths become problematic and others grow-up and develop as so-called "sane" and "normal" individuals. Every case can be traced to a lack of adjustment between the youth and society. Youths belong to a particular society. His growth or "mal-development" depends chiefly on the two factors enumerated above: the society and himself. RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE NIGERIAN YOUTHS AND THE WAY FORWARD Although, youths are referred to as spoilers, political thugs and social deviants, they still have some rights and responsibilities, which are not always recognized by the society. Festus Alenkhe rightly puts it that the youths of the nation have lots of important and pivotal roles to play in ensuring the unity, development, progress and peace in the country. He enumerates some rights and responsibilities of the Nigerian youths to include: promotion and defence of democracy and civility in the governance of the country and interpersonal relations in fellow citizens; eschewing ethnic and religions bigotry; eschewing all acts of violence and crimes, such as cultism, armed robbery, street violence, alcoholism, substance abuse, prostitution; promotion of self-¬help, self-respectability, co-operation and community development; good ambassadors of Africa (Nigeria) both at home and abroad; a striving to be actively involved in decision making on matters that affect them (youths). This shows that we do not need to wait for non-Nigerians to help us develop our youths and society, we must make efforts within our little capacity to see how we could be helpful in creating an atmosphere free of struggles for power and insecurity in the lives of our African youths. At this juncture a vicious cycle is readily identified: on the one hand, the youths, as their rights and responsibilities, are called to eschew non-desirable elements in the society such as crimes and acts of violence. On the other hand, they are caught up in the web of such acts. A true representation of the situation therefore must affirm that to be responsible, the youths must be liberated from this vicious cycle; it is a fundamental right of theirs that this is not only achieved but also that they are offered means to better living conditions. This is a collective responsibility of all. After all, the "fact remains that for Africans to break from the chains of underdevelopment is the arduous responsibility of Africans themselves."

CONCLUSIONWe must note with Izibili and Enegho that its now time for us to realize now that no outside forces would help us to develop our youths and the African continent. We must be aware of' the international encumbrances that our underdevelopments impose on us; how the powerful foreign nations hold us to ransom with their bait and traits, how the multi-nationals impose their values and exploit us. In this regard, Nigerians must realise that we need to be conscious of an African Aufklarung (Enlightenment) emanating from educational maturity in order to rise up to the road of authentic development . And in all, parents should note that the youths watch them with shocks and delights as they perform some actions. The time has come now for Nigerians to identify and realize their initial ideas, including the situation and historical background of their beingness and then with a general and unified agreement try to face the challenges placed before them, that is of development of the youth. Without any doubt the need has come for Nigerians to take a break and look back at their thought pattern, that is their values and try to implement this same ideas, it is not enough imitating the Western ideas.

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