TABLE OF CONTENTS
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The popular Aphorism; ‘Black is not synonymous to lack” is constantly brought to check every time the media reveals disheartening news and clips of poverty-ravaged places in Nigeria. Like it or not, current statistics globally relates the black race to skyrocketing levels of wants and poverty.
It is forever bewildering when the stats are brought up and a country such as Nigeria- the supposed giant of Africa sits amidst nations perishing in the loosed hands of poverty. It is more perplexing when the resources in the country are taken into consideration. Consisting of virtually all kinds of raw materials capable of changing the socio-economic phase of her people, it is distasteful that a large set of Nigerians live in abject poverty.
In a bid to counter the problem at hand, some ‘well-Meaning-Nigerians’ has proffered that the wretched climate of the nation is attributed to the fact that the nation is barely young when compared to other civilizations and hence must not be viewed on a parallel basis. This statement however, is not entirely true as it will spell folly on the nation if we wait to be over Three hundred (300) years before expecting significant change. In my own outlook, we stand a better chance than any nation in the world today. We have the experiences of these nations to learn from, a bountiful land arguably the most blessed in terms of mineral and agricultural resources, and above all, a whooping youthful population capable of rejuvenating the socio-economic facade of the nation.
For a country having all it takes to be a major world power, it is typical to wonder why her current status quo says otherwise. It is not with all the acumen in the world if the issues constraining her socio-economic redundancy is attributed to a direct negligence to the Nigerian youth. The youth remains the active set of individuals and thereby responsible for nation building.
I consider the Nigerian youth as a fragile bomb. If handled carefully, they possess the prowess to deliver the nation into victory over her socio-economic hurdles. Likewise, neglect will spell catastrophe on the socio-economic development of the nation as they find solace in antisocial vices.
It is based on the foregoing backdrop that the input of a working population- the youthful population be encouraged and meticulously emphasized upon. More so, in a bid to achieve stability and development socio-economically, the Nigerian youth must be properly equipped and empowered to sustain all aspects of programs and initiatives that targets national development. Muhammed (2013). In other words, conscious efforts must be made to address the various constraints to youth productivity in Nigeria.
Before delving into the subject at hand, I deemed it expedient to make clear, some key impressions guiding this thesis.
Youth: Different basis have been given upon for which a person should be called a youth. Around the world, the English term youth, adolescent, teenager, kid, and young person, are interchanged, often meaning the same thing. For many, the expression ‘Youth’ according to Wikipedia generally refers to a young person especially those within the period of childhood and adulthood. Some schools of thought attribute the stage to mindset or state of mind of an individual. Furlong, Andy (2013). However, the term adolescence refers to a specific developmental period in a person’s life unlike youth which is a socially constructed entity.
Varying culturally, the gender constructions of youth in Latin America and Southeast Asia differ from those of sub-Saharan Africa. In Vietnam, widespread notions of youth are sociopolitical constructions for both sexes between the ages of 15 and 35. Dalsgaard et al (2008). In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the term "youth" is associated with young men from 15 to 30 or 35 years of age. Youth in Nigeria includes all members of the Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18–35. Many African girls experience youth as a brief interlude between the onset of puberty and motherhood.
Youth Empowerment: According to Madunagu (2005) Youth Empowerment refers to the process by which youths gain inner power to express and defend their rights and gain greater self-confidence, self-identity, self-esteem and control over their lives, personal and social relationships.
This is done by addressing their situation and then take action in order to improve their access to resources and transform their consciousness through their beliefs, values, and attitudes. Snehendu et al (1999) Youth empowerment aims to improve quality of life through participation in youth empowerment programs.
Used very frequently by economists and politicians since the 20th century, Socio-Economic development denotes the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social landscape of her people Muhammed (2013). Given the occasion, all efforts towards the forgoing statement is encouraged to do so with ample input by the Nigerian youth.
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The youthful stage is a period when one is at the apex of his physical strength, undergoing significant changes in physical, emotional and social make up. It is a period in life characterized by excesses and can be fraught with feelings of rebellion, anxiety, confusion and naivety (Okwubunka, 1994). Based on the above-mentioned statement, the negligence of the youth will not just render the nation’s socio-economic growth stagnant, but also cause a quick fall in national development.
The case of unemployment in Nigeria probably comes top charted amongst deliberated issues nationwide. Sky rocketing levels of unemployment has rendered youthful participation in national development futile. Having over One hundred and eighty (180) million Nigerians, the youth makes up 70-80% of this figure and virtually over 80% are unemployed (Ibrahim, 2008). The estimated 10 percent in employment are burdened and depressed with near total dependence of relatives and family members (Giwa 2008).
Unemployment is characterized with individuals living in penury and below the poverty line, incapable of solving their basic problems. This increases susceptibility and thus become tools I the hands of the unscrupulous few holds power, in search of better living conditions
The forgoing has become the case, resulting in the creation of drug peddlers and armed robbers mostly whom are in the youthful period. Without any fear of contradiction, one can say that unemployment and poverty are two most important impediments not only to the participation of the Nigerian youth in national development, but also to the progress and development of the country. Muhammed (2013).
Therefore, for Nigeria to achieve stability and national development, these twine ills plaguing the country must be tackled and at their roots too.
The subject of youth empowerment is vaguely seen on most occasions as encompassing only the creation of programs by government to reduce the level of subsistence in the Nigerian youth. Furthermore, the designation is restricted to providing processes that help sustain the immediate needs of the youth hence, various empowerment programs have sprouted over the last couple of decades. Cases of these exercises includes: The Subsidy Re-Investment Employment Programme (Sure-P) organized by the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, National Directorate of Employment (NDE) programme by Babangida administration, Niger-Delta Development Commission’s (NDDC) empowerment programme, National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), amongst others established by various state governors and local governments in Nigeria.
The question that borders the mind of many Nigerians is: Are the youths fully engaged in the government empowerment schemes? If they are, how expedient are these schemes to the youths?
Regardless of these initiatives, little or no change is noticed when the employment is brought into question. Young people remain idle and unemployed, thus partaking in varying forms of felonious activities resulting in dire consequences including insurgency and consequently the loss of lives and properties.
More recently, there has been an increase in insurgency in North-Eastern Nigeria, annihilating economic activities and killing innocent citizens. It is no doubt that these schemes have not fulfilled the purpose for which they were created
The foregoing contradicts empowerment as it is being preached to be. A characteristic of empowerment is freedom and freedom cannot be achieved under conditions depicting bondage. Empowerment schemes ought to be introduced with zero lenience to corruption and its vices.
Nevertheless, it is out of point if the efforts of government are not applauded, given their good intentions. Intentions however, are not what is needed in today’s Nigeria if they remain intentions in the weathered minds of politicians and see no light of day.