By Prof. Protus Nathan Uzorma
For decades past, youth-crisis has been perceived as absolutely irascible, destructive and inimical to the unity, peace and progress of our country Nigeria. But this is not true. Over the years, Nigerian youths have been seen as authors of revolutions in any perceived slightest mal-governance or maladministration in government. This too, is not true. In virtually all youth’s crises, the politicians and elder statesmen are seen as the only caliber of Nigerians capable of solving youth’s crisis. This also is not true.
What is true is that youth-crisis is always their decisive moment against the continuity of an act of governance and government agencies that adversely affects the today and the future of our national tomorrow, which calls for reversion, and thus a turning point. What is true is that based on their exogenous origins, youth-crises in Nigeria strive for abrupt change in what badly affects the society, which the youth are victims and in the centre of the effects. It is often seen by the youth as an occasion to decide if an affair or a course of action must go on, be ended or modified. What is true is that the youths are both critical factors of crisis and inevitable solutions to the crisis.
Consequently, present day Nigerian youth-crisis finds best solutions by those who have been youth’s affairs activists, who know their problems, how to solve them and comport credibility and leadership before them.
As a National Patron of various Niger Delta Youths’ Organizations, who since decades past have been and intervened in lasting individual and collective solutions to youth-crises, I make bold to state that in Nigeria, the youth are a factor in violent crisis and agents of nonviolent transformations. Thus, Nigerian youth-crisis is both chaotic (disordered) and cathartic (thus healing and the purging out of prolonged repressed discontentment on the societal leadership and its policies).
As such, our youths find in youth-crisis an opportunity to surface repressed discontentment, identifying them on placards and parade songs of disapproval, and urging for refinement, remedies and restructuring. But, it is at this point that they had always derailed from the primordial good intentions and course of their revolutions to wanton destructions, which in recent times were caused by either exaggerated youthful vulgarity and exuberance or the dehumanizing approach of the Nigerian crisis management agents, who always forget the cathartic agency and human being in the revolting youths, and see only chaos and brutishness, and treating them thus.
Unlike in the Arab countries, America and Europe where protests are normal societal sitz in leben, Nigerian youths hardly embark on crisis or protests. As experts in crisis management have noted, youth-crisis is always exogenous. It is always from an outside organism and thus intransitive on the youths. It is because of this exogenous and intransitive nature of Nigerian youth-crisis that makes it cathartic from their side and for the Nigerian society.
The exogenous origin of Nigerian youth-crisis reveals its provenance from either the three arms of government (in the federal, State and council levels) or government agencies (working as parastatals, contracted companies, etc). In this regard, from any of these sources, the crises emanate as a result of the attenuation of social, political and economic prospects confronting the youths.
In most occasions nowadays, youth-crises emerge as a result of the felt impression or conviction of being excluded from decision-making or not being considered in a policy, which execution chagrins, and impinges pains and discontentment on their present and future wellbeing. The youths then tend to see mainstream political or policy channel as irrelevant, and thus revolts contra eo.
The inability of the leaders of the government or the exogenous causers of youth-crisis to make critical reviews and analysis of the effects of their presence, activities and policies in the society, as well as the people’s reactions to them, causes periodic youth-crisis’ resurgence in Nigeria.
Other times, the approach employed by the Nigerian government or leaders (of the exogenous-cause of a youth-crisis) in settling such crisis, causes rebirth youth-crisis of same or similar nature after awhile. Such approach should be comprehensive and thus must revisit the socio-political, economic and environmental challenges that stirred the crisis.
More so, the use of reactive and interventionist approach in contemporary youth-crisis stores bitter vengeance in the youths who always repress it and wait for a future opportunity to either decant or pour out their anger. This reactive measure is always dehumanizing and brutish, compelling reprisal or repression in the youths, either of which furthers future crisis eruption.
At other times, talks or reconciliatory apertures are opened with some leaders of various youth’s bodies who never get the solution’s feedback to the general body, updating them on current developments and outcomes of the settled crises. This often causes resurgence of same or similar crisis, because of their ignorance of previous solutions the societal leadership made on same genre of social challenges.
Every crisis is loaded with risks, dangers, possibilities and opportunities. The first danger in youth-crisis is the conception of the rioting youths as chaotic, useless, and jobless and over/un ambitious. This perception makes crisis-managers and security agents see and treat them as brutes and thus inhumanly, which ripple effects culminate in the youth’s wild reprisals and category self-defense, at which point properties and lives of innocent citizens, as well as those of the rioting youths and the crisis managers are lost.
Another risk of youth-crisis is its fast-spread and simulations, especially in instances of universal exogenous cause(s) or such simulacrum. It instigates camaraderie, teamwork reactions, responses, solidarities and reprisals in the youths of other localities, either to join in same cause in solidarity or to simulate same pattern for a related one within their vicinity.
The most conversant danger of youth-crisis is the loss of lives of the revolting youths whom being irked by the cause of the revolt, get filled with ire and irascibility, seeing their course worthier and more valuable than their lives, and even when they are brutishly attacked by State-arm-bearers and crisis managers, they see continuous influx of self-volunteering youths, their avowed perseverance and resistance as manly, a course for martyrdom and thus dare further their ‘assailers.’
What one calls his dog is what it answers. Youths during crisis should be concomitantly seen as ventral factor of violent conflict and an agent of nonviolent transformations. As factor of crisis, youths should first be seen as humans, then as revolutionists, and their acts than them as chaotic.
As agent of nonviolent change, youths during crisis should also be seen as agents of social change who have assessed and sensed inauspicious developments in the social, political, economic and environmental aspects of their society. This is because most updates or reversions and changes in government policies that are felt as inauspicious in the society occurred after youths-led crises.
There is need to provide regular good quality offers of equal opportunities for youth’s training and empowerment, at least 6 months after leaving school or being unemployed. This keeps immediately reabsorbs and keeps them focused and stable on the route to subsistence, and should be made a rule for secondary school leavers who do not intend continuing their education afterwards or for graduates of colleges, polytechnics, universities or better, after the National Youths Service program.
Youths during crisis, should be positioned at the centre of the solution instead of marking them as a set of citizens to be consulted and abandoned after consultation.
Youths as I am convinced from my previous experiences in youth-crisis’ solutions, should be part of the assessment of the causes of the crisis, and be part of the team proffering the solution templates to (the remote and immediate) causes of the crisis.
They should also be part of the implementation process, monitoring how effectively and accurately the implementations go in line with the proffered solution templates, and thus join in the regular evaluation of the efficiencies and impacts of the solutions against the inauspicious effects and causes of the primordial crisis.
Government should call for a national conference that will bring together the youths and leaders for dialogue. There should be at least two or three (2-3) leaders respectively from the youths and elder statesmen of each of the six geopolitical zones in the country with other relevant leaders and organs of government in the conference.
This dialogue should have in view the solutions to previous and recent youth-crises in the country, and should be able to salvage further occurrence of such violent conflict. The government should not negate this because ignoring it will certainly generate a lot of future disaster.
In each youth crisis, the government should be prompt in the early hours to intervene and declare ‘cease-fire’ to the youths, and in form of nonviolent executive order that the rioting youths conscientiously will abide by, in accordance with the vested authority of the State or Federal leadership and thus stop further chaotic eruptions. Immediately this is done, proffering administrative solutions to the crisis and other related problems that bedevil the youths follows.
The federal government as a matter of urgency should implement the recommendations of the national conference for constitutional review. This conference touched in details most of the issues causing crisis, industrial actions and sundry agitations, violence cum restiveness in most parts of the country. For instance, the two outstanding demands of the youths in the ongoing crisis are police reforms and restructuring of the country, which are parts of the recommendations of the national conference.
At each of the three levels of government, or at the State and federal levels particularly, Government should regularly vote some money for youth’s empowerment, training or education in the geopolitical divides. On this note, I strongly commend in a special way, the Imo State Governor, His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Hope Odidika Uzodinma, for magnanimously voting out N2 Billion for Imo youths.
Yet, this voting of fund for regular equal empowerment and training is one thing and its judicious implementation, monitoring and the realization of the set goals, another hurdle that needs specialists in youth-crises. Such glorious fund requires transparency and proper monitoring.
As it is said in Christendom, not everyone that calls ‘Father, Father’ is godly. Not every leader, stakeholder or elder statesman can be trusted with the disposal and implementation of such project. Government needs sincere, accountable and transparency-inclined youth’s activists for such implementation.
The worthy trustees are to bring out templates for an equal distribution of the voted fund to its destination, issue an open and all-citizen’s accessible outlet for the whereabouts of the voted fund and the realization of the aims of government with the fund.
At any of the three levels or arms of government, embarking in this regular empowerment, training and employment schemes, needs the directions of these categories of experts, who in their set templates should dictate what goes to which empowerment and training, and which class of youths and category in-group benefits from it.
The experts must have already marked out principles of inter-gender equality and equitable distribution of such templates within the political divides in the State or geopolitical units in the country. This also necessitates regular evaluation, review and upgrade in the templates to ensure proper actualization of the government vision for the voted fund.
The youths as the most sensitive and conscientious class of citizenry know their real leaders and run to them for solutions and interventions during crisis. Most of these renowned youth commanders and patrons have acquired their trust such that a directive from them on the need and use of such funds voted for named projects, is obeyed to the last letter.
This comes as a result of being tested and trusted. Besides, these few trusted youth’s commanders and patrons have transparent structures and functional NGOs that habitually embark on such youth’s training and empowerment.
Above all, the youths should be appreciative and fast in welcoming the government’s felt concern for their wellbeing. One of the evidences of appreciation in this regard, is being just and faithful to the government’s resolution-policies and executive order.
To this effect, the youths during crisis should be able to nominate their own trusted representatives who stand for them at every process of the conflict resolution and implementations. To prove this gratefulness, there is need for an outright cease-fire at the very moment Government declares so, and should be able to embrace the extended hands of dialogue, reconciliation policies and solution templates proffered by Government designated agents for the crisis management and youth’s affairs.
The youths as we know are good but need direction. Those who direct seem to have lost their own direction. Bad leadership is responsible. It is bad leadership that is responsible for the injustices, falsehood and disorder in which we are caught up today. The teachers have strayed from the path of truth. The educational system is defective. The educated are without character, according to Ghandi, “An educated person without character is not only useless but positively dangerous to society”. This need not to be argued, rather, presents food for thought especially if we examine the trend of our society.