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Prof. Protus Nathan Uzorma

 It is with deep sense of responsibility and respect that I write you this piece of open letter probably loaded with information that shall consequently enhance your sense of patriotism to your nation Nigeria. 

 Dear youths of our dear nation Nigeria, today is another day yet that we have to put our heads together to ensure that we take up the responsibility of our lives by ourselves. The year 2023, is the long awaited year for change, and there must be change in our society as we learn how to fit in into the leadership steering of our circle and future. It is of recent that youths came to realise the need to have frequent summits wherein their affairs, wellbeing and future are to be discussed.

As I have always done whenever youths invite me for public lectures for their wellbeing, I will make this open letter very brief but rich and direct to the point by re-echoing the voice of Prof Eyo Ita in 1934 (as the National Leader of the Nigerian Youth Movement, NYM) who then declared that “Youths in other countries are driving forward, building themselves and their people, making their homelands beautiful, bright and stimulating, raising them to higher heights. This is the day of the Nigerian youth. It must build a new social order for whereas yesterday belonged to our fathers, today and the immediate tomorrow is ours. We can and must shape it according to our needs and desires.” I say same to you today, that you must build a new social order, a solid youth leadership, which certainly is the panacea for rapid societal development.

The commonest definition of the term ‘youth’ in all English dictionaries around the world is that of ‘the period between childhood and adult age,’ and as ‘young people considered as a group.’ For Thomas (2003:88) ‘youth’ simply means ‘the stage of constructing the self-concept;’ this self-concept of youth is influenced by several variables such as peers, lifestyle, gender, and culture. In line with this perceptive of youth as a phase of self-concept construction, John Wing Jnr (2012:9), defines the term ‘youth’ as ‘the time of a person’s life in which they make choices which will affect their future.’

Generally the common understanding of the phrase “a youth,” is a young person who has not grown up to full adulthood or who is partially or provisionally under the continual care of parents or guardians in the society. Consequently, the youths belong to the ones under parental care. It also involves anyone who is learning as young adults, mid-career adults or those who are taking vocational training in established learning or training organizations.

The Psalmist (Psalm 127) while exhorting youthful age, declared that “like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver filled with these arrows!” The youths are these arrows that the warrior (in this case our country Nigeria,) uses to fight in order to conquer, in order to save its territorial integrity and ensure its continual future existence.

 Thus, standing the youths on the rock of true survival and position in the society is comparable to the Psalmist filling one’s quiver with the arrows. That is why the problems of the Youths are the problems of the society that wants growth and development, and the more reason why whatever can put to stop the general and excellent percentage of the problems of the youths, has truly become a cure, a Balm of Gilead and thus panacea for the quick development of that particular society. And the best and lasting form of desirable future development a clairvoyant society could envision and embark upon, is youths’ grooming, empowerment and enthronement into desirable positions that will ensure socio-economic stability, any other societal efforts are elementary urgencies that have to be attended to by anybody (male or female, adult or youth, able-bodied or deformed) on whom the affairs of the society are entrusted upon.

Unfortunately, our society today only remembers you the youths as employable adults who are of the ages of 20-35, which is below retirement age, and this remembrance occurs only when the already siphoned employment opportunities are made public for externalised bureaucratic efficiency that is purely a mockery on the youths and their life careers. Our society and government today, divide you the youths into qualified and unqualified ones. The qualified ones (in terms of academics) amount to millions from our universities, about 70% of which are in search of opportunities to be saved from denials of means for self-subsistence.

I don’t need to be told that most of you are already graduates from reputable higher institutions of learning and with classical results and agility to change the affairs of the society. The great question here is, will you be given the opportunity to do such, if Peter Obi is not elected? Will you not be clued at this youthful age with your results, talents and enthusiasm to permanent frustrations and servitude? Today, our graduates roam about the streets in search of jobs. It is only very few of you that today have the luck of being employed in our brigaded private companies, and thus end up in debasing factory-hands and as sex solicitors. Many of your colleagues on daily basis trek from Nigeria across the borders to outside countries (such as Spain, Algeria, Libya, Italy, Morocco, etc), and in most of the cases many of them got rot away in countless jails on allegations of sundry crimes, etc.

The flip side is for the youths with low tolerance level, are now actively engaged in armed robbery, kidnappings, acting as thugs for politicians, massive crude oil theft, and cyber crime called ‘yahoo-yahoo’ and the senseless killings of innocent citizens in the garb of Boko Haram terrorism. For how long can we go on this way? Are these the sort of youths that God predestined for our society and your generation? Or has our society not made the type of youths it wants to have?

The prime objective of this open letter is to ask you the youths- What do you want? How do you want to live your life? Are you contented with the type, quality and calibre of youths that your society today and its government want to turn your generation into? If you are, then be what you are and where you are. If on the contrary, you are not, then, rise and take a leap across the chasm of subjugation and vote Mr. Peter Obi. Make the envisioned generational shift and attend the desired new life status, take steps that will change your lives and follow only Mr Obi who truly wants and vouches for your welfare.

These questions call for sober reflections. Thus, what is at stake here is how to bring you youths together so that you can do it yourself- Exercise authority over yourself and others, and therein vouch for the welfare of the society whose today than future you are. Are you ready to always come together to analyse your strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and have reputable self-esteems, confidence, motivations, and abilities that will lead you all through life, (which necessitates that you establish support networks in order to fully participate in the societal life and therein effect positive social change or development)?

According to Lerner, R.M. et al (2005), positive development for youths comprises of the 5 C’s: Competence, confidence, connection, character and caring, and as these are ensured, McKay et al (2011) assures that the 6th C (- contribution) is realised. What these mean is that you cannot make any positive contribution, change or development in the society without first being competent, having self confidence (in yourself, profession and abilities) and being connected (to realms of power or opportunities for survival), as well as having worthy characters (that assures the society that you are truly ready and able to take up its leadership) and then put all into practice by caring (which simply implies doing it, showing concerns and sense of responsibility, etc). These are the real implications and challenges of youth leadership as envisioned in this letter.

For you to truly succeed in your leadership frays and ensuring rapid societal development, the youths must endeavour to form unions, associations and movements in schools, communities, political wards and Local Government Areas, and Senatorial zone, etc. These groups can mandate themselves to make it a point of duty to meet with the political office holders vested with the leadership of their specific locality, and mount pressures for positive change and compel the leaders to deliver the demands of the masses to them and vice-versa.

Secondly, you must have a focus, vision and constant programmes for your general well-being as youths. Thirdly, you must acquire unending and varied skills, which makes you versatile and competent in life and for youth leadership. Fourthly, you must endeavour to sustain your cooperative force and support for good governance, this you can do by contesting for elective positions.

History shows that nationalism in Nigeria began with Nigerian youth leadership at different places of studies and their students’ activism, and these students were at the forefront of the nation’s Independence. Fifthly, you must avoid thuggery and being used by unscrupulous leaders, religious fanatics and politicians of the society for their selfish ends, or any type of self-destroying activity such as drug addiction and peddling, cultism and other unlawful activities such as stealing, prostitution, harassment and intimidation. Sixthly, you must ensure that through your pressure unions and your well articulated agenda, you participate in your various communities’ affairs, and vouch for the inclusion of your views (passed as communiqué) in development policies. Finally, you must always have the development and betterment of your society in mind, and always see yourselves first as both the today and future of the contemporary society and indeed the substantial potential leaders who ought to better citizens.

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