How Youth are Impacting Society -Senator Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki
The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki has described the youth as important agents of social change, listing several pro-youth programmes of Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The Minister treated the subject of youth as agents of social change in a virtual speech delivered at a Zoom lecture organised by the National Association of Kwara Students held last Sunday.
Punctuated with witty exchanges and local and international sharing of experiences, the minister proffered many ideas for energised youth engagement and development even as she acknowldged challenges and prospects facing the youth nationwide.
The full speech is published below:
THEME: YOUTHS AS AGENTS OF SOCIAL CHANGE
It is indeed an honour to be with you all this afternoon. I trust and pray you are all doing well and staying safe. Welcome to the new world order – virtual communication.
In spite of everything that we have gone through and continue to go through, in the world at large and in our country in particular, let us first acknowledge and give thanks to the Almighty Allah for the privileged of being alive right now, and just for a few seconds, focus our minds, our thoughts and our hearts on those who have lost their lives this year, those whom we have lost to the pandemic, to killings, illnesses, all those who have died and the families they left behind to grapple with their loss. May their souls rest in peace and may Allah grant their families the fortitude to bear their loss.
The year 2020. Annus horribilis. The year truly came about punching at the world. It gave the entire world an upper cut blow, that we are all – all 7Billion of us battling with, with incessant reminders that we are still not out of the woods yet. This year turned our lives, our country, our world upside down. Things we all took for granted – socializing with one another, hugging, laughing, even and most especially coughing, became a source of fear for and to us all.
For those who know me well, I don’t do things flippantly, nor do I take anything or anybody for granted. And the same goes for this event and those who invited me. I received a copy of the programme yesterday and saw that it said Lecture by the guest Speaker. No, no, no…. I am not here to lecture you. I think you get enough of those in your universities!! No, I cannot lecture you. I can talk to you but lecture, no. It defeats the essence of why I am here. Besides, if I attempt to start that, many of you will suddenly start having network issues and disappear!!
So, let me first start by thanking the Association for their patience with me. I was asked a while back and given the honour to pick a date and time. And here we are. Thank you for that, and I must certainly give a shout out to my person, the President of the Association who has incredible charm, wit, sheer determination and since of collective purpose, Jaji. I am an admirer of his and though I am not so familiar with many of the 18 Executives at the national HQ, I believe you must all possess similar if not identical values as your President’s. To stay true to One’s self, One’s belief and values in the midst of pressure, blackmail and sometimes outright intimidation and abuse of power from higher authorities is commendable. To remain true to disciplines, values, beliefs of academia, and under scholarly challenges and difficulties you may all had faced is admirable and applaudable.
It view of your aforementioned noble scholarly disciple, and as leaders of tomorrow, I enjoined on you to remain steadfast and focused. For your journey may be tough, by God your futures are brighter. Indeed, we will do all we can to continue to support your plight and aspirations in achieving your dreams for a prosperous and inclusive Nigeria.
I thought about your Association, thought about the Founders and the thought process that gave birth to the National Association of Kwara State Students. I wondered what the aim of the Association was. Why was the association formed in the first place? What was the essence of forming this association? There must have been a reason, or a couple of reasons. Have those reasons been achieved? Been realized? Looking at what is happening around us – both globally and locally, and in our own back yard, have those reasons changed? Should new reasons be added? Are members getting back what they should be getting from their membership?
So, I had to delve into the history of the Association. I learnt of its birth, how it emerged from Kwara Students Union to what it is today, adopting the ethos of “Revival, Resuscitation and Rebirth’, with the singular objective, and I quote; “ to see to the better welfare of Kwara students both at home and abroad. “ I even read the 35-page Constitution, as amended in 2019!! Even for that, I think I deserve to be given an honourary membership of this Association. I was on your website and noticed that only 11% of the Exco are women – just 2 out of the 18… Hmmmm… that is a social change waiting to happen, one that I hope the girls will co-opt me into!! LOL!!!!
So why go into history? I needed to do that to be able to address, to discuss with you all this afternoon. I also thought deep about the audience. Whom am I to talk to? Fellow Kwarans. How am I to talk to you? As a politician? As a public servant? Or As a mother? Or as just a speaker?
Had it not been for Covid, this event will be holding right now either in Ilorin, or some other venue, with 90% of the attendees coming from our State of Harmony. Therefore, I felt strongly that I should not be swayed by the virtual nature of today’s event and try and speak to a wider audience. Thus, for me, I have zeroed my mind into believing that we are all seated in that huge and grand hall in the University of Ilorin, eating puff puff and sipping on some bottles of soft drinks, whilst listening to me speak. Basically, I am tailoring my speech to the students of Kwara State extraction that invited me to interact with them. So, off the bat, let me apologise to those who are not members of NAKSS who are spending their afternoon with us.
But seriously, I thought hard about the topic: Youth as Agents of Social Change. This is a given, as the youth, the next generation are the main agents of social change. Or change in our society at large.
So, what is social change? It is a process of shifting attitudes, values and actions to address social problems in a positive way. Social change agents work to make an impact in the world on a local and global level. Anyone at any age can be an agent of social change.
So how is social change achieved?
Social change agents work to make the world a better place. They use many tools to influence others to make a positive impact as well. From listening and being aware, to being fearless and having a clear vision, there are many ways social change agents influence others.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
It certainly doesn’t feel like that sometimes does it?
Yet, we know it to be true. Education is the most powerful of weapons to use to change the world.
It was already a difficult time to be a student, young person in the world before the year 2020. Let us reference ourselves, our community and stick to home. It was already a difficult time to be a student, a young person in Nigeria, even before Covid. Having to struggle through school with inadequate facilities whilst not even sure of getting a job upon graduation with the high unemployment rate in the country. Being a student, a young person was already extremely hard, being a young female student in Nigeria, having to deal with everything our fellow male students have to deal with – financial difficulties, access to books, and fear of the unknown, but now add a dollop of sexual harassment, sex-for-grades, and gender discrimination on top of all that, to start to have an idea, even if not a total understanding of how difficult it is to be a young female student in Nigeria.
I went to university myself and when I compare my experience, university atmosphere and available facilities, with what you all have to go through, I am not sure majority of us who did school abroad can actually endure what Nigerian students have to endure, to deal with to survive. Don’t think so. So, we must admire them, their resilience, that in spite of everything, still they work hard, adapt and push through.
Now finish it all off by adding the impact of Covid on the world order. Without a doubt, these are tough times. Very tough times for us all, admittedly in varying degrees, but tough non the less. The business community has had to take some drastic and difficult decisions to lay off staff to ensure their businesses stay afloat. The farmer who has toiled the soil has had to watch helplessly, both banditry and then the rains wash away his crops and thereby destroy any potential harvest.
The Federal Government has had to take drastic measures of total lockdown during the initial outbreak of Covid, difficult especially since the economy and our one product income earner – oil – was tanking on the world stage, thereby creating a downward free fall of our revenue…we went from a projection in our budget of $ 57 per barrel to a reality of $20 per barrel in May 2020, with an OPEC forced reduction in our oil production to 1.7M barrels a day from 2.1M barrels. It was goodbye to our National 2020 budget that both Government and National Assembly had worked assiduously to pass in a timely manner to take effect at the very beginning of the year.
That was a big deal, it might seem small, but it was a big deal. We get used to things quickly and then to forget and appreciate certain things that happen. Remember, previously, budgets were passed halfway into the year. But this Federal Government, and National Assembly worked hard to ensure that the 2020 Budget was passed and ready for implementation by the beginning of the year.
But we all know, that every crisis presents an opportunity as well as a threat. With every difficulty comes with it, possibilities and opportunities to change, adapt and even grow. Most important thing is to recognize these opportunities and be prepared for it.
Let me give you an example. Just recently, in the midst of all that is happening globally and locally, two days ago, a company Pay Stack, formed by two longtime friends, Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi in 2015, was acquired by an American company, Stripe, for over $200M. This is possible because the world and its needs have changed. We all know that technology is where it’s at. Let them serve as inspiration to us all.
Let me not digress. Let’s return back to our topic. Social change. Education thus plays a predominant role in bringing about social changes. We may say it is a passport to social change. Without education the knowledge of social changes can’t be gathered and will thus hamper the process of social change. That means changes are always initiated through education by one way or the other.
That is why David Emile Durkhrim- A French sociologist, conceives of education as, “The socialization of younger generation”
Education brings about the changes in the customs, traditions, social & political institutions. It makes these institutions capable of addressing the current needs of the society. The obsolete customs and blind traditions are replaced by modern thoughts. Social evils like the yesteryear tradition of killing twins are eradicated from the society by educating people though public awareness programs with the help of electronic and print media. As a result, there has been total eradication of such cases.
Education is and will be the most powerful tool for individual and social change and we must do all that it takes to facilitate it.
Majority of you believe that you are not qualified to work on your dreams until you have gotten a degree certificate and concluded your National Youth Service. You should not just spend your pristine age pursuing just a degree certificate. Allow your creativity to soar and channel your energy in more than just one direction – yes, making 5.0 GPA is important, but so is also making efforts to intern at various institutions and organisations. And before any of you start attacking me about this, know WORLD OVER, interns are mostly not paid, they do it to gain personal firsthand experience and develop their skills and passion for whatever they do. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Although Kanye West was already a multi-platinum hip-hop artist by 2009, he launched his fashion career by starting as an intern for Fendi. Rather than being treated as a superstar, West said his duties included coffee errands and making photocopies at the Italian fashion house. Today, West owns his own successful fashion line called Yeezy.
Steve Jobs was just 12-years-old when he landed his first internship working on an assembly line at Hewlett-Packard. In addition to learning how to put screws into computer parts, the summer internship gave Jobs the opportunity to connect with Steve Wozniak. Jobs and Wozniak later went on to become business partners, launching Apple in 1976 which has since evolved into one of the most iconic brands in history.
The new social order is tech. In all forms, with social media been one that is open to us all. So, let me at this point, make sure you guys are not asleep. Let me ask a couple of questions.
The right answers win something – a phone.
(1) How many Nigerians are users of Facebook? (2) What percentage of these users are between the ages of 18-34?(3) How many Nigerians are users of Twitter? (4) What percentage of these users are between the ages of 18-34?(5) How many Nigerians are users of Instagram? (6) What percentage of these users are between the ages of 18-34?(7) How many Nigerians are users of YouTube? (8) What percentage of these users are between the ages of 18-34?
Now that we have done that, and I see that many of you are still awake, let me continue.
So, with social media, relationships are formed and maintained, business deals are sealed, participation is enhanced. Yes, social media has its positives, but it sure does have major negatives like cyberbullying (giving people a licence to be hurtful and spiteful to people and issues they have no true understanding of), frauds and scams; misleading and outright lies and misinformation and hacking but to name a few. I joined Facebook many years ago, to monitor my kids on this new thing everyone was raving about. There I was thinking I was clever and hip but after a couple of embarrassing baby pictures I posted on their profiles, they disappeared. Just vanished. I couldn’t understand it. It took me a couple of months to realise these kids had actually changed their names so I couldn’t find them. Suffice to say, after some negotiation of what pictures I can post or not post, we are all now Facebook friends once again.
Though come to think of it, they don’t post much on that platform anymore. They moved up, just like the game Super Mario. They left me behind on Level One and super turboed themselves to Level 5 aka Twitter, knowing that, that vicious shark-like platform will devour me and thus keep me from attempting to also move to the next level. But me, Jugunu of Kwara, just like Mario himself, I bit the bullet (though my legs were shaking but that’s not the point) and joined Twitter a couple of months ago… I refuse to be left behind.
I have met some great people via social media, some of whom I have met physically, many whom I chat with and many whom have become part and parcel of my family.
Enough about me and my social media journey, let’s talk about you the youth, especially NAKSS. At some stage I believe we should examine how you have been using technology to impact your lives, your education and your future and most importantly your association.
Let us use this body as the platform for the social change. Let this be the first rung of the ladder of social change agents of NAKSS. Because you are 100% in control of this. That is the challenge. Let’s see. Everybody can’t be an agent of change; people have different roles. And sadly, some people, their role is just to criticize others – negativity. Ignoring them, let’s challenge ourselves. Let us go back to the drawing board and let’s not just have these events annually, and meet and speak English, clap and we all go away.
Let’s try and make a difference. In spite of everything that is going on, let us put blinkers on, stay focused and say, you know what, we are going to change this; we are going to try and create a body, improve on what some other people started, look at our constitution, rules and regulations and ask what sort of society do we need in the 21st century of Kwara State Students to justify having a Kwara State Students Association? Or is it just to go and fight for bursary. If this association’s main focus is bursary, why not just go and give it to consultants to help get bursaries out and give them a certain percentage for job done. If it is only about bursary. But it cannot only be about bursary because it isn’t only about bursary.
Let me humbly suggest one social change and you be the agents of that change. May I suggest that one of the many computer science students should take it upon themselves, on behalf of and with the support of the national HQ, develop an App that will make communication easier for members. A NAKSS App, that could be called App-A-NAKSS… don’t go with my own name suggestion oooooo. Seriously, I am here to support in the development of this, if need be. We will all be amazed what could grow from this. The App could cover not just means of communication, but also welfare of the students, academic development, and transportation from and to different parts of the country.
Dr. Dean said, “Anytime you change something, you have to think about how it’s going to benefit somebody else—and that is what you promote.” He gives the example of doubling someone’s pay. That is a change most people would welcome, even if they claim they don’t like change, just like this app would be welcomed by all your members.
Fellow NAKSS members, (note I used the word fellow) It is not just about the ideas, it’s about tapping the unlimited resources at your reach to carve a niche for yourself. Million-dollar ideas are a dime a dozen, the determination to see your idea through is what is priceless. Decide today to follow through on your idea, the Internet is available for you to research on the million and one lucrative businesses and innovations and opportunities that are yet to be explored. Learn, intern, volunteer, explore, network and be agents of positive change.
The President Muhammadu Buhari led Government, since 2015 till date, has introduced so many various programmes specifically for the Nigerian Youth, under various MDAs. Let me share these with you, so you can all go out and tap into them:
THE NIGERIAN YOUTH DEVELOPMENT FACT SHEET: 2015 TO PRESENT S/N INITIATIVES, PROGRAMMES, SCHEMES RESPONSIBLE MDAs & COLLABORATIONS REMARKS
1 N-Power Office of the Vice President and FMHDSD 500,000 beneficiaries engaged, 400,000 coming on next month
2 NYSC Monthly Allowance Increased from N19,600 to N33,000 NYSC (FMYSD) Over 320,000 corps members benefiting from this every month
3 FG approved N75 billion for youth investment fund. FMYSD, CBN Funds are to be ring- fenced and released in batches
5 Farmer Moni, Trader Moni and Market Moni FMHDSD, Bank of Industry Empowerment of 2m Farmers & Traders, mostly youth
6 DY.NG (Digital Youth Nigeria) FMYSD Mass capacity building in Digital Skills projected to provide Digital Skills to 500,000 Youth
7 Construction and rehabilitation of National Youth Development Centres FMYSD Implementation of skills acquisition programmes for the alleviation of poverty, and employment generation
8 Mobile Device Repair Training Scheme FMYSD in collaboration with NCDMB Training for 100,000 youth across the nation with financial and technical starter packs
9 Establishment of $20 Million Fund for Nigerian Tech Innovators and Entrepreneurs Bank of Industry (BOI) The Fund has been approved by the BOI Board of Directors and is in pre- implementation process
10 Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mandate to provide short-term employment for graduates. More than 50,000 youth have benefited
11 Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme (Yes-P) Bank of Industry (BOI) The YES programme is aimed at equipping youth with the requisite skills to be self-employed
12 National Young Farmers Scheme NALDA To encourage, empower and guide 1000 farmers from each of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria
13 Bihari Young Farmers Project NALDA FG gets 500 Hectares of land in Kwara for this initiative
14 Fashion and Beauty BOI The fund will be accessed by youth in the various segments of the fashion & beauty value chains
15 Entrepreneurship Training Programme Development Bank of Nigeria Objectives include: – 1. Ensuring MSMEs are equipped with skills2. MSMEs to access available credit3. Optimizing MSMEs for efficient utilization of funds and access to markets
16 N-Power Tech Training Office of the Vice President, FMHDSD More than 2000 youth were trained in web development and other digital skills
17 A GREEN STIMULUS PLAN: Capacity building workshops on energy efficiency and empowerment programmes for wealth and job creation in the 6 Geo-Political zones FMYSD This initiative comes under the DEEL Programme through the Economic Sustainability Plan funding of the Federal Government
18 DEEL: Digital Youth Nigeria (DY.ng) programme – Specific focus on positioning youth for remote job opportunities, tapping into the global technology outsourcing market FMYSD Same as above
19 DEEL: Work Experience Programme (Employability) in 6 Geo-Political zones. FMYSD Same as above
20 Provision of equipment for Youth Development Centres, Digital Skills Training, Robotics Laboratories in 6 Geo-Political zones
Let me leave you with this very long quote and please listen carefully.
Indira Gandhi’s father Nehru said in 1944, “What is my inheritance? To what am I an heir? To all that humanity has achieved during tens of thousands of years, to all that has felt and suffered and taken pleasure in, to its cries and triumphs and its bitter agony of defeat, to that astonishing adventure of man which began so long ago and yet continues and beckons to us. To all this and more in common with all men. But there is a special heritage for those of us, not an exclusive one, for none is exclusive and all are common to the race of man, one more especially applicable to us, something that is in our flesh and blood and bones, that has gone to make us what we are and what we are likely to be”
…. An agent…. An agent for social transformation”
Thank you so much for the honour. Please stay safe and be careful out there. And God bless you all. God bless Kwara State. And God bless Nigeria.
Senator Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki,
Minister of State for Transportation.