by Faith Berewa

Dear esteemed reader, if I may ask where you were twenty three years ago? What were up to?
Entering the university, perhaps graduating? Starting a new job, a family or not even born then?
What of the innovation of the past 23 years? The world has seen some of the greatest
inventions and advances humanity has made in the last two decades that has impacted and
influenced the way we live – social media, electric cars, advancements in transitioning from
fossil fuels to renewables, self-driving cars, blockchain technology, online payment platforms,
cryptocurrencies, the metaverse and more.

Twenty three years is no small time for the transformation and setting forth of aspirations and
the fulfillment of such in a society, and a nation.

For fear of Soviet domination of Space, President John Kennedy in 1962 challenged the United
States Space Agency to put a man in the moon in a decade. It happened seven years later on
July 20th 1969, and with these words ‘that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for
mankind’; Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon.

Take China, figures by the BBC from the London School of Economics shows that in 1970,
exports were $10bn, less than 1% of world’s trade. By 1985, they hit $25bn and a little under 2
decades later, exports valued at $4.3trn, making China the largest trading nation in goods.
What about poverty reduction? China’s poor at a time constituted 70% of the world’s poor. In
1981, China’s poor outnumbered Africa’s by almost 4:1 yet by 1996; sub-Saharan Africa had
overtaken China in the total count of the poor. (Ravallion, World Bank). According to figures,
from about 240m people living on less than the international poverty line of $1.90 a day in
2010, the number reduced to less than 50m people in 2017- in just 7 years. You see these
figures and wonder the human tragedy Nigeria has become. World Bank Report on how China
lifted almost 800m people out of poverty is a must- read for our political leaders and those
who aspire to public office.

By 2020, China officially achieved its goal of eradicating poverty. In 40 years of its
development drive, almost 800 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty. “…We have
accomplished the arduous task of eliminating extreme poverty, and made significant
contribution to global poverty reduction…”Yu Welping, China’s vice minister of finance. This
can only happen where there is selflessness, drive, determination, and virtuous living on the
part of leaders.
It has been 23 years in this democratic dispensation. This year, it wasn’t really on the front
burner. We were fixated on the party primaries; across board, a process that have brought in
characters that have mired the country in a huge mess. Return to democratic rule in 1999
presented an opportunity for a fresh start in socio-economic and in development strides,- and
transforming our society into a hub of genuine democratic governance, with strong
institutions that work for all. We heaved a collective sigh of relief after years of military
dictatorship, with the belief that our newfound freedom would lead to personal and societal
flourishing for us and generations yet unborn.

Alas, our brand of democratic rule has not smiled on us. Worse, it has not smiled on or kids,
our children- almost two-thirds of 216 million of us have been born in the last 23 years. A
whopping 67% of our population are below 24 years of age, these are children that were born
supposedly in due season. The season of hope, rebirth and renewal of a nation.
Add that figure to those who were children in 1999, 0-18year olds who are now 23-41 years of
age. Countries with an aging population and a dwindling labour force will look at this
demography and be green with envy. As I stated in an article in 2020, just as our nascent
democracy was to be nurtured and the country led into socio economic development, with our
political leaders as the main and crucial actors, concurrently the destines of these young
Nigerians were placed into the hands of these leaders to shape and nurture into an assured
prosperous future.

Twenty three years after democratic rule, just as the country has descended into turmoil, with
no clear direction out of the misfortune we have found ourselves in, sadly are our young
people, groping in the dark, with no sense of direction from our leaders. The ones that ought
to drive the growth, productivity and development of this nation have been neglected. Our
politicians forget that the future is now- the future we were waiting for yesterday is here

Our brand of democratic rule has dealt a raw deal on our children and youth -the engine room
of our nation.
The ones who desperately need support, the ones in whose lives government should invest
the most – a crucial part of the citizenry of which the main aim of government is their welfare
and security have been neglected.
Their Security? A nightmare. Welfare? Anything but. Look at the Stats:
-54.7% of Nigerian children are multi dimensionally poor, UNICEF report released recently.

  • The highest out of school children in the World according to latest World Bank report,
  • Infant mortality-one of the highest in the world (UNICEF)
  • 2
    nd highest burden of stunted children in the world, due to malnutrition with a national
    prevalence rate of 32% of children under five (unicef)
  • Abduction of children from the comfort of their schools. A cruelty not seen anywhere in
    the world, with some still in captivity
  • Many displaced children from their communities, uprooted from their homes, living in
    abject conditions in IDPs camps and deprived of education. So pathetic that the region
    most affected- the north- is the most disadvantaged in the education sector.
  • An unacceptably high unemployment rate among youths in endemic proportions
  • Trauma and the psychological impact of terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, sexual
    exploitation in captivity.
  • Lack of access to basic amenities such as clean drinking water and sanitation leading to
    infection among the most vulnerable; children.
  • The perennial ASUU strike. Who cares? Those that should, have their kids in some
    private university, or studying abroad.
    This is the sorry state of being young in Nigeria.
    I will end with a piece from an article I wrote in the Sahel standard in 2017. I said “how
    can our political leaders not know that the future is always here? How can they not be
    aware that abandoning our young ones today is reaping a future of misery? Today is the
    future we were waiting for yesterday. Why are we bemoaning the current state of
    affairs in the country when no deliberate efforts were made to lay a solid foundation for
    the young, and generations yet unborn”
    The maxim “you reap what you sow” finds no greater consequence than in Nigeria. Sad.
    So sad.

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