Letter to The Nigerian Youth

By Faith Berewa

Dear Nigerian Youth,

Some moments in history are indelible, I remember where I was on the 29th of May 1999, during the handover of power to civilian democratic rule after decades of military dictatorial rule. I was with my brother. The youngest of my siblings, I took him to an eatery to celebrate victory over tyranny, where we watched the dawn of a new era – a promising era. We watched on the screen as dictatorship gave way to the will of the people. My brother was not old enough to vote then, but I wanted him to take in the significance of the moment, as General Abubakar Abdulsalami handed over to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; the freedom to choose our leaders who will serve for the good of all, and that no matter how long oppression last, the will of the people will ultimately triumph.

During the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in the history of warfare, in Normandy, France, an event that was significant in the victory against Hitler’s fascist army, French President Emmanuel Macron stated “freedom is not free”. How true.

Our fight for return to democratic civilian rule was a long – drawn one. It was fought with sweat, it was fought with harassments, it was fought with imprisonments, with many taking the difficult decision to go on exile, saving their lives while fighting for the soul of the nation from far away shores. Many made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Democracy was a promise. A promise of a just, fair, equitable, prosperous society, for all.

You make up majority of our population with an estimated 116 million of you born since 1999. That’s over 50% of our population. When you add those, who were 15 years and below at the return of democratic rule, you are a formidable force; A strong, viable, vast demography.

It is sad that the form of governance you’ve ever known has been a disaster. Democracy in its form practiced here is an anomaly. Vote buying, election violence, nepotism, election rigging, cronyism, bad governance…. all these go against the grain of democratic Principles.

It goes without saying that you have been dealt a raw deal. It’s been tough for us your parents too, feeling the brunt of the socio-economic malaise the country is in, I know many of you are also parents trying to cater for your young kids in a climate of hyper-inflation and extreme income stagnation. Having lived through these years, you might be wondering where 25 years has gone.

Let’s look at it this way, just as our nascent democracy was to be nurtured and the country led into socio economic prosperity with our political leaders as the crucial actors, alongside, the destinies of you young Nigerians were placed in the hands of these leaders to shape and nurture into a secure prosperous future. Instead you have been marginalized, now denigrated and called names; lazy, idle, bad-mannered, yahoo boys and girls. This is not your identity, the vast majority of you dream, aspire to live and work in a country that works. A country with opportunities for all.

25 years is more than enough time to transform the socio-economic landscape of the country, our political leaders have not been wise enough to understand that neglecting you is neglecting the nation. It is now glaring with devastating consequences. The potential of a people cannot be unleashed without engaging the youths.

As I stated in an earlier article, our leaders have failed to understand that when they invest in our young people, they are investing in the socio-economic development of our Nation. You are a generation, strong, vibrant, full of ideas and with such energy to spur our communities and nation into economic productivity and prosperity. A generation whose minds ought to be stirred and harnessed into great discoveries and innovations, powering our industries, communities, educational institutions, great entrepreneurs, great minds, resourceful and useful to family and society have been abandoned, neglected, left groping in the dark. You have suffered the effect of 25 years of irresponsible leadership, the purposelessness of our leaders who over the decades did not seek to work to diversify sources of income to invest in you and in the development of the nation but instead mismanaged what has been available.

Our huge advantage is our youths. You are a mine of economic wealth and power if deliberately and purposefully harnessed. You have been told that you are the future, though it looks dim and delusional. But the future is you. In 10,15, 20 years’ time, you will be the face and the forte of our nation. In the midst of despair, pick yourself up. The current political gladiators won’t be here forever. Your numbers are your asset and strength. Embrace it. More importantly, utilise it.

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