AN ALLOCUTION DELIVERED AT THE OCCASION OF THE SECOND PUBLIC LECTURE ORGANIZED BY IKALE YOUTH AMBASSADOR ON 6TH AUGUST 2016 AT OKITIPUPA TOWN HALL. BY KAYODE AJULO
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT; BEYOND GOVERNMENT.
I am privileged to be in your midst this morning as I considered it a home coming event, Ikale is an integral part of Ondo State. It is a second home to most of us.
The Ikale Nation according to history was of nine communities at inception with a uniform dialet. The Ikale youths on the other hand are vibrant, dogged and very articulate ones. Many of whom I have been privileged to interact and work with at different occasions.
My earliest encounter with the Ikale people dates back into my early life and growing stage, through the late Comfort Omoge. A renowned musician of high repute, whose musical tracks my mother likes a lot and will always play at home.
As a young student of Aquinas College, Akure. I took relish in Comfort Omoge’s Asiko music, her song is a quintessential Ikale music, it evoke our passion as a people living in Ondo State. It defines us.
The topic given to me is on the empowerment of fellow youths;
Youth empowerment without much ado can be described as deliberate and conscious efforts, policies, initiatives and strategies put in place by societal stakeholders to give sound education to youths, equip them with skills, knowledge and values, provide suitable environment for them to participate in the affairs of the nation, provide veritable means through which they can be economically engaged productively, etcetera.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics in its 2012 national youth survey report; youths of working age, in the age bracket of 15 to 35 years are nearly 70 million persons in a population of 166 million Nigerians.
We as youths represent the productive population and the engine room of the economy of every nation of the world.
As a result, youth empowerment is central t the growth and overall economic development of every nation. Bearing this in mind, our topic of the day can be described as a discourse that touches the very soul of our dear nation.
Youth Empowerment is important and strategic to every human society in many ways. First of all, the youths are the next in line to take over the mantle of leadership in every human settings, as such, investing in them is indubitably an investment in the future of the country and by fact, the most strategic way to secure a brighter future for the society.
Secondly, the youths represent the productive strength of the society, therefore in order to boost and ensure optimal productivity for social development, there is no alternative to youth empowerment.
Thirdly, youths are inevitable pillars in nation building, in other words, to build a strong and sustainable nation, it is pertinent to empower the youths.
Fourthly, it is important to emphasize that any society that fails to empower its youths is laying a faulty foundation for the future generations as such society is inevitably setting a time bomb of social catastrophes which will surely explode in due time.
This cogent and vital intellectual discourse is apposite and timely looking at unravelling events in our society and beyond. As Nigeria is gradually rising from the devastation of Boko Haram insurgency, you will agree with me that the most vital tools for Boko Haram activities were the depressed, unproductive and unempowered youths ignored by the society that later transformed into the biggest and most dreadful nightmare of our nation after the Civil War.
The case is not different with respect to the fighters and recruits currently being used by the Islamic State (ISIS) to unleash terror on Syria and Iraq and many Western Countries such as Germany, France, and Belgium. This is also with the rising spate of militancy in the creeks of our Niger Delta, rising cases of kidnapping and human trafficking, drug related crimes, political thuggery, just to mention but few.
The media was awashed with the news of the execution of 3 Nigerians by the Indonesian Government in the last week of July, with others still on death row. Unfortunately, the actors in the ugly scenarios highlighted above are largely youths who have taken the rebel way to constituted laws and authorities perhaps, as a result of the bone of our contention in this discourse.
Interestingly, the rising case of unemployment with increasing population of young people in Nigeria and Sub Saharan Africa at large, calls for urgent action. For instance, a UNESCO report in 2012 revealed that countries in sub-Saharan Africa had the youngest proportion of population in the world with over 70% of the region’s population aged below 30.
This is expected to increase almost by double in 2050. This portends a great danger if nothing is done. There can be no better time therefore than now to discuss a topic of this nature and I must commend the leadership of this forum for taking up this noble and timely cause.
Youth Empowerment: A Catholic mission
The beauty of this topic is in its conceptual nature of looking beyond the norm and thinking outside the box.
As errorneously obtainable in virtually every developing society, the task of empowering the youths has been termed a load meant for the Government’s shoulder alone.
As earlier mentioned, various initiatives and ways through which youths can be empowered include: Provision of quality and affordable education, creation of opportunies for youths to engage in productive economic engagements, Provision of avenues to acquire valuable knowledge, skills and values, entrepreneurial training and assistance for take off, creation of employment opportunities.
These are tasks that cannot be left on the shoulders of the government alone. Arising from the aforementioned, the task of empowering the youth is therefore a responsibility that belongs to the various components of stakeholders in the society. Some of these stakeholders are discussed below:
Every nation is subdivided into units which are further subdivided into smaller subunits. Starting from this micro level, the various communities in our society are expected to play significant roles in empowering the youths. This begins with the community establishing a suitable community development body that will oversee the development of the community.
Such body could therefore play a role in collaboration with other stakeholders in ensuring that facilities such as schools are maintained and well equipped in the community to enhance the process of providing sound education for youths. In addition, the community can also facilitate various programmes and initiatives that will provide youths with training and skills acquisition by leveraging on the networks of their illustrious products.
Indigenous groups or associations:
Pivotal to the social existence of human societies is the desire and fulfillment man enjoys in associating with his fellow, especially from the same place of origin. Such social groups should not only be seen as just a social gathering, but it should be seen as a veritable tool for social engineering.
In that sense, such groups can focus on empowering the youths through Provision of scholarships to assist indigent students in the society to acquire education, provide avenues for training of community youths in Skills acquisition, entrepreneurship drives, provision of tools and equipment for start up for artisans, provision of soft loans for business start ups to empower youths to be self employed and become employers of labour. In fact, depending on how affluent, such groups can facilitate the citing of industries to provide employment for their people. They can also encourage and help their youths to invest in modern Agriculture to boost food production and reduce unemployment, etc.
Today, a number of magnanimous personalities exist in the society who are dedicated to investing in youths and empowering them to be productive and active participants in the economic transformation of their societies.
Such philantrophism have established Foundations that are dedicated to training young people towards equipping them with entrepreneurial, leadership as well as digital skills in many dynamic dimensions. For instance, The Tony Elumelu Foundation recently opened up a portal of opportunity to hundreds of Nigerian youths with interest in entrepreneurship to help them acquire skills and also assist them to establish themselves. Many Foundations like the Tony Elumelu Foundation that are dedicated to assisting and empowering youths in Africa to rise and become great contributors to national development are in the country today.
The traditional institution:
The traditional institution surely has a big role to play in the development of the society. It is in the first place, the first fabric of formal social existence in Africa vested with the authority to govern the society prior to Colonialism. This institution still retains its dignity in many climes today, but without the full measure of its initial precolonial authority. Nevertheless, the institution still plays a huge role and still exercises weighty influence in the social component of our society today. Consequently, the institution can use its influence to coordinate community based development organizations as stated above to fast track the development of its domain. In such situations, the head of the institution has a huge role to play in aggregating the resources at his disposal to empower the community, especially the youths. A good and worthy example of this today is the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II. The young and dynamic Ooni has indeed redefined the traditional stool and positioned it as a veritable instrument of social development and a means to empower the youths with his remarkable initiatives since he ascended the throne less than a year ago. Within one year, the Ooni has embarked on landmark initiatives such as provision of scholarships, including postgraduate scholarships to qualified indigenes of Ile-Ife, a laudable ongoing initiative to capture and promote musically talented young Ife indigenes, in addition, His Royal Majesty has also embarked on the construction of a massive tourist attraction with the capability to employ many youths in Ile-Ife.
This is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria’s traditional institution. A good lesson to point out from this in consonace with our discussion is the fact that the traditional institution has the power to coordinate and organize resources to empower the youths in many ways and in the process, bring development to the society.
NGOs and Int’l organizations:
Many NGOs that are involved in youth empowerment exist in the country today. It is one of reasons that inspired me to found an NGO, Egalitarian Mission for Africa 11 years ago. I know of a young lady with an NGO called Timba Foundation in Lagos who provides skills acquisition and entrepreneurial trainings for young people at little or no cost.
We also have initiatives that are fostered by foreign and international organizations such as the International Model Unites Nations which is an avenue to empower youths with the skills that delve into the workings of the United Nations.
We have bodies like UNICEF, USAID, Save the Children, European Union etc that only require your free time to volunteer with them for a period of time in order to equip you with various humanitarian and social development skills that can qualify you for employment opportunities into organizations like theirs and others without anybody’s influence. But the problem with this could be that many are not aware or uninformed, surprisingly, some of these opportunities are just clicks away on the internet.
If not the youth, who can? While it is important for other stakeholders to play their roles in empowering the youth, without the youth themselves rising up to the challenge, only little will be achieved. This question is one which challenges the youth to see themselves as the best agent of empowerment to themselves. It is undenaible that in the current economic quagmire in which our nation is enmeshed especially with the news of imminent recession, the numerous challenges confronting the youths are umpteenth and daunting.
It will be wicked to say that all is well with our youths at the moment despite their numerous potentials.
However, the bitter truth still remains that the way out still lies largely with our youths. I know the factor of environmental determinism (which is a phenomenon where what goes on in your environment has the capability to influence you) goes a long way in limiting us with respect to the current situation of our nation, it is however instructive to know that for the environment to pull you down, you must consent.
This implies that if you as a youth wakes up with a well crafted vision for yourself, arm yourself with courage and determination, equipped with strong passion and desire to excel in whatever you choose to do, nothing can stop you.
I therefore urge us as youths with huge potentials to think outside the box like our leaders in this organization who have laboured hard mentally to come up with a beautiful topic of this nature, and face the challenges ahead with the determination to succeed.
It will interest you to know that the most successful people in the world today were not born by successful or wealthy people. They were simply men armed with a burning passion to make a difference in life.
You too can be better than them. I will therefore encourage you all to be optimistic about our abilities and look inward to exploit them and acquire skills that can help you maximize them to bring out your success like the day be break.
Digitalization and ICT development has made it easier in your generation to equip yourself with skills that can empower you to become economically engaged.
Today, you can simply go to YouTube and type any topic of choice based on what you want to learn and acquire skills by yourself without going to school free of charge. Through productive use of the social media, you can learn new skills, get new and insightful ideas, meet new people that can positively influence your life and market your product for free. Unfortunately, despite the fact that your generation is awashed with information which are easily accessible, many of you waste this opportunity by not making good use of the internet and social media to get useful information that can empower you, rather, it has become an avenue to engage in unproductive dealings and conscious waste of time. ICT and Digitalization today remain the biggest avenue to acquire skills and get empowered. Unfortunately, you are underutilizing them. You have to decide either to help yourself or wait till the youthful age is past. I have no apologies saying this because it is the truth and if I can’t tell you this today, it means I am also failing in my own part to empower you. In addition, you have to see friendship beyond companionship, but as destiny partners, this implies that your network of friends must be right thinking and optimistic people who are focused and are enterprising so that they can positively influence you and help equip you with information that will challenge and push you to action.
Dear brothers and sisters, I am often moved with passion and vigour when it comes to this stage in a discussion like this where we have to speak the truth without any colour, scarlet or apparel so that we can both realize that most times, the damage done by the inactions and the actions of the government are minimal compared to the ones we inflict on ourselves by our carelessness and inactions.
Many of you waste too much time and energy on student movements when your colleagues have moves farther ahead of you into the space of limitless success. Sometimes, I am baffled when I see young and intelligent minds rusting under the banner of the so called “student struggle” that sometimes waste their careers and lives on nothing that can be termed noble. Are we also to talk about those who have constituted themselves as emerging 419s and political thugs who are consciously wasting away their lives? You and you alone will be blamed for your failure in life, while many will praise you and not the government or anybody for your success. It is therefore on this note that I challenge you all to see yourself as the first agent of empowerment to yourslef better than any other one.
You therefore have to make up your mind today not to wait for anybody before you move out to empower and create opportunities for yourself.
It is also important for us all, to imbibe the thought of not just what our society and country at large can do for us, but what we can do for our society. One of such simple but important things is our active participation in governance. Either by direct involvement or by electing youthful and youth friendly leaders into Government.
Sincerely, it is only reasonably expected of us not to choose political parties who parade candidates in their 60s, 70s, and some octogenarians. Just as we have in the latest appointments of the ruling party at the federal level.
Again, if a party appoints over 36 Nigerians into different federal ministries, and it claims that there is no single youth that fits into its list.
Then I think it is an insult to our collective sensibilities as enlightened and educated youths. It is therefore our individual responsibilities to choose wisely, as the sensitive period of choice draws nearer again in Ondo state.
It is imperative that we line up behind a candidate that we can see ourselves in, it is important that we align with the party that place premium on us, as youth. Our future is now, this is our time.
While I conclude, I wish to state emphatically that this lecture has not been tilted to reduce the place of the government to zero in youth empowerment, however, it is borne out of the need to instil in us the conceptual framework of “thinking outside the box” so that we can quickly realize how urgent it is for us to help ourselves. Importantly, while a youth remains the biggest agent of empowerment to himself, the government still remains the biggest stakeholder as far as youth empowerment is concerned.
The government is the central nervous system of all the other stakeholders and it is responsible for coordinating them to work and advance the course of a better society where opportunities abound for our youths.