Molding The Character of Nigerian Youths as Impetus For Development

By Yinka Salaam

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Youths determine the stability of the present, the prosperity of the future, and the greatness or otherwise of any society. Hence, no serious nation or community jokes with its youths, because they are simply the future.  Nigeria is estimated to have the largest population of youth in the world.  The median age of the country’s youth population is 17.2 years.  The United Nations World Population Proposals released in July 2022 projected Nigeria’s population in 2050 to be 375 million people.  Out of this projected population, the UN Reports estimates that the youth population in Nigeria in 2050 will be 262 million.

This youth population is an asset to Nigeria and the world that needs energetic young men and women to work for development and wealth creation. This requires that deliberate policies and programmes must be formulated and implemented to prepare the Nigerian youth for present and future challenges that they will confront as leaders of the country and citizens whose decisions would be reckoned with in society.  Such policies and programmes must incorporate education that not only prepares the youth physically and mentally but also ethically.

Consequently, the training, education, and development of the youths must be taken seriously, because youths are not only agile, they are bold, courageous, progressive, radical, intelligent, and exceptional risk-takers. Nigeria had a good feel of what the youths could achieve when, in 2020 they led an agitation against the excesses of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police in the famous #EndSARS protest.

The Nigeria Youth Policy 2009 aims to promote the fundamental human rights of the youth in the country.  It is also the objective of the policy to protect the health, social, economic, and political well-being of all young men and women to enhance their participation in the overall development process and improve their quality of life. The country’s youth population will not be able to achieve these objectives without imbibing the right character and values.

Nigeria must consciously pay attention to the development of its youths to secure the future. Government at all levels – from local government to state and federal must invest adequately in the education and development of the youth. The government should fulfill its promise of allocating and spending the United Nations benchmark of 27 percent of its budget on education. Basic education at the primary, secondary, and technical levels must be truly free, just as education at the tertiary level should be highly subsidized.

The Nigerian government should also invest in infrastructure and pay its workers living wages and salaries to stem the tide of losing its future leaders to brain drain and avoidable emigration in search of greener pastures.

Since leadership is about competence, morality, and strength of character, Nigeria must rework its school curriculum to inculcate morality and glorious character. Any nation that allows its youths to be preoccupied with drug addiction, drug peddling, illicit sex, lewdness, perverted music, immoral behaviors, corrupt practices, and cyber fraud does so at the detriment of its future and development.

Youths with great potential and talents should also be encouraged to thrive and blossom. The government, its agencies, corporate bodies, and well-meaning individuals should engage in sponsorship of programmes and reality shows that encourage talents and develop the leadership potentials of the youths rather than the ones that encourage immorality, indolence, and crimes.

The system must reward excellence, talents, and breakthroughs just as it must punish crimes, immorality, and unethical behaviors. In the same vein, correctional centers should truly be correctional. They should not be centers that breed criminality and harden criminals.

As citizens of the biggest black nation in the world, its youths must take the bull by the horns by holding their future in their hands. How do they do this? They must consciously strive to possess the knowledge of history and be abreast of the vision of the founding fathers so their past efforts shall not be in vain. They should move away from the realm of criticism and participate in developmental projects as well as politics at all levels.

Above all, the average Nigerian youth should not only acquire financial education as a matter of necessity, but they should also acquire a positive and growth mindset that continuously grows and develops talents and abilities. And with hard work, more effort, and regular training, they become smarter, more talented, and more creative to take Nigeria to greater heights and take it to the promised land.