By Tope Templer Olaiya

ImageYoung people take charge


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The main auditorium of the University of Lagos came alive recently. The 5,000-seater auditorium, famous for hosting social engagements, was crammed with young people. The size was probably bigger than that witnessed at The Future Awards, a few weeks earlier. The occasion was not a musical show, an award night, or a sports event; rather, it was First Bank’s aptitude test that brought thousands of youths together, for one purpose – the unending search for an employment.

  By noon, when the test commenced, hundreds of youths who could not gain entrance into the already filled-to-capacity hall, clustered into small bands around the hall to wait patiently and join the next batch of fresh graduates looking for the opportunity to prove their mettle and brilliance. From their strained faces, it was obvious they were disillusioned with the trite cliché that brands them the leaders of tomorrow.

  Since the earliest civilization, the young, virile and resilient members of the society had always borne the burden of giving a fresh start to an already disenchanted hope, for on their shoulders lie the dream of restoring hope and lost opportunity to the next generation.

  But Omoyele Sowore, former student leader of the University of Lagos, and now publisher of Sahara Reporters, must have spoken the minds of many Nigerian youths when he said, “in my home country, the elders gathered together today, they looked at the young people and decided to grant them only one day; they choose tomorrow of all days for the youth to lead, then they called the youths leaders of tomorrow, knowing that tomorrow is just a day that no one will ever see.

  The most treasured and potent strength of any community or nation is its youth. Unfortunately, this strength could manifest in destructive tendencies, if not well managed and tapped.

  Challenged by the startling story of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, Nigerian youths are gradually shedding the toga of ‘leaders of tomorrow.’ Each day, young people are vividly demonstrating their ability to address some of the most difficult and complex challenges facing the nation.

  Yet, while today’s youth have the passion and idealism to change the world, and many are already doing so; even the most highly motivated among them can feel isolated and discouraged.

  And while a young person may have a great plan to launch a project or campaign to address youth unemployment, he or she may not have the requisite knowledge or skills to take a very good idea to the next step of implementation, which is why some organizations such as LEAP Africa and The Future Awards, among several others, are playing invaluable roles in helping to plant the seeds of change in communities across the country.

  Ms. Ngozi Obigwe, chief operating officer of LEAP Africa, identified part cause of the helplessness of many youths today, saying African education system and cultures do not encourage the youth to be productive thinkers, creative or enterprising.

  “Some schools including universities can use a single textbook for generations, yet in the developed world, books change every semester. Also, some culture elements in Africa do not promote self-esteem and open venting, which is why most African youths are not given a chance to explore themselves to bring the best out of themselves.”

  Linus Okorie, president of Guardian Of The Nation International (GOTNI), said the beauty of entrepreneurship and leadership education is that the more people stay in an environment where they have quality leadership education, the more it begins to motivate them to dream, “because in such society where people are encouraged to dream, you don’t drive them, they drive themselves, look inwards and discover their purpose for existence.

  “Leading your personal life,” he continued, “to wake up when you are supposed to and do things at the right time requires leadership (instincts). If you succeed in leading yourself, you can succeed in leading other people, because that is where it starts.”

  The Future Awards, now in its 8th year, has established itself as a truly national event that has a proven capacity for real and lasting impact. It is a celebration of youth and achievement, which has become a major item on the cultural calendar. It honours young Nigerian achievers between the ages of 18 and 31, through the keenly sought-after awards in 20 categories.

  One important feature of the event is the fact that everything about it is handled completely by young people. Attendance is strictly by invitation, with the idea that every year, young people will work hard to qualify for the event.

  The aim of the awards is to inspire young Nigerians by showing them others as young as they, who have managed to conquer the difficult Nigerian environment, to show them through the nominees who are presented as role models that there is hope for the nation and push them into concrete attainments such as building new businesses and creating new ideas.

  Uche Nwankwo explains that young people are trying as much as they can to come out of poverty. “Basically, there are two categories of youth in Nigeria. One group strives hard to be enterprising, but their efforts are thwarted by unequal access to capital and opportunities.

  “Another group is not as enterprising. They are possibly weakened by the political-economic structures and they prefer to sit idle, engage in nefarious activities, while channeling their youthfulness into illicit acts. The way out is for every young person to look at Nigeria with the eye of what is possible and decide to take personal responsibility.


One thought on “The AGE Of The YOUNG

  1. Afun-Akinnigbagbe, Adediran Akinlabi says:

    The earlier the Nigerian youths take the mantle and start leading their fatherland to new and purposeful terrain, the better for all of us.
    Since the elders have failed the Nation, it is hi-time we move with determination and purpose.
    Late Cicero of Esa-Oke, Chief Bola Ige, said the people of age destroyed the Nation in 1979.

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