The other time I had the privilege of doing my youth service in Adamawa State, at the orientation camp, I recalled that everyone was enthralled in their success of making it to service year and I was wondering and hoping the year will be worthwhile. You may be wondering why I was feeling this way; it was not just that I was serving after three years from my graduation time and four years from my graduation year, but I was doing the youth service because I was tired of the state of my national development and at that time, though I already had opportunities distinguishing me in many areas, I wanted to start from where it matters – the young generation: the prescribed future of my nation.
Daily as I walked the dry, sandy soil of Yola Orientation Camp, it didn’t take too long before I started wondering what am I doing here. Don’t misunderstand me, I really love to serve my nation, but the disposition of the youths I saw and their approach to life simply spelt doom to me. Many were so unwilling to obey orders, it was natural to us to live recklessly and unchecked. The soldiers tried to give their best in reorienting us to a regimented lifestyle. However, some took it as a pain to be endured for three weeks and others who will not be checked perpetrated their acts in the wee hours, at “mammy market” and at every lurking dark space obtainable, free from the attention of the officers.
At another time, I was at a newspaper stand and I soon found myself in the midst of a group of young people arguing and cursing and raking over some headline purportedly saying that the Senate President of Nigeria, said the National Youth Service Scheme will be extended to two years. So much rage and anger on parade! I found some corps members there too; some already finished and some still in service, even wearing the regalia we have come to see as a symbol of joblessness. I couldn’t get them to respond positively to the subject of NYSC without referring to it as a waste of time, sheer punishment on the youths of the nation. In the middle of all of these, the question I kept asking is, should the subject of contention be how much time we have to spend doing something or what are we really doing during that time and period? It is so alarming that my generation of youth does not have value for time.
So many things had dominated debates and comments on the life of our young people and the future that presently look so vague to many of our leaders. Some of them are joblessness, vices, character, values et cetera. In all of these I have noticed that they all anchor on the knowledge and understanding of self. Many of us do not have an idea why we are living . . . We are so engaged in many activities developed to cater for our restlessness as young people, but majority of us are lost and are too afraid to admit we are. We cover up many of our abuse of life in good jobs (which are only the privilege of a few), good clothes, social engagements and expressions, sex and study. When are we going to start finding out why we are in existence in this peculiar time of life? Since abuse is inevitable if purpose is not known, when then will we understand and start to pursue purpose, with all the challenge that comes with it?
Having conversation with a young man recently who now rides a jeep and seems to have a good life. I greeted and asked if everything was fine. He replied that “I am still looking for money” Then, I asked, “Could you please name the financial figure you are looking for in life . . . millions, billions . . . He did and I said “If God decides to give you all of that right now, and you are less than 30 years now, what will you be doing with the remaining 90 years if you are able to make it to 120years?” There was so much silence. I just hope he realized that he needed to return to the drawing board of his life . . .
The obvious truth is that many of us have no idea what the future is about and we are not even bothered as long as the present is good and it seems promising. We have reduced life to the satisfaction of the moment and had justified it with the dogma of “life can end anytime” More than 90% of the young people I know are interested in maintaining processes through getting a job and just doing what they are asked to do. I have even heard an administrator of a well-respected organization say in my hearing that “my job is to make sure that all things are done as it should be done”.
The future of our families is bleak because the children are no longer interested in their immediate families as soon as they are married. So, we have many elderly living as destitute after spending their lifetime raising children who are not raised with the future in mind. Our societies and socio-cultural frameworks are fast eroded because we are a generation without a concrete vision of subjects of identity, community and relevance in the nearest future. Our governments are even the worst in that every dispensation operates within a vision (if they have one) that is mostly discarded as soon as the new comes in with so much criticism.
My humble submission therefore, is this: let nations and people, tribes and tongues take seriously the discovery of their youth. Not some sort of talent hunts, but a clear understanding and definition of the purpose of the young ones; the messages the old are sending into the future they may never see. Having discovered it, there must be active commitment to actualizing them.