Nigeria-2023: Crying Aloud for the Youth, by Prof MK Othman
Demographically, Nigeria would occupy the famous (or infamous?) position of the sixth most populous country in the world by November 2022, the next four months. This projection was recently made by the United Nations, which indicates the Nigerian population ascending to over 220 million people thereby overtaking that of Brazil.
In the last fifty years, the Nigerian population has risen significantly. Data available in the 2012 revision of the World Population Prospects by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat indicates that the Nigerian population in 1950 was only 37,860,000 compared to 159,708,000 in 2010. This year, 2022, the proportion of children below the age of 14 is 43.3% while between 15 and 65 years is 59.3% and above 65 years is only 2.8%. The rate of population growth in Nigeria is “one birth in every four seconds and one death in every fourteen seconds”. In the next thirty years, Nigeria will have an estimated population of 450 million people and will occupy the 3rd position as the topmost populous country in the world after India and China. This means that in the year 2050, about 80% of the Nigerian population will be below the age of 45 years, which will be a virile, energetic, and active population.
The Nigerian population explosion with youth being the majority can be very delicate. The country can be turned into Eldorado by developing the human capital of the teeming population.
Reversely, the country can go into self-destruction with calamitous consequences of destabilizing the African continent, which may extend to Europe and America. Yes, we have recently witnessed mass migration into Europe without due process.
As a parent, teacher, guardian, and mentor, I am profusely crying aloud for the future of our youth, nay for the future of Nigeria. Yes, whether we like it or not, plan and prepare for it or not, the youth must take the mantle of leadership in this nation like all other nations. Unfortunately, we are poorly preparing our youth for the future and may be difficult to lead the country to a glorious future. Why?
First, we must understand that youth and children are the most vulnerable part of society. Children are like a cleaned whiteboard; whatever is ascribed on it appears; good or bad. There are so many writers on this whiteboard: parents, teachers, peer groups, environment, society, and destiny.
As responsible parents, it is our moral responsibility and parental obligation, within the societal constraints and abilities to see that the right lessons using correct procedures are taught to our children. We must be keenly interested in what our children are always doing, whom they are associating with, and how they spend their active and leisure time periodically. Naturally, as parents, we love our children but the parents of today have no limit to the kind of love they have for their children. We over-pamper them thereby spoiling them and making them useless to themselves and society.
Instead of showing them that hard work, dedication, and discipline lead to success in life, we go the extra mile to “purchase” success for them by bribing teachers to give them good grades and excellent NECO/WAEC results. I am no longer impressed when I see 6-9 credits of NECO/WAEC scored by our youth until I am convinced of how he/she obtained such a result. The situation is getting worse, as parents come to our campuses to “lobby” for their children to pass exams instead of advising them to work hard. Recently, a parent was seeking admission into a degree program for his child and was told that the child could not be admitted into the program because he failed Physics at O-level.
The man became furious and said, “I paid for all the credits to all the subjects including physics, so, I was shortchanged”. This implies that the results of the child’s O-level were paid for through financial gratification. Another glaring example was that of a young lady who secured employment with a “diploma” and her competence became questionable in the cadre she was employed. When she was confronted about which school she attended and how she got the diploma, she confessed that her father got (bought) the diploma for her without attending any school. Today, there are several cases of parents going the extra mile to make their children experience only the sunny side of life. In this way, are we, as parents truly preparing the youth to take the mantle of leadership of this nation?
As the parental roles in building the future of the youth leave much to be desired, the government is similarly not helping matters. Government has an important role to play in developing the human capital and good upbringing of youth and children. The government regulates, formulates, and implements policies on education and health alongside other complementary sectors for sound human capacity development. The government is found grossly wanting in the discharge of these responsibilities. Our public hospitals are mere consulting clinics and at best serve those who can afford to pay for the services. Our public primary and secondary schools are turned into playgrounds and avenues for passing the time of underprivileged children.
Who will want to take his child to LEA or GSS today, even though, 30 or so years ago we all passed through the same schools with flying colours? This is how bad the situation has gone. With few exceptions of higher Institutions of learning, our educational system is wholly corrupted, dysfunctional, and rotten; incapable of meeting our national goals and aspiration. However, there is relative sanity in the university system, thanks to doggedness and unrelenting ASUU’s struggle against the bastardization of the university system. This, notwithstanding, the evil forces are working hard to destroy the university system like what was done to the public primary and secondary schools. Already, the public universities have been closed for 14 months from 2020 to date, with more days still being counted due to ongoing industrial action.
The industrial action was caused by the government’s refusal to implement agreements willingly signed with the university’s trade unions. The public universities accommodate more than 90 per cent of the total population of university students in Nigeria. The bone of contention is the government’s massive failure to appropriately fund education over the last two decades. What are the consequences of destroying the university system? Are the youth having a future, come 2023? To be concluded next week.