Have you lived in the Northern part of Nigeria, if yes, and you understand Hausa you would be familiar with the word “angwa or anguwa”. Angwa is not an ordinary word that translates to neighbourhood but literally means ‘slum’, a word with so many negative connotations. The mood in many slums is desolate, criminal gangs and religious organisations providing them with fragile social glue.
A journey into a typical house in the angwa, at the centre of a corner is a community kitchen where many of the occupants cook, and eat the one meal they are able to get. The food is simple but nutritious depending on who is eating. There is always a small clinic that is visited by a doctor once a week or a fortnight. Outside the homes are flower beds and vegetable gardens planted by dirt. The municipal authorities in the angwa are often giving more trouble, to an already troubled locality. Parents struggle to get their children to school every day, with the lockdown during the pandemic, education has been one of the worst hit conversation in local poor suburbs across the North particularly and the entire Nigeria.
However whether it is education, health, infrastructure, the Nigerian youth has been underserved, and denied several of his rights. So, with the marking of The International Youth Day, an annual celebration of the role that young women and men play as essential partners in change. I use this opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and problems facing my nation’s young population.
This year’s theme, ‘Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’ requires us to examine how Governments, youth-led and youth-focused initiatives/organizations as well as other stakeholders are transforming food systems and how these efforts are contributing to improving human and planetary health. This theme is rooted in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, goal 2 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Aspiration 1 of Agenda 2063. Provisions of these instruments aim to ensure food security, increase agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers. The instruments also seek to ensure sustainable agriculture, increase economic opportunities for youths and accelerate socio-economic development.
Sadly the Nigerian youth is nowhere near keying into the above, especially the one born, and raised in that angwa. From that angwa There are several kinds of Nigerian youths, the successful Nigerian young person, he works him/herself through it all, with struggles, perseverance the top beckons and they grab it.
There’s the youth who is the modern day revolutionist, he is upset at everything, full of grammar, tells you tales by the moonlight of this year’s theme, yet give him a ruler the measurements in centimeters and meters all confuses him. We equally have the Indian-smoking, drug abusing, snipper hearted young men and women littered all over our landscape, from Owerri to Daura, Jalingo to Ado-Ekiti.
We have youths littered all over, unemployed and employable, but unemployable, unbaked, half and quarter baked. Magazine life styled young persons, the Davido 30billion in their account, the Naira Marley crew of Yahoo-Yahoo boys, and the Cubanas. The Social media lot, whose lives are on Twitter and Instagram, while their real lives are messed up by a political bourgeois class that continues to perpetuate their own dynasty, sharing the country as it were; a personal estate.
In former President Obasanjo’s words, “Youth constitute Nigeria’s only hope for a real future”. The Nigerian government characterizes youth as ambitious, enthusiastic, energetic and promising. They are considered vulnerable in society because of the rapid pace of change they experience at this time in their lives.” Sadly the future is blurry, even though we have a National Youth Development Policy created and designed to advocate for youth and youth development. The policy was to view youth welfare as vital to the Nigerian nation and its socioeconomic development. This policy was seen as a youth participation project, versus a project identifying problems and needs. But till date it is a mirage, a false shadow of reality where 70-year-old men masquerade as leaders of youth wings of socio-political groups.
The National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) founded in 1964 to be the voice and the umbrella organization for youth organizations in the country. The Youth Council, a non‐governmental, non‐partisan, and not‐for‐profit organization, but like the NYCN; like the National Students body, NANS, they continually toy with their peers, directed by old political yahoo-yahoo discussants at the national dialogue of the Nigerian state, while the youths themselves are left as hallelujah boys..
While the system continues to battle in holding itself, our youths remain products of a corrupt educational ecosystem; sons and daughters of the same (magicians and politicians) continue to toy with the future, while our youths are lost in the conversation or at best made redundant participants in their various angwas.
We will remain here because our leaders are politicians, bazaar experts at sharing and auctioning out the national heritage and treasury. The social contract is at best dilapidated and at worst do not exist, our leaders are sacrificing the present for the future, sacrificing the young generation for the numbers. The youths are a term used as headcounts, for political gains, as tools, and conflict drivers. Leadership is a choice, it is not a rank, our youths need to stand and be counted, they need to start posing the right questions or else the answers would be as expected. How long will this generation stay on the rough path, at what point do we wait to see a population that is useful in wholesome proportion than scattered showers, or are we doomed to the current state where, when will the youth become influencers for change, realize that the fight in them is much bigger, and issue a nation changing ultimatum—Only time will tell.