By Yemisi Olawale Isaac
Disourse about Nigerian Youths, matters that affect their lives and Nigeria socio-economic growth remains topical, timely, and auspicious. Nigeria today is faced presently with back-breaking and unprecedented challenges in the sphere of socio-economic growth. Likewise, no other time is the issue of youth, empowerment, and their relevance more apt than this present time where the youths are faced with so many back-breaking and unprecedented challenges. Not only are the youth legitimately future leaders, they are potential and actually the greatest investment for a country development. The behavior and attitudes of the youth in matters of growth of their country goes a long way in determining the status of the country. They serve as a channel through which the socio-economic growth of a country can be achieved, progressed and sustained.
Accordingly, it is necessary to examine the concept of youth. A popular biblical says “the glory of the youth is their strength” [Proverb 20:29 KJV]. This implies that their energy, vigor, inventiveness, character, and orientation are the necessary prerequisite for driving the pace of growth. It should be noted that differences exist in perception of the term “youth” by governments, international organizations, and the public. However, the term “youth” generally implies a period of life between childhood and adulthood. The essay will adopt the perspective of Nigeria’s National Youth Development , which sees the youth as comprising all young persons of ages 18-35 who are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Taking into due consideration at this point, it is necessary to examine the concept of empowerment and an empowered youth. After a thorough research I made a satisfactory clarification of this inter-related concept. The concept of empowerment used in this text is defined as the process which increases the possibilities of young individuals to decide and act consistently on everything affecting their lives and to participate in the decision-making and to intervene jointly and responsibly in the issues related to the communities they are part of. (Soler et al., 2017). In other words, empowerment as it will be used here will means a process that increases the opportunities to decide and act consistently on everything that affects an individual’s life, and to intervene in a shared and responsible way in the issues affecting the community to which they belongs”
Accordingly, an empowered youth has been succinctly put by Bauman. He defined an empowered youth as the one who is “able to choose and act according to the choices made; that, in turn, implies the ability to influence the range of alternative actions available, as well as the social scenarios in which those options are chosen and become true” (Bauman, 2010, p.270). Certainly, an empowered youth should posses the ability to decide and the ability to act towards achieving the aims of empowerment. These individual ability and character is thus transformed towards the growth and development of their community after he /she has acquired the necessary requirements and has develop a set of personal capacities such as knowledge, attitudes, and skills with an enabling environment that support and facilitate the effective exercise of those skills. This essay contends that empowered youth in any community or nation especially a developing country like Nigeria are the major driving force towards securing a socio-economic growth.
THE STATE OF NIGERIA YOUTH TODAY
Nigerian youths constitute the most active segment of the entire population of over 140 million people (2006 census figure). Youths are the foundation of any society. Through their creative talents and labour power, a nation makes giant strides in socio-economic growth. It is worthy of note that when the youth strength, energy, innovativeness, character and orientation are properly harnessed, a developing state like Nigeria can find motivation, vitality, purpose and a future. Certainly, the development of a society lies on how productive and creative the youthful populations are. The actions and inaction of the youth goes a long way in developing or destroying the hegemonies and fabrics of the society. Undoubtedly and progressively, some particular sector in Nigeria namely Nigeria fashion, movies, music and creative arts of bead making, where Nigeria have been penetrating the global market has been through the effort of the youth. Thus making partnership with Youth [Nigerian] was summarized by The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon as he made no mistake when he declared:
“to unleash the power of young people, we need to partner with them because they have unprecedented potential to advance the wellbeing of the entire human family.” [Oluwasegun: 2013]
Today, Nigeria youth are faced with issue of unemployment. Without any fear of contradiction, one can say the high rate of unemployment and underemployment among the youth in Nigeria has hindered their participation in the economic and social sectors of nation building. Nigeria has about 180million population and about 70 to 80% of this population is made up of youth [working force] and more than 80% are unemployed. The estimated 10-20% percent in employment are burdened and depressed with near total dependence of their relatives and family members. Currently, as at the third quarter of 2017, youth unemployment rate has increased t0 33.10 percent from 29.10 percent in the second half of 2017. [Yahaya: 2006]
Indeed, the alarming and seemingly uncontrollable high rate of unemployment among youth is worsened by the high rate of poverty. According to USAID, 70% of Nigerians lives on less than $1 per day and the average life expectancy are only 47years [Yahaya: 2006]. An unemployed youth lives a life of penury and deprivation since he/she has no means of sustaining him/herself. It will be right to assert that the unemployed youth are prone to become agents of social destabilization, disunity, socio-economic sabotage and become problematic for development to thrive. Nigeria youths roam on the streets of hope daily in search of better opportunities; they ride on the unrealistic hope of dream jobs which has been withheld by egoistic and elite individuals. Unemployed youth are smugglers, drug dealers, oil mafias, political thugs without contributing any quota to the society rather causing it socio-economic backwardness. The effect on Nigeria today is one branded by tags of pity, dying democracy and disrespect for the rule of law as well as unrealistic socio-economic growth.
OVERVIEW OF YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SCHEMES IN NIGERIA
Youth empowerment is an attitudinal and structural process whereby young people gain the ability and authority to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people. Youth empowerment is often addressed as a gateway to inter-generational equity, civil engagement and democracy building (Wikipedia, 2013). In his witty submissions on policy and execution, Tunde Lemo, the Deputy Governor (Operations), Central Bank of Nigeria, said;
The economic benefits of youth participation in development process are varied. Youth empowerment has multiplier effects on the national economy, including boosting productivity, wealth creation, consumption and tax revenue. The rate of development of a country depends largely on how productive and creative the youths are…the nation cannot achieve development when they are mostly idle and unproductive. [Tunde: 2013]
Historically, a careful study of empowerment in Nigeria reveals that the program has taken several phases over the years. Also there is a lot of advertisement on youth empowerment in Nigeria today, but the number of youths being empowered and those involved in the empowerment scheme leave much in mind to discuss when the socio-economic growth is compared. Overtime, the Nigeria Federal government has put in several measures towards empowering youth. Over the years, empowerment programmes such as the: The National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC), the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and the National Poverty Alleviation Programme (NAPEP), Subsidy Reinforcement and Empowerment Programme (SURE), N-power which was designed to provide 10,000 jobs for youths in each of the state of the federation, Youth Empowerment Programmes (YEP), Youth Empowerment Services or Schemes or Solutions (YES) are aimed at providing an enabling platform for youth to acquire skills, access credit facilities or create opportunities for job placement, employment counseling and enhance community development, National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) consisting of Youth Empowerment Scheme.
Yemisi Olawale Isaac is a Public Affairs Analyst.