By Albert Akota
The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare has said that Nigeria will in the coming years rely more on its youth population as a resource, which makes it imperative to increase investment in their development as the Nigerian Project.
In his words, the youth will be strategic to developing smart products and solutions to conquer the challenges and problems of climate change, economic slowdown, unemployment and poverty.
The Minister stated this while delivering a lecture titled “Constructive Youth Partnership In The Nigerian Project: A Sustainable Model” at the 13th Annual Lecture of the Alumni Association Of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho – Oyo State.
He noted that “The massive potential of the Nigerian youth bulge is globally recognized. With a growth rate of 3.5 % per annum this segment represents the fastest growing in the world and will effectively dominate the society completely within the next two decades providing the human resource for critical aspects of the Nigerian state.”
While calling on the Nigerian Youth to understand and own the Nigerian Project, he also called for the engagement, mobilization and empowerment of young people. “All around the world, young people are contributing positively to the development of their communities, demonstrating daily that youth is not a problem to be solved but a resource to be harnessed. Nigeria parades a hugely resourceful and talented youth population”, he said.
On his proposals to achieve the Nigerian Project, he reiterated the importance of starting early, stressing that “Sowing the seed of the Nigerian dream will not be at the University level.
It must start from childhood because it is at this point that children develop a mental image of who or what they want to become in life. The picture or image they need added to theirs is that of a country which can propel them to achieving that dream.”
Calling for a rebranding of the nation, he said, “We must rebrand Nigeria and communicate it in the right way. In rebranding, we must create a deliberate image of the Nigeria we want our young people to invest in; and then take deliberate steps to make that Nigeria work. For instance, if we want a Nigeria that supports innovative ideas, we must put structures in place that helps innovative ideas to flourish irrespective of the person’s gender, political leaning, religion or ethnic affiliation. There must be a transparent system that gives everyone equal opportunities.
That way, young people with ideas will begin to have hope in the Nigerian project, will flourish and invest in birthing creative or innovative ideas that will catapult the country on the path of massive national development.
“There is need to reposition the mental reasoning of our youth and economically empower them to satisfy the demands of the modern world. Rebranding Nigeria is one of the veritable tools to achieve this objective.
Unless rebranding directs the power and energy of the youth towards academic and productive goals, the country will keep on experiencing social vices, moral and academic degradation.” The minister cautioned.
Highlighting the role of ICT in re-branding the country, he said, “it is a peculiar one because ICT is a veritable tool for fast and effective mass communication. The impact of ICT in the world today is far reaching and pervades all boundaries and cultural differences.
For effective re-branding all components of ICT and at all levels must be deployed in enlightening, training, and encouraging people towards re-branding” Harping on the need for a sustainable model, he said, “we must develop strategies to transfer ownership of the Nigerian Project to youth. One of the ways we can do this is through the Concept of Social Businesses.
The underlying value to communicate is CARE. Youth must see that Nigeria is a country that CARES for them and for the things that matter to them. And that there is a system of harnessing and redistributing the opportunities for this CARE.
Social and economic entrepreneurship holds special promise for helping to sustain the rebuilding of the Nigerian Project. They have the potential to play significant roles in developing technologies that can help mobilize and engage young people in the rebuilding efforts”.
He further called for a de-emphasizing of the dividing factors in the country especially on official documents. “Majority of our youth are millennia.
They live most of their lives on the internet, which has broken down boundaries and miniaturized the world into one huge space.
Communities are no longer physical entities defined by geographical boundaries but are more social or professional groupings in the virtual world, joined together by interests that transcend religious, ethnic, or even political divides.
This means that our youth, who are more citizens of the digital world than they physical world, will connect and interact with themselves irrespective of their physical divides.
This effectively gives us a huge opportunity to de-emphasize, and hopefully one day eliminate such divisive identifiers like tribe, religion, LGA, etc. on our official government documents like forms.
“While these data are important variables for statistical purposes, they do little to promote the unity of the country, and more importantly, the Nigerian Project,” he noted.
The Minister while calling for the institution of a reward system that honours and promotes Nigerian values which will invariably speak to the Nigerian Project, said, “we must keep the young people inspired and focused towards the Nigerian Project.
One way to do this is by sustaining a reward system with privileges attached to National Honours (like express access at airports, subsidized hotel lodgings for a period, certain volumes of made-in-Nigeria goods for some period, etc. A virtual Hall of Fame for holders of certain national medals, streets named after such individuals, their plagues telling the story behind such naming.
The digital revolution offers an unparalleled opportunity to drive a new wave of international economic growth for countries that have hitherto not fully enjoyed the benefits of the global economy.
“Nigeria is committed to raising a new tribe of 500,000 tech savvy youth countrywide in the next 2 years who will expand the frontiers of innovation not just in combating climate change, but in agriculture, medicine, education and biosciences.
Nigeria must begin to make huge investments in her youth. That should be the true Nigerian project. Bankable investments in education, technology, agriculture and developmental infrastructure that is sustainable. Investments in our youth now will be a wise investment. That to my mind is the Nigerian Project. And it is sustainable” he said.