...an underestimation of youth’s leadership capacity.
When we say that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, we are in fact limiting them…
President Goodluck Jonathan.
I grew up trying to cope with the word “youths are the leaders of tomorrow,” with the consolation that I will get there one day, and finally take my place of pride in the society. But then, I was soon to discover that my dream has too many contenders to deal with. Now I am in my late 20s, and whenever I seek to take my place on the pages of history, someone would still go ahead saying “youths are the leaders of tomorrow”, as if today was not the tomorrow they so speak of yesterday. A lecturer of mine in my university days said he use to argue whenever it is being said that a component is missing in the brain of an African man, but now he is beginning to agree. I am equally beginning to give the assertion a second thought. Perhaps, a brief journey into our history would shed more light on the subject at hand.
As far back as the 1930s, Nigerian youths have been in the heat of emancipation struggle. From the Lagos Youth Movement (1934), which fought for the establishment of Yabatech, the first higher institution in Nigeria; to the Nigerian Youth Movement (1936), which fought for the establishment of the University College, Ibadan in 1948, Nigerian youths has made a statement of purpose and intent. At age 21, Anthony Enahoro became Nigeria’s youngest ever editor, when he assumed the position of editor in Dr. Azikiwe’s newspaper, the Southern Nigeria Defender. At age 30, he equally became the first Nigerian to move the motion for the independence of Nigeria at the Nigeria Parliament in 1953.
At a time when it was obvious that the so called elders were busy engaging in acts that could endanger our nascent freedom, the youths once came in to restore sanity into the hitherto insane government. Major Patrick Chukwuma “Kaduna” Nzeogwu, at age 29, in the early hours of January 15, 1966, citing a laundry list of complaint against the political class; led the first military coup in Nigeria. Arguably though, this act was dubbed in Nigerian history as the most patriotic act.
Most of our progress was made while we were led by young people who used the dynamic ability of youth to bring positive changes to Nigeria. General Yakubu Gowon kept Nigeria one and built a National Electricity Grid (which to a large extent we still rely on for electricity though we are making concerted efforts to improve on it), many Federal Universities as well as a national network of roads that opened up Nigeria in addition to establishing the National Youth Service Corps as a young man in his 30s. General Murtala Mohammed gave his famous 'Africa has come of age' speech as well as envisioned the need for a new and befitting Federal Capital for Nigeria which will be a home to all as a youth in his 30s. General Olusegun Obasanjo became the first military ruler in Africa to voluntarily hand over power to a democratically elected civilian administration as a young man. Also, that worthy ambassador of Nigeria that is Nollywood is an innovation that was created, nurtured, sustained and transformed into an international household brand by Nigeria's youth. Gone are eras when all you get to hear on Nigeria airwaves are loads of foreign music, as young Nigerian artists now compete favorably with their international counterpart. So the overwhelming statistical evidence is there that we have made much of our progress while under the leadership of youths.
President Goodluck Jonathan recently said “When we say that the youths are leaders of tomorrow we are really in fact limiting them and fail to do them justice. The human being is in his/her prime physically and mentally during the period of life we all love to describe as youth. And so rather than say the youths are leaders of tomorrow, I am more comfortable in saying that they are leaders of today and tomorrow.”
If there is anything Nigerian youths should resolve to do, it is to always go beyond the border line to carve out a niche for ourselves. We should yield no longer to the psychological check of the saying “youths are the leaders of tomorrow”, for today is the tomorrow they have always talked about.