The United Nations defines ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years and about half of Nigerian population (over 53%) fall under the category of 0 – 19 (Statista.com). This makes Nigeria one of the countries with the youngest population in the world where she ranks 18th. Aside from this, the number of Nigerians who fall under the category of 20 – 59 are way more than those who are sixty and above. All in all, Nigeria has a young, bustling and energetic population and this is a super-power.
Nigeria as a nation is just over 60 years old. That is a young nation that is still building a lot of structures and institutions. When you’re building, you need a lot of energy and tenacity and it’s a blessing that we have favourable age demographics for this. This is just one of the advantages of the ‘youth super-power’ and as we can see in our country and on the international scene, Nigerians are doing a lot of great things. The Nigerian innovativeness, creativity, resilience, fearlessness, optimism and ability to get things done, continues to register all around the world
As we celebrate all the things we can do with a passionate, energetic and relentless youthful population that doesn’t like to take “No” for an answer and won’t quit on their dreams, we’ve got to warn ourselves about how super-powers can not only be used for great good and also for massive destruction. Let’s look at three ways the youth super-power can go the wrong way:
- The propensity for violence
Young people are often more susceptible to choosing violence than older people who might have seen some of the havoc and heartbreak violence, war and chaos can cause. As young people in Nigeria, we’ve got to make a commitment not to become instruments of violence and the destruction that comes with it. The appeal of “violent revolution” ends in the place of imagination; in real life, it’s never pretty and it hardly ever delivers on the promises it makes. We must not allow our energies to be directed at destroying things we could’ve built or improved. We need patience and perseverance to direct our energies positively.
Young Nigerians need to stay away from destroying local and foreign businesses and investments that give provide jobs and make economic impact. We should protect economic interests even as we build more. Foreign investors are our friends; their lives and businesses should be protected.
- The propensity for naivety
As knowledgeable, enlightened and intelligent as young people can be, there’s also a propensity for innocence and guilelessness about some important things in this world that the cunning like to take advantage of. We must look for the commodity called “wisdom”, quite different from knowledge and intelligence, that we need alongside all our quickness of mind and intellect to navigate our way and help our country in a world where there are many agendas and many snares that are not in our best interests.
One of the sure ways to gain wisdom is to talk to and collaborate with our elders rather than antagonize them. Though they are not perfect, they know, they have seen and have learnt many things that we are yet to encounter and for that reason, they can certainly offer valuable guidance that will make the journey easier and may be, faster.
- The propensity for recklessness
Young people often drive transformation because they are often able to operate a unique radicality needed in breaking rules and bending norms to make progress and create new realities. This is something Nigeria and the world needs especially in times like this but it is this same inclination for nonconformism to produce great wonders that also carries the possibility of recklessness with dire consequences
- The propensity for violence
We need to value dialogue, analysis, thinking and above all, we must learn how to respect law and order even as we innovate around them, may be modify them and possibly transform them. As we may break with traditions and break rules here and there, we must not make that the norm because rules have a very important place in our continued stability, steady progress and ultimate transformation.
Foreign interests and collaborations should be tended with wisdom and mutual respect. We must not fall for the narrative that we don’t need anybody; the world makes progress and thrives on local and international partnerships.
This is the last word: we’ve got what it takes. We are young, we are strong and we can do great things but only if we allow wisdom and caution to have their say every now and then.