Someone rightly said, “No one remains a patriot on an empty stomach”. Banking on today’s youth is like putting your hopes in a man with an amputated heart. It is no longer news that patriotism is long dead in Nigeria, especially among our youths. Nigeria is like a child abandoned in the cradle. No one cares about ‘her unity’, let alone ‘upholding her honour and glory’.
What killed patriotism among youths in Nigeria? A country that was fought for, won over and built by youths and for youths is suddenly found wanting when nations with active youths participation is mentioned. I remember the days when young chaps where in governance. When young Yakubu Gowon was the head of state. When youths were youths and were given their pride of place in nation building.
Today, the reverse is the case. It now seems being old and devoid of ideas is what qualifies one to be a public office holder. One is denied admission despite doing so well in UTME just because the oldies who run our government believe that a youth at 15 is too young to be an undergraduate. Thank God for the “not too young to run bill”. However, how will you run effectively when you are labelled as uncultured and a villain for running against your “never too old to run” parents?
What killed patriotism among Nigerian youths? Who dampened a once passionate spirit of our youths as regards active citizenship? Trying to apportion blame is like searching for a cube of sugar after years in the ocean. Like a man lost in a journey, who has an access to google map or GPS, our best bet right now is to trace our way from where we are at the moment to where we wish to be. There are no hopeless situations, only people who choose to be hopeless about a situation.
Like I mentioned earlier, asking a hungry man to stay patriot is simply asking for too much. In as much as youths are expected to serve Nigeria with all their strength, how can one do so when one has no strength? Thus, youth empowerment comes into play. The youths are the pillars upon which any nation is built. The stronger these youths, the stronger the nation. Knowledge, they say, is power. I thank God for the likes of Collette Career Clinic who shoulders this responsibility in Nigeria today. Equipping the youths with ICT knowledge and other relevant courses that would make them stand out in the society.
One of the most pathetic scenes I have seen on the television is where the then President Olusegun Obasanjo was addressing the members of the Nigerian Youths Service Corps during their Pass out Parade. He said, “Nigeria has no jobs for you!” Just imagine that. No shame at all. Simply and point blank! Like saying, “feel free to hang yourself”. Who cares about active citizenship when you don’t know where the next meal will come from? Who preaches patriotism when the parents of a young man is on his neck to give back to those who spent their last dime to see him through school?
Even youths with entrepreneurship skills still need to start from somewhere. Like the Igbos say, “Anaghi agba aka ari oji!” No one climbs the iroko tree without aids. One needs capital to start a business and you don’t get it by simply saying, “I am a patriotic Nigerian!”
These have forced many youths into all kinds of vices to make ends meet. Like the young Nancy who hocks her body along the streets of Abuja to feed her family. The duo of Stanley and Austin who are into “Yahoo Plus” to raise funds to travel abroad. Or even Patrick who dreams of becoming the next Dangote but is currently selling hard drugs in Lagos to generate funds with which to start his dream company. Whom should I mention and leave the others?
Again, we need to revamp our educational system. When the great President John Kennedy of blessed memory asked how he could land Americans in space after their then rival the USSR had done so, he was simply told, “Overhaul our education system”. He did. Not only did America succeed in space walk, their educational system remains the best till today. If you count the best ten universities in the world, at least five will be in the United States…and you still wonder why they are the world power?
The Nigerian education system has failed us. We can’t continue to be doing 2x + 3y = 15, find x. Finding x when other nations are finding solutions to their problems? We can’t continue to rely on foreign textbooks when we have seasoned authors in Nigeria. We can’t continue to fund repentant boko haram members when our schools are in their most appalling state. In fact, we are tired of being led by those with “NEPA bills” as certificates who has zero regards for the state of our education system.
Furthermore, we must stop relying on the white man for everything. We must start believing in our youths. When we seek for the best in someone, we find it. Unfortunately, the reverse is also the case. You can’t keep looking down on your youths and expect the world to look up to them. Only Nigerians can solve the problems of Nigeria!
Moreover, let us get back to the cradle. Culture is the totality of people’s way of life and patriotism was once our culture. I remember the pride with which I recited the national pledge in my primary school days. My great mum taught me to shoulder the responsibility of making the nation Nigeria the greatest nation in the world. That still sticks till today.
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Inculcate into every young one around you the beauty of nation building and the need to love ones fatherland. Every youth was once a child and if he or she was thought the tenets of our national pledge and not just the ability to recite it, we wouldn’t have come to this very point today. However, like the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the next best time to do so is now. It is never too late to begin now.
Always remember, Nigeria is the only home we can call our own!
ESSAY BY ODINMA IFEANYICHUKWU
Active Member, COLLETT Nigeria.