As individual members of the vibrant Nigerian youth segment, one important lesson to learn is that you are like a broomstick that must be banded with others to become a tool for political, economic and social change.
On Saturday, August 11, 2018, the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, was in our dear state for the 30th Biennial Conference of the Student Christian Movement of Nigeria, an occasion he used to discuss the challenges of leadership in Nigeria, especially as it affects young people.
Vice President Osinbajo, among many other issues he raised while addressing the teeming youths at the conference, reminded them of the critical roles they have to play in Nigeria’s renaissance, particularly as it relates to influencing the environment around them to engender viral attitudinal and economic change.
While cautioning on the mistake of examining the issue of nation building from the narrow prism of political leaders alone, Prof Osinbajo emphasized the urgent need for young people to actively participate in governance and leadership in whichever environment they find themselves.
Said he: “We often make the mistake of thinking that nation building is the role of political leaders alone. But political leaders in Nigeria, both elected and appointed are less than 5,000 and according to statistics, young people constitute 60 per cent of our country’s population today and in about two years, this statistic will be 65 per cent. This means that if there is a critical segment that already holds the mantle of leadership in Nigeria, it is our young people.”
I could not have agreed less with His Excellency, the Vice President. The demographic statistics for Nigeria are weighed heavily in favour of young people in such a way as to empower them to determine the quality, pattern and even style of leadership in Nigeria. Unlike a lot of other countries of the world, Nigeria has a very young population and quite frankly, this segment has been contributing immensely to the political, social and economic development of Nigeria.
A report published by renowned audit firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers, placed the value of the Nigerian entertainment industry (a sector of the country’s economy driven almost 100 per cent by the youths) in 2016 at an estimated $4 billion, with an expected rise to $8 billion by 2019.
Besides the Nigerian entertainment industry, regarded as one of the fastest growing in the world and easily the number one in Africa, young Nigerians are also making the world to marvel in the Information and Communications Technology ecosystem. For instance, in 2016, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg invested $24 million (N8.6 billion) in a young Nigerian tech startup, Andela. Just recently, in April 2018, another global technology giant, Apple, also acquired another startup company owned by a young Nigerian, Chinedu Echeruo. Echeruo, a young leader, recognized by US-based Black Enterprise Magazine as Small Business Innovator of the year, is currently a partner and head of the Principal Investing group at Constant Capital, a West Africa based investment bank. The recent case of the students of Regina Pacis Secondary School, Onitsha, Anambra State that beat others from nearly every part of the world in the World Technovation Challenge is another case in point.
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These are just a few examples of young Nigerians that are redefining leadership in their own spaces, influencing their environment and inspiring many others into exploiting the creative ingenuity reposed in many of our people by God Almighty.
In my brief address during the event, I also reminded the young people at the Conference and by extension, all other groups of young people spread across the country, that they are the renaissance Nigeria is waiting to happen. With the God-given intelligence that are superabundant among them combining with technology many of the older generation are not as familiar with, today’s young Nigerian has greater power and tool to influence and direct Nigeria’s economic, political and social development.
I also used the opportunity to emphasize the importance of Godliness and righteous living in framing the fertile, conducive environment necessary for young leaders to thrive in Nigeria. What we have done in Enugu State has been to offer the state and its people to God for His Divine guidance, a critical enabler for the creative leverage needed by our people to stir development in our environment. This is what we mean, each time we relive what has been our mantra since we assumed office – Enugu State is in the hands of God.
When we say this to ourselves here in our state, it reinforces the unity of purpose of our people and serves as a constant reminder to us, of the Love and care of God, a conditio sine qua non for responsive and responsible political leadership. It also provides a bond that strengthens our collective brotherhood irrespective of tribe, religion, creed or any other personal or group persuasion. These are factors we believe are necessary for our creativity to find efficacious platforms for the exploitation of social, political and economic opportunities for the common good.
It follows, therefore, that leadership, especially political leadership, among young Nigerians must have its foundations on the love and fear of God and grow into a deliberate, cultivated habit to work with others of like – minds to positively impact society. Many of us make the mistakes of thinking that we can achieve all we want in political leadership by going it alone. But we fail to realize that as a group of people spread all over Nigeria, young people can, if they organize, muster a faith
with the strength that is capable of changing our dear nation positively towards unity; towards higher goals, towards nobler objectives and with the end of building a stronger, more vibrant nation. To achieve this, we must learn to live above the “self.” This is very important for the young Nigerian that has increasingly been distant from community and communal living, perhaps because technology has been able to provide for him a virtual community and companionship that has reduced personal relationships to casual, impersonal contacts. Technology is powerful and has the capacity to make people invent and market reputations. But political leadership calls for a lot more and demands of people to be real and true. Virtual reputations often are contrived. But as leaders, which young Nigerians are in every right, the people you may wish to lead would need to see, feel, relate and connect with the real values you represent as against what you make them think you represent.
We live in a nation where corruption is rife and injustice is nearly an everyday occurrence. How we make conscious efforts to positively impact on our little circles where things such as these occur will often define and determine the opportunities we will get to occupy leadership positions.
This is a very important point to note. Our small communities also face the challenges of corruption that some of us fail, or do not even feel a sense of duty, to make interventions that could correct them. This has become so because corruption and injustice have come to be stereotyped to the point where people associate them with only what happens in the public sector and government institutions and agencies alone.
But this is far from the truth. Our reality is shaped by a lot more factors than what we see and experience in government. As a matter of fact, the factors that shape even the people that occupy positions of authority in government are experiences gathered long before getting into positions of power. We, therefore, need to expand the framework for tackling poor leadership and other vices to cover all that we do in our homes, in our various educational institutions and even in our interactions and conduct as members of smaller communities.
It is only when we cover these grounds so early in our lives and in our careers that we can imbibe the habit and rectitude to effectively build a culture where such things as corruption and various forms of injustice are anathema.
As individual members of the vibrant Nigerian youth segment, one important lesson to learn is that you are like a broomstick that must be banded with others to become a tool for political, economic and social change. You need one another. And more importantly, you also need the wisdom and experiences of the older generation. Yours is, therefore, the task of being the examples that will shape the way others around you interpret their reality and, by extension, our collective reality. It also falls on you to display the type of energy that motivates others to tap from and remain focused on the bigger picture of bettering our society.
It is only when we do this, one person at a time that we can have a society where poor leadership will become the exception rather than the rule. Let me at this point share what I have chosen to call the five cardinal principles and demands of leadership that will ensure that Nigerian youths are prepared to face the challenge of facilitating national redemption for our dear country Nigeria. These include:
Being the example you seek: There are many of us that are waiting for change to happen from outside. We are waiting for the bandwagon to arrive for us to ride. The question we should ask ourselves is this: “Who designed this bandwagon we so eagerly await? Who is the driver of this wagon that you pray you could join? Are the people in this wagon driving to the right highway? Am I capable of bringing my own wagon and ensure that everyone else joins me in driving every other person towards the right destination? If we can answer these questions, the journey to influencing the world around us would have begun.
Love : How much do we love those in our immediate circle? Is it possible that our life does not show much examples of love to the people around us? The truth is that if we can sow the seeds of love in our society, we will have started the process that will end the issues that we claim have bedeviled our society. A leader that has love for his people will not interfere with public funds and will ensure there is justice and equity in his environment. Nigeria is our environment. The more we spread love in our immediate environments, the closer we move towards evolving that Nigeria desirable country of our dreams.
The choices we make: Most of us are what we are as a result of the right or wrong choices we may have made and still continue to make. In a secular, political and economic society as Nigeria, our choices define not just what we are able to achieve, but also the type of influence we exert on the environment around us. While some of us make the choice of grumbling and tearing our social fabrics apart, there are others who choose to be like the needle that weaves our environment together; socially, economically and politically; just the same way a tailor weaves pieces of fabric to make beautiful clothes. If all of us choose to become good leaders, there is no way those around us will not become good followers. We, therefore, need to become tailors, good tailors, rather than shredders.
Contentment : One of the biggest contributors to corruption is lack of contentment in the individual. The more contented we are with what we have, the more fulfilled we become and the more we ask the right questions on how to improve our environment. I must state here that contentment should not become a disincentive for ambition. On the contrary, a contented person is a person who, satisfied with what he or she has, continues to ask questions about how to improve without compromising integrity.
Enterprise: I am not sure there has ever been a nation of people that ever became great without exploring the entrepreneurial energy of its people. This becomes even easier when the people, on their own, creatively express their God-given talents to better themselves and their environment. Remember that God told our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Genesis Chapter 1 verse 28 to: “Increase, multiply and fill the earth.” This injunction meant that we were, in addition to procreation, empowered by God, to creatively exploit the universe of creation so as to live in prosperity and comfort. But today, we have many people that wait for handouts and refuse to explore their talents to better themselves and the world. I noted earlier how Nigerian youths are naturally endowed with creative energy. How well we harness our talents to help make the country better is a call to self-fulfillment and national duty we all must rise up to, irrespective of the demographic group we may classify ourselves.
The task to re-engineer Nigeria is in the hands of the Nigerian youth and they must be seen to be mustering their strength and collective energy to better our environment and move our dear nation Nigeria forward. And as I conclude, I leave you with the words of Francis Gray, which says that: “Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi is the Governor of Enugu State