Youth in African charter is defined as “every person between the ages of 15 and 35years”. UNESCO, defined youth as “people between 15 and 24 years of age”. For the purpose of this write-up however, youth is seen as a person who is between 18 and 35 years of age.
Empowerment according to World Bank is the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and also able to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.
Therefore, youth empowerment can be defined as the transfer of tangible and intangible stuff inform of knowledge, skills, finance, material etc to a person between 18 and 35 years of age, aimed at transforming and strengthening their skills and financial capabilities in order to make such persons economically independent, liable and beneficial to the entire system.
Youth unemployment and over dependent of youths on their parents, other family members or family relations, have become a great challenge to nations of the world in general but particularly in Nigeria at an alarming stage breeding social unrest, thugs, armed robbery, kidnapping, cyber crimes, pipeline vandalism, oil bunkering, militancy and other several social disorder.
Such situation exist not because many of the youths are not striving to get something doing but because their hands are tied down; many youths have great ideas but may not have the material, financial and other needed resources to engage themselves in what they know best.
On the other hand, many that know little or nothing or even acquire the skills required to engage in one endeavour or the other, have the abundance of such resources mentioned above or even more but are not ready to get themselves something doing. This mainly exists among the youths from rich and political elite’s families whose means of living are reliable and ever flowing. Thus, such youths prefer spending their lives depending on reliable relations like the parents, siblings, extended family relations. They live wasteful lives in pleasure, drugs, and tours.
The former, when they even struggle to get some little capital, the legal frame work of the governmental authority at local, state and federal levels who claims ending licensing, taxation and several other defrauding in the name of revenue generations, using thugs who sometimes go to extreme of catering away what such young person might have gotten to get something doing in order not to find himself or herself in the realm of anti social/state behaviour. At the end, such self-helping youths are forced out of means of sustenance through the agencies which governments that own them ironically champion on media the concept of youth empowerment.
In the area of employment, there are many employment opportunities even in government establishment but politicians hijack them for their sons, daughters, relations, and concubines. The issue of ghost workers perpetrated by people, who cry that Nigerian youths are not employable, carry out such heinous act, allowing their close associations to occupy up to three jobs at the same time. No wonder they are called ghost workers, they can be in three different offices at different establishments, doing different jobs at the same time. At the end of the month, their various bank accounts, receive their salaries and many of them who are being used do not hesitate to drop the share of their godfathers.
In the media, they would tell Nigerians there is no job and besides, that Nigerian youths are not employable where as there are employment opportunities only occupied by their close associates and family relations who never know any classroom other than party houses, gamble and hotels in their days in high educational institutions; who are by far worse compare to those ones who did their best in academic and ready to demonstrate it if given the opportunity.
For instance, Senate President was last year accused of forcing 300 persons (his kinsmen) into SSS, violating federal character. Government authorities at the various levels, have in the past and present, initiated programmes aimed at empowering the youths, but at the end of the process the fund made for such programmes, find itself in the private purse of those who officially signed and authorised such programmes to take off.
Another instance is the ongoing SURE-P programme which more or less proved to be fraud though the federal authorities may think that all is going well with the programme. According to the data randomly selected from the six geo-political zones of this country, none of the graduates are involved in SURE-P.
In my local government area, I was the number two (No-2) person to be registered and given identification code even far before the very first phase of the recruitment but nothing has happened yet in media, tens of thousands have been empowered: the question then may be, who are the true beneficiaries of SURE-P, how were they recruited? Such has made me to opine that this is not the best way through which Nigerian youths will be employed. You don’t create artificial temporal employment opportunities that have little or nothing to transform, strengthen or increase positively in the livelihood of the recipient and term it empowerment. It is more or less fallacy.
HOW CAN NIGERIAN YOUTH BE EFFECTIVELY EMPOWERED?
If Nigerian governments at local, state and federal levels and the private sector, sincerely desired and wants to empower Nigerian youths, they should consider areas that will truely sustain the empowered at the long run. Such areas, we will choose base on what resources the country has. For instance, the Agricultural sector, tourism sector, production, ICT and other services.
EMPOWERING YOUTHS IN AGRICULTURE:
One of the natural resources God blessed Nigeria with is that of agriculture. There are arable lands, friendly weather. The land is also fertile and there are sufficient human resources. In spite of these gifts, Nigeria continues to import several food varieties from overseas, which ironically abuse nature’s gifts to the nation. At the same time, there are educated and uneducated youths who are not sufficiently engaged in economic activities that are meaningful, though the country suffers from inadequate food production and supply.
In order to quench the anger among Nigerian youths towards the society, especially the state, prevent total collapse in our economy and future, the opportunities nature provided us in agriculture should be utilised through effective involvement of youths by empowering them with the skills and resources required to get the agriculture sector in Nigeria moving and at the same time the youths in large number, gainfully empowered and engaged to be economically independent, liable, create employment and contribute immensely to the national development.
We have so many subsectors in agricultural sector in which youths can get involve with, e.g Fish farming, piggery, poultry, food crops farming, cash crops and small scale industries such as cassava, palm nuts/kernel, soya beans, tomatoes, wheat, guineas corn, rice etc there are also small scale production of animals feeds, preservation and storing of farm produce.
All these are some of the areas in agriculture Nigerian youths can be empowered to engage in, for those who have passion and desire toward such.
EMPOWERING YOUTHS IN ECOTOURISM: Many countries of world are not as blessed as Nigeria when it comes to mineral, land and surprisingly human resources but nature is not partial to leave them empty. The nature gifts to such areas in terms of naturally beautified areas provide such places with tourist’s destination parks. Nigeria is also not left out in this area. Such countries that largely depend on tourism through the development of such areas for national income are France, Italy, Thailand etc are able to gainfully employ their youths and earn income from it.
In Nigeria, we have too many tourists’ destination centres/parks. Some of them as stated by Nze Emeka (2012 35-36) are Ogbunike Cave in Anambra State, Yankari National Park in Bauchi State, Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State, Old Oyo National Park in Oyo State, Nok village in Kaduna State etc.
The economic activities taking place in such areas include transporting, buying and selling, park guards, game preservation, fast food centres, entertainment, research and other numerous activities and services.
The activities across national parks and other tourist destinations need youths in large number to be empowered in ensuring the effective service delivery.
EMPOWERING YOUTHS IN ICT: The world today is a global hamlet as a result of the wonders of modern Information Communication Technology. Every nation wants to grab the best of it. ICT is one of the most sources of local and foreign income to developed countries. Many of the world richest men and women made it in ICT through direct or indirect related business. Some of them listed in Nze Emeka (2012:16) are Carlos Slim Helu in Telecom business from Mexico, Bill Gate in software (Microsoft) from U.S.A etc.
This however means that ICT business is lucrative and is an area many youths wants to be involved if the youths are empowered in areas of ICT like web designing, data gathering and management, SPSS, Recharge Cards Printing for Mobile Phones Subscribers, telecommunication services, repairs, maintenance etc, the country and the youths stand to gain a lot.
EMPOWERING YOUTHS IN GENERAL SERVICES: Delivery youths can be empowered to engage gainfully in delivery of services such as car washing, hair salon, sewing, laundering services, fast food services, Cyber cafe, typing, distribution, transport services, intellectual services like teaching, mentoring, training etc.
In this area, many youths will find it interesting and cheerfully engage in any one that fits each of them. The nation stands to gain a lot if the youths are empowered in this area.
HOW YOUTHS CAN BE EMPOWERED IN THE FOUR AREAS ABOVE MENTIONED
It is worthy commending the efforts of Comrade Ogirinye Innocent Adoga, the initiator and coordinator for Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (YISA) in Umodaoji Community in Benue State. The young man trained some few youths in agricultural activities for self reliance, specifically in fishing and thus attracted a grant from the U.S.A Ambassador, Ambassador Terrence P.MC Culley who also visited Nigeria because of this development. The grant would be used to set-up a Community Agriculture Skills Acquisition Centre.
Nigerian government and the private sector should bring together, youths who have demonstrated interests in any area of agriculture. In each of the 774 local governments of the country, examine after applications, engage those who truly have interests in agriculture into such areas mentioned earlier under agriculture.
After weeks of thorough theoretically and effective practical training, a test should be conducted after which all candidates who meet minimum target in practical and theoretical knowledge, will be provided with all the materials needed for them to start on their own.
They would provide equipment like fish ponds, provide fish, fish feed, drugs for fishing, crops, land, fertilizer, machines, chemicals for crop farmers etc to all the candidates that meet the minimum skill requirement. The cash aspect of it should be infinitesimal in order to know those youths who truly mean business and who came just because of money.
At the end of the first stage, all the persons that persisted in it and have good results to show, government and the private sector involved should increase the input by 50% and lastly, double it for any one in her/her area who is still there committed with encouraging output. In such empowerment, Tombo Connection should be properly checked and avoided if it will be effective. Government at all levels must also give such person tax holiday for years for them to establish and be stable to some reasonable level before paying taxes.
Youths who have interests in area of tourism should also be trained and tested. Experts will be provided to thoroughly train and test youths who have interests in tourism sector, provide the ones who meet the standard and have something to offer in Nigeria Tourism Industry with more of material and little of financial resources and also make available accommodation where required to such persons.
After periods of time, those who are making progress should be encouraged by 5% increase of their initial inputs and those find wanting in that area sent to areas where they can do better.
No serious, committed and honest person should be sent home because of failure in a giving area. There must be area where such person(s) can do better than others.
The same way, should be done in youths in ICT and General Services Delivery. Both educated and uneducated should be assigned to the area best suitable to them base on skills and experience. No one is to be rejected except criminals who will be sent to transformation centres and disables to the areas where their abilities can carry.
The private sector in Nigeria should emulate their colleague in overseas and stop being over selfish, if the youths are not settled, the entire society will never know peace no matter how one thinks his/her billions can protect him/her. Therefore private individuals who are millionaires, billionaires, and trillionaires (we have them in Nigeria) should take up their social responsibilities before they backfire.
If the private sector determines to intervene for good in youth empowerment, it should not end up in media houses. It must be with truthfulness and total commitment. Individuals who have the skills and experience can also help to train those who have no such skills at cheaper price or if possible free of charge.
It is for the tiers of government to provide an enabling environments to such private individual who find it worthy and necessary to participate in empowering the youths. Politics should be kept aside and should not be allowed to spoil the essence of it.
The fact that private individual are involved, should not make the government to withdraw rather see the best way to partner with the private sector and get best of the empowerment. Government at all level must be involved and must contribute financially, materially, personnel and every other need that may arise.
There must be effective monitoring of the resources invested in such area so as to check diversion as it is most at times the case in Nigeria. There is need for periodic evaluation of the programme. Such things will be more effective and efficient if it is under public-private partnership.
Youths on the other hand should not play with such opportunities which they have been yearning for long, if it eventually comes. Honesty, truthfulness and commitment should be the watch word of every youth. Youths should come down from their unending high expectations. The journey to the peak of every mountain starts from the valley which forms and holds the foundation of the mountain. Let us start from somewhere no matter how little or big it may be. The founder of Facebook who is now a million did not start with millions. No youth has any excuse to engage in crime, your situation is better than that of someone else. Take off from somewhere and you will with commitment and honest get to the place of your dream.
Finally, every citizen of Nigeria should know that if the country is good and enjoyable, it is for all of us and if it faces challenges it is for everyone of us. We should take the issue of massive youths unemployment serious, and stop blaming it on any factor. Youths from poor and less middle class homes are far better in skills, experience, honesty, hardworking than that of those whose parents embezzle public money, lavish it on them, come to the public to tell them that Nigerian youths are not employable.
Government personnel shheould quit downgrading Nigeria youths by directing negative utterances like that the Nigeria graduates are not employable against them but embark more on empowering them through adequate funding of the educational system which forms the basis for the Nations growth and development.
Nigeria expect public office holders like Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to help empower the nation’s youth through World Bank support programmes, as an actor at the Bretton Wood. Get ASUU back to the campuses, equip the nations educational institutional and compare what they will produce with that of any nation. Prof. Chukwuma C. Soludo, Prof. Dora Akunyili, Chinua Achebe etc got their first degrees and professorship from Nigeria universities. Where your government failed. You wanted to apportion the blame to Nigerian youths.
We must work for the empowerment of Nigerian youths if we mean well for Nigeria future. More frustration on the youths may deteriorate the peace of this nation, we all better strive to improve lives of the youths in the country. Nigeria challenges demand youth that are economically independent, viable and useful to Nigeria society. This can only be achieved if Nigerian youths are effectively empowered.