With elections around the corner, politicians are overreaching themselves again to bamboozle the electorate. The flurry of gimmicks to mesmerize voters with melodramatic antics and absurdities is playing out hysterically.
The recent altercation between a governor and his commissioner over distribution of shoe shining kits and oranges to some youths is one of such theatrics. The governor was said to have queried the commissioner for embarrassing him and his administration, but the commissioner stoically defended the pittance he gave to the poor and ignorant recipients as charity.
The governor’s ire may not be unconnected with the criticisms that trailed a similar move by a federal lawmaker, who was trashed on social media for sharing shoe cleaning gadgets in his constituency, while another senator sponsored young people in his zone to China on shoe manufacturing. Prior to these gaffes, President Muhammadu Buhari had angered a section of the country with his disparaging comments about Nigerian youths in his London visit. Many berated his veiled reference to the young generation, as ‘lazy,’ given that his administration and others before it, failed to chart a prosperous course for them. Sadly the nation’s Human Development (HD) indicators, which have been declining since the eighties, are at their worst now. According to this year’s World Poverty Clock Report, Nigeria with over 85 million poor persons, is set to overtake India in extreme poverty.
The culmination of such pauperism on health, education and life expectancy is indeed gruesome and damning to the nation and its hollow handlers. Despite Nigeria’s enormous oil earnings, many citizens live in absolute poverty, while the leaders live in opulence due to sleaze.
Critics have continued to slam this administration for failing to provide jobs for them, as promised, but plunged the nation into an unprecedented recession that has continued to stagger the populace. Indeed it is a common joke that the party in power made lofty promises and redeemed virtually none.
By the party’s change mantra, the country should have metamorphosed into a paradise, but it has become a livid hell for many nationals. With this breach, Mr President’s brazen remarks that many young people were demanding for free services, due to oil wealth, not only sparked vitriolic attacks, but also raised critical issues about the plight of the nation’s future leaders.
His acerbic commentary denigrated the youths and also disparaged their tremendous achievements and prospects, as many of them have excelled internationally in sports, academics and entertainment. As usual the damage control antics by his aides failed, while his feeble attempt to recant his position in a VOA interview, was equally sloppy. His words: “In the North for instance, most have not attended school or they abandoned halfway.
“If not because we had favourable rainfall in the past two seasons; most of them have no jobs, just idling away. “People like them, even if they go to the South for instance, what they will make will not be enough to even pay their rent not to talk of feeding, clothing, and transport back home.’ Was Mr President trying to indict northern youths, or play the victim’s card, hence his controversial stance was largely dismissed as political. He fell short of telling the world the reason for the region’s educational deficiencies and the ignoble roles of northern elites in promoting primordial cultures and religious extremism rather than education and technologies for effective representation of their people in national and global spheres.
It is puerile lamenting over the precarious lives of young citizens without rolling out a sustainable agenda for their welfare nor laudable transformative projects his administration executed for them in the last three years. It amounts to mere prevarication to simply pontificate over their predicament, as he neither addressed the fundamental socio-economic and cultural dimensions undermining education and impeding progress in the region and nationwide.
Beyond the controversies stirred by the timing and rationale of his unsavoury remarks, what should concern the president and Nigerians is the urgent need to save Nigerian youths from doldrums. The amorphous future of the next generation and indeed the country is really at stake. It is fallacious to cast the nation’s youths as lazy given the inherent systemic failure and infrastructural decrepitude across all sectors of the economy.
Clearly government is paying lip service to youth development as indicated by paltry budgetary allocations to education, health and job generation, contrary to United Nations(UN) benchmarks.
The frenetic merchandizing to buy votes, through deceptive hand-outs to vulnerable youths is exploitative and must be stopped as it is neither sustainable nor profitable to society. Government needs to review the factors behind the nation’s shameful development outcomes. It is also imperative to galvanize resources and global best practices, through a revolutionized educational template that will propel young citizens to a bright and prosperous future.
The country stands to gain rather than lose through massive investment in education and job creation for youths, particularly in Northern states, which were ranked worst by the ‘2017 Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in Multidimensional Poverty Index Data Bank(MPIDB).’
It is quite worrisome that the north is still educationally languid, despite special incentives and schemes, such as quota system and federal character policy, designed to address such deficits. Sadly the region has produced the highest number of military rulers and presidents, yet parades despicable Human Development (HD) values, especially in literacy, life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality. The situation is worsened by terrorism and savagery in the North East.
Flip to the Middlebelt, besieged and decimated by rampaging Fulani herdsmen, and one can conclude that Nigeria really needs a rebirth and reconfiguration. The onus is on political and community leaders in the region to prioritize education and galvanise resources to rescue their people from bloodbath, poverty, unemployment, social unrest, drug abuse and other criminalities prevalent in the area. Ultimately massive investment in education and job creation across board will better serve the nation and save its teeming youths from the vicious cycle of blood bath, poverty and drug addictions. The country needs urgent rescue from this unfortunate quandary to halt the looming titanic sink in the mire of corruption and underdevelopment.
BY ADEZE OJUKWU
Ojukwu, a journalist and Hubert Humphrey Fellow, writes via firstname.lastname@example.org