By James Ibechi
The development of any society is the interplay between man and his environment. This interplay that ensures self-discovery plays a major role in energising, conscientising, motivating and mobilising the people towards a common goal.
There is no doubt, when God created the world, he perfected it with major variables that would make the life of man simpler, easier and peaceful, towards moral, physical and celestial prosperity.
However, the inability of man to curtail his ego and self-love has been the major obstacle to attaining God’s promise, thereby, heightening circle of confusion and hopelessness.
It is important to say that man is a product of his environment or value system. It is the value system that shapes the perception and beliefs of the people. Generations upon generation were fed with value system that comes to influence their perception, behaviours, attitude and characters for centuries.
Therefore, any society with strong value system would experience high development and discipline group of people while a society with weak value system would experience chaos and underdevelopment.
Though there is no universally accepted definition of youth, in a way of making a conceptual clarification, youth can be defined as a special group of people with strong stamina and passion for realising certain set goals and objectives.
Youth share certain characteristics that distinguish them from other generations of people. Such characteristics include impatience for change, zealousness, radicalism, rebellions, curiosity, hardwork, ego and ambition, etc.
You would agree that, these are the propelling factors for a development of any society. While Igede development – I want to put it this way – is the general improvement in the lives of Igede people (individual, groups) and their environment.
Looking at the two concepts, it is safe to say, that, youths are the engine of any society’s development. They are the ones that actualise the development if their mindsets are channeled in the right direction.
Therefore, their actions and inaction are necessary impetus for entrenching and consolidating the vertical and horizontal integrations of any society like Igede.
You would agree, also, that there is a linkage or and intercourse between youth and the development of any community. This intercourse is not only symbiotically connected; but, one depends on the other for its sustenance. Therefore, the role of Igede youths on the development of Igedeland cannot be over emphasised. The wheel of development of the land rests on the shoulder of how productive and creative the youthful populations are.
This is because, the youths in any society are the engine of growth and development; they provide the labour force for production of goods and service to take effect. And also, they are the critical masses of people, whose action and inaction can deepen or destroy the hegemonies of those who Igede youths complain of marginalising them.
According to the 2006 census, the Igede youthful population constituted over 60 per cent of the whole Igede population. So, this quantum of population is a great asset for the Igede nation if harnessed and utilised in the right direction.
Interestingly, the transition of society from one generation to another is critical to the formative and developmental aspiration of such society. That is why societies that prepare its youths for the sake of future aspiration will not only secure her future development; but, will prepare her next set of leaders with the challenges of unity and development. So, the role of youths on Igede development is sacrosanct to the whole developmental aspiration of the community.
The youths are the cornerstone to societal rejuvenation. Societies are not only recreated through the youthful population, youths are also often referred to as leaders of tomorrow. So, their mindset and roles are of major importance to the development of any society.
It is perplexing to say, that, no nation will experience development when the preponderance of the population that constitutes the largest percentage of the population are idle and ineffective. Therefore, the youths have a greater role to play on Igede development. It has been suggested that this country could by 2030 reap the benefits of what some called a “demographic dividend” if it invests now in human development. Nigeria’s current demographic structures could be future assets when a demographic window of opportunity opens as fertility and high youth dependency declines. In fact, the Nigerian youths, not oil, are the future of this country in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, these projections, expectations, and future forecasts, seem to be an abysmal blindfolded future, if the prevailing realities are anything to go by.
The current state of the mind of the youths generally is not encouraging and does not inspire confidence. Leadership neglects and government inability to design an integrated and implementable policy framework targeting the youthful energy for development, has left the youth without guardianship, mentorship and direction.
Instead of utilising their energy, curiosity, creativity, passion and impatience for change, to foster development, the gamut of our society has left the youths without hope, guardianship, mentorship and future aspiration, if the agonies of unemployment, poverty, frustration, illiteracy, despondences, confusion, hopelessness, parental and governmental neglects, are anything to go by.
It is my humble submission that, today, due to lack of opportunities and support base in the country, the only places of consolation for the Igede youthful minds have been okurumi-going/illicit business of child trafficking and okada-riding. It is either that or the youths who do not fall in such category, are found in thuggery and deep-dirty partisan politics that ought to be reserved only for the desperately frustrated aged people, which to me, is a great disappointment, minus and annoying to me as we continue to forecast future developmental aspiration of our dear Igedeland and the entire country at large.
Youths involvement in political process is important so they can be part of decision making, but, on the part of the productive youths, it is a diversionary and idle place for the pool of human resources and creativity that lie buried in the hands and hearts of the youths. The drive to partake of the oil money has made the youths to seek politics first, as they mistakenly believe that every other thing would be added to them later.
I believe the Igede youths have more to offer this land than in politics. The leaders and the Igede society in general must understand that the miracles of development lies in the development of youthful minds and souls with knowledge and skills. Knowledge and skill have become the global currency of the world.
Unfortunately, there is no central bank in the world that prints such currency, except, leaders and societies devise their own means of printing it, through harnessing and utilising the energy, creativity and passion of their youths for development.
Sure, it is great to have oil and gas and other mineral resources, but as according to Schleicher, they only weaken society in the long run unless they are used to build schools and the culture of long- time learning.
It has often be argued that, if you want to know how a country is going to do in 21st century, do not count its oil resources or gold, but, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students. It is a knowledge- based century; the ability of nations to rise and consolidate the gains of globalisation, lies in training and educating well-informed youths.
The secret of development in Asia, Finland is the miracle of development of human engines through education and skill acquisition. It is equally important for both the leadership of the country, parents and societal gatekeepers to understand and appreciate the fact that, we will only be deluding ourselves if we think that, we can build a nation out of these centrifugal forces of confusion and frustration, we called leaders of tomorrow (The youths).
Our political leaders must channels their energy in harnessing and utilising the energy and passion of the youths through positive means, not the current image of political thuggery, anti-party, idleness election riggers, bed warmers, child traffickers and prostitution.
No doubt, Nigeria is seating on a gun powder ready for explosion, if the reality of frustration and hopelessness among the vast of the youths are anything to go by. Therefore, it is important, for policy makers, parents and gate keepers, to understand and appreciate that, youth are the future of this country; as such, their mindset and creativity should be a major concern to the nation. There is need for the government to create atmosphere favourable for the youths to achieve their desire objectives.
The agonies of armed robberies, scams, child trafficking and other social deviance are the product of lack of guardianship and vision for development. Investing in knowledge and skill is critical to youth development. Education is the cornerstone of country’s future. Education here should be more than just knowing facts and receiving recognitions for being able to attain such; but, it should be holistic in nature, teaching more than just knowing data, but, also, teaching understanding and awareness and nurturing potentials. No doubt, if properly harnessed and utilised, the youths are the future of Igede in 21st century, because there is direct relationship between youthful mindset and developmental aspiration of our people.