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Rethinking Youthful Potentials and Nation-Building

Some months ago, I came in contact with a cartoon on social media. This comic piece emerged from an English class where a teacher was asking a student a question. The teacher asked, “One day our country will be corruption-free. Which tense is it?” The student responded: “future impossible tense.” My initial reaction to the comic conversation was to burst into laughter but after moments of relish, I was thrown into a deep reflection about the paradoxical state of the Nigerian nation.

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Nigeria is a multiethnic polity bedevilled by many problems. Undoubtedly, this is a country of great and significant contrasts. Regarded as the giant of Africa, but still finding it hard to provide employment for its teeming youth population. Nigeria is rich in human and natural resources, but still importing goods and personnel from overseas. Nigeria is one of the largest producers of oil and gas in the world but the country is still confronted with the problem of fuel scarcity and shortage of gas to generate electricity. In fact, one of the disturbing facts about Nigeria oil phenomenon is that we export crude oil at a low value and import refined oil at high rates. The saddening reality now is the global slump in oil price which has brought a devastating blow on our economy.
Africa most populous nation is blessed with abundant human resources but where are the leaders that will harness the potential of people for sustainable development. Nigeria has a good climate suitable for sustainable agricultural development, yet hunger is still a subject of discourse as we have been unable to provide food for the teeming population. Our peace-keeping forces do wonders in conflict-ridden countries in Africa and beyond, yet it took us years to combat the Boko Haram insurgency. Nigerian universities churn out thousands of graduates every year, but these same graduates have been regarded as unemployable. Ironically, we import goods and we export jobs!

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The subject of Nigeria’s challenges, problems has been debated at different forums and from diverse perspectives, yet the solution seems to elude us. In the market, on the streets, in offices, in the farm, everywhere, people clamour for a new Nigeria and a changed society where the wealth of the nation will be used for the benefit of the people. But in achieving change, we may need to consider a set of people that have been overlooked in the NEW NIGERIA DISCOURSE.
It may not be an overstatement to assert that Nigeria students are critical agents to the development of Nigeria in this fast-paced world. The role of Nigeria students cannot be undermined or undervalued owing to the creativity, innovation, drive, passion, vive, energy that these young minds exhibits and displays in different fields, callings and profession. Ironically, if these amazing qualities which are the hallmark of these youthful populations are not managed or properly channelled, it may be a disaster. We all know that a body of water well channelled can generate electricity while a body of water left on its own can cause flooding. It is in this light that we may need to consider three key areas that Nigerian students can be involved on the path of creating a new nation.

Community Development and Volunteerism
To bring change and development to Nigeria, students need to be involved in community development activities and volunteerism programmes. The world we live today is ever-changing and young people are challenged to take their rightful place. We need to start asking ourselves like J.F. Kennedy: what we can do for our nation and not what our nation should do for us. Getting involved in volunteerism engagements has a lot of intrinsic opportunities for young people and the society. In the labour market, premium attention is placed on experience and expertise. For the student, participating in community-based initiatives provides the platform to exhibit innate potentials and as a result garner experience that is needed to function in the workplace.
In developed nations of the world, students are involved in community-based initiatives and not-for-profit engagements which serve as a springboard to jump-start their careers. While we cannot overlook the significant involvement of Nigerian students in voluntary organisations like The Red Cross Society, Man O’ War, educational NGOs like SPEARK Foundations and service to the fatherland through the National Youth Service Corps, it may not be out of place to opine that more participation in these civic engagements will do the nation good.

To be continued
Dotun Olutoke is an international award winning essayist. A budding writer interested in salient issues bordering on democratic reforms, emerging technology, youth and education. Connect with him on twitter: @dotunolutoke

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