Frances Okoro: Are Nigerian Youths Really Ready To Be Leaders Of Tomorrow?

I always look back with fondness at the period of my life spent in primary school. I absolutely loved the songs we used to sing in morning assembly.
One of those songs was:
Children listen to your parents, we are the leaders of tomorrow…
Try to pay our school fees and give us the best education”
Oh, we had such fun times in primary school(but I digress)
That same song was sung at the Nigerian Youth Service Corp camp when I was there; but the reaction that welcomed the song was different from the reaction we gave it when we were kids. Instead of smiles and legs lifted higher in march past like we did in school then, the song was greeted with snickers and sighs.
I wondered, and I am still wondering…are youths really ready to be leaders of tomorrow (or today as the case maybe)? Are we as lazy as the older Nigerian generation seems to believe we are? Or are we simply not being given a chance to lead.
The debate as to whether the Nigerian Youth Service Corp programme is still necessary in today’s society is one which I do not want to delve into. But I couldn’t help but be in awe of the billions of Naira that is being invested into this programme each year.
My awe is on a positive note – If the Government can invest this much money in youths, then they must really believe in the potentials of youths.
But do youths really have this potential?
My time spent in camp was very interesting to me. I am not a sociologist but I had a great time observing the variety of characters I met. I saw the youths who saw NYSC Camp as a place to just spend their money on pepper soup and beer in mami market. I spoke to the youth who really wanted to make his year count but was skeptical on how to get the resources needed.
I saw the girls who still let boys treat them as objects – girls who saw nothing wrong with a boy making jest with their bodies while touching their “bom bom”.
I saw the girl who couldn’t wait to get out of camp and out of NYSC service year. The girl who had a business to run and had eyes only for her business and not for impacting Nigeria positively.
I saw the lawyer who really wanted to work in a great law firm, one from which he could gain experience and possibly, extra money. Not for the country but for himself.
I saw the youth who really wanted to take advantage of the skill acquisition programme so as to be financially independent afterwards.
And I saw myself, torn between wanting to work at a great law firm so as to gain experience for myself and not give a hoot about my nation and looking deep into the state I was posted to, for ways in which I could impact lives and leave this state in Nigeria better than I found it(at least with the little I can do)
And even with all the youths with different mind sets I met including myself, I was still left wondering…
Are youths really ready to be leaders of tomorrow(or today)?
Why do we still have youths who binge on beer like no man’s business?
Why do we still have youths who would think nothing of bribing officials for great places of primary assignments?
Why do we still have youths who just want to make the money for themselves without regard to how they can make the society better?
Why do we still have youths who have no interest in impacting other lives for good?
Why do we still have youths who are totally immersed in the “me syndrome”?
We say that the older generation do not want to create opportunities for us to lead but are we really ready to lead?
Are we really ready to serve others?
Are Nigerian youths really different from the older generation or are they still working with the same mind sets that have got us all trapped in Nigeria?
The mind set of “as long as I and my family are alright, all others can burn to blazes?”
Some NYSC youths who get posted to Secondary schools to teach just want to teach and get out. But do we realize that that’s an open opportunity right there to sow good seeds in the lives of the young students?
To implement great things you’ve seen in modern schools in those village schools?
An opportunity to redirect that young girl who only sees marriage as her all in all?
An opportunity to tell those young ones that they are meant for greater things?
And do you see your time at that company as an opportunity to add value?
You just want to go to work and be done with the service year but don’t you think that if you just put in a little more into that company then perhaps the leadership traits needed in Nigeria will be built in you?
As I met youths from all over Nigeria in NYSC camp, I couldn’t help but put my thinking cap on.
If almost all Nigerian youths do not care about impacting lives for good in Nigeria with this opportunity we have been given, then how can we really be leaders of tomorrow?
If we show such nonchalant attitude towards helping the states we have been posted to, then how can we help Nigeria improve?
It all starts with the little things.
I have read some blogs of Nigerians who had such negative views of the year spent in NYSC and I think “what a wasted use of blog space”.
Some other youths went to the same Place of primary assignments you went to and when they left, they left behind people who would never forget them for as long as they live.
We need to stop the negativity.
We need to see just how much we can create a positive change in Nigeria in our own little way.
You cannot be given a larger platform if you did nothing with the little platform you were given.
I believe that the NYSC programme is to be lauded. I personally do not think that the Government is wasting funds on us, they must believe in us so much as to spend this much money on us.
Some youths I met proposed that instead of having the NYSC scheme, the Government should calculate the total amount of our monthly allowance and give it to each graduate to start up their lives after their graduation from tertiary institutions.
And I think that that’s just typical of youths. We want everything for free. We do not think that we should work for anything – to some of us, hard work is not a desirable trait to be inculcated.
I chose to believe that I can go a different way from the majority of youths in this Youth Corp scheme in Nigeria.
I chose to believe that I can inculcate attributes this year that can help me in the long run.
I am not just going to go to work each day like a zombie in this state I have been posted to while counting down to this time next year.
I hope to live each day with purpose, looking out for ways to make things here better.
Looking out for how I can touch lives positively. Not because there is an award to be won at the end of the day but because I truly want to be a youth who can indeed be a leader of tomorrow.
And I think that beyond the NYSC programme which I have used as an example in this article, all youths should aspire to make Nigeria a better place in their own little way.
We need to think, and we need to start thinking rightly and positively.
By all means, acquire a skill and aim to make yourself financially independent but also aim to leave where ever you are better than you found it.
If we keep acting the way we do…
If we keep thinking the way we do…
Then I assure us, that the reality of that song we all sang when we were in primary school will forever elude us.
The older generation will not think that they can pass the baton over to us and we won’t have the attributes needed to take over the baton of leadership ourselves.
I am aware that this period in Nigeria is awash with arguments about politics but please, this article isn’t meant to spark arguments about politics.
This is simply a clarion call.
A clarion call to all youths including myself to change and redirect our mind sets towards the things that matter.
Let us indeed lift our nation high.
Let us indeed lift our States high.
We need youths who will be different from the rest.
We need youths who can be leaders of tomorrow.
We need youths who can be leaders of today.
Let that youth be you and I.


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