By Arc Ezekiel Nya-Etok
I am 54 years and therefore very far from the youth bracket, BUT, I have very strong ties and connections with the youth. My three children, for instance, are all within the 20-30years age bracket. I want to tell some very personal accounts that shape my perspective on the Nigerian youth.
In our family, we’ve had some pretty strong ground rules. One of such rules was that all our children had to do the first degree in Nigeria. Another was that only the person that makes a First Class could go for a Masters’ program that would be fully sponsored. Anything less, the person would have to bear the cost of upkeep while we the parents paid for only the tuition. When my first son, Aniekan, missed the First Class and desired to go for his Masters’ in University of Manchester, he didn’t need anyone to tell him what he was in for. Somewhere along the line, he had to undertake pretty menial jobs to make ends meet. When I got to find out, my pride nearly got in the way, but Aniekan told me that it was a humbling experience that he had a lot to learn from. Today, Aniekan is an accomplished HR Consultant. For his wedding, we contributed less than 30% of the cost. He paid for his apartment, and not long ago, he gave me my first grandson without a kobo contribution for the delivery processes from us, the parents. Aniekan is a Nigerian youth. His brother, IniAbasi, is multi gifted and multi-talented. Though he didn’t study Architecture or a related field, I often drag him back into my company to work for me whenever I need to be bailed out. IniAbasi isn’t just very hardworking, he is fast becoming an IT genius. IniAbasi is a Nigerian youth. Then Eme. Ordinarily, she should be busy posing as a ‘big man’s’ daughter, but she wouldn’t have any of that. She’s a growing creative genius in the female fashion and beauty industry. The easiest place to find her is in Wuse market among the tailors and materials sellers to make beautiful clothing attires. That’s another Nigerian youth.
Besides my biological children, Bilal resumed work as a P.A in my office some years ago. It so happened that his first day at work coincided with the day we had to work 24hrs to meet a presentation deadline. We left office by 7am the day after we started to freshen up and returned by 10am to proceed for the presentation that lasted till 4pm. I could have sworn to high heavens that Bilal would not return after such a baptism of fire. To my pleasant surprise, he was one of the first to report before 8am the following day. Bilal has a special skill in dancing. When an opportunity presented itself, I encouraged him to pursue his dreams. Months later, Bilal came back to thank me with a special watch that was worth close to the worth of the salary for the month he spent working with me. Bilal is yet a Nigerian youth that this country should be proud of.
People’s perspectives are shaped by their experiences and exposures. My construction site gives me a completely different perspective of the youth of this country. From the block-moulding team to the concrete mixers, the masons, the carpenters and Itoro who stacks blocks by dangling one block with his left hand, another with his right and balancing yet the third on his head, to my children who do not sit idle on the couch of ‘their father’ with a feeling of entitlement to the cars that have taken me a lifetime of working to buy, but are all on the street hustling. They all give me the perspective that confers much respect on the Nigerian youth. Tuface, one of my ‘sons’, together with his friends, have put Nigeria on the global music map. Same goes for the fashion and Nollywood Nigerian youth stars that are taking the world by storm.
However, for those whose children with no visible means of livelihood parade exotic vehicles that even a blue-chip CEO can not afford, those who feel that their parents owe them comfort without work, such parents cannot but see and possibly subsequently generalize that Nigerian youth are effectively unproductive, and by extension, worse than lazy, but parasites.
It’s all about experience, exposures and perspective. Within this context therefore, I am not in a hurry to join those who condemn your perspective as they probably have no idea of your personal experiences at home or otherwise. My only grouse is that you blew a golden opportunity on a global stage to make us proud as Nigerian citizens. Your introduction about our youth population was on point. I had however expected a follow up that would sound like “Despite our challenges, our youth have, against all odds, demonstrated a rare spirit of enterprise, determination, industry and commitment to hard work recording global successes in such fields as Music, Academics, Film, Fashion and Art. Labor is therefore abundant in Nigeria. I therefore invite the world to tap into the energy of this vibrant workforce”.
To ALL the Nigerian Youth, “ebo ekom!” May the rough times toughen and bring out the very best in you. Like refined gold, come out purer at the other end of the process. Above all, don’t wait for the change that will NEVER come through waiting and hoping. WAKE UP, like in music, fashion, film, arts and IT, sanitize our political landscape and give us, the adults, the Nigeria of YOUR dreams!!!
Arc Nya-Etok Ezekiel
is the Director General of
Nigeria First Project.