Nigeria-2023: Crying aloud for the youth II

By Prof M.K Othman

As discussed in the first part of this piece, some parents belabor and over pamper their children, doing everything possible to make them live the sunny side of life. There is another category of parents who shirk away their parental responsibilities. About two weeks ago, there was a program on Freedom FM Radio, Kaduna, which featured a story of an Islamic Scholar who led a team on Da’awah visit to the Correction Center (formally known as “prison”) in Kaduna.

At the center, the team came across a young man who gave his father’s name and address in Kaduna town. Afterwards, the Islamic Scholar traced the father ostensibly to discuss how the young man can be rehabilitated after the young man’s sentence. The Islamic Scholar was shocked by the confession of the father.

The man confessed to having 24 children but can only remember the names of four and was aware of the whereabouts of two and had no idea of the whereabouts and what the rest of the twenty-two children were doing. The man was simply breeding children in society without an iota of parental obligations.

A typical classical case of irresponsible parents who keep on bearing children without care or concern for what becomes of such children. How many such kinds of parents do we have across the nation? What factors cause this kind of situation? Two major factors are responsible for producing irresponsible parents: illiteracy (lack of western and religious knowledge) and poverty. How do poverty-stricken families survive harsh-economic life in Today’s Nigeria? A few years ago, I watched with pain how salary earners with large families go home with less than N10,000 a month.

In such a kind situation, family members (children and adults) scamper for survival legitimately or illegitimately. The economic crunch of contemporary Nigeria, exacerbated by irresponsive and insensitive, so-called democratic leaders is stripping Nigerians’ means of a decent livelihood, and children and youth are at the bottom layer of the receiving end.

They roam our streets with hopelessness scripted all over their faces making us guilty as we stare at them. What a shame to our leaders. In addition to the two categories of parents, there is a third one, parents who are highly disciplined to a fault. They believe in corporate punishment and do not spare the rod. They are like bees to their children, provide honey, and sting as the need arises and the situation changes. At one time, I furiously watched a mother canning her 2-year-old toddler because the child erred. Of course, this was an extreme case of child punishment. However, a child must be treated with both sweetness and bitterness to make such a child realizes the ups and downs of life, and make him/her useful to himself/herself and the entire society.

The children of the three categories of parents: those who over labor and over pamper their children, the hardened irresponsible parents, and the high discipline, do-not-spare-the-rod parents, all have to co-exist as Nigerians in Nigeria today, a hostile and unamiable environment full of deceits, hypocrisy, despotic leaders, braggadocio and craze for money.

Under this situation, one cannot but cry aloud for the leaders of tomorrow, nay the nation. What is the expectation of the government under these circumstances?Government is a veritable enabler in the development of society and a strong pillar in sustaining the development. However, over the years, government in Nigeria has woefully failed in enabling the nation’s development. The poverty level has increased over the years, the percentage of people living in poverty was 40% in 2020 and rose to 47.3% in 2021 when using an old definition of the poverty level, which refers to people earning less than 1.9 USA Dollars a day. However, with the current definition of the poverty level, which refers to people earning less than 5.5 USA Dollars a day, Nigeria has 94.7% of the population in poverty. The inflation rate has rendered household earnings almost useless. On average, Nigerians spend 56% of their income on food monthly. This is the highest in the world. Nevertheless, Nigerians have the opportunity to change this ugly trend in 2023.

We must elect purposeful leaders with visionary without sentiment. Religious, regional, and ethnic sentiments have been the clog in the wheel of the nation’s progress. Candidates can be assessed based on their political agenda, manifestoes, and their antecedents in national service. We must zero on those with agenda to develop human capital.

As mentioned earlier, the development of human capital is a sine qua non for a country’s socio-economic and political transformation. Globally, it was generally agreed that human capital formation is the most virile causal factor responsible for the impressive performance of the economies of industrialized nations. The human capital formation in these countries entails a consistent increase in knowledge, skills, and capabilities acquired through the education and training of all the people.

Improvement in two key sectors; health and education targeting youth are required for human capital development. There is a strong correlation between investment in education and health sectors, and productivity as well as the economic prosperity of a nation. It is pertinent that the candidates aspiring for the next president must convince us that he/she will heavily invest in the education and health sectors. Minimum allocation of 20% and 10% of the annual budget should be voted to the education and health sectors.

There should be a legislated policy to make it compulsory for all children of public office holders and high-ranking civil servants to attend public schools from primary to tertiary level. This will make the policymakers take a serious look at our educational sector. There is a need to review our educational curriculum at all levels of our educational system to make our graduates not only employable but employers of labor.

The country can be turned into Eldorado by developing the human capital of the teeming population. Last note, the nation must squarely address the youth restiveness and massive unemployment by creating a Federal Ministry of Youth and Entrepreneurship. The ministry can engage youth and convert their excess energy into productivity. These young men and women are both potential assets and time bombs depending on how we handle them. Can we convert them into national assets and be proud of the nation? This is our collective responsibility.

Othman, a professor of agriculture writes from Zaria.


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