YOUTHS AND DEVELOPMENT IN MODERN DAY NIGERIA

According to a recent United Nations estimate, Nigeria’s current population is a little over 200 million which means Nigerians are equivalent to 2.6% of the total world population and with a median age of 18.4 years of age, her citizens are considered relatively young. In 2015, Nigeria was estimated to have a literacy rate of 59.6% which is an above average mark though the numbers of illiterates as at 2018 is still at an alarming high rate.  In April 2014, former minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonji Iweala disclosed that, “no fewer than 1.8 million students graduate from the tertiary institutions annually.”

Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, the national universities commission boss, in May 2018 noted that, “there are currently 1.9 million students in Nigeria universities.” Ishaq Oloyede, registrar of the joint Admission and matriculation board (JAMB) disclosed in May 2019 that about 1,792,719 candidates sat for the UTME exams with 15,145 results withheld. This signifies the desire of the growing number of Nigeria youths to be educated. With most Nigerian universities having an age benchmark of 16 years, although some universities admit ages 14 and 15, one can then postulate that the average age of most of Nigeria’s graduates is between the age 22 to 26, bearing in mind the varying duration of courses.

In 2018, Forbes released a list of Nigeria’s under 30 young entrepreneurs and next generation billionaires running their own businesses. These individuals were grouped in different categories which include business, technology, music, art, media, fashion and film. The list had prominent names like Falz (27), Yemi Alade (29), Wizkid (27), Davido (25), Gozie Coker (29), Bidemi Zakariyau (28) amongst others.

Many younger Nigerians are making Nigeria proud in their various disciplines or fields of interest. Hawau Ojiefo (28), Kennedy Ekejie (20) and Isaac Ezirim in 2017 were all honoured by Queen Elizabeth for their drives and works to transforms lives in their communities. In August 2019, 20-year-old Nigeria born Kennedy Ekezie was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II for engaging in a worthwhile effort of raising over $2 million which would be used to mentor young Africans around the globe. These set of young Nigerians can be said to be symbols of hope that next generation of Nigerias can be at the fore front of global discussions towards advancement in technology, fashion, lifestyle and empowerment and transformation of human lives.

On May 3, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the not too young to run bill into law which would see a reduction in the age limit for persons interested in running for political offices. Since Nigeria youths within the age of group of 18-35 years constitute the highest population of voters in recent time, this law was a pathway for better participation in the politics of the country.

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu in August 2018 predicted that with youth’s population, the 2019 general election could be determined by them. The build up to the 2019 general election saw a huge engagement of youth in political discuss through different social media platforms. More youths are then encouraged to run for political offices which further emphasizes the words of Benjamin Disrelli that “the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity.”

According to Mary Bethune, “We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.” Social media platforms which is hugely dominated by youths has become that channel through which Nigeria youths are engaged and enlightened about governance, politics, education, business amongst others.

Either in business, hangout or promotions of acts, art and craft, Nigeria youths have been able to support one another and foster harmony on all fronts. The full involvement of Nigerian youths in government is still a gradual process as the onus falls on the older generation, who are currently holding on to power with a tight grip, to ensure a seamless transition of power, ideas and experiences. It is left to youths to, in one voice, demand for a change and clamour for a better country. Youth can and will be patriotic nationalist of a better Nigeria.

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