Youth is the prime of life. It is a stage in life when human beings are strongest, most agile and exuberant in manifesting their desires and abilities.
This period runs through the ages of 18 to 30 years in average. A world without the youths would simply look like a village of senior citizens; not quite boisterous, unproductive but struggling.
Consequently, it is no surprise then that the world is lively and fast growing today as a result of the boisterous, innovative and developmental activities of youths who exhibit their talents in various fields of endeavour and walks of life. Examples of these fields or walks of life are: administration, politics, sports, community development, religion and entertainment.
Institution and corporate bodies like to employ young people because of their agility and vitality. Also, because of the young people’s enthusiasm to impress their bosses, and to create some impact to attest to their qualification for the job and/or uplift their positions. But this is especially so if the young person finds the job interesting. Surprisingly, many advertisements on job vacancies (especially those with good prospects), now demand for experience and advanced age (mostly from 30-35 years), as part of requirements for job qualification. Perhaps, this is because of the nature of the job, or some change in time. If experience is made a constant requirement for employment, then what is the chance of a young university graduate ever getting employed? Thanks to Industrial Attachment (IT) that gives some chance of working experience to tertiary students. Also, the executive personnel of established companies go to convocation ceremonies of higher institutions to grab the outstanding graduating students to employ into their organizations. In this way, both the youths and adults are given the opportunity of employment, since the youths have the zeal, agility and creativity to put in, and the adults, the experience and wisdom.
The evidence of democracy is in the participation of citizens in their government. Youths participate I government by reacting to policies and suggesting views to their well-being and that of all. They do this by writing letters to newspapers, printing hand bills, forming interest groups to demonstrate with placards or hold rallies and so on. Some examples of noted events of youths in tackling affairs concerning them and the society at large are: the National Association of Nigerian Students [NANS] riots of 1978 led by Segun Okeowo against the Federal Government for introducing fees to Federal Universities. It was targeted at the then minister of education, Ahmadu Ali, and titled ‘Ali Must Go’ riot. Another was the nationwide protests of Nigerian student against the crippling effects of the 1989 Structural Adjustment Programme [SAP] introduced by the former military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida. And eventually forced the military leader to reverse some of the provisions of the policy.
Alas! Political parties, acknowledging the capacity of youths, now take advantage to manipulate these youths, to perpetrate political violence and crimes. For instance, the one million man march crusade led by Kanu Okonkwo to install late General Sanni Abacha as civilian President and a counter march led by human rights activist and lawyer Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN, are only a few among many others.
Adults and senior citizens play golf, chess, table tennis, cricket, squash etc. leisurely as well as rigorous games such as football and track and field sports, as amateurs in anniversary markings and other like events. Youths play all, professionally. It is their strength, vitality and enthusiastic displays that attract interests to the games. Football is an example of a world unifying sport that has gained world accolade and most appreciated when it is played by youths in Olympics, World Cup, Nations Cup, European Cup, Champions Cup, and so on. The advantages these sporting events give, are the opportunities for the youths to exert their energies lawfully, benefit financially and be famous, as well as the joy and excitement their performances give to the world audience.
All hands should be on deck towards the development of communities. Old and young contribute in their own way and capacity, either by physical exertion in daily personal cleaning, group environmental sanitation, voluntary cleaning of roads, streets and parks, etc. or by scientific and technological inventions that facilitate farming, health care, domestic activities, and production. Artistically too, people develop communities by awakening people’s consciences and spirit to problems. Youths are highly involved in these. They write articles and draw cartoons in the print media, produce documentaries and dramas in the broadcast media, stage plays in the theatres, and sing songs for change. A good example of an artistic rendition is that of Mel Gibson’s [though and adult] Passion of Christ, which is touching many hearts and causing them to change for good, for the sake of the sufferings of Christ. Changing for good means becoming a good person in a community. Consequently, a good person does things right for the good of himself and the community he is in, bringing some kind of development to the society, such as: peace, justice and love. The National Youth Service Corps’ [NYSC] community development scheme is an opportunity for the youths [specifically higher institution graduates] to serve their country selflessly. This is exemplified in some Corper’s discovery in 1986 of the Koma people in Adamawa State of Nigeria. These Koma people were isolated from civilization and so were living in nudity.
Religion, being a vital aspect of a society, because of the moral and spiritual uplifting roles it plays, is an avenue to groom the youths and provide them with the opportunity of manifesting, in many cases, for the first time, their God-given gifts they discover in themselves. For example, in the Catholic Church, youths play functional roles in the daily Mass and occasions such as: lay reading, altar serving, church warding, singing in the choir, legionary works [of visiting the sick and prisons, cleaning the church, visiting and preaching the gospel in different homes, etc.] and magazine and newspaper publishing and so on. And these youths belong to various groups called societies in the church, which provide them the opportunity of doing the above and prepare them to be good neighbours and worthy citizens and ambassadors.
Entertainment makes the world bearable in the midst of war, crimes and strife. It enlivens the world by creating an escape from its gloom. A lot of youths are in the entertainment business and are doing very well. Some of these young people are Julius Agu, Basket Mouth, Jeta Amata, Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade, Cobweb, 2-Face, etc.
Even many of the adult entertainers began entertaining from their youth days and matured into established artistes. These are people like Onyeka Onwenu, Sunny Okosun, Barbara Soki, Joke Silver, Olu Jacob and Tade Ogidan, etc.
Although, the above fields of activities are not exclusive to youths, as you have seen, yet they are highlighted more by the vitality and exuberance of youths who take the opportunity of their prime to be youthful and useful to their society. But there are those youths who have gone astray and become a menace towering over the peace of a society and causing it to cringe in fear and insecurity. It is the duty of every right-thinking person, especially the agents of socialization [parents, teachers, religious leaders and groups, good peers, etc.] to help to groom our innocent children, youths and presently misguided young ones towards good moral and spiritual principles that will help them to be useful and responsible youths and citizens. This is because when you teach a child the way to go, he will never depart from it. Happy youthfulness!!!
By Ifeanyi O.C.
[Published in the October 2004 St. Dominic’s Church, Yaba Lagos, Children Harvest Magazine – Flowers]