Youths Must Hold The Right Advocacies For Nation Building And Stop The “Nothing Concern Me” Anthem- Onofiok Luke

YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN NATION BUILDING: BEING A PAPER PRESENTED BY THE MEMBER, ETINAN/NSIT IBOM/NSIT UBIUM FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, HON. (BARR.) Onofiok Luke

Distinguished participants,
Great Nigerian students!
My name is Onofiok Akpan Luke; born in Itreto, Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and by the circumstances of birth, a Nigerian and proudly so.
However, I have been deeply impressed by the vision of Dubai and generally, the United Arab Emirates under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister, Ruler of Dubai who has always said that Dubai will never settle for anything than first place.
The story of Dubai is one I am very fond of. Is it not amazing how a forsaken desert has become the commercial hub of the world and destination of choice for all citizens of the world?
Known as the ‘City of the Future’, Dubai has already set out the UAE Centinnial 2071; a course for the UAE to be the world’s leading country by 2071 investing and building around the four core aspects of education, economy, government development and community cohesion to foster an environment for exponential growth.
The emirate today is a global hub for business and the future economy, and a magnet for the world’s brightest minds who go there to launch initiatives, explore the challenges of the future and convert them into opportunities for sustainable development.
I can go on and on about Dubai and the UAE but one thing is certain and it is the fact that Dubai is deeply aware that innovation should be ingrained into the way the government thinks, operates and delivers services and who are the custodians of Innovation? The Youths.
This accounts for the Government’s inclusion of Youth in Governance and it might interest you to note that in 2017, Omar Al Olama, born in 1990 was appointed Minister for Artificial Intelligence at age 27.
In 2016, unlike what we see in many countries of the world including Nigeria, Sheik Muhammed Bin Rasheed Al Maktoum appointed a minister for youth affairs who is actually young; 22 year old Shamma Almazrui and he said “Youth represents some half our Arab societies, so it is only logical to give them a voice and role in governing the nation”
Away from Dubai, our Country Nigeria has known good times. Our youths have attained great heights and have competed globally on Information Technology, Communication, Agriculture, Leadership and other fields. Examples abound. Anthony Enahoro moved the critical motion for self-rule of Nigeria in 1953 at 30 as a member of the Federal House of Assembly. General Yakubu Gowon, General Murtala Muhammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo all became heads of state at 31, 37 and 39 respectively. These were the highest level of participation in nation building and the impact made was profound.
This begs the question, ‘what changed?’
From the foregoing, I am minded to state that my views today are not motivated by the age but by the state of mind and capabilities of the youthful population and I note Robert F. Kenedy’s position in His ‘Day of Affirmation’ speech of June 6, 1966 at University of Cape Town, South Africa where he posited that;
“..The answer is to rely on youth- not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease….A young monk began the Protestant reformation; a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth; a young woman reclaimed the territory of France; and it was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who [pro]claimed that “all men are equal.” These men moved the world, and so can we all….’’
As of today, the Youths of Nigeria have made and are still making significant impact nationally and globally. In the IT World, very recently, Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade sold off a startup out of Lagos (Paystack) to stripe for a whooping $200million and a lot of other young persons are excelling in their trades and profession within the country and mostly abroad. One can only imagine to what extent we can get as a nation if we intentionally tap into these productive energies of our youth for nation building.
With all the beauty in the strength and vigour of the youthful population, there is a palpable brain drain among them and our youths have become elephants with chicken feet consistently overlooked and undermined.
Nation building is a dynamic process involving all segments of the locality, including the often-overlooked youth population. Youths represent a vast and often untapped resource for immediate and long-term community development efforts. They also provide an invaluable resource for the progress of any society as well as its development. As youth are brought into and connected with national issues and programmes, they can participate actively and contribute to decision-making at multiple levels.
As youths are engaged in more sustained positive relationships with adults, other youths, and national development programmes, apart from realizing that they are valued citizens of their nations, such collaborations and participation may lead to skill enhancement, empowerments and confidence-building traits, which will help prepare them for active interest and involvement in nation building and this will lead to a synergy of the wisdom of the old and the strength of the young to attain progress.
However, the prevailing conditions in much of the developing nations, especially Nigeria, have seriously extenuated the potentials of the youth as agents of social change. These challenges range from the economic and social to the cultural. The treacherous triangle of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in which the bulk of Nigerian youths are currently trapped, has severely challenged their sensibility and has in the long run given rise to attitudes of resignation and acceptance of the situation. These social problems have created an environment where youth are cheaply available for manipulation by self-seeking politicians.
As the youth continue to remain in this state, there is pent-up emotions and untapped energies which lead them to provide cheap labour to execute the design of political gladiators and ethnic champions.
To bridge this gap, we must be intentional about investing in the education of our youthful population in globally relevant fields, increase access to information, engage reorientation campaigns, offer strategic empowerment programmes and offer useful incentives to young people who return to the country to participate in nation building. Offering political platforms is also a potent tool to increase youth participation in nation building. Beyond the letters of the Not-too-young to run bill, we must actively encourage and support innovative minded youths to get into positions where they can meaningfully contribute to nation building.
I should tell you about Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize Laureate. She started at the age of 17 to advocate for human rights especially the education of women and children in her native Swat Valley, Pakistan, where the local Pakistini Taliban had at a time banned girls from attending school. This is a good definition of participating in Nation Building through right advocacies. A typical example of youths involvement in advocacies is the Not-Too-Young-To-Run campaign and the ENDSARS protest which led to necessary amendments which also pushed the government to finding solutions to the cries that were raised by the youths through advocacies.
“…help our youths the truth to know” so says the second verse of our National Anthem. The hard question we should all ask ourselves is; what are these truths?
I am here to tell you that one of the major truths is the fact that for this country to be better then, the youths needs to engage their energies in the right way and participate in national activities with sincerity of purpose. They must hold the right advocacies and stop the “nothing concern me” anthem. The truth remains that everything done at the National Assemblies, State Assemblies, the Aso Rock and the various government houses in Nigeria concerns you. It is also pertinent to note that youths represent the future of any country and the quality of youths a country breeds is directly proportional to the quality of its future.
Another important truth would be, that Power is not always Given, but Taken. Sitting still and waiting for someone to stand up for you is outdated. There is a need to be intentional about making your voice heard and offering your inputs towards the conversation on nation building.
The third truth is that, it is impossible to participate when you are not prepared as preparation precedes participation. While, we cannot underrate the importance of youth participation in nation building, we should not also overlook the negative effects of having unprepared youths in the business of nation building. So, it is pertinent to do a level of self assessment to find out if you’re fit and prepared to participate in governmental processes. This preparation involves a deep study on leadership and the various systems in civilized countries, compare them with the system here, seek for loopholes and have solutions handy, such that as you begin to participate, you become a solution to the problems of the country and not one of the problems of the country; this therefore means that youths must become readers, youths must develop keen interest on solution finding not just for their pockets but for the country. An era should come where we are not only interested on how to put food on our table but we also become interested in making our nation a better place, so that our brothers in other regions can also be able to put food on their own table.
Like the former American President, John F. Kennedy said, “ask of what you can do for America and not what America can do for you”.

What can you do for Nigeria to get better?
Could it be that the nation is where it is today, because you have refused to participate in its building process, because you have refused to do what you can do for Nigeria?
Like you rightly would ask, if youths are the leaders of tomorrow, when shall this tomorrow come?
That tomorrow can be today if we begin to participate in the building process of our nation.
At political gatherings, you will hear them chant, ‘Build the youths! Build the Nation!’
I will conclude today by saying, Youth, build and develop yourself. By so doing you build and develop the nation for a nation is a reflection of the people who live in it. This therefore means that we must all embrace personal development with all amount of seriousness as it has a direct effect on the development of the country. Hence, as you go back home today to think on how you can participate in Nation building, also think on ways you can develop yourself.
Thank you.

Wisdom Bassey

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