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Setting youths’ mind on patriotism

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TO say that the mindset of an many Nigerian youth is synonymous with anything but virtue, is merely saying the obvious. The immediate and proximate cause of the unflattering state of affairs led to expressions like “youthful exuberance, youthful impetuosity and youthful excesses”. Contemporary Nigerian youths are known to exhibit misguided zealotry, destructive rascality, misplaced boldness and intrepidity or what is called ‘Dutch courage’ more often than not verged on drunkenness and addiction to mind-bending substances like cocaine, cannabis, misuse of normal drugs like tramadol, etc.

Unfortunately, these noxious mindsets and anti-social gambits of the Nigerian youths have been negatively exploited by unpatriotic and disreputable politicians who have perceived elected and appointive political positions as a do or die affair. The youths are known to be actively enlisted to carry out dirty assignments at political party meetings and campaign rallies. Acknowledging the fact that these youngsters have scanty or no means of livelihood, the dubious minded political big-wigs and chieftains, and the supposed god-fathers offer them the amount of money they never handled so as to be at their beck and call for violent confrontation of their perceived challengers, rivals and opponents of factions or opposition political parties. Before and during the elections, the youths are engaged in tearing campaign posters of rival contestants, way-laying and kidnapping of rival contestants for elective political positions, manipulation of political party primaries to foist incapable candidates to contest for the elections. Youths also featured prominently in causing fracas during the meetings of political parties or disguise themselves to attend factions of political parties to achieve predetermined ends.

In the conduct of elections, the youths become armed thugs and militia to cause fracas so as to perpetuate electoral malpractices, frighten, kill and maim rival political agents to facilitate vote-switching, vote-selling, stuffing of ballot boxes, intimidating the electoral agency’s staff and adhoc staff, and forcing them to declare substituted election results and engage in sporadic shootings to scare voters and potential voters where a particular political party that is not their choice is likely to win substantial number of votes. All these frightening scenarios were recorded in some states in the just concluded presidential, National Assembly, governorship, and House of Assembly Elections.

It was against this background of somewhat uncivilized posturing and unpatriotic gambits that led the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN] Anambra Chapter to organize “2018 Anambra Youth Stakeholders Political Summit, inauguration of local government executive and merit awards on December 13,2018, at Emmaus House Hall complex, Awka. The theme of the well attended event was “Actualizing a Violence-Free Election In 2019; The Role of Youths”.

The elaborate event showed that the youths of Anambra State have been benefitting from the populist policies, programmes and projects of Governor Willie Obiano. It is worth recollecting that Obiano had earlier in his administration appreciated the precarious mindset of average Nigerian youths and deemed it meet and proper to factor their existential needs in the policies and programmes of his government to reduce to minimal, the social problems in the state.

Thus in his grim determination to enthrone good governance, the governor started by reinventing youth development programmes like sports and established skill acquisition centres to enable the youths acquire various skills to enable them create wealth, become self employed, reduce poverty and anti-social activities which led to high security profile of the state. He also demonstrated youth empowerment by appointing a 30-year-old youth as commissioner and a number of them special assistants.

In his address, the chairman of NYCN, Anambra chapter, Samuel Egwuatu, stressed the need for the youths to imbibe the virtues of patriotism and reverse the bad image of the youths so that political leaders will take them into confidence. He said; “Youth participation in the Nigerian political space today cannot be over-emphasized. The energy and resourcefulness of the youths in Nigeria is a tool that could be deployed positively and constructively to steer African politics to its Eldorado.

“If the role of the youth in Nigerian politics is neglected or down-played, we again leave our youths to be engaged by unscrupulous politicians towards destruction of the progress we have made in the past years in building a decent democratic society. Today, all over the world, the youth occupy prominent positions in most countries socio-economic and political sectors”.

In his effusive commendation for Governor Obiano’s continuous refocusing the mindset of youths to have a sense of self-worth, self-sustenance and self-sufficiency in patriotic and worthwhile endeavours, Egwuatu said: “Here in Anambra state, His Excellency, Dr. Wilie Obiano has expressed through direct positive acts the importance of youth participation and contributions in governance. Sterling examples are the obvious appointments of vibrant and goal-driven youths in various political positions in various ministries in the state government.

“Anambra State Youth Stakeholders political summit was conceived following the feedback received by the leadership of the NYCN Anambra State on the great need to engage our youths on how to participate in an election with democratic principles for political advancement of our nation during the course of its wide consultations. Understanding that youths are the strength of any nation, it became imperative to positively channel their strength and ministries to abstain from any character that can jeopardize their future and undermine the growth of democracy in Anambra State and Nigeria at large”.

The event featured a group discussion by selected elites and security personnel who proffered plausible suggestions on how to reduce to the barest minimum, youths’ involvement in political parties’ frictions as thugs and facilitating electoral malpractices to engender creditable 2019 general elections.

In her admonition to the youths, Senator Mrs. Uche Ekwunife who happened to be the only aspirant to political position in the state, appealed to the youths to reconfigure and refocus their mindset and make use of the skill acquisition centres which she established to be self-reliant and shun the lures of quick money from unscrupulous and political desperadoes whose children are not lured to engage in thuggry and election brigandage.

Ekwunife, who later was declared the winner of the Anambra Central Senatorial District, thanked the youths for the award conferred on her and advised the youths to take advantage of the federal government’s policy of the “Not too young to run” to aspire to elective positions in government. She said; “Vibrant youths make for vibrant nation. I facilitated 600 youth employment scheme and laid a good foundation for youth empowerment.

One of the award winners, Chief Dan Madueke, an Enugu based oil and gas magnet, represented by a public relations practitioner, Rapuluchukwu Ikedinobi, said that he would not relent to empower the youths in his community, Oraeri, Aguata Local Government Area which has gone a long way to create wealth and reduced anti-social gambits.  Other awardees are the pioneer chairman of NYCN, Anambra Chapter and now a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obiano, Nwabufo Nwankwo. During his tenure, being a civil servant, his organizational prowess of the youths endeared him to immediate past and present governors, hence the decision by Obiano to prepare and refocus the mindset of the youths for patriotic endeavours.

One of the remarkable highlights of the event was a position paper titled: “Actualizing Violence-Free Elections In 2019: The Role of Nigerian Youths”, presented by Professor Austin Uche Igwe, of History and International Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. The university don, who commended NYCN Anambra Chapter for showing great concern on the misguided mindset of the youths who dispose themselves to being unlawfully engaged as political thugs, decried the continued engagement of contemporary political office holders to destroy the youths in their selfish quest for political positions.

Tracing the history of engaging political thugs and militias in politics, the erudite scholar said: “Democratically elected civilian governments have been in power at the three tiers of government in Nigeria [federal, state and local governments] since 1999; but there are lots of complaints by the citizens that the elections that brought these governments to power were not transparent. Most of these elections were marred by violence [purportedly perpetrated by youths]; and this tales of woe on conduct of elections in Nigeria persists from 1999 till date”.

Decrying the do or die mindset and despicable and desperate measures employed by the Nigerian political office aspirants, Igwe contended as follows: “To most politicians, election “must be won by all means”, and as such all arsenals are employed by most Nigerian politicians to ensure they are victorious in elections. This was achieved through anti-democratic measures in which the political class effectively co-opted the youths into personalized political engagements that favoured individual politicians to the detriment of youths and the Nigerian society at large.

“The sum total of the above is that since 1999, the political class had managed to exercise its monopoly over political mobilization, thereby undermining popular participation. Popular participation was curtailed through the de-mobilization of youths from constructive political engagement; rather most were used to cause different types of electoral violence”.

Be that as it may, the efforts of Anambra chapter of NYCN would not be dismissed outright since pockets of violence were reported in some electoral wards in the presidential and National Assembly elections. These excesses were allegedly perpetrated by the boisterous youths who were, as in the past, engaged by the desperate politicians who are jittery over their success in the elections. However, the state chapter has sent a signal which it is believed will resonate with the youths in the course of time especially with the strident efforts of Governor Wilie Obiano to engage the youths in productive ventures and worthwhile endeavours to refocus and reposition their mindset to face the reality of the existentialities of life and become the proverbial and the expected “leaders of tomorrow”, as it were.

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