By Chinonso Onah, honorable mention in the CIPE 2013 Blog Competition. Read the rest of the winning entries here.
India, Singapore, Indonesia, and Korea were poor countries like Nigeria some decades ago. But today they are major players in world politics, economic heavyweights, technological hubs, and advanced countries while Nigeria is still dwindling deeper into collapse amidst plenty of resources. If these were our contemporaries, how did they move above board? And most importantly, what was the role of their youths in such a rapid democratic and economic metamorphosis?
This last question is very important as it forms the focus of our discussion henceforth.
What can the youth really do in the face of democratic backwardness in Nigeria?
To strengthen democracy requires accountability, transparency, and equity and a constant demand for them. No democracy has emerged triumphant without being refined by aggressive agitation and demand from the youth. “In Cambodia earlier this year, youth frustrated with corruption of the current ruling party and the status quo vocalized their desire for change before the national elections took place. In Sri Lanka, Youth Parliamentarians have been consulting with senior policy makers to make sure their opinions and inputs are heard. And in Jordan, young tech entrepreneurs are building a movement to reverse the controversial media censorship law through advocacy,” wrote Maiko Nakagaki in 2013.
It seems in contrast that even though democracy assures much freedom, liberty, and hope to the common man, it is often gotten on a platter of blood and sweat. About three years ago in Tunisia, a frustrated youth, Muhammed Bouazizi committed self-immolation as a protest over state corruption. His brave sacrifice led to the overthrow of autocracy in Tunisia and sparked a renewed quest for democratic development in the Arab world. This led to the overthrow of 42 years of autocracy in Libya, 33 years of dictatorship in Yemen, and others in a series of uprisings. These are struggles against corruption and undemocratic regimes championed by the youth.
It has become clear that democratic developments never progresses without aggressive clamouring for it. “During the riot against Mandal commission in India, thousands of college students agitated in the streets of cities,” wrote Odeneye. But Nigerian youths are rather complacent. Tertiary education has been reduced to rubble in Nigeria, universities have been shut down for five months, but the students and youths themselves have done nothing!
Do we fail to realise that our future is at stake unless we act? Do we fail to realise that education is necessary for democratic and economic advancement? Why do we fail to learn from abroad that we must stand up, sacrifice our comforts and luxuries, go into the battlefield and drag democracy to Nigeria?
Looking at Nigeria’s erstwhile contemporaries, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, etc., it is compelling to ask: what catapulted them from beggar nations to their present enviable states? The secret is entrepreneurship; this is an avenue whose power the youth in Nigeria are yet to embrace. According to a study by the University of Nigeria in 2013, youth unemployment in Nigeria is over 70 percent. Such a bleak outlook, however is an opportunity – youth in the before mentioned countries have leveraged on entrepreneurship to promote economic development.
We also have good lessons from our sister countries like Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa. These are countries whose mainstay of economy is a youth-led entrepreneurship. These economies have been listed as upper middle income countries; while Nigeria continues to be listed in the lowest rung of developed nations.
Unemployment leads to poverty; its extermination therefore is a march towards economic development. By engaging in entrepreneurship, the youths create wealth, reduce poverty, improve standard of living and directly promote economic development. This is the lesson for Nigerian youths; they should embrace entrepreneurship to promote economic development as done in India, Rwanda etc.
I conclude that:
To promote democratic development, Nigerian youths should become more critically conscious of how the country is governed and insist on transparency, and accountability.
To promote economic development, Nigerian youths should not wait for the government to reduce unemployment but rather leverage on entrepreneurship.
From the author:
As a writer, I always have the desire to express my opinion on socio-political and economic issues in the hope that one day change, real change, will visit Nigeria and Africa.
I wrote on the topic with the conviction that there are vital lessons to learn from countries that surmounted the challenges Nigeria is currently facing.