As the giant of Africa marks the 58th anniversary of her independence, we realize that there are many things to celebrate. Remarkable is the 58 years of auto governance and a sustained level of demographic growth. It is, therefore, paramount that we ponder on issues bordering on the socio-political and economic development of Africa and Nigeria in particular, as we advance in age.
Demographically speaking, Nigeria tops the African countries with over 180 million citizens. This earned her the title ‘Giant of Africa.’ The issue of population growth is, however, a multifaceted one. This is because of the demographic distribution of the people. Generally, Africa is the youngest continent with 60% of her 1.2 billion population below 25 and owing to the fact that 10 of the world youngest countries are all resident in Africa.(Kweistu, 2017)
The youthfulness of the continent is an egg that must be meticulously candled and handled for un-deformed hatchery. According to Myers (2016), “If sub Saharan Africa is able to take advantage and provide adequate education and jobs, $500bn a year [to]could be added to its economies for 30 years. This is equivalent of one third of African GDP. …Lack of meaningful work among young people is playing into frustration that has in some instances contributed to social unrest or unmanaged migration.” We relate this continental challenge to Nigeria because the country poses as the focal point of the continent and cannot be isolated from the challenge, with over 45.6% of her youth unemployed or underemployed (Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics)
With over 50 years of auto piloting, Nigerian nation is too old to be spoon-fed. A lot is expected in attestation for this advancement. Unfortunately, Nigeria including Africa as a whole has witnessed a shift from extra colonization to property/identity colonization to intra colonization. The implication is political and economic failure as well as social strife. The nation battles with the provision of basic amenities ranging from quality education and healthcare to quality water, good road networks and uninterrupted power supply. Thus, as we celebrate our independence, we cannot make it a buffet, because there is no large purse to feed on. Our giant is but a crawling giant. If corruption and ineffective leadership have plagued this nation for over 58 years, it is thus apparent that we find a solution to a lingering challenge. The former chairman of the Economic Crimes and Financial Commission (EFCC) suggested thus, “If some 20 high profile offenders are tried, and sentenced to death, this will send shock waves to Nigerians, and curb both the impunity and intolerable prevalence of corruption in Nigeria.” Nonetheless, while we wait for our own Jerry Rawlings, it is wise we explore other alternatives for political sanctification.
It is wise that while our giant crawls, we fold not our hands and hold unto fate. To salvage the African Nation, we must capitalize on our youthfulness by creating safe spaces. According to United Nations on the 2018 International Youth Day, “While there are many spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth.” Signing the ‘Not too young to run bill’ to law is creating a space but allowing the youths contest healthily with the advanced’, given the financial burden of Nigerian political hustle, is making it safe. We can create political safe spaces for youths when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) bans money laundering during campaign as a form of electioneering. We can create economic safe spaces when government supports, encourages and promotes rather than frustrate start-ups.
Moreover, a deformed government cannot beget an informed populace. Thus, as governments are charged with the duty of creating safe spaces, its effectiveness must be individualized. The government, in a democratic setting, is of the people and by the people. So, the very act of voting will be creating safe spaces. Thus, the individuals must decide to create safe spaces by electing the right leaders. In addition, individuals can create safe spaces by deciding to inspire one youth. Make it a civic duty to mentor one person in your life. It is not enough that you complain about the un-habitableness of the Nigerian and African nations, you can do something about it by creating a safe space for a youth to wield political influence. The youth, however, must learn to utilize safe spaces and maintain its safety. Youthfulness is marked with activeness and vibrancy. These must be channelled into demanding safe spaces for impact.
Finally, 60 years is the official retirement age for civil service in Nigeria. It is, hence, worthy of note that we find worthy replacement; not only because our politicians are due for retirement but because it is safer to do so in this era of history.
Joy Uja, NEAL