According to Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS, youth unemployment in Nigeria has reached a historical high point.
Drawing from the aphorism, the idle hand is the devil’s workshop, Nigerian youths from both the north and south, who constitute half of Nigeria’s population estimated to be 180 million are idle. If the leadership is aspiring to sleep with both eyes closed, it must find productive ways to harness the boundless energy of our youths.
So, in my view, one of the solutions to youth restiveness on the Internet may be the creation of employment which incidentally is associated with good governance. Since the jobs are obviously lacking, the blame for youth idleness once again tilts more towards government which is currently grappling with an unbalanced budget and double digit inflation.
What this implies is that, the panacea for hate speech lies at the door steps of government. So it must find an innovative and sustainable remedy to it.
But rather than hold itself responsible for the malaise manifesting in the social media, and thus seek pragmatic solutions, authorities have as usual chosen the easy way out -clamp down on the youths who are cursing themselves out for lack of positive civic and cultural orientation .There must be better ways of curbing hate speech and reducing the tension in the polity. Authorities only need to be more creative.
For instance, Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohamed recently triggered, although inadvertently, a firestorm of debate in the social media when he stated during an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest that Senegalese make the best jollof rice.
The Nigerian youths that are idle owing to lack of employment and therefore have a lot of time in their hands, created a frenzy on the Internet, debating the veracity of the claim. That was a positive distraction.
How about creating another social media buzz about the tourism potentials of Nigeria which still remains untapped, to keep the restless youths engaged? Something like ‘Nigeria has more and better tourist sites than Kenya and South Africa’ can animate the youths who gave enormous idle time to surf the Internet due to joblessness which is due to no fault of theirs.
How many northern youths know of Ogbunike cave, Obudu cattle ranch, the Calabar slave caravan, the Lander Brothers anchorage, the bini moat, ikogisi warm springs or Badagry slave post? By the same token, how many southern youths have visited Yankari Game Reserve, Gurara water falls, Mambila plateau or Kano dye pits and the site of Bauchi brass works and Nok culture? Why has the inter- collegial sports festivals-national sports festival- that pooled young lads from all the six geopolitical zones together in one sporting arena annually become extinct? Without encouraging such convivial atmosphere for the youths of Nigeria to interact and engage in healthy sports competition, does the country not deserve the mutual suspicion and distrust currently raging in our youth population?
This is not an indictment but, the Information and Culture as well as Youths and Sports ministers are obviously punching below their weights with respect to engaging our youths productively. In an interview in his country home after Sallah prayers, President Buhari reportedly eulogized National Youth Service Corps, NYSC scheme which was introduced in 1973 for national integration. Incidentally l had made references to the NYSC scheme in my previously published article titled “Threat to National Unity: Let’s Celebrate What Binds Us”. In the piece, l argued that being one of the policies that helped glue Nigeria together since amalgamation in 1914 and after attaining independence in 1960, the NYSC should have been strengthened by authorities in subsequent administrations after its founding in 1973.
But after about 44 years of NYSC, nothing has been done to consolidate the scheme, neither has any steps been taken to fashion out new national integration policies. Instead ,the ones instituted by leaders past such as the Unity Schools initiative and the federal character principle which prompted the establishment of colleges in the six geographical regions to integrate young minds across Nigeria and the Federal Character Commission, FCC, aimed at creating ethnic balance in appointments into federal Government ports respectively, are withering and disintegrating.
Arising from the foregoing, Mr President, with my layman knowledge of development strategy, l’m persuaded that our youths are not the problem in Nigeria, per se, but visionless leadership in the past few decades.
Therefore, my take on the vexed issue of hate speeches trending on the Internet by our youths and the not so youthful, as well as the resort to military force to quell agitation is that: when our youths are productively engaged and Nigeria is governed equitably, hate speeches will die a natural death, period!