My days of singing the anthem of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) are over. The memories of singing them remain.
Even before the days of service to my fatherland, my heart has been romanced by social development work and acts of service.
Following on this, I returned to social development work after one year of youth service to work in the areas of gender, democracy and governance and even health. More recently, I have been involved with youth issues especially youth participation in democracy and governance in this country.
It is the import of those words of the NYSC anthem that I carry with me today and into the future.
‘Youths obey the clarion call.
Let us lift our nation high.
Under the sun or in the rain
With dedication and selflessness
Nigeria is ours, Nigeria we serve.’
The words of the renowned developmental scientist, Ardo Kempe, that, ‘any country that is serious and desirous of a holistic and absolute process of national development must target the youths because they are the foundation of the past, the pillars of the present, and the very basis and destination of the future’ ignited the fires of passion for youth political participation in my heart and it has remained unquenchable since then.
While I was reading this interview given by former presidential candidate Dele Momodu, I was even more convinced to write. When asked about the widespread clamour and calls for young Nigerians to join political parties and increase their levels of political participation and if he is an advocate for young people joining political parties as the ONLY avenue via which they can be involved politically, Momodu said:
“I believe our youths should take more interest in politics and leadership matters but we can’t all join political parties. I wish to see more of advocacy than politicking and politricks. Those who have leadership attributes should be encouraged to participate but it shouldn’t be an all-comer affair. What I suspect is that most people join politics in Nigeria with the hope that it would soon be their turn to partake in sharing the ubiquitous and proverbial national cake. This is the tragedy of our nation and it seems most of our youths have given up on our country and have picked up the bad habits of our fathers.”
While I agree that we all cannot join political parties, else where will be the place of the writer, or the opposition, or the activist or the critic of absurd government policies? I do not however agree with Dele Momodu especially regarding the ulterior motive for which many young people have decided to increase their participation in our democratic process either directly or indirectly. That is however an entirely different area of discussion.
I was privileged to listen to the National Youth Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Comrade Miriki Ebikibina speak in August 2012 during the commemoration of the International Youth Day on ‘Widening the Space for Youth Participation in Political Parties.’
While Comrade Ebikibina does not look like his 60 year old counterpart in another party I would hardly believe that he fits into the category of any acceptable definition of a youth.
One area where I totally agreed with Ebikina however was in his assertion that without a clear ideological base to define their political mission, younger elements within the emergent democratic political parties find themselves on the sidelines.
There is a growing interest among Nigerian youths in engaging our democratic space directly and directly. Political parties are wooing vocal and ideological young men and women into swelling their ranks. The recent formation of All Progressive Congress by a merger of the major opposition parties in the country has caused another wave of optimism among Nigerian youths even though the party is yet to complete its registration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It is evident that the next few months and years portends serious challenges for Nigerian youths. While there are serious political challenges; social and economic challenges exist as well. Whether our generation will be able to come to terms with our historic
mission and act to
fulfil it or betray it is left for time to tell.
As another set of Nigerian youths pass out from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and another set prepares to start one year of service to our fatherland, we are reminded – youth corp member or not – youths obey the clarion call.