By Fr. John Damian Adizie, OCD
August 12 is a special day for young people all over the world. International Youth Day is a day set aside to celebrate young peo-ple and to highlight their contri-butions to social development, especially to conflict prevention and transformation. It is also a day to reflect on youth related issues such as youth inclusion, social justice, sustainable peace, and above all, youth empowerment and possible solution to un-employment.
The theme of this year’s IYD is ‘Youth building peace’. Young people remain the essential actors in conflict prevention and sus-taining peace. This is in line with Goal 16 of the sustainable dev-elopment goal which is to “Pro-mote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable develop-ment, provide access to justice for all and build effective, account-able and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
This goal cannot be achieved without the youths! Youth inclus-ion in peace keeping is therefore the best way to build a peaceful society.
Youths are important and indis-pensible segment of the society. The world cannot do without them. At the 2013 World Youth Day the Holy Father, Pope Francis, describes the youths as agents of evangelization. “The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you.” Indeed, the youths have vital role to play not just in the area of evangelization but also in promotion of peace and development.
Youths are in fact the foundation of peace-keeping. Mahatma Gandhi insisted “If we are to reach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with children.” Without the youths there will be no lasting peace. The youths are not just adult in the making they are also agents of conflicts and peace depending who employs them and what inspires them.
Nigeria happens to be among the countries that neglects its youths. This negligence has be-come so obvious that even the former President Olusegun Oba-sanjo has finally admitted that the lack of development Nigeria is facing today is as a result of negligence of the youths. “We will not transform if we continue to ig-nore the youths.” Unfortunately, this realization came a bit late because right now Nigerians are paying the prize for neglecting their youths.
Even the youths among the ruling party are not happy with the way the government neglects its youth. For instance, the Nation-al Youth Leader of the All Prog-ressives Congress (APC), Hon. Ibrahim Dasuki Jalo, lamented that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is failing to carry the Nigerian youth along in most of his appointments.
According to him, no youth made it as a minister in Buhari cabinet. He then warned that the practice of “use and dump” of the youth after election should be discouraged. Most of Nigerian leaders and civil servants are old enough to retire, whereas the youths have no job.
The ongoing agitations in Nigeria are justified on the basis of unemployment and exclusion of youths in decision-making. The youths are simply fed up with the system. Most of them are ready to sacrifice their lives to ensure there is a radical change in the system of governance. While some are calling for re-structuring of the system others are calling for referendum which will eventually lead to complete break-up.
Nigeria got itself in this mess because of its negligence, esp-ecially to the youths. Any nation that neglects the youths negates her peace and development. There has been attempts to look at the possibility of restructuring the system. These moves cannot su-cceed without the youths. The government should be reasonable enough to carry the youths along, else the agitations will not just continue, it may lead to a regret-table revolution.
Apart from the government, the Church is another powerful insti-tution in most African countries. The government may have failed the youths but the Church should not fail. Unfortunately, most Nigerian churches have not just neglected the youths, they are even using the youths as their in-struments. Some so called men of God are using the youths to enrich themselves.
Gradually, some people have started agitating against church leaders. Recently, a lady posted a video online demanding that a certain Nigerian General Over-seer should return the seed of faith her sister paid to the church because she is now facing finan-cial challenges. This may sound funny but that is how it begins.