<div style=THE PLIGHT OF THE AFRICAN YOUTH- 12042021
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By: Late Sir Henry Olujimi Boyo (Les Leba), first published in June 2006


This week’s republication “The Plight of the African Youth” continues in the same vein as the publication of 22nd March 2021“When Justice Reigns” which gave a brief historic overview, and discussed the shameful state of our economy in light of our abundant resources. Both articles were published as far back as the year 2006 and still remain relevant because we as a people remain in the dark, while the future of our nation continues down an uncertain path.

With the ongoing economic crisis due to Covid -19, a lot of businesses have to shut down with no real support from the government. As a result, this has added tremendously to the existing high level of youth unemployment in our nation.

Furthermore, the stringent methods that our government is employing do not create an enabling environment where businesses can remain operational by being granted tax rebates/concession- which will ensure lower unemployment levels and relieve the burden on our economy.

Regardless of what we have been made to believe, the current inflation rate ‘is’ directly related to crude oil prices. As inflation continues to rise, more people will be out of jobs as businesses shut down and are unable to pay workers. Also, with the increasing costs of goods due to this unbridled inflation, most people will be unable to afford basic necessities. In the face of increasing hardship, more people- especially our youth- are seeking ways to exit Nigeria in search of “greener pastures.”

Today’s article points out some root causes and emphasizes the need to get our “house” in order if our youth are to flourish and our nation to steer towards a path of prosperity. Kindly read on.

(These articles are also available on his web portal, www.betternaijanow.com.)

There is an African adage with a literal translation, which means that it is a bastard who would vaguely identify his father’s house with his left hand! Up until the early 1970s, African youths travelled to Europe and the Americas in order to acquire education and/or other professional experience but eagerly looked forward to the eventual return to their home countries to live with their kit and kin within the context of a culture that gave fulfilment to their hopes and aspirations. Indeed, those youths who failed to return home were generally regarded as underachievers or worse still, as failures by their families and communities. In spite of the ‘subsumed’ racial discriminations of the time, African students abroad enjoyed reasonable respect in comparison with their West Indian counterparts who had come to fully pitch the tent in the land of the same colonial masters, who had ravaged their heritage and taken away their identity.

My attention was drawn to a tragic story reported on page A10 in the Daily Independent Newspaper on 1/6/06. The story captioned “Barbados Probes Death of Africans aboard Ship” is about the corpses of 11 African youths found floating in a 20-foot unmarked boat off the coast of Barbados by a local fisherman in April this year. Barbados Police confirmed the cause of death to be dehydration and starvation after being adrift for over 100 days, with no fuel, little food and water! Initially, 50 people were on board the boat when it started its journey from Cape Verde Island about Christmas 2005. Ironically, the passengers had collectively paid 50,000 Euro (about N9m) for the journey of their lives! “Thousands of would-be migrants attempt to make the hazardous sea crossing from Africa to the Canary Islands or Spanish mainland each year. Some 7000 migrants have reached the Canary Islands in the mid-Atlantic this year alone, but many die while attempting to make the perilous journey!” What a story!

About 200 years ago, Africans in their youth and prime were forcibly plucked from their homes and families, packed like sardines and transported under severe hardship and deprivation to be sold as slaves to plantation owners in the Americas and the West Indies. This time around, it is a macabre de ja vu! Africans, in spite of the challenges of meager resources make heroic sacrifices to educate and train their children and their wards locally only to gamble their investment on one throw of the dice. Families have been known to sell their prized possessions to sponsor their children and relations on the road of death to Europe!

The odds of setting foot in Europe are probably higher than one in twenty and even then the extremely ‘lucky’ ones who make it are often hounded into asylum camps where they enjoy the status of glorified prisoners. Those tougher ones who managed to slip into civil society end up with jobs that the locals will not do and earn barely subsistence wages, their level of education and training back home notwithstanding! The need to always keep a step ahead of their host immigration services forces our tragic hero into an itinerant refugee; meanwhile, family expectations for the dividends of regular remittances of dollars and Euros through Western Union confines these unfortunate African youths to virtual slaves abroad!

A monumental and bizarre waste of scarce human and material resources is the net result of our collective investment in education as African countries are simultaneously denied the direct contributions to development from our exiled educated youths!

So, how did the future of the African youth and by extension the viability of countries of the continent become so bleak? When did the selfless spirit of the founding fathers of African political freedom desert us? Some analysts agree that the rot started when corruption and inappropriate economic and monetary policies drove the business of government. The military defended their incursions into politics by indicting the civilian leaderships which they ousted as corrupt, but with hindsight it is clear that Nkrumah, Keyatta, Senghor, Balewa, Nyerere, Lumumba and several others did not own real estates, Swiss bank accounts and industrial and commercial conglomerates from their stint in government; but same cannot be said for the crop of military adventurers who drove through our liberties in their armoured tanks to ‘rescue’ us all from the bondage of the civil political class and ended up acquiring everything in sight for themselves, including our Central Bank, which on one occasion, in accordance with a policy of close custody of public funds kept part of our nation’s treasury in the private apartment of a close relation of a serving head of state!

A unitary form of government under military dictatorship is a fertile ground for corruption, as the people are intimidated and cowed by the force of the gun, while merit, transparency and accountability are jettisoned as tools of goods governance! In such a political environment invariably only those economic and monetary policies which facilitated their access to public funds were eagerly and rigorously promoted by the ruling military class and most of their civil society collaborators. Indeed, corruption became an art form during the tenure of one of our military messiahs and it is not surprising that the middle class was quickly decimated and the Nigerians, who were earlier warmly welcomed as affluent tourists in Europe and America became unwanted guests as erratic monetary management made nonsense of the value of our currency and devastated the income profile of all wage and salary earners in our country. The work ethic collapsed, mediocrity thrived and Nigerians became numbered amongst the world’s poorest. The weapon of currency devaluation also served the same purpose in many other African countries!

The quest to supplement inadequate income drove several Nigerians into criminal activities and drug barons and 419 kingpins soon became part of our landscape; teachers, lecturers, professors, nurses, doctors and engineers began to look across to Europe and America where they could earn the almighty currency – the dollar; the increasing value of which had dealt their livelihood and dignity in their home country a fatal blow! Inevitably, education standards fell, and the senseless devaluation of the naira, catapulted the costs of doing business. Commerce and industry became major victims of obtuse economic policies, and unemployment soared such that today possibly over 50% of Nigerians who are eligible to work have no jobs, the poor have become fatherless and injustice and insecurity hold sway in the land. The choices for our unemployed educated youths are clear: remain jobless, become an area boy or prostitute, engage in some other criminal activity or beg, borrow or steal to go abroad and earn dollars and euros. Truly, some Nigerians get lucky and become successfully integrated in their host societies abroad, but for every one of these, there are probably one hundred other failures! More of our youths will continue to die in the desert or on the seas or in pipeline explosions so long as civil society condones corruption in public service and not even our enviable endowment of mineral and agricultural resources will save us!

Save the Naira, Save Nigerians!