Callistus Chiagozie - UNIBEN
This piece would have read “THE YOUTHS AND LEADERSHIP”, but I feel it will not couch exhaustively, the group of people for which it is expected. Of course we know that the Nigerian constitution makes no strict definition of “youth “and that is why married and old people still parade themselves as youth leaders. This piece is a culmination of interactions I have had with so many young people on the possibility of our having good leaders in the future because, as we have seen, the crop of leaders we have now have failed us so woefully. I have chosen in this exposition to categorize the young people as encompassing all children who have reached the age of reasoning till those who have reached 35 years. As I thought about the issues of leadership, it crossed my mind that Francis had invited me to contribute toYoung People's Corner and I thought to myself, “this is my chance” - not in the light of eloping with a lover as was the case in Henshaw's novel - but of getting the information across to the right people.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
We as a people, as young people have complained, are complaining and will still complain in the future that we are not given the chance to lead. The question of young people becoming leaders of tomorrow has been on the front burner for years especially when we have an over 70-year-old as a President. One, may therefore ask, what is leadership? What is the place of the young people in leadership? Are young people well prepared to become leaders? Do we as a people still have values and morals? Do we see leadership as service or an avenue for name making and personal aggrandizement?
YOUNG PEOPLE AND LEADERSHBIP – WHERE WE ARE
I remember my time growing up at home, we were taught the values of honesty, obedience and the likes. Those times, you are always expected to hand back the balance from an errand you went to your parents without their having to ask. It was very easy for parents to trust their children in those days. This is sadly not the case today as the opposite has become the lot. Our society has degenerated so badly that a small child even inflates the prizes of things bought in order to collect the balance which he or she uses for nothing but satisfying the stomach. The practice of selfless service to the needy as part of life has waned. We do not see young people running to help old people carry their luggage anymore, nor do we see them agree to help out someone in need without asking for something in return. Is this not worrisome?
In our primary schools, gone are the days when we have students who are truthful. Disloyalty, immorality, partiality and the likes is the new order of the day. What more? Some parents who are not worthy to be parents support their wards whenever they are justly reprimanded by the authorities. Some will threaten to pull their child out of the school. A story was told of how a primary school boy threw stones at the teacher puncturing her skull in the process.Our young people have been taught that money is everything. Therefore, whatever money is not involved in, there sure will be a reluctance in doing such things. In our schools, children of rich parents have their way in whatever they want to do, they have foot soldiers who do their biddings without asking questions probably because of the little peanuts they will get in return.
What of respect? This is not discussed again. We see young people insulting their parents and elders with reckless abandon. On one occasion, I was shocked when I heard the poisonous words coming out of the mouth of a 10-year-old. Those words were addressed to a married woman who had seen the child stealing mango fruits and had told him to stop. We hear stories of young people wearing masquerades during the festivals and flogging married women and others with whom they have issues with.
Young people see positions of leadership as a means of exerting influence, power, authority and control. Such positions as class monitor, class prefect, head boy or girl and other such functions are coveted because of the prestige it affords and the benefits that come therefrom. I remember an experience I had when I was the class prefect of my class, years back. One of our classmates was celebrating his birthday an in commemorating it, he gave us two packets of biscuit to share and since I was the class prefect, it was handed over to me to share. Before I could open the biscuit, a friend approached me and asked that we share one and half packets of the biscuit to the class while both of us shares the remaining half. I was surprised, but he assured me that it was something normal with other prefects.
What about our course representatives in tertiary institutions of learning? Our group leaders in group assignments, our hostel presidents? Students Union, State association executives and so on? These are positions which should have been used to render services to humanity, but we misconstrue them as positions for personal gain. The practice of course representatives asking for money under the looting name “Class Dues” is rampant. These dues are not accounted for. Imagine a class of 150 students paying N100 as dues which they were told will be used for buying markers, batteries for microphones and recharge cards for calling lecturers in the first semester– lofty projects I guess? In the second semester, the students will be told that the money they contributed has finished and they are required to pay again without which their assignments will not be collected and forwarded to the lecturer.