By Ijanada Jantiku
Ideally, at 60, a human being falls into the rank of sexagenarians, which is on the border line of old age. But, Nigeria, being a nation, at 60, can be said to be a youth as nations exist for hundreds of years. So, as a youthful nation we should look up to the youths to deliver it from what would have been its climacteric stage- if she were human- and lead her to the promised land.
The youths being the backbone of every society, should determine its future. The Nigerian youths have a role to play in renewing and refreshing the current status of our society in the areas of leadership, innovations, skills, etc. Hence, they are expected to drive advancement in technology, education, politics, peace and unity of this country.
The common saying that the youth of today are the future leaders of tomorrow is particularly true about Nigeria, being the most populous country in Africa with one of the largest populations of youths in the world. Based on the Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data, Nigeria’s current population, as of Monday, September 28, 2020, is 207,334,390. Youths make up for more than half of this population. This, of course, comes with it’s challenges; one of which is an increased demand in education, health and security, especially in our environment which has a large number of the unemployed.
Today, an average Nigerian youth is faced with a lot of challenges with unemployment being the major one. Others are unemployability, due largely to lack of skills needed to perform certain tasks. This has led to increased rate of violent crimes, restiveness and other forms of social vices.
To address these challenges, there is the need for every hand to be on deck in planning for the future of this country by planning for the youth. They need to be educated, guided, encouraged, advised, taught and shown the way to go. And since the employment opportunities are far below the growth rate in the youth population, equipping youths with life skills and technological knowhow would set them on a track of being self-reliant.
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has made it a priority to see to the success and empowerment of the youth through various programmes and initiatives. One of such is the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme, P-Yes. The P-Yes is designed to fight and reduce unemployment among Nigerian youths by creating at least 774,000 empowerment opportunities.
Another initiative of this government aimed at engaging the youth is the N-power which has its main policy thrust in large-scale skill development. A total of 5000 comprising of batch A and B have so far benefitted from this program with batch C good to go.
In line with his determination to harness the greatest resource of our country- the youth-for socio-economic empowerment and employability, President Buhari on July 22, 2020, approved the establishment of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) to the tune of 75 billion naira for three years. The NYIF which is the first of its kind by any Nigerian government is for innovative ideas, skills and talents of Nigerian youth, and to provide a special window for accessing funds, finances, business management skills and other inputs critical for sustainable enterprises.
The President, again in his determination to reduce the level of youth unemployment in the country, launched the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) aimed at empowering 740,000 young agricultural officers in rural areas of the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. The programme which has since taken off with six pilot states selected from the six geopolitical zones, including Bauchi, Imo, Katsina, Lagos, Niger, and Rivers, has in its plan to empower 20,000 school leavers and rural youth leaders, and 18,500 university graduates to become agribusiness entrepreneurs who would be involved in farming, storage, processing, value addition, marketing services and logistics. The benefit of this program is Federal and State governments support in areas of access to land, technical, entrepreneurial, financial, business and marketing skills, as well as links to major agribusinesses that would provide market and mentorship.
Also, there is the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), MarketMoni scheme that has empowered 350,000 MSMEs across the 36 States of the Federation. President Buhari’s administration has also established eight Innovation Hubs to promote youth entrepreneurship and innovation, two ICT Innovation Hubs in Abuja and Lagos.
Like every other nation, we have our challenges. Investing in the youth, like President Muhammadu Buhari is doing is the key to overcoming these challenges. There are more to achieve, more grounds to conquer; therefore Nigeria is not just about today, but about tomorrow. What the President has done is to prepare them for the future. I am confident of a better tomorrow because Nigeria belongs to the youth who are being equipped to tremendously play vital roles towards national development and integration.
This is a wake up call for the youth; the time is now, our future is in our hands. Let us arise and take advantage of the President’s various empowerment programmes to work towards our future. God bless our hope for a better tomorrow; the youth, God bless Nigeria @60, long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Jantiku, a young Nigerian graduate sent this from firstname.lastname@example.org