International Youth Day is observed annually on 12 August worldwide with the aim of bringing the challenges of youth around the world to the attention of the global authorities so as to save their bacon to fulfill their potential and play their vital role in their nation-building. The theme of this year is “Transforming food systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”.
To begin with, youths are indeed cardinal asset, building blocks, far-reaching game-chargers, unmatched tools of booming economy and determinants of the prosperous future of every nation. They are also said to be the hope of the brighter future of monumental progress. Oh youth, what a great asset you are!!
It is undeniable that the reverse is the case in some countries around the world like Nigeria where its vast ocean of aggrieved youth are unfortunately turning into militants, kidnappers, bandits, cultists, cattle rustlers, armed robbers and political sycophants or thugs because of their parochial leaders’ dereliction of duty for failing to occupy their them with jobs.
In the current so-called democratic system of governance formed by massive votes of our jobless youth optimistically, the three tiers of government must wipe away the tears of these disgruntled youth by providing them with decent employment. The issue of Nigeria’s unemployment must be addressed without further ado as it is being compounded by the COVID-19 scourge and the sweeping climate change that exacerbates incessant mass migration. So, what sort of a delinquent democracy are we now practicing in Nigeria?
To be frank, democracy is about the general well-being of the masses. An Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, ecofeminism and anti-globalization author, Vandana Shiva, once said, "Democracy is the responsibility to be accountable to everyone around you. Democracy begins with freedom from hunger, freedom from unemployment, freedom from fear and freedom from hatred. To me, those are the real freedom on which good human societies are based”.
Obviously, youth unemployment is an alarming time-bomb ticking to explode if not addressed aptly. According to a recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 40 million. Besides, Nigeria’s tertiary institutions are said to produce more than 500,000 graduates annually. Unfortunately, they remain frustrated job-seekers that may be lost into the world of crimes as long as the federal and state governments fail to create productive jobs for them. My biggest fear is the apparent strong linkage between youth, unemployment, hunger, poverty and insecurity. This remind me of the popular proverb that a hungry man is an angry man.
It is agonizing and quite ludicrous for a country like Nigeria, which is endowed with massive human population and abundant natural resources, more especially jobless youth and vast arable land potential, to weep over the current precarious rising youth unemployment, severe hunger and increasing insecurity bedeviling the country.
Optimistically, agriculture is the major component of the food systems as it plays a key role in consolidating nutritional aspects, achieving food security, healthcare, UN’s SDGs 2030 agenda, job creation for millions of unemployed youth, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation. The country is fortunately watered by a number of streams, rivers, water sources and almost 900 large, medium and small dams meant for irrigation farming and controlling floods. Those dams are surrounded by so many jobless youth who have been looking forward to having the government's support to continue feeding their families and the nation.
Sadly, desertification is the biggest threat to Nigeria’s food systems, more especially in northern Nigeria, where it threatens the livelihoods of more than 40 million people. Youth can play a significant role in combating this sweeping terrifying desertification.
To sum up, as Nigeria’s population is predicted to hit 500 million people by 2050, youth are indeed stakeholders and potential agents of change for transforming the food systems of the country to feed the upcoming huge generations. They are also unmatched game-chargers of mitigating desertification which is an enormous threat to the starting point of the food systems and creating jobs for unemployed youth. Nigeria should embark on massive rehabilitating and completing its dams and support its youth to actively engage in dry season farming.
Mustapha Baba Azare,
Alkali Musa Street, Azare,