“Despite the undeniable humongous potential of today’s Nigeria youth , the youths are largely individual champions traveling narrow paths in a very large terrain.” Lai Labode
In the late 30s , a few young men who had been lucky enough to have tasted western education decided that all Nigerians deserved to have same . The young men began a coordinated demand for education for all Nigerians and better standards for higher education of the time. The assemblage of these visionary young men led to the birth of the LAGOS YOUTH MOVEMENT in 1938 . A political movement that would later challenge Herbert Macaulay’s Nigeria National Democratic Party for political power had been born . The NNDP prior to the time had dominated Nigeria’s politics for many years .
The Lagos Youth Movement possessed the power of organization and resilience to power a political platform that history now remembers very fondly . The power of Nigerian youth and their creativity fused together in an unprecedented manner and within the spate of four years , the Lagos Youth Movement had become the most influential political organization in the country . It’s name was changed to Nigerian Youth Movement to establish a truly nationalist credential thereby attracting more vibrant young people and better prepared for coming elections.
By the turn of the next election in 1938 , the candidates of the NYM defeated Macaulay’s party in the legislative council elections and thereby kick started a new era in NIGERIA’s politics . We can say unequivocally that between 1938 -1941 the Nigeria youths established Nigeria’s first Nationalist movement . The core focus of the NYM was to unite all peoples across ethnic lines to forge a common front in the bid to get a better deal for the people . Their efforts solidified the foundation that eventually wrestled authority from the colonial masters for the Nigerian people in 1960.
After the Nigerian youths had joined forces under National Youth Movement ,they decided to set-off very powerful campaign for better representation of Nigerians in the civil service , they also demanded better wages and working conditions for the people of Nigeria. The NYM pan-Nigerian stance spread like wild fire across the country. By 1939 , the NYM had presence in Kano , Ibadan , Zaria , port harcourt , ijebu ode , warri , Enugu , Aba , calabar , jos and kaduna . It had become a leading political force everyone had to reckon with . The NYM was particularly forward looking , it paraded men like Earnest Okoli , Samuel Akinsanya , Dr JC Vaughan and HO Davies . The young men also recognized the power of the media if they were going to maintain their newly found political leverage , they set up a newspaper called ‘Daily Service’ . It became the ‘This Day’ of that era.
These days , too many people are worried that the Nigerian youths cannot pull of any grand and noble idea politically , they say the Nigerian youths do not have the discipline , temperament and conviction to stay cohesive long enough to transform a country like Nigeria . I do not blame the cynics, after all there too many examples in our history to show that the Nigerian youths have not been able to cohesively progress or chart a common goal in the larger interest of Nigeria . It seems spirit that inspired NYM of the 30s had taken a flight from today’s youths . We have a had more than one faction of NANS for so many years , the National Youth Council has ever been a house of war and disorganization . The Nigerian youths had been reduced to mere tools for political thuggery and other social vices . The Youths in politics are also easy tools in the hands of the ruling class that systemically destroy the future to feed their today’s greed and love for power.
Despite the undeniable humongous potential of today’s Nigeria youth , the youths are largely individual champions traveling narrow paths in a very large terrain . Sometime in 2010, the then honourable minister for youth development , Bolaji Abdulahi had selected 50 youths from across the country to a meeting aimed at setting a tone for a new agenda for Nigerian youths . He called the gathering ‘Nigeria 50 Youth Champions’ .
I had just been elected leader of a Youth political platform called the Peoples Senate at the time . As far as I and many of us present were concerned , it was a great initiative . I remember many great ideas were shared with the listening minister by different brilliant men and women present . However ,one of the participants said something that seemed to resonate powerfully with everyone . She said “The Nigerian youths can’t see anything grow to maturity, they are too eager to pull down . The love of money , mutual hatred , jealousy and jostle for spotlight will destroy the best of ideas,we can’t just seem to come together.”
The lady got a thunderous clap from the crowd . I watched the minister closely as the claps thundered , I watched his body language ,he seemed genuinely worried for the Nigerian youths , he shook his head and looked for a second much older than his age. The meeting ended well with a common agreement that the Nigerian youths could rescue Nigeria and we all agreed to work together with the minister to achieve something great for Nigerian youths . The lady’s words however stuck with the participants as we left .
There is no doubt Nigerian youths have the potential to bring down the sun if the constituency applies itself . We have the tools that can guarantee enduring progress for our people. What we must do is to organize and be consistent in our convictions and efforts , we must also begin to reduce the animosities , prejudices , people judgement and mistrust that has driven wedges in our relationships with one another over the years. Our country bears the brunt .
Despite all the challenges faced by Nigerian youths , it still remains the most potent hope for change in this country . Every nations destiny is written many years earlier in the hearts of its youth . What do you think is written in the heart of today’s youth?
Lai Labode is the Chairman of PDP Youth Circuit.