My Crime For Being A Nigerian Youth
By: Ezejide Charles Onyeka
With nostalgia I remember my primary school days when we sang: “Parents listen to your children….” Our parents did listen to us, they tried their best to see us through school as we continually saunter the threshold of higher education in the midst of the great difficulties and socio-economic hardships they endured. They had the resilience to bear the pains and adversities because they totally believed the echoes of our voices when we said “We are the leaders of tomorrow”.
Living this nursery and growing older in life, I became exposed to the loud cries of anguish and wailing in the streets and homes where fellow citizens lived. When political analysts and pundits like Cardinal Onaiyekan, Bishop Hassan Kukah, Fr. George Ehusani, Fr. Efeturi Ojakaminor and Obute Anthony among others were crying foul and weeping loudly for the bleak future of my country Nigeria, averring that this nation is soaked in corruption, nepotism, tribalism, mutual suspicion and hatred, I felt they were they were blowing things beyond proportion.
Our centenary as a ‘Nigeria’ and the unfolding of events in recent history have elicited in me an unconscious meditation of my status as a Nigerian youth. It is a Nigeria where my future is now most uncertain, where the governments who promised me and taught me to believe strongly that youths are the leaders of tomorrow now give me ample reasons to strongly realize that it is a crime to be a youth in this country. I am totally left on my own. If I must have a future then I must design and achieve that future all by myself no matter the means, no matter the path I tread.
I grew up knowing that some of the politicians we still parade in our Nigerian Politics have served at different capacities as leaders in this country. Today, these men and women whom I thought should have retired, relishing the fruits of their labours while also rousing guidance to the young leaders, are still hovering around like desperate vultures over the political terrain; scheming and ready to jump in at any opportunity to occupy political offices (probably they have not amassed enough).
How can I become the leader today when these “ancestors” of mine are still piloting jealously the affairs of the leadership they promised us yesterday to take over today? The question that keeps begging for answer is: “What ‘crime’ have I committed for being a Nigerian youth?” All I see is pains, frustration and desiccations. No prospects for growth and development of the average Nigerian youth. While in school the Nigerian youth awfully suffers, upon graduation desperately rambles countless destinations searching for job that are never given and eventually dies miserably.
Every time someone says ‘East or West, home is the best’, I receive these words with great melancholy in my heart. Oh why not! It was on the 15th of March, 2014 that my fellow brothers and sisters filled the streets in their thousands anxious to go through the exercise of the National Immigration Service screening. Oh what a tragedy! Some never came back alive. What a sad moment when the news filled the air that over fifteen lives were lost with four expectant mothers dying without any available facility for resuscitation. What a sad fate for those innocent kids in their wombs! What crime did the Nigerian youth commit? Answer me. Who shall rescue us?
What pauses my heart is that all of these candidates in one degree or the other really believed that they were qualified and due for the employment. Our peers in the rural areas have been reduced to hewers of firewood and permanent hunters; those unemployed in the urban centres have been reduced to foot soldiers and thugs. Our politicians remember us the youths when they need our dexterity for “thuggery”, political pranks and chaos, election rigging and civil unrest!
Oh Nigerian youth what crime have you committed? Our leaders impoverish us so heavily that we are unwittingly conditioned to always remain at their beck and call. We are never empowered except with arms as either Boko haram or MEND. Someone whispered to me the other day that the incessant rate of violence in the country today is partly due to the arms that our politicians gave out to youths during previous elections to protect their selfish interests. These arms were never properly retrieved and today we are partaking in the national dirge for the hydra-headed brutality looming everywhere.
Wait a minute before you get upset. What about our many sisters you lured with money and affluence into gratifying your disgusting sexual desires. You even had to insist on having sex with some of them before granting them employment opportunities which was meritoriously theirs. You traffic these our would-be wives into foreign lands where they become ‘objects’ used to gratify the sexual orgies of others. They end up having a lot of challenges to contend with. Some are mercilessly killed for rituals; others taken into drugs and others stung and summarily slayed by STDs. Our brothers and sisters in Diaspora always return home with dehumanizing stories of how they evoked suspicion in those lands just for identifying themselves as Nigerians. What crime have we committed being Nigerian youths?
You once deceived us into believing that our military juntas were responsible for our predicament. You promised to liberate us from this yoke through civilian government and fair share of the dividends of democracy. What a shame! I now realize it was just a case of the kettle calling the pot black.
I still pledge to Nigeria my country… just make me proud as a citizen. To be faithful loyal and honest… just be my mentor in this. To serve Nigeria with all my strength… just empower me. And to defend her unity…. so help me God. All I ask is a chance to have my dreams come true! I am that child lying in the open cold street, I am that pregnant girl who is confused between abortion and the harsh conditions under which I may have to raise my baby, I am that young man in custody awaiting trial for over seven years now, I am that girl you always see hovering around that brothel, I am that girl whom have been handed into early marriage because my parents cannot afford my tuition fee, I am that boy holding gun and killing people because I have lost touch with my true self, I am that lady there to be given that employment as soon as I am ready to lie in bed with my employer, I am that university graduate who is jobless and sit under the shade of the tree playing ludo and gamble. I am the Nigerian youth you find everywhere except in that one place I am actually supposed to be. What a crime being a Nigerian youth.
Is there anybody out there? Does anyone feel my pulse? This is a message to my nation and its citizens. I still pledge faithfulness and loyalty to Nigeria, my Country. I believe in Nigeria. Save the Nigerian youth! Save Nigeria!
Ezejide Charles Onyeka is a Nigerian Student and a freelancer.