tThe youths have been a potent force in bringing about social reconstruction and change in political systems. As harbingers of new ideas and philosophies, the youths are catalysts and detonators of revolutions. From the french revolutionary movements of the late 1800s, the russian revolution of 1917, to the more recent ‘arab spring’ and syrian uprising, the youths have been militant participants in ushering in a new era of freedom, equality and justice. The ANC succinctly cognizes the importance of the youths in social struggles when it stated that “no revolution can be victorious without the effective education, organization and mobilization of the youth into political action”. Hitler identifying the potency of the youth stated “he who controls the youth, controls the future”. Indeed the youths were at the crux of his world war agenda.
In Nigeria, the youths and student groups have also been active in bringing about social change in the nation. The West African Students Union-WASU-was the umbrella under which students from West Africa fought colonial masters and insisted for the rights of Africans to take charge of their own destiny and affairs. When the constitution assembly was constituted in 1977 to deliberate on a new constitution, the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS), the then student body was given a slot in the assembly. The famous ‘Ali must go’ protests of 1978 was a fall-out of the meeting because of the government’s refusal to address pressing educational issues in the proposed constitution. Another case is the Anglo-Nigerian defense pact that was aborted solely on the account of objections from students who felt the government wanted to mortgage the sovereignty of the country. Even in secondary schools, the socio-political awareness of the Nigerian youth at that time was high. In 1944, the students of Kings College planned a violent demonstration in response to the directive of the then colonial government that students should vacate their dorms for the government to re-allocate the structures for military formations.
The very nature of the youths, their psychology of independence, daringness and new ideas, coupled with their physical characteristics make them the backbone of all revolutionary movements. Presently, in Nigeria, the youths are at most oblivious, rotating on an axis ignorance of their potency. They are rather more interested in vain ideals and material things. Reality television, social media and fashion have taken the place of social logic and consciousness. Today’s youth is the offspring of misguided philosophies and an abused value system immersed in corruption, religious bigotry and ethnic bias. The youths feel they do not have a stake or a role to play in bringing about social change in the nation. There is a huge disconnect in the psyche of the average youth on not only what to expect from the system, but also what to give to it.
One of the reasons for this mental vacuum is the absence of a vanguard formation which would have made it possible for a revolutionary consciousness to be developed. A vanguard platform which would articulate the ideas of the youth into a potent weapon and at the same time offer them a protective shield from state oppression. A vanguard platform which would catalyze the youths into a social group. Back in the days, the student unions played such roles. During the ‘occupy-Nigeria’ protests, the NLC would have performed such an imperative task. But it sold-out to the government.
The resultant effect of this vacuum is that the youths have been left vulnerable to the social experimentations of the elite. Their immaturity and inexperience exemplified in idealism, lack of critical analysis and errors of judgments have paved the way for political predators and scavengers to prey on them. They are victims of the elite who use the media to stereotype ethnic groups, idolize corruption and drift their mind from social consciousness with so-called realty tv and ‘talent’ hunt shows. Our educational institutions do not develop their minds to ask questions but rather to conform to the accepted practices. The Nigerian youth thinks that working within the system of corruption, nepotism and ethnic affinity is the best way of overcoming poverty and oppression. Our value system instills a material culture mentality mentality, while physical and psychological means are used to strike fear into their hearts and minds.
The need for a social vanguard which would catalyse a revolutionary consciousness is paramount for the Nigerian youth. He needs a platform to stand one, a megaphone through which his voice can be heard. The much needed societal change and his participation would only be an ideal, existing in abstract planes, unless there is a group orientation. Only an irresponsible generation of youths would expect any change to come from the government. The benefactors of a social system don’t change the existing structure. Change comes from th alienated and the oppressed, the unemployed and rejected, which is the reality of the Nigerian youth where the aged are now the leaders of tomorrow. Until this is done, the youths would be relics of future formations.