The general consensus is that the average young Nigerian is unserious. Loafers seeking a free meal ticket. Male and female alike, they shun the principles that guarantee success because they are a pampered generation. Nigerian youths have been touted as unserious lots who are always looking to reap where they have not sown. Little wonder Yahoo Yahoo and other sundry vices are synonymous with them. Young Nigerians have been maligned by even the one person that should be rooting for them – the “lazy youths” insinuation comes to mind here.
To be honest, save for kicking against the sweeping generalisation that projects everyone under the age of 40 as ne’er-do-wells, it really is a yeoman’s job to speak for the younger generation. If one were to judge by the sheer number of trolls on social media or the deluge of youngins who litter the roads without a job or source of livelihood, there would be no gainsaying in the “unserious youths” narrative.
But like every other story, there’s always a flip side. The downplayed one which doesn’t hug the headlines the same way the popular view does yet is undeniably there. With a youth population that exceeds more than half of the entire population of the country, there’s bound to be a microscopic level of scrutiny that keeps everyone wondering what these category of people are always up to.
And in a world where entertainment of all forms hold a special fascination for young people, (especially now that the numerous social and digital fora provide the perfect platforms for self-expression), the notion that younger citizens are all about play has thrived even more. However, that belief has been challenged again recently.
For all the hue and cry about the dwindling educational fortunes of Nigeria. For all the bashing and scanty belief in the ability of the upcoming generation to take Nigeria out of the doldrums of all things negative it is known for, young people keep proving that they only need to be given the chance to shine.
First, it was the International Robotics competition in China where three Nigerian students not only gave a good account themselves by earning an award for their courage but also went ahead to win gold in the contest. Barely 2 weeks later, five young ladies also put the nation’s name up in lights when they won gold at the World Technovation Challenge in the US. These feats though laudable, are not alien to us.
Time and again, we hear reports about Nigerians – young and not-so-young who break academic, sports or even entertainment records in faraway lands. And these are not just foreign-born citizens of Nigerian origin in the mould of Anthony Joshua, David Oyelowo or the Bobsled girls, these are people who were born in this country.
Individuals who have had to contend with all the challenges people who live in Third World countries have to deal with all their lives. The same issues that condemn others to a life of averageness propelled them to stardom.
Young Nigerians are victims of the same stereotype or single story that has defined different categories of humans. Advance fee fraud is rife, prostitution and robbery are vices notable among the younger generation, yet, this doesn’t negate the reality that there exists those who are choosing to rise above all the obstacles to forge their own path to success.
At times like this when there’s a succession of happy, inspiring stories about the youths, there’s little corresponding noise to sustain the discourse around it. First of all, to show their contemporaries and upcoming ones the value of hard work, and then to demonstrate that there are always two sides to a story.
Perhaps young Nigerians should be given more credit for even surviving the nation they have found themselves. One that is a far cry from what is the ideal. After all, they hear lofty stories of how our parents lived a King’s lifestyle during their university days, how they bagged scholarships and had jobs waiting for them upon graduation.
No generation is all bad. No set of people are completely terrible. The Nigerian young person is as ingenious (or even more ingenious) than their peers in any part of the world.
So the next time some youngsters are arrested for defrauding a foreigner or peddling drugs, we must remember the ones who make us proud with their exploits too.
Successful young Nigerians matter.