This is a later version of the letter Charlie Boy gave to Nigeria Youths one year ago.
“Dear Nigerian youths,
This letter was first written to you over a year ago. It is being addressed to you again today through this medium for an obvious reason. Nigerians of my age and beyond (60+) never had cause to be so addressed when we were like you because the situation that warrants the writing of this letter never arose in our youth days. Let it be known to you that except life and sound health, none of Allah’s bounties to man is as treasure-able as youthfulness. The definition of youth varies from place to place and from faith to faith. But generally, youthfulness spans from the age of puberty (at 16) to that of reasoning (at 40).
That is the second stage of human life as it follows that of adolescence. It can be said therefore that the juiciest part of human life is what people call youth. And whoever is blessed with it is blessed with all hopes of life.
Youthfulness is the spur of ambition and risk. It is the period of determination and resolution. It encourages attraction between genders and engenders association across ethnic and religious boundaries. All efforts in human life that yield results in old age are made at youthful age. To an average youth anywhere in the world, the sky is never the limit. There are still many other firmament beyond the sky.
Youth is the stage of hard work. It is the stage of planning. It is the stage of vision and mission. That is why the youths of any nation are seen as the bone marrow of such a nation and the beacons of the future. And fortunately, youths invariably constitute majority of the existing people at any given time in any given nation.
The youth before now
In the years past when life had meaning and culture had value, youths were seen as the pride of the nation. They were the natural arrows fixed to the parental bows which were often used to shoot through the iron gate of life. This was the case in Nigeria before and during the colonial era. And after the country’s independence, the youths constituted the glory and hope of their parents. Their role in the family encouraged the bearing of many children as they partnered with their fathers in tilling the farm lands and in harvesting the crops.
In short, they formed the live wire of their families. When a father was said to be rich in those days, it was only because he had many children (male and female) who constituted the workforce of the family. The father’s pride then was not just the number of children he had but the volume of contribution made by those children to his wealth. Thus, children were considered as wealth.
In those days, youths were not just helpers of their parents on the farms or in their trades they also assisted them in training the younger ones. Yet, they had the highest regards for those parents in their utterances and in their conduct. The level of discipline in those days was such that boys were handled by their fathers while girls were mostly handled by their mothers. And the mothers dared not utter a word while any child was being subjected to discipline by the father. In a nutshell the upbringing of a child was the main key to societal serenity.
Change of trend
Today, Nigeria is a different story altogether. The youth of yesteryear have become the elders of today. They have left the chord of discipline that escorted them into the world of decency to the new train of indecency. And that chord is no longer suitable for either today or tomorrow as the trend has changed dramatically. The current trend began in January 1966 when some uncultured youths in military uniform, spurred by blind youthful ambition, threw the value of age and experience to the winds and killed the then leaders of the Nigerian nation in what was called a military coup d’état. By that unfortunate act they plunged the nation into a precipitate civil war that rendered the youth wild and eroded the value of youthfulness.
For 13 years thereafter, the vagabonds remained in power using whim in place of experience. And when a brief civilian interlude came on board in 1979 for only four years, the vagabonds perched on the governance again and like hungry vultures, they fed on the carcass of democracy to their fill. Through that unbridled usurpation of power, the so-called Nigerian military weaned themselves from the ladle of integrity and destroyed whatever was left of their nomenclature.
Here we are today, looking desperately like a starved hawk and hanging restlessly in the balance like a gagged hyena. Virtually every Nigerian has forgotten the real cause of our calamity. The cry everywhere is now about the effect of that calamity on the nation. No one endeavours to look back and see where the downfall started from.
And without looking back, there can never be any correction as to how to rise again. A Yoruba adage states axiomatically that when a toddler falls down while struggling to walk, he looks forward to see if there is any adult around to lift him up. But when an adult slips and falls down fortuitously he looks backwards to examine the cause of his fall.
That is the difference between experience and potential. Banking on potential to govern a nation that requires experience as did the eaglet Nigerian military some years past can never bring any meaningful result. Both potential and experience have their role and chance in any society. But neither can take the place of the other.
You the youth of today are different from those of yesteryear in many ways and the differences are clear. The youths of the past were very hardworking and dedicated. They served their parents diligently and stood by them in all circumstances. They sought their parents’ advice and learned from the latter’s experiences. You the youth of today are very lazy, slothful, time-wasting and lackadaisical in your attitude to life even as you are served by your parents from infancy to old age. Yet you despise those parents and treat them with disdain like nonentities. You believe that those parents had worked on your behalf and that you are only in the world to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
The youths of the past were patient contended and full of respect for the elders. They were humble, obedient and always eager to learn as they queued up before the elders for knowledge. You the youth of today are very inpatient, greedily ambitious and you see yourselves as masters of knowledge when in actual fact you are slaves of ignorance.
Unlike the youth of the past, you are mostly empty-headed, very arrogant, highly materialistic and hastily avaricious. You always want to start your lives from the peak of your parents’ achievements without asking about what those parents had gone through before reaching that peak.
You spend money lavishly without working for it and you never think of bearing any responsibility either in the homes or in the society. You are generally characterised by all the conducts that were classified as shame in the past. To you, shame has its price. And as long as you can pay that price in coins by whatever means, you are important in your own estimation. Thus, shame, as far as you are concerned, is a vital aspect of culture which has no negative effect on your lifestyle. As a matter of fact you have taken shame for pride.
If a few youths of the past can be described as a bunch of problems for their society, due to their public misconduct, majority of you today’s youths are the real cogs in the societal wheel of progress. To you, life has no meaning except it is heavily coded in money.
Your slogan that “long life is irrelevant in the absence of money” is a testimony to this assertion. That life span in Nigeria has dropped so drastically is due to your disappointing lifestyle which often creates hypertension for your parents and leads to their early deaths.
Few parents talk of heirs nowadays because those of you who are supposed to be their heirs have long thrown away the toga of worthy heirs. In the past, mothers were not known for staying with their daughters in the latter’s matrimonial homes while leaving their husbands behind without care. This strange but new trend that has almost become a part of Nigerian culture arose because of the incompetence of today’s young women, even after many years of training. Thus, despite the ubiquity of young men and women, there is scarcity of husbands and wives just as there is dearth of fathers and mothers.
Virtually everything that matters to you today’s youths is devoid of our known core value. By your measure, the value of life can be found only in the volume of currencies.
Causes of generational change
Whenever there is cause to review the current generational trend with the intention of writing the wrong, you the youths of today are often quick in pointing accusing fingers mischievously at the generations ahead of you saying they caused the debacle. But while pinching the back of the elders you often forget that sooner or later you may become elders whose back will be pinched by the youths that may succeed your own generation. You have forgotten that most of the scientific discoveries and technological advancement of your age which lured you into roguery were not available for the past youths. There were no such things as hard drugs, cyber crimes, armed robbery, insurgency, sophisticated fraud through manipulation of figures and forgery of signatures. There were rare cases of rape, child trafficking, audacious prostitution and day light murder with impunity as are rampant among you today.
To you, all these crimes are either professions or callings in which you actively thrive. Thus, you do not believe in the existence of any demarcation between decency and indecency an indication that ‘family name’ which was highly valued in the past has no meaning to you. This is why you are perceived as the most potent weapons of hooliganism by today’s Nigerian devilish politicians, who are mostly youths.
Unlike most youths of the past, you were sent to school by your illiterate parents but your goal was mere certificate (as meal tickets) rather than knowledge (as propeller of quality life). And what you acquired in those schools in the name of education is hardly worth the paper on which your certificates are printed.
For most of the years you spent in school, your preoccupation was either cultish or other frivolous activities that have no bearing with education. That is why most of you turn out to be unemployable university or polytechnic graduates. A few of you who secured public employments have been discovered to be sheer misfits on those jobs as your competence remains questionable.
The implications of all these are many. While most of you are not quite useful to the present you are also not hopeful about the future.
There is hardly any major crime in Nigeria today that is not principally committed by you today’s youths all in the quest for money. It seems that the only language you understand is money and only those who can speak the language of money command your respect.
Many centuries before our time, an Arab poet intuitively came up with a sonnet that fits perfectly into today’s Nigerian situation. He said:
“Here is the era against which we had been warned through the admonitions of Ubayy Bn Ka‘ab and that of Abdullah Bn Mas‘ud; an era in which truth would be totally rejected while falsehood and insurgence would be glorified and held aloft; Should this era linger without any change (of attitude) neither cry at a funeral nor smile on the announcement of a new birth would be experienced”.
Which of the situation expressed in the above poem is not applicable to Nigeria today. What impact does religion have on the society again?
We used to know of motor spare parts. Today, spare parts are no more of motor but of human beings. And the most active merchants of this queer business are you the youth of today. When we talk of illegal oil bunkering, it is the business of the youth. When we talk of kidnapping, it is the business of today’s youths. When we talk of suicide bombing and terrorism, it is the business of today’s youths.
And all these are for money and nothing else. Where is Nigeria going from here?
The aim of this expository letter is not to malign or denigrate the Nigerian youth of today. The children of this columnist are youths like you who do not inhabit an exclusive island. But preaching is like a muddy book surrounded by men and women of honour all of who are garlanded in immaculate regalia. No one of them will be spared if the mud is splashed either by accident or by design. As a onetime youth and now a father qualified to be called an elder, it is not expected of my type to start throwing stones at other peoples’ houses while residing in a glass house. But truth knows no boundary. It cruises on a track of frankness like a surging train which minds no gored ox. To rekindle Nigeria’s old hope or create a new one for the future, the youth of today must return to the established values of the past. It was through those values that the tranquility of the world was once solidly upheld. And it was through deviation from those that the world became as restive as it is today. If tranquility must return as wished by many, you, the youth of today, must change your loins for the better. And that is the only atonement that the world requires (from you) to return to a state of tranquility.
We are all in the same boat of life. If you work towards wrecking it you have much more to lose. Just remember that as you lay your bed so you will sleep on it. I pray God to guide you aright.”
I hope youths of this generation will follow his advice..