What a time to be young in the history of our land! Today, as the clock of history ticks, moving us gingerly forward into the heart of our 53rd year of independence, we must remember that Nigeria is a young nation and was one of those at the forefront for the struggle for African independence.
We must remember that young people have always designed the promise of this country. The heroes of our past, our founding fathers, people like Nnamdi Azikiwe, like Tafawa Balewa, like the Saudauna of Sokoto, Aminu Kano, or Obafemi Awolowo, all of blessed memory, initiated and realized the most important projects of their lives as young people.
Today we remember and revere them but the truth is that we are unconsciously saluting their youth. Most of those who led the struggle will fall under what we categorise as ‘Youth’ today.
They were the champions on whose shoulders our collective hopes rested. They were not only potential leaders of the future, they became leaders, in fact, of yesterday and from their labours we have inherited a vibrant nation.
Whichever way we want to look at our history, the role of youth in Nigeria’s historical blocks offer great insight and challenge that can provide a ready and important point of reflection for us as young people.
Check these names: Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Aminu Kano, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Mahatma Ghandi and Anthony Enahoro. What do they have in common?
One way to answer the question is to say they were all leaders of their countries. Another way would be to say they showed immense sacrifices for their countries. However there is something more fundamental.
It is the fact that at the time these great names were taking on the major battles of their life and of their nations, they were in their twenties or at most in their early thirties. They were young!
As a young man in South Africa, Gandhi faced an incredible degree of the discrimination directed at Indians.
The story is so well known now how he was thrown off a train after refusing to move from the first class to a third-class coach while holding a valid first-class ticket. Pretty much like the story of another great freedom fighter in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, Rosa Park.
When he decided to travel by stagecoach, for refusing to travel on the footboard to make room for a European passenger , the driver beat Ghandi. Not to talk of other hardships on his journey including being barred from several hotels.
The young Gandhi went ahead to become a major anti-apartheid force but he was only 22 when all these happened.
In 1950, when he was just 30 years old Aminu Kano led his compatriots to issue the very powerful Sawaba Declaration, which became the touchstone upon which the reform movement was created in Nigerian politics through the instrument of the Northern Elements Progressive Union [NEPU].
Anthony Enahoro was 21 when he edited the Comet in Kano thus becoming the youngest editor to so edit a national newspaper. He would later become a national hero when at 30 he moved the motion for our country’s independence on 1953
As in politics, so it is in the world of the arts. Although Wole Soyinka became the first black person to win a Nobel Prize in literature at 52, he had already established a strong, international and mature voice as a writer and a critic in his twenties
We can go on and on but the moral of this narrative is youth remains the eternal fountain of possibilities, energy, vigor, daring, and vision. It is the birth home of talents and realization.
This year is however a good time to take stock and reflect carefully on what we want to do as individuals. This occasion of our nation’s 53th anniversary is a good time to ask ourselves, what will I do to make my country better?
From industry, through civil society, to the world of research and development, towards the important crucible of leadership, politics, and management of development, I beg on all that we begin to think: what will I do to make my nation a better place?
The important work to rebuild Nigeria requires that we look across the world; just see what wonders other Nigerians, many of them young men and women, are doing in the management of institutions and initiatives. We need to start replicating that here at home.
Ms. Adeshola Komolafe, is the young chief executive at Media Insight, a communication development enterprise based in Abuja