The Youth Voice – The New Voice

Written by Benita Ezumezu

For so long I had imagined if we were zombies, or rather, is the common phrase of youths being the leaders of tomorrow just a phrase? The famously written song by the 5-year-old Tosin Jegede in the ’80s titled Leaders of Africa popularly rhymed ‘we are the leaders of tomorrow’ in primary schools which to a very large extent it is agreeable as demonstrated in various countries and the only question that has constantly played in my head is ‘If the youths are really the leaders of Africa? Years pass by yet we still yearn for inclusion and involvement in the policy of our country. In a country where there are no plans or agendas for the youth, the crime rate is at its highest.

Our country remains a nation heavily characterized by corruption, economic stagnation, poverty, insecurity, and unemployment of which the youths are heavily affected by these issues. Our leaders have failed us, making the youths’ future uncertain with the growing rate of the worsened economic situation. For over a decade, It is clear that we are still in the fight to curb unemployment, a major issue affecting the youth which I would say to a large extent is hinged on the inclusion in the country’s policy to increase their self-confidence. This lack of confidence in youths resulting in a lack of competence is a contributory factor to this rejection. This confidence can be built if the attention that the youths have yearned for so long is heard. One of the most popular definitions of youth as defined by the United Nations, describes ‘youth’, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years.

President Buhari characterized the attitudes of youths as lazy when he criticized the attitude of some Nigerian youths, saying they were only hustling to get on the gravy train while speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Westminster on 18th April 2018. They are also framed as fraudulent and are constantly harassed by the police. In my opinion, this is just a way for our leaders to wave their responsibility.

Over decades the political aspect of the country has been taken over by the old hags who do not have the slightest idea of what youths want and how these needs should be included in their policies. Their main focus is their priority on the resources in the country. Youths are involved in the decision-making process only to a limited extent because of the greed of our leaders and were silent for so long because of the many barriers that prevent youths from expressing their opinions and thoughts. The severity of this brutality paved way for youths to speak up because the benefit of our voice goes beyond understanding or psychological thinking but our perspective, ideas, knowledge, and knowledge of youths’ actions. Losing a connection to a broader social and political system is one of the dangers that silences youths.

Youth Voice is important to society and itself with strong opinions of great influence and diverse moral values than the older generations, in the light of the fact that young people play a critical role in shaping the future of our political and social, and cultural life as they are identified as change makers who have much easier access to the public. This simply is identified as the general idea that young people have a voice in society and these voices count because we are more aware both politically and socially even in the creative arts. As illustrated in the last Osun state gubernatorial election on the 16th of July 2022, the youths actively managed the votes count to avoid rigging. 

The high level of insecurity affecting youths is at an alarming rate. Police brutality against youths went on for so long frustrating the youths, to the point of no return leading to the massive outcry which led to the protest #EndSARS. Although there have been protests before now, the Oct 20th remains one of the massive protests with over thousands of youth participating.

Signing the Not Too Young to Run bill on the 31st of May 2022 was an eye-opener for youths. They saw the need to actively get involved in the policy formulation of the country. Their confidence was boosted, which was a starting point, hence the need for The Youth New Voice. The bill will not have been signed if the youths did not speak up.

As youths became actively engaged in the country’s policy, the unity among youths drastically increased, and a big part of this could be seen in the EndSars movement to end police brutality, the creation of more youth groups and others for awareness and youth inclusion, and the Osun state elections held in July, as youths waited to ensure the votes were counted properly to prevent rigging. These among others are contributing factors to the youth’s massive and active participation in their country. 

Now, youths have had enough, exploring what it takes to be a young Nigerian living in Nigeria the #EndSARS Protest happened, across states on the 20th of October 2022 and this remains a fact that it is one of the most popular outbursts of youths with a large number of youths participation and engagement. #EndSARS protest started as a call to disbarn a unit in the Nigerian Police Force, Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Nigerian Police Force that has earned notoriety for its brutality and human rights violations, especially on the youths. The hashtag EndSars This movement went worldwide due to the government’s oppression of the youths, which stands as a voice for the youths. Lives were lost in this process but have paved the way for more youth engagement and youth can now voice out their concerns and contribute their ideas and opinions.

#EndSars is a day to be remembered for history, the day that brought about the awareness that the country doesn’t have regard or respect for the youths the future leaders of the country as they claim. Social Media has greatly contributed to increased interaction and communication around the world. To a very large extent, I would say that this is one of the major contributing factors that have enhanced many aspects of the human communication voice of the youths. I can say that social media has brought about the unity of youths coming together and agreeing to speak up, which strongly attests to the fact that if this fire continues, there would be more agenda including the youth in our country. If this voice is further amplified, I believe that the voices of every young person would be heard and the actions required would be made.

Creating more youth dialogues on young person rights and their protection, provisions of platforms and resources will further amplify the voices of the youths, because our voices must be heard, and this hope has been the driver of youths, as research shows that young people oftentimes resent leaders who make decisions without including youths. This whole concept of the new voice is central to youth engagement which is a meaningful and sustained inclusion and active interest of a young person in societies to individually contribute to a positive society despite all the negativities. 

If robust awareness about these platforms (with high possibilities) to foster increased visibility, I strongly believe that the voices of the youths will be better amplified and positioned in the right channel where the right actions would be taken for the betterment of society to benefit both the youths and the citizens at Large. There is no better time but now to start demanding the appropriate sit at the table and build a better Nigeria for the Nigeria we desire.

My Voice! Your Voice! Our Voice counts! Youths Please speak up, for a New Nigeria. Demand that accountability and Inclusion.

This article is an Excerpt from the report ” A Nigeria For The Many And Not The Few”

About the Author

Benita Ezumezu is a passionate, committed, social impact professional with an interest in social change enabled by technology, community development, and active citizenship. Program management, research, and evaluation expert with exceptional interest in the achievement of sustainable development goals in our lifetime. She currently works as a Senior Program Associate (Social Impact) at Citizen Commons International and the manager of Impact Central Social Innovation Hub

She is a fellow of the GEDA all African Innovators 2022 funded by Donors for Africa and Meta.

Benita holds a bachelor’s degree in History and International Relations (University of Ilorin), and LAW degree (National Open University of Nigeria)

LinkedIn:Benita Ezumezu, Instagram: Mhyssneetah, Twitter: @Benny_ricks

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