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‌Dear Nigerian Youth,

According to the dictionary, as a youth, you’re a young person, especially one between childhood and adulthood.  One of the myriad meanings of this is that you are to some degree expected to make your own decisions; that you’re free, which should be good, and which in Nigeria is the only meaning: Freedom.

In Nigeria, you earn the title of youth as soon as you enter your freshman year in college, and with that come a lot of changes which are born out of your one-way, stereotyped perception of what youthfulness truly is. I shall simplify my thoughts by saying simply that youthfulness is not freedom; if anything, it is a mental gaol, one from which you are freed only by adulthood. What do I mean? Let’s recall a bit of Economics: the law of diminishing returns, which according to the Encyclopedia Britannica is an economic law stating that if one input in the production of a commodity is increased while all other inputs are held fixed, a point will eventually be reached at which additions of the input yield progressively smaller, or diminishing, increases in output.

Now, let’s assume that you are this commodity, that the fixed inputs are the world, your family and friends, e.t.c., and that the increasing input is your age. All  of these define you and your productivity. The changing factor which is age reaches a zenith, a point where you are most productive. That point, to me, is youth. So, for me, ‘youth’ doesn’t mean freedom, it means heyday;it means prime. And if you have an earthly what these words entail, our country would be a better place.

Alas, I confirm my opinion when I think of America’s Mark Zuckerberg and his launch of Facebook in 2004 when he was only twenty-three. Or of Russia’s Igor Zaboev and his company that collects, sorts and recycles polymer, cardboard and glass waste. I’m tempted to assume that everyone but us Nigerians understand the true meaning of youthfulness. I mean, where are our youths today? A good percentage cannot boast of belonging to a college or the other. The ones that can are busy fucking about, throwing all care to the winds. Then there are the graduates who are poor at finding jobs and poorer even at using their brains. (I do not dare generalize, though. I speak only of the majority.)

But perhaps the problem is with the system. Nigerians have talents, we have potentials, and with the right system, we can rule the world. If you’re in doubt, think of Chimamanda Adichie, Teju Cole, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Minna Salami and many other Nigerians that were edified outside the country and are now doing amazing things in their different fields. That’s why I address the government too: Find the problem and fix the problem!

But it feels good to know that things haven’t always been like this. I remember a time when things were remarkably different. The world knows Chinua Achebe now because of a book he wrote in his youth, a period of over half a century ago. Herbert Macaulay, Azikiwe, and others started the fight for our independence in their youths and they won it sweetly. I doubt that they’d have been as successful had they all been in say their fifties at the period of that fight. Physical, as well as mental lethargy would have been a serious hindrance to contend with.

I believe we can live in those times again. All we need is a general reorientation, and we can start by having a different perspective of youthfulness. By attesting that youthfulness is synonymous with heyday, with opportunity. Although our government has a large part to play, it starts with our individual selves. Let’s all, as youths, be brave, focused and determined, precise about what we want, and, we’ll see, everything else will follow. And let’s believe it’s possible, too, because only with hope will we have a reason to try.

 

Your brother,

Atanda Obatolu.

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