A PAPER PRESENTED BY DR. ANIEFIOK UKOMMI AT THE SCOUT ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA SOUTH-SOUTH ZONAL YOUTH WORKSHOP HELD AT TROPICAL GUEST HOUSE, IKOT EKPENE, AKWA IBOM STATE.
The role of youths in nation building in recent times has generated serious discussions and clear-cut policy agenda which are necessary for the development, plan and policy action of any country. Uhunmwuangho and Oghator (2013) succinctly elucidated that current happenings appear that the majority of our youths are on the edge of reason and good conduct. Rather than exploring the opportunities for securing better lives, facing the challenges of a rapidly changing world, and thinking about the future of their nation, it is quite disappointing that the majority of our youths know more of how to showcase anti-social behaviours. It is shocking to realize that the constructive attitudes of youths in traditional society of Nigeria have gone with the wind (Aghahowa, 2006). Interestingly, governments at all levels of governance, parents, guardians and all the stakeholders in our youth developmental processes are finally waking up to the realities that the surprisingly negative attitudes of our youths can be traced to the fact that we have tens of millions of unemployed Nigerian youths, and millions others living in abject poverty, even having seen the four walls of Universities.
From the above situation, there have been considerable efforts around the world aimed at addressing the ever-increasing needs of the youth population. This ranges from empowerment to call for appropriate programmes, services and advocacy efforts to harness and enhance the youth capacities and capabilities for nation building. This therefore shows the importance of youth participation in nation building which is the main thrust of this paper.
The significance of youth participation in nation building is of apt relevance considering their vast majority in the world’s population. According to Udensi, Daasi, Emah and Zukbee (2013), the numerical strength of the youth folk is an unlimited avenue to which the socio-economic development of any nation can strive and national development improved. Hence, if the youths are sidelined in the articulation of any nation building programme, experts have argued, that it will be impossible to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, particularly on extreme poverty and hunger (MDG 1), child mortality (MDG 4), maternal health (MDG 5) and environmental sustainability (MDG 7).
With this knowledge, youths are better able to make choices that support the pursuit of educational goals and the development of life skills necessary for national and local leadership positions. Ignoring maximum commitment and engagement of youth in national development today will have dire global consequences for decades. To better understand how to move the youth forward towards nation building, this paper examines the rationale for expanding the youth frontier for active participation in nation building. The rest of the paper is divided into five (5) sections outlined thus: conceptual framework (youth and nation building), the situation of youths in Nigeria, the importance of youth for national development, suggestive approach for youth empowerment and development in Nigeria, conclusion/recommendation and references.