By Bayo Oluwasanmi
“Wherever possible, government should invest in citizen capabilities to provide for themselves.” – Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America
President Muhammadu Buhari who seeks re-election in 2019 criticized Nigerian youths last week at a business conference in London that “A lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming, you know, that Nigeria has been a an oil producing country therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, health care, education, free.”
The coming to power of President Buhari should have heralded a new Nigeria for our teeming hopeless youths. The hope was that the youth would be living radically different lives from the lives they lived under previous governments. But that dream is still out of reach for 99.99% of our youths. Our youth population could have been a blessing for Nigeria if Buhari’s government do what is necessary to ensure our youths become healthy, educated, and productive citizens.
The anti-youth policies and programs pursued by Buhari administration make prospects for our youths bleak and broken. Three in four of our youths are failing to get the start in life they deserve. The inequality in opportunities and political disenfranchisement for our youths are huge. Our youths are denied the best shot at living a decent life. Poor quality of healthcare and education and a socioeconomic horizon blighted by poverty, unemployment, violence, murder, killings, lawlessness, have been foisted on the youths by the government.
A critical factor in youth development is the extent to which the youths are able to participate in political and civic life of Nigeria. But the models are in short supply. For example, how can Buhari explain the wisdom behind the appointment of a 80-year old plus as Nigeria’s ambassador to the US. Buhari’s 70-year old minister of agriculture Audu Ogbe was minister of communications in his 30s. Abba Kyari Buhari’s chief of staff is 80 years old. The list is endless. The quality of life and opportunities for our youths are still defined to a large extent by legacies of their parents, their proximity to power, their connection to political god fathers, their religion, and ethnicity.
There are three responsibilities every government has towards its citizens. The oldest and simplest justification for government is as protector – protecting citizens from violence. Government is a provider of goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves – electricity, water, roads, hospital, education. Government is the solution to collective action problems such as social welfare particularly in the vulnerable conditions of youths, old age, sickness, disability, and unemployment due to economic forces beyond their control. Government should invest in citizen capabilities to enable them to provide for themselves in rapidly and continually changing circumstances. Buhari administration has failed in all these three crucial responsibilities.
Youth employment is a much bigger problem than Buhari has acknowledged. Instead, Buhari resorts to blaming the victim in order to cover up his failure and inadequacies. Buhari failed to create enabling enthronement for the youths. He failed to create two million jobs a year he promised the youths. Failed to jump start the economy. Failed to provide livable minimum wage. Failed to provide safety and security. Failed to provide quality education and healthcare. Buhari has no moral right to accuse Nigerian youths of laziness, of asking for freebies, loafing around doing nothing.
Nigerian youths are dying and Buhari can’t save them. Buhari, “Baba go slow” has failed Nigerian youths.