Another May 27 is here. It is a day set aside by the Nigerian Government to celebrate our youth — our hope, our future leaders. It is a tradition that has been observed over the years — perhaps, more in mind-blowing grammar than in fruitful actions. However, the significance of the day is more crucial now than ever. It goes beyond a national or state-wide broadcast or a lunch date with few privileged, handpicked children of those in high places. It should not just end there. Our children deserve more.
Most of the children live with their parents in abject poverty. Still, they went to school with expectation of employment thereafter. Those in school are saddled with unpaid school fees and the hopelessness of their future.
Under these circumstances, the importance of May 27 — which is meant to celebrate the youth — seems defeated because the socio-economic status of the youth is not positively affected in any way.
Indeed, the times are challenging. One of the challenges facing the youth of today is called COVID-19. Schools are long closed. Classes and examinations are now conducted on-line. Can our public schools afford this luxury? The answer is no! So, what happens to students in public schools? How can our youth face tomorrow without at least, the basic knowledge of information technology?
However, I urge our children, our youth and their parents not to give up. In this era of COVID-19, safety is the paramount thing. Don’t get infected. Don’t pass on the infection. Don’t allow the pains of today and the uncertainty of tomorrow to diminish your optimism. Hope in God. Hope in a better tomorrow. It will not always be like this. I know you deserve a good deal—better education that will place you at the same competitive level with your mates anywhere; good hospitals with up to date equipment and trained personnel, assurance of employment after schools through the Blue Economy concept, among others.
Today may look empty, but your future is loaded with positive surprises. This despair will not last long. As trustees of posterity and agents of change, you must remain focused and ready to utilise any opportunity that opens before you and embrace the positive changes on your path.
Be assured that as a parent and custodian of several youth, I do not only think of you daily, I also plan ahead so that you will have a bigger, better and brighter tomorrow than some of us did—the same way your parents envisage. Our sleepless nights of today is to enable you sleep soundly tomorrow. What we require of you is to remain disciplined, focused and unrelenting in pursuit of the best education you can have.
Listen carefully: do not disobey your parents and your teachers. Be disciplined. Acquire knowledge at all cost because knowledge empowers. Do not neglect your books. Understand that on the pages of every book you read is a transmission of knowledge to mould your future. The book you read today will brighten your future tomorrow.
As I told you last year, avoid bad company because as the Bible says, bad company leads to evil communication which corrupts good manners. Do not join secret cults because they lead to bloodshed and death. Join the Science Club. Join the Debating Club. Join the Readers’ Club. Do not follow the multitude to do any wrong. Avoid drugs because drugs do not only destroy your health and your future, they kill.
Beloved Bayelsa youth—and by extension, the Nigerian youth—have hope have the mindset of a leader and not a permanent follower. Be creative. Dream big! Be innovative because that is what distinguishes a leader from a follower. Develop your passion. Build a vision of what you want to be. Be an intellectual militant in pursuit of your passion and not a physical militant in pursuit of destruction. Believe in yourself. Believe in what you want to be.
God bless you. Have a rewarding Children’s Day 2020.
. Alaibe was a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission.