The immediate past Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has urged leaders across all sectors to focus on developing policies, programmes and strategies that will help harness the energy and creativity of Nigerian youths as a way of getting the country to regain lost grounds, 60 years after independence.
Saraki said this in his independence anniversary message.
He congratulated Nigerians across the world and noted that though the country could not have been said to have fulfilled all the dreams of her founding fathers to build a united, prosperous and secure country that would occupy a leading position in the comity of nations, it is unnecessary to start dwelling on the past but to immediately plan for the future, which he said belongs to the youths.
He added that the present challenge for leaders who are interested in rebuilding Nigeria is to ensure that the youths, who constitute over 50 per cent of the population, are gainfully engaged and their energy channeled to producing goods and services that can help rebuild the national economy.
Saraki said: “If we establish the foundation for a future in which our youths can drive Nigeria forward, we definitely will have a strong chance of rebuilding our country.
“Then, we can perhaps at long last realise the dreams of our founding fathers.
“The issues of security, underdevelopment, lack of unity and the negative forces which propel the recent surging demand for the disintegration of our country cannot be defeated
“If we fail to advance the right capacity building and utilisation policies and programmes for Nigeria’s youths.
“We have no option than to turn a new page in our history and start listening to our young people and engaging with them.
“Not just as elders, but as people willing to learn from them.
“When I talk with youths, I hear their worries about issues such as jobs, security, healthcare, and unity of the country. I hear their serious concerns about climate change and tackling it.
“We may not experience its severe impacts, but young people most certainly will.
“Yet I am also amazed at the boundless zest of these youths.
“It tells me how much strength and depth there is and from which society can draw.
“Going forward, we need to champion the things that will enable our young people to take their rightful place in society and lead purposeful and prosperous life.
“As we celebrate this Diamond Anniversary, our gift to Nigerians as leaders should be to start listening to the youths.
“We must all start acting as role models to the youths.
“We must live the values that we want our youths to subscribe to.
“Show them that hard work is worth it.
“We must individually and collectively take responsibilities that mistakes have been made in the past that prevented us from achieving our full potential as a country.
“Leaders must hit the reset button.
“We must not seek power for the sake of power but for the purpose of making a difference to our people especially the youth”, he stated.
Saraki added that youth unemployment has become a unifying factor among the six geopolitical zones in the country and that this constitutes a great danger to the development and security of the country.
He urged leaders in the public and private sectors to co-operate in designing plans that can provide jobs for the youths, help some of them to be job creators and big players in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.
He added: “Why do I focus on young people? Simply because they are our future.
“It is they who in 40 years’ time will be the august individuals celebrating our centenary Independence anniversary.
“Indeed, the greatest resource this great country has today is our dynamic, resourceful, and ebullient young people who presently constitutes more than 50 per cent of the population.
“So, numerically speaking, the country is already theirs.”
Saraki who is the Chair of The African Politeia Initiative, a think-tank on issues concerning socio-economic development on the continent also advised that Nigerians should solve the problems associated with sourcing leadership at the various levels.
He said: “We must end deceit and seek competent and purposeful leadership.
“There are many who have no business leading this country at local, state and national levels.
“For us to celebrate our anniversary and not continue to talk about the potentials, we must not be led by people who have no competence, interest and commitment to lead with the right ideas.
“We must enthrone meritocracy and efficiency in the process of sourcing and evolving leadership as we seek patience, understanding and sacrifice from our future generation.
“It is a fact that our youths will start to have hope if they can see that hard work pays, that patronage is not a system that can lead to a rosy future.
“Patronage is for the few, while democracy is for everyone.”
The former Senate President further paid tributes to Nigerians who are making the country proud within and outside the country in the professions, arts, entertainment, sports and business, among others, adding that these current heroes making the nation proud across the globe are the reasons why the Diamond Independence Anniversary celebrations are worth the energy expended on it.