* Today, I join the Board of Editors and management of THISDAY
Newspaper and Arise TV Group in celebrating our dear country on her
Diamond anniversary as an independent nation. This type of multi-city
celebration being organised by a media conglomerate is symbolic of the
importance attached to the events of the past sixty years in the life of
Nigeria and the future that awaits a country that has often been called
the giant of Africa.

* Writing about Nigeria for a different medium, I have stated that
“Whatever anybody writes or says about Nigeria and the challenges she
is facing now, this country, located in the West African sub-region
inhabited by about 200 million people among whom have been Africa’s
best brains and poster boys/girls who speak in different tongues, belong
to different tribes and worship God in different ways and having in her
territory some of the most precious mineral resources, is a great
* This is a country that, at independence in 1960, presented so much
promise for the African continent. These promises have however largely
remained unfulfilled. The lofty dreams of her leaders at independence
include that of a united, prosperous, secure, developed, progressive,
technologically advanced country with well motivated citizenry. With the
abundant resources at her disposal, the diverse, rich culture of her
people and the forward-looking, ambitious set of leaders, the rest of
the world believed the sky was not going to be a limit to how high
Nigeria would fly.
* Today, these wishes and aspirations remain a pipe dream. Providing
for the welfare of the people remains a challenge. Nigeria has
experienced a civil war in which thousands of people died. She has been
ruled by unelected governments for 27 years and seven months out of the
six post-independence decades. She faced political turmoil for close to
two years after a free and fair presidential election was annulled by
the military in 1993. She has coped with 11 years of insurgency in the
north-eastern part which has stretched her military resources. There
have been other challenges.
* There is the consistent talk of corruption, maladministration,
impunity, lack of respect for rule of law, general preference to observe
the law in the breach, lack of rigorous thinking at high levels,
nepotism, negative deployment of religion and tribe for selfish
objectives, especially by the elite, and gradual erosion of national
values. These are problems that reflect the different stages of
development in which we are. They are problems that can be submerged by
other patriotic and positive traits of the Nigerian.
* However, I am more inclined to look at what future awaits Nigeria.
Looking forward, we do not know what the future will bring or be, but we
do know who it will be for. It definitely will be for the youth of
today. And each time I ponder over the future of this great country, my
mind goes to her huge human resources represented by the dynamic,
resourceful, creative, ebullient and hard working youth. According to
the 2019 UNFPA report, Nigeria’s population has risen to 201 million
people as at 2019 and those between age 15 to 35 years are more than 50
percent of the population. In fact, the aged who are 65 years and above
are just three percent.
* With this dynamic population, Nigeria still represents the hope of
the black man to stand on an even dais with the most developed part of
the world. This however depends on how well we harness the energy,
creativity and hope of the youth. The youth can, however, represent
either a prospect or a curse to the future of Nigeria. If we creatively
utilize them and design a future in which they constitute the key
drivers of the economic, political and social machineries of the
country, we definitely have a strong chance to rebuild our country. If
we channel the great resource that the youth represent to positive
development and the rebirth of our country, then we can rediscover the
realization of the dreams of our founding fathers which have remained
largely unfulfilled.
* However, if we fail to create the right education, capacity building
and utilization programmes and policies that deliberately seek to get
the best out of our youths, then we will continue to have a divided,
regressive, insecure, hopeless and underdeveloped country where the
youths seek to excel in advance fee fraud, cultism, money rituals, oil
pipeline vandalism, smuggling and other criminal activities.
* There is so much talk of human capital in recent years. And Nigeria
have it in abundance. But human capital is valueless without skills.
Schools need to be modernized. There is need for massive drive in
vocational colleges that will produce youths that offer skills for a
globalized, digital future. I see no reason at this point why we do not
have a programme that produce youths offering hands-on skills, such as
farm machinery mechanics. We need to design an educational programme
which serves our youth, create jobs and bring out the best in the most
active sector of the population. Without jobs our society will fall

* Indeed, if there is ever one single factor that the different
geopolitical zones in our country have in common, it is, sadly youth
unemployment. It shows us we are one nation. And it calls for hard
thinking and prioritisation of resources to overcome it. Human
development indices are at a low – but youth unemployment is possibly
the worst factor of all, as it destroys hope. One of the greatest
problem we need to deal with in the manner of an emergency is tackling
youth unemployment. The state of our country now is failing our youth
because we are not focusing on readying them for the future. And we so
easily could.

* Let us face the fact. If, for example, out of 201 million Nigerians,
there are 170 million that are without health insurance, then that means
there are over 85 million youths who are unprotected. If the current
Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, then it is that we need to up
our act in protecting them. Again, we must start taking climate change
seriously and tackling it – while we will not experience its severe
impacts, young people most certainly will.
* Sports plays a key role in uplifting young people. It teaches values
and enables bonding, across ethnicity and genders. We must up our act in
sports – again this is something that requires little cost and is a
low hanging fruit that we can reap to properly engage our youths.
* And last but not least, all of us in leadership positions must all
start acting as role models. We must live the values that we want our
youths to subscribe to. Show them that hard work is worth it because it
is rewarded. Youths will have real hope if they can see that meritocracy
works, that patronage is not a system with a future. This is because
patronage is for the few, and democracy is for everyone. We must
therefore focus on and include our young people in decision making
process. If they know elections are fair, they will feel they can help
shape the Nigerian society of tomorrow.
* Once again, let me thank the organizers of this programme and wish
all Nigerians across the globe happy Diamond Independence Anniversary.

Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON
Immediate past President of the Nigerian Senate
and Chair, The African Politeia Institute (TAPI).

Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections