I am Angry: Being a Youth in Nigeria

I am angry. I am angry because I am a citizen of Nigeria. I am angry because, despite being a passport holder of the “Giant of Africa”, I do not have access to the best education on the continent. I am angry because while my leaders invest billions in private jets and luxury houses, they spend nothing on educating my people, or bettering our life. If I remain silent my nation criticizes me for being nonchalant, if I speak up, they accuse me of being disrespectful.

A young student, of the university of Lagos was rusticated for voicing his dissatisfaction with the university’s management. There has been little public outcry regarding this injustice, with many individuals citing the student’s use of less than friendly language, as a means of not critically examining the issues brought up by him. In his publication “The Senate of the University of Lagos; a Conglomeration of Academic Ignorami”, Adeyeye Olorunfemi is quoted as saying that “the nation’s investment of knowledge”, in the making of the Vice Chancellor of UNILAG “a scholar is a waste”. While the young man’s words are not diplomatic, they highlight a real problem, which our country has suffered from for years.

We run an archaic educational system, our students are no longer given the tools they need to compete in this fast changing world, and are not provided with skills needed to create entrepreneurs, who engage in legitimate businesses to sustain themselves. We face a situation whereby despite having a massive pool of educated individuals, massive unemployment still exists.

A state of emergency should be declared in our educational system, as it is more than obvious that it does not operate on an international level. How can we continue to claim to be the “giant of Africa”, when parents now send their children to smaller neighbouring countries, such as Benin republic? Is this the same Nigeria which once boasted of educational institutions, such as ABU, which used to attract intellectuals, scholars and students from not just Africa, but the entire world?

We as a country are truly uninterested with developing an egalitarian and prosperous society, one in which the leaders serve and are held to account by the people. We remain uninterested in improving our educational system, ensuring that our institutions are conducive for learning, and therefore refrain from giving our youth a fair shot at being productive members of Nigeria. Why should a student be diplomatic in demanding his rights within an academic institution? An institution whose primary function is to develop the intellect of its students. Why would a university punish and attempt to vilify a student, for voicing legitimate concerns, and expressing his displeasure with its management, is this an attempt at avoiding the real issues at hand? Any serious management would have seen this criticism as an opportunity to further improve itself, rather than suppress the complaints of the student.

This situation, is symptomatic of the various issues which continue to bedevil our great nation. Individuals who criticize power are often persecuted by the ruling authorities, while the citizenry remain mute. We cannot solve our problems by being diplomatic about it, or choosing not to offend anyone. The truth needs to be made glaringly clear, if we are serious about building a functioning society. No form of criticism is ever seen as pleasant, or have we forgotten that the great Nelson Mandela of blessed memory was once considered a terrorist? In the words of the legendary Angela Davis: “The real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust, lies in the principles and goals you are striving for, not in the way you reach them.”

This is by no means an elevation of Mr. Olorunfemi to the level of Mandela or Angela Davis (though it would be of great benefit to the nation, if he possessed such zeal for justice), however it is a warning that if we as a nation do not invest adequately in our youth, and nurture this raw passion and patriotism, we risk having a generation of Nigerians, who could care less about our country, and her problems, or even worse lose these greatly talented young individuals to other nations. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, as we are already witnessing these phenomena.

Even if Adeyeye’s words were deemed as rude, and his attack on the persona of the Vice Chancellor infringed on his rights, the response of the university in handling this situation should be to solve the problems highlighted, and then resort to an adequate disciplinary action (if indeed any rules were broken). I doubt that he would have made any such comments, if the condition of educational institutions was up to standard.

We as a nation must invest in the youth, if we truly value our country, and believe that they are the leaders of tomorrow. Failure to do so will be catastrophic, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

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