Nigeria’s importance to Africa cannot be overstated. The prevailing perception in Nigeria’s foreign policy was that, as an African superpower, it should play a big brother role in relations with African states. At the peak of its powers, Nigeria’s primary African commitment was to liberate the continent from the last vestiges of colonialism and to eradicate apartheid, which it did successfully. Beyond that, Nigeria funds development initiatives across several African countries, promotes and restores peace, enshrines democracy and generally takes pride in Africa’s development.
Many African countries look up to Nigeria, aptly dubbed the ‘Giant of Africa.’ With the largest economy in Africa, a population of over 180 million making it the most populous black nation on earth, vast reserves of mineral and natural resources, Nigeria is a giant and should be in the forefront leading Africa to the promise land. Today, the giant snores having lost its previous glory and failed to live up to expectations and potentials.
While discussing the theme, Nigerian youths in several sessions examined what made Nigeria a sleeping giant. We explored how we have contributed individually and collectively to the lull and thereafter developed an action plan on how we can rouse the giant. In a moment of penance, young people admitted that we have all contributed in one way or the other- we have disobeyed the laws with reckless abandon, we have given bribes, we have sold our votes for money, we have been passive, we have been weak in calling out wrong, we have strayed far away from God. We have betrayed the trust of other African nations.
Consequently, the Africa We Want Dialogue in Nigeria was approached with the vigour and dedication (as a nation, as a YMCA and as individuals) to wake up to our responsibilities, not only to ourselves as Nigerians but also to Africa as a whole.
Considering the size of Nigeria and the interest of having wide views and feedbacks on the Youth Factbook, the Africa We Want dialogues were held in 3 different cities, about 500km apart, across three major geopolitical zones of the country with a cumulative record of 287 (179 male and 108 female) active participants. 95% of those who attended are youths within the age of 18 – 35 years. 2% less than 18 years and 3% older than 35 years. Participants were mobilized from the local YMCAs in Nigeria, religious organizations, local communities, Civil Society Organisations, schools and businesses. 92% are from the urban areas while 8% are from rural areas.
Participants were introduced to Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the work of the YMCA to make the aspirations a reality, especially the African Youth Factbook project. Thereafter, facts were presented to participants on the social, economic, political and technological trends that relate to African youths going forward while feedbacks were collected through questions and answers as the session progressed. Group work and discussions followed after the presentation of the trends and questionnaires.
To many, it was a rude awakening. The majority were hearing about Agenda 2063 for the very first time. Beyond that, there was mixed feelings and apparent uncertainty about what Africa will look like in 2063. “With the rising of active youths in Africa, 2063 is very promising if channeled right. For if we only continue the way things are now, tsunami scenario lies ahead, but when channeled right ocean scenario is sure,” a participant wrote.
One thing that is clear however is that with reference to the data across Africa, the youths face similar challenges of unemployment, poverty, low participation in politics and fear of an uncertain future, among others. We share common challenges and a common destiny as Africans. Every hand must be on deck to tackle these challenges.
Despite the challenges, Nigerian youths are optimistic about the future of Africa. A participant said, “The programme offered hope for a better Africa, this alone has changed my view about Africa,” while another said, “I finally realised that Africa is not hopeless.”
Now that we have young people awake and hoping again, we must sustain it. Like one participant also stated, “I have come to understand that if we stand together, we will make Nigeria and Africa a better place.” The next step for YMCA and Nigerian youths is to make sure that the giant is completely awoken so that we can have this beautiful Africa we desire. Nigeria’s Renaissance is Africa’s Renaissance.
Source: Kunle Sobode and Caleb Chagga Timothy, YMCA Nigeria.