â€œNigeria and Africa are relegated to the background because they fail to develop their productive population in leadership and capacity,â€ a United Nations Ambassador, Dr Otive Igbuzor, said in Lagos on Monday.
He spoke at a youth empowerment programme organised by the Leadership Empowerment and Resources Network (LEARN), Abalti Barracks, Surulere, Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that LEARN, an initiative of a former First Lady of Lagos State, Dame Abimbola Fashola, is meant to empower youths in leadership.
The programme, the 8th edition in the series, is entitled: â€œTime Out with the Youthsâ€.
Igbuzor said most African countries had failed to recognise youths as the â€œbackbone of developmentâ€.
Specifically, Igbuzor, a member of UN Global Network of men seeking an end to violence against women, said Nigeria needed to rediscover self.
â€œWe need to go back to the basics where we started from. We say youths are the leaders of tomorrow, but it is an illusion. They should start now or never.
â€œYouths are the backbone of things because old people are on their way out. Youths in Nigeria have been relegated to the background and impoverished.
â€œThe problem we have in Africa is that our leaders are in the average of 70 and 80 years. However, in Europe in the last 10 years, the average age is between 45 and 50 years.
â€œDue to bad leadership and corruption, youths have been excluded in the scheme of things and no nation can develop where youths are not given opportunities,â€ Igbuzor said.
He noted that Nigeria started well by giving opportunities to youths but that it derailed after the first republic.
According to him, non-inclusion of youths in the leadership of the country will create a â€œdevelopment lacunaâ€ in the politics.
Igbuzor said: â€œIn the first republic, Mathew Mbu, became an ambassador at the age of 22, Gen. Yakubu Gowon became Head of State at the age of 28, Alhaji Waziri and Shehu Shagari became federal ministers at the age of 28.â€
â€œLeadership problems facing the country can be traced to youthsâ€™ absence in leadership positions all because of leadership by the elite.â€
â€œWhat we have now is that youths are now impoverished and underdeveloped, our country has no programme for the youths, and youths are abandoned.â€
â€œNigeria needs to go back to the basics and create proper space in leadership â€¦ for us to develop we need to consider the youths.â€
He, however, stressed the need for a well-articulated youth development programme in the country.
â€œThe youths should have good family upbringing, education and skills acquisition programmes. During our time, we had public libraries, sports centres and skills acquisition centres.â€
â€œAll these are absent. How do we develop the youths? We need to institute very urgently programmes for them; there should be an intervention now.â€
â€œYouths should be encouraged to develop themselves and becomes champions of development in Nigeria because they still have the strength and agility to do that.â€
Other discussants at the programme advised youths to remain focussed and pursue a well-articulated vision to attain greatness.
Source: News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)