Youths are the foundation of any human society. They are instrumental to the building of a virile community. This is possible because they are endowed with zest and brawn, which makes it less difficult for them to engage in progressive affairs that often require lots of energy and commitment.
It is in realisation of these that the incumbent Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Muktar Shehu Shagari, opines that youths are very important to any government. This came into view when I interviewed him during my visit to Sokoto a couple of months ago.
Sokoto is one of the states in the Northern part of Nigeria that is facing the challenges of youths restiveness. Many of the youths in the states are steeped in substance abuse, violence, rape, stealing and smuggling. These crimes are a source of worry to many innocent and peace loving citizens. But, interesting enough, these problems are just a fraction of the three challenges posed by this group to the government of the state.
Indeed, it is glaring that the government is less concerned about these problems than it is with other frivolities. But, this insensitivity is not shared by all those that are in government. The Deputy Governor, for one, is very disturbed about the plight of the youths and what their blameworthy attitudes portends to the society.
According to Shagari, "these young men too, are human beings like every other person. They are children like every other child. So, it behoves on all of us to ensure that they do not stray away from the acceptable norms and values of the community. If we fail to do that, we shall stand before God and account for our omissions regarding what they turned out to be that is negative."
For him, these young men, often referred to as 'area boys', do not fascinate or piss him off. Instead, he pities them because " their future is in jeopardy, considering the fact that they are growing old and they have family responsibilities. What will become of them when they are no longer strong enough? What will people say about them considering the kind of life they led during their productive years?
"Secondly, at the present, they are not useful to themselves. They have abandoned school. They are not engaged in any form of employment. They don't engage in trade. They only enjoy the unlawful proceeds of their escapades or hand-outs given to them. Who else would one pity if not this category of people. They don't seem to know what is good for them," Shagari said.
He also observed that the third reason why he said their lives are in danger is because: "those entrusted with the socialisation and upbringing of these youths, families and government, have failed woefully."
He blamed parents for not taking proactive steps to ensure that their children are properly brought up. He said parents' neglect to do what is right from the time their children were younger, when they had the opportunity to give them blameless supervision and guidance, is the sole reason for how they have turned out to be.
Government, in his view, also, shares in this blame. Shagari explained that various governments have chosen to neglect the fundamental thing they are supposed to do, which is the improvement of the lives of those their subjects. This, he stated, has created room for hiring of these youths by politicians who use them as thugs to intimidate their opponents and scare the general population into fearful followership.
He said the government has abandoned its duty of providing jobs for them or sending them to schools where they will get useful education that will help them improve their lives.
All these observations left me surprised. I am flabbergasted because my initial opinion, before I visited Sokoto and met Shagari, was that he is a hardboiled person that doesn't care for those suffering.
Another thing I learnt before the visit was that the Deputy Governor was not generous. I asked him about that and he replied in the affirmative. But he quickly explained: "It is true I am not generous, but what do you refer to as generosity? I don't just lavish money on people for no reason."
"Our people are used to collecting hand outs as gifts. This type of gifts reduce a person's self esteem and dissuade him from seeking a legitimate means of livelihood. One always wait on somebody to take care of his responsibility," he said.
He offered that, 'my own view of generosity is to give you what will benefit you, so that tomorrow you will not come back to beg me again for something'.
Abdullahi wrote in this piece from Kaduna.