By Retson Tedheke
The Youths of any society is the engine of social transformation. But there is a caveat: where the Youths are constructively engaged. However, when they faces blink future, they could become like dynamite that will bring to peril, a prevailing social order.
The Niger Delta is naturally endowed with creative, energetic and socially mobile Youths. Alas, disconnections arising from long term government’s misapplication, misallocation, misappropriation and outright theft of state resources, lack or absence of proper planning have reduced the supposed enterprising and energetic Youths of the Niger Delta to miscreants, such as I witnessed penultimate week.
I was in Warri, Delta State, last week, what I saw convinced me that the violent future of the Niger Delta and Nigeria is right before our faces.
To avoid this uncertain future from befallen us, every state should begin to correct the insanity of yesterday and the wastefulness of today.
The Niger Delta reality is heart-breaking. It is worrisome to explain to any sane mind that governments of a region that have enjoyed 13 percent derivation apart from its statutory allocation from oil earnings since 1999, failed woefully, to plan a secured future for its Youths is sickening.
By the time the time-bomb we are molding the Niger Delta Youths into explodes, it may be a no holds barred situation. God forbid, but if God must forbid, we must begin to redress the ills now. It was for God to forbid that the late President Umoru Musa Yar’adua initiated the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme. At initial, the programme worked like magic, when hostilities seized in the Niger Delta. Alas, the same loudable programme has become a conundrum of corruption and grandstanding.
I stand to be corrected, no part of Nigeria is endowed for Agribusiness opportunities like the Niger Delta.
I was in Warri, my home state last week for a different purpose but what I witnessed fuelled my fear for the future of the region. The scene I witnessed where I stayed was a true reflection of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.
The streets of Warri is loaded with Youngmen, idling away. I camped at Agbarho and it was a scene that greeted me daily. Plus the over 50 girls, probably below 20 years old looking for men to take them for the night at a fee of between 5,000 and 20,000 naira.
I saw the future of the Niger Delta right there and it was a horrible one. Those boys will become armed robbers, bandits, kidnappers and violent extremists tomorrow. Those girls will hardly be able to become better mothers tomorrow, as they are giving birth at an alarming rates and dumping the kids with their parents and grandparents in the villages.
Here are my antidote to the growing Youth idleness in the Niger Delta. The region is home to unarguably, the most fertile land in Nigeria. Treat the issue of Youth empowerment with utmost state of emergency and politics expediency.
Knowing that if we failed to engage these Youths positively, they will find place for themselves, and the society will bear the brunt of the monster, our political elites created.
The state governments should create farm settlements arond the Niger Delta, where Youths will engaged, trained on how to convert their farm produce to finish goods.
Come to think of it, why are our Youths running away from farming? Because corruption has not allowed our policy makers to sincerely implement the incentives that comes with agriculture. Fully mechanised Farm Settlement with processing factories will a major attraction to Youths. They dread carrying hole and cutlass like their fathers did and ended in abject poverty. A stitch in time saves nine.
Retson Tedheke is the National Coordinator of Nigerian Farmers Group and Cooperative Society.