It was quite impressive seeing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, taking over a classroom and teaching secondary school students this past week. In the course of the session, a girl, who apparently had had the wrong belief that being a girl made her less competent and acceptable than her male counterparts ingrained into her mind, expressed her frustration that, as a girl, she could not aspire to attain, in future, the height already achieved by Gbajabiamila. The Speaker tried his best to disabuse her mind and encouraged her to pursue her dream, adding that if the girl really wanted to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in future, she could achieve her dream through hard work and commitment to the dream. He even went on to cite examples of female members of the House who had been Speakers.
One of the major challenges of our nation is the dearth of great role models. Many of the pre and post-independence leaders were a great inspiration to the succeeding generation. But at a point in the life of our country, especially during the military era, there was a serious damage to the psyche of the nation and the value of the society when individuals who had little or no respect for the values celebrated by the society suddenly became people of means and used their ill-gotten wealth to buy positions of honour in society. They became captains of industry and determined the fate of the economy, they became money bags who determined those that could run for political offices, they became honorary chiefs, who sat in court over societal matters and of course they became models for the upcoming generation. Since then, the time-honoured values of hard work, honesty, brotherliness and communality have been shunned by the larger society.
Lucre has become the deity we worship and wantonness has become our passion. The lyrics of our music have changed, now our musicians praise those who destroyed our value system. The theme of our drama has morphed into something we never envisaged. Now, our arts eulogise the shameful deeds of miscreants and misfits. What we once held dear have become trampled, we have become a people with wrong values. This is what gave birth to most of the challenges we now face as a country. This is what has escalated corruption to the level of a national culture. This is what has made our youths fall in love with drug peddling and internet fraud. This is why our young ladies have no qualms travelling to Italy to practise prostitution. This is at the foundation of our jumbled democracy and mumbled economy. When a people jettison their values, they position themselves for destruction.
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To find our way, we have to reinstate our lost values. Therefore, the greatest need of our young people is not money, it is mentoring, it is modeling, it is mending, it is the inculcation of the right values. It is the absence of good models that forced the youth to seek inspiration in corrupt people, drug addicts, prostitutes and fraudsters. We need to give the youth something different from what they find in popular music, we have to wean them from their dependence on demented arts, we have to save the youth to preserve the nation. We have to let them realise that life is more than booze, sex and drugs. We need to stop the glorification of evils and the canonization of devils. We need to create a narrative that is different from what is on the social media, a narrative that would inculcate in our youths the right value, a narrative that would inspire them to celebrate worthy causes, a narrative that will draw them to industry, a narrative that would imbue in them nationalism.
But this has to be championed by those occupying high offices. That is why Speaker Gbajabiamila’s classroom engagement is commendable. But it should not be a one-off, it has to be continuous, it has to be consistent. The Speaker needs to encourage his colleagues to do the same thing. All hands must be on deck to redirect our youths to the right path. Every leader who is worth his salt must be involved in this. We have to snatch our young ones from the jaws of perversion. Delay is dangerous. We need to get to work immediately.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) must brace up to the task of changing the orientation of the youth. If there is a need to tweak the NOA Act for it to take up the task of rescuing our youths from the path of perdition, the legislators should please set to work immediately. We must provide the right mentorship to win back our youths. The youth represent the future of the country. If we lose the youth, we lose the country.