The United Nations annual Youth Assembly is a gathering of hundreds of young people from around the world who seek practical ways to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, global networking and social entrepreneurship skills. Also, it serves as a meeting aimed at contributing to civil societies formally affiliated to the United Nations.
In essence, the Youth Assembly is about showing how one person or a group of young people can make a difference by engaging with the challenges of the present and being an educated and active citizen. This year, the forum was held between July 31 and August 7.
With the presence of notable keynote speakers and workshop leaders invited by the United Nations, they provided insight and avenues for youths to learn about and become involved with programmes that address global and local social issues, network among a large international group in attendance, and become engaged and empowered to take up leadership responsibilities in their communities.
The conference rooms were made more colourful given the cultural diversity of attendees drawn from countries like China, Japan, Sudan, Cameroon, Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, to mention a few. Among the Nigerian delegates was a group called Positive Nigeria International (PNI), a youth-based NGO, with the aim of unifying Nigerian youths to achieve a better future.
The team was made up of Iyere Ahamioje (founder), Nneamaka Madumelu from Canada and Ms Jeni Jenebu Abu from Atlanta, USA. “The organisation also seeks practical ways of dealing with Nigerian youths who are made element of political election violence, crimes, and corruption. The organisation also seeks practical ways of dealing with Nigerian youths who are continually made elements of political disruptions, thuggery, electoral violence, crime, and instruments of social malfeasance.” One of the members, Nneamaka Madumelu told THISDAY.
“Whilst the situation of youths have become a global issue, the situation in Africa, characterised by an embarrassing high level of unemployment and underemployment, illegal migration to other continents, involvement in violent political and social conflicts, etc, is critical and requires strategic regional and national action. In Nigeria today, youths are not typically conceived as productive and constructive social actors but rather, as potential sources of political disruptions, delinquency and criminality.
“Yet, pre-independence social and political movements were often led by young people who defined themselves as the ‘youth’ to provide dynamic support to the proponents of freedom and independence movement, or were in opposition of elders who were content to be cronies of the colonial regime,” she added.
Madumelu also talked of the lessons they learnt from the conference. “PNI realized that Nigeria and Africa needs re-orientation as a matter of urgency. The ideology of amassing wealth through looting of public funds and other vices must be seen as an evil of the past. We must become content as long as we have shelter, clothing, education, food and healthcare. We need a new breed of Africans with this sort of orientation, in view of the fact that the greatest problem in Africa has never been the absence of money or lack of natural resources but rather the absence of visionary and capable leadership.”
She had some good words for some Nigerian leaders, though. “We have to commend the governor of Lagos State Mr. Babatunde Fashola for his exceptional work and also the former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke for the work he did as well. We enjoin other leaders in federal, state and local levels to emulate them.”
Madumelu added that ways of achieving development is for the government to look into the issue of youth unemployment in the country. This, according to her has become imperative because human capital development is an important aspect of livelihood.
She continued: “Creating the enabling environment in which young people can leverage on to optimally develop their potential is essential. This can be done by building human capabilities through constructive pastimes like sporting activities, good educational facilities, and skills acquisition centers which in the long run can serve as means of livelihood for young people, thereby solving the problem of unemployment in the country. Our leaders should be aware that the strength of a nation is measured by love, compassion and provision of necessary amenities for its citizens and not by GDP, population and/or natural resources.”
Nneamaka advised Nigerian youths to develop the attitude of thinking in the direction of how they can help with the development of the country rather than what they cannot achieve. “This is because as youths, we have it in our power to start a new country and be the elements of change that we want to see in Nigeria today. In order to do so, we need to start organising and stop agonizing.”
Nneamaka also believes that she has the vision, passion and ability to make a great impact in Nigeria especially in the education and social development sectors which she personally believes are vital for nation building. She plans to return to Nigeria next year to actualise this change and is willing to work with any international development organisation, NGO, corporate and social re-engineering establishments, involved in community development activities where they operate.
“It is time for all companies operating in Nigeria whether multinational or Nigerian, to become socially responsible towards the youths. She commended Prof. Dora Akunyili for her work at NAFDAC and efforts in the re-branding project. “It is a project I will like to be involved with,” she said, stressing that the future of the country lies in the hands of youths.