By ALPHEUS ROGERS
+232-88436967 / +232-78099297
The development of the youth of this country has long been a sustained debate by many. The fact is, as significant demographic, the youth have been thrashed, tossed and turned for ages like a ‘rudderless’ barge on the high seas that struggles to maintain its balance during a tempestuous storm. Those entrepreneurial and vulturistic politicians see them as nothing other than thugs, vagabonds, beasts, bastards and burdens, who only matter to them during election periods to help them carry out their machinations. Oumar Farouk Sesay’s poem,‘’Politicians’’, states this in a rather compelling manner: ‘’There are always lesser others/Waiting for orders to kill others/Even when others are out of order, unleashing disorderly order for others.’’
It is like the youth, who as puppies, are mauled by a pack of famished lions of politicians that use and misuse them at will, and then abandon them in the cold. This act of criminal neglect must be interrogated. A national consensus on this vexing issue is imperative at this crucial moment of our history so as to expedite a change of this narrative. Otherwise, this will continue to spell doom for our nation.
It is indeed crystal clear that most of our young men and women not only feel marginalized, but also victimized and even stigmatized by some power centres, who have considered them over the years as nonentities that are of no strategic relevance to society. Of course, their rejection and marginalization are by any means deleterious to societal peace and stability. We all saw the extent at which they negatively influenced in no small a measure the modern political history of our nation; we all witnessed the extent at which the ‘’stones that the builders rejected’’ held this nation hostage during the rebel war. It was indeed a cataclysmic and apocalyptic experience for many of us, an experience that has left this nation yet a toddler, still struggling to stand firm on its feet. Of course, the perpetrators of such dastard act of violence at the time were the youth, who some power-thirsty and greedy elements used to wreak havoc especially on defenceless civilians for political or economic motives.
It is interesting to know that the principal actors in the war--the desperate politicians and other influential individuals--suffered very little or nothing during that period. Those who suffered monumental losses in the hands of the rebel factions that were comprised of the youth were the victimized and marginalized majority: lives and property destroyed, families forced to abandon their homes, and arms and limbs amputated. Sierra Leone is one country where illiteracy and ignorance reign supreme, where literacy and intellectualism have not only been relegated to the abyss, but has also been denigrated by the political class, whose members in their atavistic state of mind are systematically engaged in plundering not only the material resources of this nation, but also the minds of the youth. A clear case in point was the last general elections when young men and women were seen on the streets consuming liquor and cannabis sativa and other dangerous drug substances provided for them by political candidates, whose praises they chanted, and on whose behalf they were ordered to wreak havoc on opponents, only for them to be jettisoned like a basket of expired cans of baked beans after elections.
The truth is, there is a large colony of illiterate individuals (almost 70% of the population), who cannot relate malfeasance in government to their own deprivation, and who cannot decipher the mechanistic cause and effect relationship of the scheme of things that are of paramount concern to them. They have been conditioned never to realize their potential. They are perennial pawns in the hands of villainous and power-hungry politicians. Since they are not informed, they are not civic-minded as such, and they are totally oblivious of what really matters to them. That is why they easily fall for the cacophonies of crooked politicians, and they are even ready to die needlessly in the name of political party, tribal or regional affiliation.
Most of these youth gambol rather paradoxically on the platform of illiteracy and ignorance. Most often than not, they see the business of government as of little or no value or interest to them. Therefore, engagement in sustained debates on matters of national interest is of little or no concern or interest to them, much less for that to be considered as a matter of civic concern for citizens in a democratic state. Some of them who can barely read and write use the social media to inflame pernicious prejudices as they are not in sync with the reality that such media should be used responsibly to engender sustained debate, societal peace and national cohesion, among other things. Even those who are privileged to have gained some level of higher education, and who are expected to be burdened with the task of directing their contemporaries towards the path of moral rectitude and to help them depart from anti-social manifestations, are also part of the bandwagon of those who spread diatribes and inflame discord via the social media. They are as equally media illiterate as those who can barely read and write. To me, that is why the social media in the hands of such individuals can be considered as a ‘’rendezvous for hangers-on who are thoroughly clueless of their responsibilities and duties as productive citizens’’. Such individuals are good at nothing but to collude with the buccaneer politicians in our midst to mislead some of their contemporaries who are existentially wallowing in the sea of hopelessness and delusion.
Most people don’t even seem to realize that one of the principal causes of the rebel war was the criminal neglect and reckless abandonment of our young men and women whose grievances found expression in the armed resurrection that we saw some years ago that resulted to the systematic wreaking of untold havoc on especially innocent civilians.
The thing is, show me one politician who met his demise due to the jungle adventurism of the war, and I will show you a million cases of those who were not architects of such an apocalyptic episode in any way, but who suffered gravely, and who are still being haunted by such bitter memories. That is, those who were even fortunate to have survived it.
It is therefore important to note that for any meaningful, concrete or holistic development to be realized, the total, meaningful and effective involvement and participation of the youth in nation building must be established as a national policy.
Furthermore, in complementing government’s efforts, organizations and even privileged individuals that are concerned with the burdens of the youth, and who are prepared to address them, must be ready to do so in a rather articulate and constructive fashion so as for the youth to be seen relevant, and are thereby given their rightful place in society. And their burdens and concerns must be part of government policy.
Also, government and such individuals and organizations must be strategic to ensure that the youth get inspired by creating the enabling atmosphere to help them discover their potential. This will engender empowerment, thereby enabling them to engage in worthwhile and productive activities. Once this is done, what we will start to realize is their preparedness to assume leadership roles. The fact is, an inspired man with a sense of direction, coupled with the enabling environment can be productive to society.
We saw the aggressive commitment of our youth in reversing the spread of the Ebola scourge. We also saw their aggressive commitment in prosecuting the war-those in the camps of the RSLAF, RUF and civil militias. So, one can see that the youth have the tendency to change things around for either good or bad. Therefore, government and other actors must show priority attention to the affairs of the youth for the realization of national development and societal peace, rather than continue to pander to petty proclivities and engage in unwholesome practices that could undermine the security architecture of this nation.
Having said this, a society that does not pay due consideration to her young men and women is bound to be an insane one, and will perpetually be in a state of anomie like what we are currently putting up with. And no responsible citizen would want to witness another civil unrest occasioned by the criminal neglect of our young men and women. It is good for history to repeat itself for the good, and not for the bad or the ugly.
Those well-meaning individuals and organizations that are committed to the cause of especially the underprivileged and the marginalized youth, and to all those that have psychologically dropped out of society, must be commended. And as a government policy, national honours for meritorious service to youth development should be awarded to individuals and organizations, and this should not be seen to be politicized.