So it happened that I was watching a video in which a young man in his early 20s called Jamal was expressing his indignation at the way the Fort Worth, Texas Police handled the gruesome death of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28 year old black woman on the never-ending list of black people mowed down by police brutality. Jamal looked really angry when he started to speak. On opening his mouth, the first things that fell out of his mouth was “I and my fiancée moved to Fort Worth…”.
At first watch I was shocked, not because of his elocution in speech, not because of the way he lampooned the leaders on whom he laid most of the blame, certainly not because of the way in which the crowd at City Hall cheered, or the way the Policemen promptly marched him off the podium when he was done.
It was that first statement. That very first statement. About his fiancée. I was shocked that a man as young as him already had a fiancée. At that point I reminded myself that it was the United States of America after all; things were different over there. Which brings me to my main topic which is this:
Who says that the African Youth cannot handle responsibility?
I have heard many African elders dismiss the concept of trusting young people with some societal responsibility. They point back to the era between the 1950s to the late 1960s as the period in which African youth ran the continent into the ground, or rather, allowed the continent to be run into the ground by external forces. They point to the various wars that littered the African landscape and blame it on the passions, hot blood and the matchless exuberance of youth. Maybe it is the chief reason why many of those youth who grew to become elder statesmen have been really been subtly adamant about entrusting some form of societal responsibility to the young people. Perhaps that is why many young people in Africa have started accepting the fact that life and adulthood does not start at the benchmark of 18 years, but at the age of 25. I once had a lecturer in school who opined that the age of 25 be entered into Nigerian law as the age of majority. Jamal, the young man in the video would not have had a fiancée if he was not ready, at least within himself, to be responsible to and for her.
Down here in the Eastern Part of Nigeria where I live, I notice that by nature, young girls and boys have stunted emotional, psychological and career growth owing to the fact that society expects them to absent themselves from decision making concerning their lives, because their parents know better. Many of these young people get attracted to other young people and go about acting on such attraction ineffectively, as parents have deftly avoided sex education which should teach them that they are responsible for their own bodies.
It would also look as though youths know nothing about these things. In truth they have haphazard information on the above mentioned subjects, but the fact that responsibility has not been established makes it really hard for them to take decisions and own them; and we all know that not taking a decision is in and of itself a decision; these youngsters end up learning about responsibility the hard way.
Politically, the African youth seemed ready to handle political responsibility, butt a deadly combination of a stagnant university curricula, ageism, and suzerain interactions between lecturers and students whom are youths have culminated in leaving Nigeria with a doubtful youth demographic which always second-guesses itself at every turn. The hallmark of African society which is the infallibility of the elders have left the youth, who have the key to unlocking the Golden Age thinking that they were stupid for considering out of the box ideas. In Nigeria, the Not Too Young To Run Bill which has received Presidential Assent looks a wonderful victory, but it remains to be seen if Nigeria has the political will to match words with action.
In all I think the African Youth is more than ready for the gauntlet which the tempestuous times will throw in their direction; as fire remains the toughest test of diamond from which it will become Gold, so shall the young in Africa rise to the occasion when called upon. All that remains is for the youths to cast off the toga of self-doubt and start to believe that slowly, systematically and steadily, they shall take back the power which rightfully belongs to them.
So, like Jamal, I hope I get to see a young couple in their early 20s tie the knot, take their lives in their hands and start forging their own path, devoid of societal manipulation and untoward control.