THE ROLE OF THE YOUTH IN NATION BUILDING: REMARKS BY UDOM INOYO AT THE CYON GENERAL MEETING, UYO-FEBRUARY 1, 2020.
I thank the Catholic Youth Organization of Nigeria (CYON), Uyo Diocese, for inviting me to speak at this 1st Quarter 2020 general meeting. It is amazing how God brought us together, because it was only in September 2019 that I came in contact with the group, following her excursion to Ibom Hotel, Uyo. I had just finished a game that evening, when I sighted a group of uniformed youths, by the clubhouse of the golf course.
I was attracted to the group by the manner in which they conducted themselves; they were well behaved. The President obliged my request to say hello to the group without knowing who I was; a demonstration that the group is not driven by sycophancy. My message that day is the bedrock of my talk today: and that is, you cannot make sustainable progress without God, hard work, discipline and integrity. But before we go far, let’s have an alignment on who really is a youth, as well as what we understand to be nation building?
Who is a youth?
The African youth charter recognizes youth as people between ages of 18-35. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with one of the largest population of youths in the world (Wikipedia). UNESCO recognizes that the experience of being young can vary substantially across the world, between countries and regions, and youth is therefore often a fluid and changing category. So in the context of our discussion today, we would consider youth as being vibrant and active. In this case, it is safe to assume that this is a gathering of youths, since you all look active and vibrant.
What is nation-building?
Wikipedia defines nation building as the construction or structuring of a national identity using the power of the state. Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run. According to a Columbia University political scientist, Andreas Wimmer, three factors tend to determine the success of nation-building over the long run: the early development of civil-society organizations, the rise of a state capable of providing public goods evenly across a territory, and the emergence of a shared medium of communication.
So, what is your role in this process?
It was Benjamin Disraeli, a former British prime minister (1804-1881) who said “almost everything great has been done by youth”. So, you, Affiong, Ekaette, Ime, Udo, Akpan, Iniabasi, etc.; being a youth and with significant population, have a vital role in the nation-building process, spanning across the following:
• Active participation in a democratic setting
• Active participation in civil-society organization
• Active participation in all organs of private and public sectors
That is why I must congratulate you for being a member of CYON, as this is a prelude to you impacting the larger society, and thus contributing to nation building. But to succeed in this pursuit, those core values which I earlier mentioned (knowing God, hard work, discipline and integrity) must be earnestly embraced. Let me use my personal experiences to further explain this.
- Hard work/Tenacity
In 1954, my father, late Elder Uko Inoyo, had secured admission with full scholarship into an American University but his dream of an American Education was thwarted following his inability to raise Two Hundred Pounds for transportation. He studied at home, becoming an Accountant in 1959. But his experience made him want to sacrifice everything to sponsor any of his children who desired to school overseas. While some siblings took up the offer, I never wanted to leave Nigeria, and still don’t. I went to secondary schools here, from St. Patrick’s College, Calabar to Salvation Army Secondary School Akai, then back to St. Patrick’s to repeat class 5. I hope you heard me. My first WAEC results were not good. It could not enable the advancement of any academic pursuit. So, I probably could have become a clerical officer!
I gained admission into the School of Basic studies program of the College of Technology, Calabar but opted instead to go to Federal Government College (FGC), Ikot Ekpene for my Advanced Level studies (Higher school certificate). While the Technology campus offered ‘freedom’ for a 17 year old, it also could have been a distraction for someone who already had a ‘yellow card’, with the WAEC experience. I knew early that I needed some dose of discipline, hence my decision to go enroll in FGC Ikot Ekpene, and to stay in a dormitory, and not a hostel. I attended the University of Calabar, where I studied Political Science, and thereafter Law, and of course the Law School in Lagos. So, my entire formal education was in Nigeria. Post NYSC, I worked in the Cross River State Civil Service, and later Akwa Ibom State Liaison Office, Lagos up till 1989 when I joined Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited.
Prior to joining Mobil Producing Nigeria in 1989, I did not know how to use the computer and had not worked with people of other nationalities. It was a different ball game and working with these persons – Americans, Britons, Australians, Canadians, etc., including Nigerians of other ethnic groups presented a healthy challenge and the right ingredient/competition to help raise the bar of performance. With no godfather, my naivety, and no mentor, it was obvious that I had to recalibrate standards, outlook and approach to life if I needed to succeed, beginning with unlocking my mind. Through hard work, tenacity and God’s unlimited favour, I have reached the pinnacle of my career and have contributed immeasurably to the growth of my community, state, and especially, the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
• Don’t be ashamed to fail, but be ashamed if you let your failure define your future! I succeeded, despite a poor outing in my 1st WAEC examinations.
• I competed, despite being an African, a Nigerian, and one from a minority ethnic group. You too can.
• I went to school in Nigeria but contended with colleagues from Ivy League schools
• Self-discipline is good for your progress. Rid yourself of distractions.
• Hard work, not short-cut, pays: Colossians 3:23- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”
Always focus on the long term sustainable benefits and durable success, and not on short term gains. Don’t be derailed.
- Be daring
What are your current limitations and how do you step out to compete and win?
Jeremiah 1:4-8 -The Call of Jeremiah
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”
7 But the Lord said to me,“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,for I am with you to deliver you,declares the Lord.”
God has already wired you for success, so why are you afraid? After my NYSC, and while still looking for a job, I wrote a couple of articles with the hope of becoming a journalist. With my tall lanky body, I applied to join the Nigerian Army through her Direct Short Service Program, and without knowing anyone outside Cross River State, I applied to work in the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Lagos. I was young, restless and passionate about succeeding. I was not afraid. While I did not succeed in all 3 pursuits, these efforts however opened my eyes to a world of possibilities beyond what was available in my environment, and may have contributed in no small measure to my having access to the Mobil Producing Nigeria interview.
I recognize that Nigeria is bedeviled with various challenges, which unfortunately, has contributed to some of you feeling disillusioned, and at the verge of giving up. Some of you are seeking opportunities outside the country, but life in Europe, Asia, North America is not a bed of roses, and please do not believe all of what Hollywood movies, Facebook stories, Instagram and other social media platforms bring to you. There are opportunities within Nigeria though we must get a few things right to unlock them. You are part of that journey and must therefore position yourselves for success here.
- Character and Integrity
A man’s character is his fate. Thomas Jefferson, one time President of America said, ‘’Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude’’. Character matters!
Character and Integrity are both Important, but they are not synonymous. Integrity without character can be problematic. As a young person, your lifestyle should be worth emulating. We should all strive to live by what our forebears were known for: a people of character and integrity. Today, I daresay, our young people have become swayed by the luxuries of life and now want quick fixes in some instances. Everyone wants to ‘blow’ or ‘hammer’. But at what cost?
It was the US former First Lady, Mitchell Obama who reminded us that ‘’We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square’’.
Since this is a gathering of Christians (and you know we are a very religious people), we must prayerfully consider this point. Tunji Lardner of the Nigerian Guardian Newspapers puts it frankly, that: ‘’corruption is Nigeria’s lingual franca, understood by all and spoken with varying degrees of fluency by a large percentage of the population. It is the transactional language of engagement in nearly every encounter and interaction among Nigerians….’’
How can any nation make progress with such characterization? How can you as an individual succeed with such terrible perception? For a moment, let’s forget Mr. President, the Governor, or the politicians that we constantly blame, albeit sometimes deservedly. Do you know what people say about you behind your back? Do you know that friend or colleague that you still owe because the person knows what you don’t want others to know? Did you cheat your way through school? Are you stealing from your employer? Are you truly elevating God in ALL your deeds? Are you making any meaningful contributions to change the situation of things where you find yourself? You want Nigeria to change but are you not the one promoting “stomach infrastructure” and prepared to mortgage your future for a bag of rice and a few Naira?
We all must work hard to change this perception of us and my belief is that you, the youths, whose future is being decimated, must be in the forefront of this change. There are things you must stop doing, promoting or tolerating. And you must stand up to be counted. Always remember that everything in life falls without integrity.
I always like seeing the glass as half full and not half empty; seeing possibilities and not failures, and seeking ways to be part of a meaningful journey. When I look at what is happening in Akwa Ibom state, under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel, I feel assured that your future is bright. The Governor is walking the talk on peace and development, and promoting industrialization to create jobs. Our religious leaders are preaching messages of hope and salvation, but must do more to checkmate the damage to our commonwealth by some of their flocks. When I see hundreds of Akwa Ibom young minds, who would have been wasted if not for the intervention of well meaning individuals and organizations such as the Inoyo Toro Foundation, I am encouraged. When I look at how you comport yourselves, then I know that the motto of CYON ‘Let Your Light Shine’ is working. In Ikoyi Baptist church, where I worship, we set up the Emerging Leaders Academy with a focus on identifying and building young leaders who will carry godly values into the society and create positive change. I have been privileged to coordinate that program and to interact with many youths who give me hope. I teach Business Ethics in Lagos Business School and can also attest to the vibrancy of our young men and women. I am a proud father of 4 children, all youths and their passion for Nigeria is indescribable.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt former US President said “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”. I subscribe to that. I also support Government’s focus on human capacity development, drive for industrialization to enable the creation of jobs and opportunities so that our youths are meaningfully engaged. But we all, non-state actors, including families etc should play our roles more effectively. Additionally, anyone privileged to hold a position of responsibility must rise to the occasion. Akwa Ibom State is so blessed with abundant resources, and we can reposition her to be the oasis that will launch Nigeria into a place of respectability in the comity of nations.
I know you are ready to launch out to greatness. But never, never you give up! Your future is bright. Shine your eyes and play your role well. I wish you well.
Thank you and good luck