It is about time we put paid to the popular misconception that our youths are criminals. That is what is implied whenever discussions on unemployment end with the damaging echo that crime is on the rise because many of our young ones are unemployed and idle.
Certainly the young ones are prone to puerile pranks and mischief which do not necessarily translate to crimes per se. Youthful exuberance is also part and parcel of growing up.
All of us passed through that period and manifested it in one way or the other, often to the chagrin of the elders who would claim they did not behave in same manner in their youthful days.
Why must we associate youthfulness with criminality?
In Nigeria of today, the incidence of criminality and corruption in high places cannot be put at the doorsteps of the youths who are, in the main, victims of the malfeasance of adults.
Youth unemployment is caused by adults who block the chances of their own children to advance in life. This they do by ever fiddling with their age to enable them to remain at their jobs long after they ought to have retired.
Even where vacancies exist, some officials delay filling them while waiting for an opportunity to bring their own children who may still be at school while application letters from qualified young men and women pile up unattended to.
Many adults who have discovered areas of pilfering at their job places do their best to remain there, often employing all tricks in the books to avoid any movement away from there, including going on leave!
Files are left untreated as long as possible because officials lack appropriate patriotism. Bosses cannot ensure their subordinates do their work because they have compromised themselves by either receiving bribes from them before their employment or promotion.
Some men are even so mean as to get to bed with young women working under them. They lose their moral authority and control over such staff members the moment they peal off their outer and inner wears and share nakedness with immature young female underlings who are blackmailed to play ball or else lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, the youth are closely watching the goings-on and grinding their teeth in utter disgust. The escapist chorus by adults in the society that youths indulge in crime because of unemployment is an indirect indictment on even the parents themselves.
Are your own unemployed graduates criminals? What area of crime are they involved in?
We need to look inwards into our individual families as we seek to find out reasons for rising criminal acts in the society.
The problem is not seriously tackled when we adopt an esoteric stance and being academic in our analysis.
People of age brackets, who are ordinarily predisposed to crime, do commit crime.
They need not be employed. High political office holders like Governors, Council Chairman, Speakers of Legislature Houses, Commissioners and Ministers who loot public funds are not unemployed. Are they?
When former Ghanaian leader, Flt-Lt. Jerry Rawlings, executed three former heads of state for corruption, he argued that Ghanaian women who died at childbirth as a result of lack of adequate medical facilities were murdered by corrupt leaders who misused public funds meant for the equipment of hospital and maternity.
If we begin to see official corruption in that light, maybe more of our people will begin to be more actively engaged in fighting the current open and shameless roguery by public office holders.
We all need to adopt a zero tolerance to every vestige of corruption.
Our refusal to give will deny the demanding official at least one “customer”.
Don’t lose hope or think that your little effort means nothing; it means a whole lot because a journey of a thousand miles begins with the very first step put forward.
Agreed, the scourge of official corruption has become pervasive.
Our young men and women are the major casualties of the octopus called corruption.
It is they, the youths that should get together and say “No more” to youth acquiesce to open corruption going on in the society.
Thieving and shameless elders should be resisted and exposed. Indeed that was the reason for the introduction of cults in higher institutions in the past. Cult members were feared and admired because they fearlessly confronted any lecturer misbehaving and harassing female students.
Such cult members were registered and held their meetings in the open. They were honest and exemplary in their behaviour. They read their books and played games according to the rules.
They were quintessential youths, youths that led Student Unions then even took Nigerian Federal Government to court for perceived acts that were detrimental to the interest of the Country.
Our youths should recapture the past and show that they are still the bridge between the disappearing generation and the upcoming one.
The youths should reject, refuse and renounce the label of criminality unfairly pasted on them by defaulting adults. Nigerian youths are proving their mettle both in Nigeria and abroad.
Our youths should stand up to be counted among idealistic citizens whose future should no longer be left in the hands of visionless, greedy and shameless adults. They have the education. They have the overflowing energy, both potential and kinetic, to rattle the foundations of the society.
But they must move with hands. Fifth columnists and sorry specimens among them should be effectively contained before they move into battle.
Let the youths arise and demonstrate they are not criminals for the mere reason of their being youths. They should reject the criminal tag. Time to start to sanitize the society is now. They should join potential parties as full responsible members and not as dispensable “Youth wings”. They should be seen as shinning examples in their churches.
In their communities, they should be clearly identifiable ideas and spearhead development projects.
They should regard psychotropic substances as real enemies that can only sap their youthful thinking and creativity. Deviants among them should be embraced and corrected with love.
Surely our youths are no criminals.