Letter to Nigerian youths


By Adamu Usman Garko

For many days I have been feeling the pressure to write this letter. I can’t really say, directly, what has been holding me back from writing it, my beloved youths. No matter what, I am glad that today I am able to lend strength to my pen and put forth this letter to you, for your perusal and consideration.

My dear youths, I know you will definitely be surprised and of course be curious on why I call upon you to bestow your most sincere attention on my letter. Something bizarre. Something I have never done before. Calm down. This letter is targeted at removing the chaffs from the grains, highlighting the reality and offering some solutions as well. Forgive me, as your brother, your colleague, a youth like you, if in any way you feel offended by my giveaway.


The desperate desire by youths these days on their seemingly uncompromising stance to be given a chance to lead is something that has been giving me sleepless nights. It is metamorphosing from a desperation to bring about the needed changes perhaps because we feel that our parents, those we like to refer to as “old folks”, who are currently at the helm of affairs have failed to give us the type of leadership that we needed, but we fail to realise that good governance is not something we can bring about by mere desperation. We have forgotten that good leadership is not only attributable to youthful zest, boundless energy and the desire to perform magic which are all characteristics of the youths. We have forgotten that what is imperatively required is not the youths per se, but good leadership qualities; gifted, learned or acquired irrespective of gender and age of the personality.

It is disheartening to note that many youths have failed to reflect about themselves, assess their capacity, orientations, intellectual, moral and educational achievements. Obviously, this is why we are where we are, it is the reason the youths are forever yearning for the leadership Eldorado and no one is ready to listen to them. This is why there is always the clamour and desperation, but there has never been a victory. No trophy for the numerous movements bent on the course of revolutionising leadership in the country, from the old folks leading our affairs to the youth bestriding the leadership scenarios. You and I know the reason. The problem is in us and our empty yearning!

In 2019 alone, I attended more than five youth programmes to challenge the State of leadership everywhere in the country, but there are no programmes meant to groom the youths so that their leadership acumen and orientations would be boasted. I must be honest here, some youths are
there, charting ways for such programmes needed, but what remains critically clear to us is that the interest of the vast majority of us is not centred around organizing events or movements dedicated to grooming the youths towards becoming the very type of leaders the nation
cannot do without.

When you become inordinately frustrated to the extent that you completely forget the path you should take, you then, you inevitably succumb to a fruitless struggle that do not yield any result, and that even if it yields any result at all, it does so negatively and unwholesomely. The youths however need to realise that either they are given any position of leadership now or not, the future is inevitably their playing ground. If the youths keep crying without they themselves taking stock of their ability and the needs of the nation’s leadership, and afterwards, getting themselves equipped for the challenges of the needed leadership, the future, which they represent, maybe jeopardized, since either they are given the chance today or not, the future leadership is in their hands.

Would it then be the faults of their forebears, i.e. the leadership of today or have they refused to be properly oriented and fortified to take up the intrigues of leadership, which will eventually be theirs tomorrow. Believe me, unless the youths of today learn how to appropriate the resources of today to adequately equip themselves for the challenges of tomorrow, generations after generations would continue to apportion blames for their failings and incapacities to their forebears like we are doing today, which does not augur well for the fortune of our country.


While it is true that no matter how despicable and vicious a society is, it still has its fair share of good people. Those whose their state of youthfulness, have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the various leadership positions they piloted, e.g: institutional leadership like students unionism, departmental leadership; and community leadership that youths are expected to pilot, etc. However, for some youths, their forays into leadership positions have been excursions into disgrace; for nothing good has emanated out from the leadership positions they held.
One begins to marvel at how unfortunate and perilous the country or the state will be if such characters are given any leadership position. But the sad thing about this worrisome situation is that the bad ones are obviously in the majority.

A friend of mine narrated to me how students’ associations within in university suffer excessive incompetence in the hands of student leaders. When it is time for election, it is always a do or die affair purposely because of the gains they stand to derive as elected leaders and not because they have any vision or idea of bettering the lot of their colleagues or bring about any positive change. This is not the only example, there are many. The youths know themselves better. This clearly shows that any clarion call from such category of people to lead the masses is a call to utter damnation. But, unfortunately, the bad eggs are the most desperate ones. The good-nurtured, and the positive oriented youths do not engage in such dirt. They do not carry placards or angrily demand to be given chances. They are in silence, continuously grooming themselves for leadership, which will inevitably become theirs tomorrow.

Beside the incompetence, mismanagement and unscrupulous confrontational attitudes manifested by these youths on the small testing-stage of leadership rehearsal where they shamelessly demonstrate their inanity and negative interests, another anomaly that forecasts the hapless future ahead of us is the bad intention some of these youths have for the few others—youths who have gotten the chance to be in the positions of leadership. If you want to see hatred, enmity and so much negativity being bandied around, then journey not far, look for a set of youths where one of them has fortunately made it to a position of leadership, you will be overwhelmed by the hatred, jealousy and so much machinations being marshalled against him, to bring him down, by his fellow youths.

The problem of today’s youths is a complex one. No one can solve them all in one attempt. It takes longer to picture out the problems of the youths. One obvious reason to worry is the fact that, despite the enormity of their problems, they still want to lead. One begins to wonder why is it that the youths—those who are working harder and honestly enriching themselves with knowledge, building their capacities and enriching their orientations, are not noise makers and attention seekers. You know why? Because the future of leadership, today or tomorrow, is in the hands of those who are aware of their incapacities and shortcomings, those who are curious, being true to themselves, getting themselves groomed and not pitching their tents in the midst of the majority, who are merely self-seeking and only after their personal interests.


A lot of mistakes have been done. But it is not the end of time, there is still hope that if the right measures are put into action, ostensibly, we will get out of our problems and be worthy of the future we envisage and be ready for the leadership we desire. There is the need to change gears from organising events that are meant to merely discuss how to snatch the mantle of leadership from the old folks, to events and processes that are meant to groom the youths for the challenging leadership. Events which come with opportunities for the youths to acquire leadership education; on how to avoid mishaps and overcome trials.

The ubiquitous hatred and disunity among the youths must be put to a halt; otherwise any effort would definitely be rendered fruitless. Youths must be ready to collaborate with one another and put aside their personal interests and ego for the overall benefit of the populace, either now or in the future. It is important for the youths to understand that no matter what they do, if they are not in good terms with one another, if the rampant disunity is not eschewed, then there is no way they will progress and sincerely make positive impact.

Above all, self—leadership is the key determinant. Everyone should begin to lead himself well. Until then, no one is a true leader.

Adamu Usman Garko is a short story writer, an essayist and a poet. He is the author of When Day Breaks, a collection of poetry, which was listed among the 15 Best Published Books in 2018 by the Daily Trust newspaper; also, the book is a recommended text for 400l English students of Gombe State University in 2018. He is the 2020 winner of the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors and the convener of Jewel Writing Workshop.

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