His Excellency, The President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has re-emphasized on various occasions that for youth empowerment to positively impact meaningfully, various projects have been mapped out that will benefit majority of young people in this country. That statement by the President is considered to be a testimony of the fact that the future of young people of this country do matter in his development agenda.
The Times is indeed very conscious of the fact that In the political history of this country, no other political leader has so far demonstrated strong passion to capacitate young people other than what the current Chief Executive Officer, His Excellency the President Dr.Ernest Bai Koroma is doing in that direction. Since he was elected as President of this nation, most Sierra Leoneans have witnessed the translation of that passion or vision into concrete realities on the ground manifested in putting into reality what he has pronounced.
It goes without saying that the future of any democratic country lies in the hands of young people, in whom it is hoped, brilliant ideas and contributions will come from to take the nation to higher heights. Make no mistake about it that young people are resourceful, are endowed with physical dexterity and could be very innovative in championing transformative programs that can impact positively on overall national development.
Lamentably, though, over a considerable period of time our young people were sidelined by aging politicians and other public officials who deliberately deprived them from contributing meaningfully to nation building. Most were denied opportunities for capacity building purely out of greed and institutionalized corruption that permeated various facets of the country. Whilst those public figures selectively offered greener pasture to their children, relatives and close affiliates, the bulk of our youth were left out in the cold to end up as drop outs and social misfits. The future of many of them obviously became very bleak always yearning for handouts which made them malleable in the hands of ill-motivated politicians who manipulated them during electioneering periods to cause chaos, intimidate potential rivals only at the end of the day to dump them after achieving their aspirations.
What definitely we can expect such a scenario could lead to is having the bulk of young people in our communities becoming unproductive and prone to perpetration of anti-social attitudes. Majority of young people who were mobilized by RUF’s Foday Sankoh and his cohorts to unleash unimaginable atrocities on this nation for eleven wasted years fell under that category.
Conscious Sierra Leoneans will rationally deduce that the lukewarm attempts that were made by the erstwhile SLPP political governing class, under the presidency of the late former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, in no way improved the lot of most young people in this country. Dr.Dennis Bright, who championed youth affairs during that period, was very articulate in theorizing programs that would have changed the lives of young people but when it came to putting those sugar-coated theories into reality either the resources were reluctantly not released or the commitment was lacking to transform the status quo.
As a matter of fact, one thing which was apparent bordered on unwillingness to give young people the required space, at all levels, to make their views known on national issues. It was crystal glaring that young people were denied political space manifest in the predominance of old folks, some even having reached the retiring age, serving as Ministers and top notch public figures. What we saw coming out of that setup were recycled politicians and public figures who largely depended on old fashion ways of governing, lacking in innovation to match up with current trends. Deeply enmeshed in depleting the national coffer they were less enthusiastic in the economic furtherance of the State.
We saw a marked departure in this trend or situation shortly after Dr.Ernest Bai Koroma took over the presidential seat in 2007. To be honest to ourselves, one thing that was very striking when the political baton changed hands was the appointment of young people to key Ministerial positions as well as other State institutions out of the belief that young people do matter in making meaningful contributions in governance. Their voices must be heard and they must take centre stage in driving economic growth.
Also, the creation of the National Youth Commission, a separate Ministry of Youth Affairs and other relevant youth institutions gave currency to the Government’s determination to bring young people on board the move to improve the lives of the youth in this country. Despite all the teething challenges confronting those institutions they have, however, been making concrete inputs to better the lives of many.
The idea of establishing a Youth Village is also a laudable initiative as it will also afford young people the space to better their lot.
However, we must hasten to say that most young people are disenchanted because of joblessness and mere sidelining by politicians and other public officials who are reading from a different chapter or doing things contrary to the aspiration of President Koroma. We have just witnessed the violence that erupted in Kono, Kabala and Moyamba where young people vented resentment over moves taken which they were totally opposed to. What seems to be lacking on the part of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and other line stakeholders is willingness and much efforts put in effective engagements of youths on matters that affect their welfare. Much need to be done in that direction to make young people feel inclusive in nation building. The crème de la crème, Noveaux rich and influential personalities should endeavor to make provisions for young people to live better lives instead of engaging in conspicuous wasteful spending. Let them borrow a leaf from the late Moseray Fadika of blessed memory!
It is the strong conviction of The Times, though, that young people should seize golden opportunities to make use of the space now offered to make improvements. As the saying goes, “much is expected from whom much is given.” It is impossible to reap bountifully if good seeds are not sowed. Empowerment in all its form is what young people should tightly embrace. The young should desist from the archaic notion that it is only acquiring academic qualifications which will put them on a better stead to forge ahead in life. There are other avenues, via the informal sector, through which young people can capacitate themselves to acquire skills in order to be gainfully employed.
This is the time the young should take ownership of their destinies and take Mama Salone to the peak we are striving towards.
True to his promise, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s pronouncement that he will lay down his life for the Youth of this country still resonates and we are witnessing a translation of that on various fronts, though there are certain saboteurs.