By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni
The earth has done a full circle around the sun and it is the dawn of another year to be sincere to self in facing the elusive reality – the bitter truth of existence. In truth as enunciated in the holy chapter of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “Everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven, time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build.”
For me, today signifies a time to say farewell to a well-lived youthful life. Though I am still strong in bone, can still run holes non-stop, and think in my full youthfulness, a time has come to shift to higher grounds to allow space for others to grow. By status, today marks the beginning of a new socio-economic and political appellation and a drift from the entitled circle of young people to a more competitive yet overbearing generation of adults.
Many may want to argue about the dichotomy of the divide, but the glaring reality will help keep our sanity and expose our folly of wanting to reverse the days even as it counts. For the United Nations, a youth is considered to be between the ages of 15 and 24 years. According to the African Youth Charter, a policy document by the African Union Commission, youth is a person between the ages of 15 and 35 years.
Even though the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was not specific about the age bracket, none of its member states places the age of youth above 35 except The Gambia which allows for flexibility to relate to young people aged between 10 and 39 depending on the policy area. Its actual max youth age is 30.
For Nigeria’s immediate neighbour, Benin Republic, its national youth policy defines youth as those aged between 12 and 35. According to Burkina Faso’s national youth policy of 2008, a young person should be between 15 and 35.
In Cape Verde, the youth policy and training programme capture persons between the aged of 15 and 25 years. For Guinea-Conakry, its National Fund for the Integration of Youth speaks of youth below the age of 25, while the National Youth Policy (2007) of Togo defines youth as 15-24 years.
Africa’s third most successful team at the African Nations Cup with 4 trophies, Ghana, modified its National youth policy in 2010 to peg youth as those between 15-and 35 years. Its French-speaking counterpart with two trophies, Côte d’Ivoire, does not define youth, however, its Youth Card is available to all citizens ages 16-35.
According to Liberia’s ‘Revised National Youth Policy (2012-2017)”, the definition of youth is from ages 15 to 35. In Mail, there is no fixed definition of youth but its 2003 Youth Employment Programme targets people between 15-and 40 years of age while its 2005 National Programme for the Promotion of Youth includes people from 10 to 35 years of age.
In addressing its poverty situation, Niger in 2013, designed a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, and pegged youth between the ages of 15 and 35, in line with the African Youth Charter. Senegal (2012), Sierra Leone (2003) and Guinea Bissau (2013), all put young people in their respective countries in an age range of 15-35 years.
For Nigeria, the supposed giant of Africa, according to our National Youth Policy (2019), youth should have the capacity to vote and be voted for, thus, youth in Nigeria should be between the age of 18–and 29 years. And if the African Charter must be followed, no youth or its representative should be older than 35 years.
If the foregoing is true, then I wonder at the conscience of those who seem to want to represent the youth populace perpetually, particularly in Nigeria where young people constitute over 25% of the population. So here we have a generation of young people being denied the right to be youthful, lead themselves and learn from the mistakes made therefrom.
It is more worrisome for the so-called youth advocates to find it hard to practice what they preach. We preach constitutionality but cannot stay within the rules, we preach fairness but cannot be fair to the generation coming behind, we preach integrity but cannot stay true to the confines of our age. In all, I see a generation not sincerely ready to take responsibility yet time is of the essence.
Even though I cannot say I utilized to the fullest all the privileges being young availed me, I also do not think I have done badly for my youthful age. So, I do not think there is something I left behind in my 18 to 35 years past life that should make me drag responsibilities with those that bracket is meant for. I am content in my humble achievements and console myself in my failures.
As I leave this bracket, permit me to advise you, to thrive, learn and make mistakes. Remember your disappointments are part of your growth experiences. It does not mean you are not good enough, it only means you can do something better. I assure you if the head does not leave the neck, and the heart still pumps blood, you shall meet Favour at the point of your commitment to what you do.
Dear youth, for all it’s worth, always dress nice, not necessarily extravagant. Remember, more often than not, people dress you before you are addressed. And dressing well is good business.
Dear young people, even though I have crossed to the other side, you will be seeing me around in your circle not necessarily to compete with you but to celebrate you and urge you to take responsibility and take the front seat. But if you see my name anywhere claiming what belongs to you as young people, do feel free to lambast me until I shamefully draw back to my Elders’ Council.
For my new older colleagues, I hope for a space at the table to discuss issues like matured minds, I know you will find it uncomfortable at first, but I hope time heals our differences and you will accept me as one of your own. For one, I am here now and nothing can return me to my old age except old age itself. All pun intended. I welcome myself to the Elders Council.
Thank you for all the wishes. They are appreciated.