Buhari says young Nigerians are lazy. The president goofed big time.
“We have a very young population”, Buhari said, as though it were a bad thing to have a predominantly young population.
“Our population is estimated conservatively at 180 million. More than 60 percent of the population is below the age of 30. A lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria has been an oil producing country therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare, education, free", the president added.
Buhari’s comments immediately portrayed Nigerian youth as docile, lazy and never-do-well bumpkins who only await manna from heaven. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Young people in Nigeria are doing the best they can for a nation that does everything to frustrate them in return. They grapple with poor power supply, they have no good roads to ply, they aren’t given soft loans while at school, they aren’t given bicycle loans (because car loans will be asking for too much), they head to work at 4am and return shortly before midnight, they are pioneering tech and innovation hubs from Lagos to Abuja on power generators and there are no jobs for them upon graduation.
So, they hustle. They hustle until they drop.
In Nigeria, young people have been handed the short end of the stick.
The Nigerian youth is a beaten, traumatized specie. He has a long line of family and extended family members waiting for him when he finally makes a few bucks because endemic poverty in his country has impoverished everyone around him.
The Nigerian youth watches his peers in more functional countries making it better than he does and he knows that if he gets a little help from government in terms of infrastructure, he would be miles ahead of them. But he knows not what a working government looks like because he's never experienced one in the land of his birth. Yet, he forges on. I am yet to see a more resolute, hardworking group of humans.
Elsewhere, the young are given a head start in life. In Nigeria, their chances of succeeding are taken off them before birth by a collapsed system....
To be insulted abroad by your president is one thing. To be insulted abroad by a man who belongs in a generation that ruined Nigeria, is another.
Nigeria has dealt Buhari a fair hand. He was military president in his 30s and has been a beneficiary of the nation’s rigged system since 1960. Now in his 70s, Buhari has put his foot forward for yet another term in office. He won't just let go of a country that has given him everything and given the young absolutely nothing.
The young deserve sympathy and encouragement from Buhari and his generation, not a public humiliation and excoriation abroad. Yet, Buhari is famous for dropping howlers and gaffes when speaking without a prepared speech. This was yet another example.
Buhari’s comments are a window into his mind. Young people have been shut out of the highest levels of his government. They have been reduced to aides; and aides to aides and nothing more. The man doesn’t believe in the lazy young people who are simply waiting for oil money. It is a warped, worrying mindset to have.
If Buhari's comments don’t wake up the young to organize and seize back the country from the generation that has ruined it all for them, nothing else will.