Nigeria: On giving respect and being respected


By Kareem Shamsudeen

Since the human system is a complex of relationships marked by age difference, it is expected that there should be a mutual understanding among one another so as to keep the relationship working.

Since in every relationship, one may relate with persons older than one, it is then expected that there should be a form of respect among us, and since respect is reciprocal, the young must learn to respect and appreciate the experience of the old and the old in turn must respect the vibrant and evolving ideas of the young.

But if there is no respect, the young will disregard the old, and the old will disregard themselves. By so doing, the society will be thrown into a morass and love will no longer exist because it is the presence of love that brings respect.

A rather curious scene occurred at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan when I attended a Youth Stakeholders Forum.

As expected, the programme started far late than the scheduled time. Well, this is Africa. When the programme kicked off, the National Anthem was about to be recited and as the convention dictates, every patriotic citizen is expected to stand up to recite the national anthem but surprisingly this young man sitting beside me did not stand up.

I shouldn’t be bothered about his behavior since most of the youth have transplanted an exaggerated care-free attitude in themselves, but still I decided to tell this young man to rise for his country but he did not heed. His friend who apparently was embarrassed by the unfolding of this ugly situation also told him to stand up but yet he didn’t heed.

Once again, in my humble self, I told him to stand and give his country some respect, but shockingly he told me that “even his country didn’t respect him.” I refrained from probing him further since I had already got a reason for his obstinacy. His act can simply be paraphrased into a question which is: if my country fails to respect me, why should I respect her? This question however is the fabric on which this article is woven.

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Rather to be caught in a web of dilemma, I asked myself this question too. Even without bringing the question to the state of affairs of the nation, must I respect someone who fails to respect me? Or someone who after my years of unflinching loyalty doesn’t not care dime about me!

To be candid, I would not respect such person. I guess what the young man meant by the country didn’t respect is that his country has failed him in all ramifications which by large is caused by the lackluster attitude and offhandedness of our so-called leaders.

If my guesses are right, the young man should be a graduate and perhaps unemployed after scaling through the hurdles of education in Nigeria. He may even be vexed at the rate people who are not qualified academically get jobs all in the name of influence. Or is it not the Nigeria where politics has ruined the goodness of the nation?

Let’s say the young man decides to go into entrepreneurship by setting up his own business enterprise but he fails to get a loan even from government banks that promise individuals who have business ideas to come and obtain loan. No doubt, he will be frustrated. Or he even decides to support his country by applying for jobs at government establishments and despite his high qualifications his application got rejected because he did not know somebody. Some many occurrences like that in the society, no doubt any one would be frustrated. So why would such youth stand for the National anthem or rather, be patriotic when the country does not care about him?

“We’ll provide more jobs for the youth in just three months after we are elected,” most of our leaders would promise this and still would render them unfulfilled after they have been elected. One would recall the good old days when the youth are indispensable in the country and when the government caters for them.

I even heard that the Nigerian government at a time caters for the students’ welfare in universities across the nation and when graduates that are turned out from Nigerian varsities are worthy in academic and character but disgustingly such good acts are done no more as most students struggle to pass through the University to become unemployed in the labour force.

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Didn’t the government provide more jobs as expected? Sadly, no! To study during this period at Nigerian varsities is in itself a problem, to pass out in flying colours is another difficulty, and to get employment is another life-long wahala.

Constantly the youth are disrespected by the Nigerian government. It is the youth that politico-criminals would employ for their nefarious activities. It is the youth that would be agberos/street urchins. It is youth that would be hired killers.

It is the youth that would be mercilessly killed when they clamor for their rights. It is the youth that would be rendered incapacitated at matters affecting the nation. It is the youth that are always at the receiving end! It then appears as if our leaders have disregarded the saying that the youth are the future of the nation.”

Almost everyday, we hear cases of retrieved billions of naira that are siphoned by corrupt leaders but where these monies go to is a puzzle to many Nigerians since there is still no improvement in the standard of living of the people and the country is still not free from corruption. Even few of the youth that are employed are not gainfully employed as most of them are paid lesser than the services they offer and the resultant effect is the brain drain in the country.

I had always thought that political office holders receive billions of naira as salaries but I was surprised when I heard that even the President salary constitutionally–is not up to twenty million naira.

The question, therefore, is how come these political leaders, perhaps inconsiderate, buy fleet of cars and private jet for themselves? It is simply corruption! The corruption that has not only blighted the progress of this country but has caused the Nigerian youth to disrespect their country. How lamentable?

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Now, the question is; how many Nigerian youth can stand up for their country? Even the die-hard Nigerian football supporters may not. Will there be any motivation when the youth are continually denied of their rights by the nation the hold dear? Definitely not!

But then, the Nigerian leaders are less concerned about this and so the youth decide to leave the country for greener pastures where they would be regarded rather disregarded as it is the case with their home country and no amount of plea, clamour will bring them back. It is no longer news that Nigerian youth are making waves abroad; some have even become citizens of these countries by naturalisation. Such contribute their quota expected for their nation for the uplift and advancement of other nations. If this incessant migration of the youth continue, will Nigeria ever attain or retain her past glory?

Political leaders of our country should be made to understand this truth that their carefree attitude concerning the empowerment of the youth affects the nation. They should know that adequate employment and empowerment of the youth will enhance/fast-track the development of this nation and by so doing they will earn the maximum respect and several accolades from the youth.

However, those youth who have joined the bandwagon, the country may not be held for your predicament. Even if the current state of affairs is not conducive, there are several other legitimate ways one can engage in for a better living rather than venturing into illegal activities. I pledge to serve my country with all my heart and I still would continue to be patriotic and give my country her utmost respect even when our leaders are failing us and I implore the youth imbibe this too. Maybe by our good acts, our leaders may have a change of heart and give us the good we desire. Nigeria belongs to us all!

Kareem Shamsudeen is a student of the University of Ibadan. He can be contacted via

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