By David Amusa, Port Harcourt
Nigerian youths are not lazy, Professor insists, … As UNIPORT holds 3rd International Conference on Tanure Ojaide
A professor of Film Studies and the Dean of Faculty of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Femi Okiremuette Shaka has said that many Nigerian youths are hard working and needed commendation and support, contrary to a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigerian youths are lazy.
Speaking at a pre-conference press briefing on the third International Conference on Tanure Ojaide: Life, Literature and the Environment, Professor Shaka said, while reacting to a question from a journalist, that many Nigerian youths particularly students have been excelling in different countries of the world as best graduating students and wondered where the tag that Nigerian youths are lazy was coming from.
“If you are reading the newspapers every day, you will see names of Nigerians that are being announced as best graduating students in Ukraine, America and other parts of the world,” he said.
He stated that what Nigerian youths need was enablement and good policies that will help catapult them to greater heights.
“If you look at the graph of the budget for education, you will see that it is falling rather than rising. At a time more youths should be put in school, the graph is falling. Then, you can judge for yourself whether they are actually investing in Nigerian youths because Bill Gates said without a lot of investment in education, we are not going anywhere”.
“Remember, Japan, Singapore have no natural resources. The only natural resource that they have that they invested in is the human capital. And here we have abundance of human capital, very brilliant children. Even those that passed out of our undergraduate programmes with third class go to other countries and come out in flying colours”.
“But you see, the government does not know what to do with their talents. One of the best car designers is a Hausa man. We have a lot of talents. Our youths are the most resourceful, hard working in the world. But like Achebe said, the problem of Nigeria is the problem of leadership. That is why we have not yet industrialized. I was discussing with a friend and he said he wanted to go to Malaysia and they are telling him to go and get this and that; check whether he has malaria fever. Ordinary Malaysia that we donated oil palm seedlings from Benin to is now discriminating against us. Why won’t they discriminate against us? Because they think that we are not very important. If we were industrialized the way we ought to have been; if we have railway connecting everywhere so that as we are holding this conference, people will take train to this place, will they talk to us like that? But now they think that anybody coming from Nigeria is somebody escaping from poverty”.
“Our policy makers and leaders have been a disappointment. Focus on something and make impact. No. Focus on infrastructure, education, security, you can’t. Everything is crowding on us. What have we gotten right? The economy is planless. We are drifting. God help us”, he said.
Speaking further, Professor Shaka said in the area of poetry and literary arts that many Nigerian youths are doing well.
He stated that as part of the conference, there will be an interface between the literary giants and students to promote cross fertilization of ideas.
He said that the conference was to celebrate Tanure Ojaide who incidentally comes from the Niger Delta, pointing out that Nigerians should learn to celebrate the living and not always the dead.
This, he said, will spur many Nigerians to excel in their various endeavours thereby triggering accelerated development.
He noted that commending the dead may spur the living but could not be equated with when the living is commended.
Prof. Shaka explained that the choice of University of Port Harcourt for the celebration was based on the fact that Port Harcourt is presumed to be the headquarters of the Niger Delta and that by reminiscing on life in the Niger Delta through poetry and other literary arts, ideas on the solutions to the problem of the region can be generated.
This conference holding from May 2- 5, 2018, at Elechi Amadi House auditorium, Faculty of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt, is the third in the series of conferences which have been held in honour of Tanure Ojaide.