21st century comes with lots of challenges as much as it comes with lots of opportunities. It’s not an unforgivable cliché to say that Nigeria, too, is full of challenges. But thank God, this is an essay not fiction so I can add another cliché which says that teenage stage is the most challenging stage of life. Imagine what it means then to be a Nigerian teenager in this 21st century, challenges upon challenges. Children are believed to be leaders of tomorrow and it’s said that a society’s tomorrow is discernible from the way it grooms its children. Therefore, the future of Nigeria is in the hands of these teenagers. Their challenges must be addressed in order to find meaningful solutions towards a better future.
One thing that often besets a teenager is the quest for independence and self-discovery. This quest as a result puts them at the mercy of an ever changing world; a world which appears filled with constant challenges and decisions which come with inescapable repercussions.
Another obvious challenge facing Nigerian teenagers is the fantasizing of sex, drugs and violence. With the influx of obscene media contents on television, internet and magazines, the Nigerian teenagers have become overwhelmed with a lot of immoral habits which they have been exposed to by technological media. In that, there are rise in unwanted pregnancies, rape, the act of nudity in dressings among teenagers, smoking of marijuana, injecting of heroin etc. Teenagers are becoming sexually active and drug addictive at a very early age; a case that appears to be fast growing due to the fantasizing exposure to immorality and lack of censorship of media. Nigerian prisons of today are slowly being filled by teenagers who have been caught in acts of thuggery, murder and assault. This indeed is worrying. For if these teenagers as young as they are, are now being caught in violent crimes, it will only be just a matter of time before infants will join the horrible trend of moral decadence.
Also challenging is the extent at which the Nigerian teenagers seem to have run short of proper role models to follow. Gone were the days when a teenager picks role models of high moral and intellectual repute. Today, teenagers select role models from the mediocre pop culture which they see every day on television, the internet and magazines. The basis on which they pick role models these days is based on popularity on the social media. The social media has now become a social malady for most teenagers. Its damaging effect is directly being reflected in the life style of the current generation. Lots of productive time are being spent online on less productive things, sharing of photos and vulgar jokes. The teenagers of today seek for high self-esteem in copying what they see of their heroes on social media. Unknown to them that most of these so-called heroes they follow online are actually living fake lives. They have sadly placed their happiness on the amount of likes, follows, and shares that they get on social media and thus they end up being suicidal when they discover the unrealistic lives they had copied.
Furthermore, poor parentage and broken homes are clear evidence of what affects the 21st century teenager. The unavailability of parents to properly carry out their parenting role leaves teenagers at the mercy of their undiscovered minds. When parents are constantly working lots of hours daily, thereby having less time for their children, we are bound to have teenagers who are helpless, clueless, and reckless. These teenagers are growing up and they are going through a lot of changes both physically and psychologically. As a result, they have lots of questions to ask. Thus, if the parents are none existent to examine these changes in order to guide and advise these teenagers, and to answer their numerous questions, there is every possibility for them to end up making terribly regrettable decisions.
Amidst all these, is the larger political forces shifting our lives. If truth is to be told, the Nigerian government hasn’t been fair to these children.
21st century teenagers should be our golden generation as the Nigeria they were born in was free from colonial shackles and military brutality, suppression and repression. However, this can’t be so with these teenagers, challenges-laden. I fear for the future. But of course as in every situation, there are solutions.
It’s necessary for all to ensure an atmosphere under which our younger generation are free from any sort or maltreatment bordering on discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, place of origin etc. or the absence of parental care. We can’t institutionalize the indigene-settler dichotomy and expect our innocent children not to turn into brooding fellows nursing ill-feeling of resentment towards the favored other. Everything we do must be geared towards guaranteeing and making possible, a better future for our country.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
About the writer:
Mujahid Ameen Lilo is a poet, essayist and a short stories writer. He is the winner of the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Essay Competition 2019 from the North West Zone. He has served as the arts editor of Daily Chronicles.