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To Be Young In Nigeria

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By Chudi Okoye

“Who is a ‘youth’ in Nigeria?”

Who, you ask, is a ‘youth’ in Nigeria?
Hush, impetuous questioner!
This will cause mass hysteria!
Though you are a native sojourner
And not a supercilious foreigner
You must not dare to interrogate
The wisdom of our local estimate
Or even that of our vocal postulate
By which our ministerial authorities
Define ‘youth’ well into fuzzy forties.

Yes, in sane and sensible climes
Where age with achievement chimes
A youth at forty is a youth forever.
But in our dim and desolate environ
Where octogenarians forever carry on
Unwilling to quit the arena or the racket
We choose to define up the age bracket.

We roast other cultures of rushed adulthood
Citing miseries in their paved neighborhood
Wherein, it seems to us, life’s too congested,
And youthfulness strangely constricted
Abbreviated to a spell of unknowingness
With kids therein propelled, unprepared,
Into the world with wanton hollowness
Many ending up wrecked and unrepaired.

We toast our culture of perpetual youth
Rooted in its peculiar concept of truth
And we enforce an unspoken social pact
By which a society that sadly cannot act
Allows youth to persist as a perpetual fact.

Amid a grim conspiracy of lowered expectations
Our ageing youths are left wholly unaccountable
Since societal strain, for most, is insurmountable.
By the inexorable logic of this silent compact
A wasted generation begets a rested generation
And community life limps on in slow degeneration.

A bemused world thus mocks the ‘Nigerian youth’
Just as it does the ubiquitous ‘Nigerian prince’
Confused by a society with gleaming prospects
Seemingly unable to uplift its teeming subjects.

“Who is a ‘youth’ in Nigeria”, you ask?
Oh, questioner with the rational mask,
It’s simply anyone yet to fulfill the task
Of “making it” in this dystopian shack.

November 10, 2018

 

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