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Napoleon Bonaparte defines a leader as a dealer in hope. Bill Gates identifies a leader as one who empowers others. A leader is one who guides or sees the affairs of a group, they are individuals who establish direction for a group and motivate them to achieve directed outcomes and goals.
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In extension to the ubiquitous claim that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, we stand bold to say that the youths are not only the leaders of tomorrow; the youths are the future already. The youths are the ‘now’ of every generation; the cradle on which this country rests and swings. The youths are the children of yesterday who have become grey with experience and young with vigour. It is a clear fact that every disfavour and injustice rendered to the Nigerian youth is the worst narcotic. Every peril the Nigerian Youth undergoes is the greatest blow to the country; being conscious of the reality that they would in time take the seats of power. The truth is that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow. It is also true that our leaders do not recognize that these youths are the future leaders as they unwittingly exclude the youths from the political space. This is the prevalent narrative in Nigeria.
            However, the youths being the leaders of tomorrow as noted in the topic is not just referring to the youths being political leaders but leaders in all strata of life: religious, social, economic and other spheres. Hence, youths ought to be given every fair treatment, and respect for their rights as citizens for the good of the country, for the summum bonum, the common good; also in accordance with the National Youth Policy of Nigeria, 2019-2023: “To provide an appropriate framework that protects the fundamental human rights of all youth, promote their optimal development and well-being, and enhance their participation in every sphere of national development processes.”[1]Therefore, there is a dire need for the proper implementation of all policies propitious to the Nigerian youth in all spheres of their lives as Nigerian citizens; as recognizing that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow is recognizing the possibility of a better Nigeria.
Who is a Leader?
Napoleon Bonaparte defines a leader as a dealer in hope. Bill Gates identifies a leader as one who empowers others. A leader is one who guides or sees the affairs of a group, they are individuals who establish direction for a group and motivate them to achieve directed outcomes and goals.[2]
Who is a Youth?

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There is no universally accepted definition as regards the age group of the construct youth. For statistical purposes, the United Nations without prejudice to any other definition made by the Member States identifies youths as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years.[3] This simply means that there are other definitions distinct from the definition of the United Nations.
According to the Nigerian National Youth Policy of 2009, Nigerian youths are those between the ages of 18 and 35. In this sense, we can see that there are differences in age when we talk about youths. It is imperative, therefore, that youths are to be seen not in lieu of age alone, but also as a state of mind and an attitude.[4] As a state of mind, it means there is the capability of forming new ideas; and as an attitude, it means they have a settled and dynamic way of thinking or feeling about things.
In Nigeria are Youths the leaders of tomorrow?
We shall examine this question from diverse perspectives and sectors, as it applies to our country Nigeria:
From the Political Perspective

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As regards the political perspective, we find few or no youths in leadership positions in Nigeria. Representative democracy has as one of its tenets the right to fair and public hearing, the youths are not given these. For the 2023 general election, three major parties have presented candidates. The youngest of them is 62. The youths have a lot to offer, their time and energy can be found very instrumental in public decision-making, political participation and leadership. This is evident in the colonial era where we find young Nigerians like Herbert Macaulay, Julius Ojo-Cole, and J. B. Danqua organising and leading the movement against colonial rule. They created political associations like the West African Students Union (WASU), and the National Youth Movement (NYM) in 1925 and 1934, respectively.[5]The elderly should also give ears and some place to the young. The leaders of the future should be given participation and place in the present leadership process, in order to be truly good future leaders.
In the Religious setting
            In the religious setting, we find many youths promoting benevolent religious values, and their social nature or sociability have been found instrumental in promoting inter-religious dialogue. In marriages, young people of different religions are joined together in matrimony. We find less ethnocentrism and religiocentrism among the youths. The problem of religion has been found to be the root of most problems and crisis in Nigeria in the sector of politics, and all other sectors. Giving the youth opportunities in leadership will help in exterminating this problem to a considerable level.
In the Educational and Economic Sector
The crass nature of the Nigerian educational sector shows clearly shows what we stated in the introductive part of this paper. The future of the youths: these future leaders are not well guaranteed. Those who go to schools have little or no job opportunities; they have to grapple with poverty and all forms of criminal escapades. The institutions which educate them go on frequent strikes. For some months, the Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike. Pitiably, it was considered uncertain if the President was aware of this development, considering the fake news and information spread by media houses. Nigerian honourable ministers have their children free from these shackles, studying overseas, our honourable minister for education Mallam Adamu Adamu inclusive.

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The absence of young minds in this sector has led to the continued presence of old educational methods. The occupants of the educational sector of the 21st century are not open to the present changes and demands of the present time, holding on to the age long method of teaching. The initiative of the 6-3-3-4 system of the National Policy of Education (NPE)[6] has brought little or no change to the problematic educational system of the country, due to poor implementation and leadership skills by incapable hands, who have little or no knowledge of what education should entail in the 21st century.
The Entertainment and Sporting Industry
Most Nigerian youths are making waves in the music industry and are found popular and very influential worldwide. The prominent roles they take in these sectors go a long way to show how instrumental they can be in leadership roles, in the present day or in the nearest future. This power and influence is in most cases misused in vulgarities and vain music which do not address the problems of the country. If the youths are given the impression that they have little or no influence in how things are run in their country, they are likely to run their country down. It is a truism that the Nigerian youths have what it takes to make positive impact in the Nigerian society. The bundle of talents that Nigerian youths possess makes this viable.  A practical example is Oluwatobi Amusan who broke the world record in the Olympics, taking first position in the 100meters hurdles, Asisat Oshoala who also won Women’s Player of the year for the fifth time in history. Gone should be the days when Nigerian youths are seen as unproductive; when given the right opportunities and their needs supplied, these youths will hold up the banner of patriotism and give a good image to their motherland.
Saying Nigerian youths are leaders of tomorrow, should not be considered from one perspective alone. Other human endeavours are well important as politics.
How can Nigerian Youths become Leaders of Tomorrow? The Way Forward

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  1. The Reprieve from Prejudice: The notion held by some Nigerian adults about the youths is that they are bent on perpetuating every possible crime in the nation; those who are brittle with experience and have little or no knowledge to confront the escapades of life. The earlier we start seeing our youths in a better light, the better they would become. Most youths are only a product of the rights they are deprived of and the crass society they find themselves.
  2. The Indispensable Role of the Family: It cannot be denied that the family is the primary place of learning and value acquisition; a place where leaders are born. Here the youth learns how to be responsible to themselves, responsible to others; and for others here, the first place of democracy.
  3. Religious Houses: In the churches, mosques and shrines; religious leaders have the task of sensitizing and educating youths as well as children on the necessary values and virtues needed for the future ahead of them.
  4. Non-Governmental Organisations: They have the task of creating the awareness in the youths on the need to participate in politics and other positions that have do with leadership in the society because they are vibrant, dynamic and are full of new ideas.
  5. Social media: The social media is a very influential place of learning when it comes to the youths. In Nigeria, there is little or no guideline for the use of the internet. Hence, the content of this media should be regulated in a way that it teaches viewers and users necessary values to fit them better for the demands of the future.
  6. Political & Economic Sector: This summarises the role of the government. The youth should not be neglected in politics. Those who go to schools should be granted employment. Youths should have all their rights preserved, respected, cherished and appreciated.
  7. Proper implementation of policies: Nigeria is a bag full of the finest policies there can be. Where the problem lies is in poor implementation. There is no gainsaying that if the policies Nigeria has in store for the youth are implemented, there would be little or no need to discuss this issue.

Conclusion
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states clearly that “there are many ways for youths to organise for change”.[7]Thus this piece is a clarion call to all to become conscious of the fact that youths have a pivotal role to play in sustainable change and development in our country. The saying that Nigerian youths are the leaders of tomorrow is clearly a fact, no matter how disputable the current situation presents it to be. Hence, this paper was preoccupied with the task of giving an exposition to what the youth as future leaders entail in Nigeria with situational facts which makes the discourse of future leadership appear antithetical; we also proffered possible prescriptions as to how this can be realizable. The children of the past are no longer young, as the future is no longer old; the future of Nigeria rests on the shoulders of her future leaders, one of whom by the will of God writes this article. May the ‘labours of our heroes past’ never be in vain.


[1] Federal Ministry of Youth, Nigeria National Youth Policy (Enhancing Youth Development and Participation in the context of Sustainable Development), 2019-2023, 9.
[2]J. A. Conger, Learning to Lead, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992, 18.
[3] United Nation, “Youths”, accessed on 26th of July, 2022.
https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/youth.

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[4]  Manoj Sunny, “Youth pastoral ministry and evangelisation” Asia, 2010.
[5]Toyin Falola, “Nigerian Youths leaders of today not tomorrow” last modified 2021, https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/441767-nigerian-youths-leaders-of-today-not-tomorrow-by-toyin-falola.html.
[6]National Policy of Education, 4th edition, 2004.
[7]Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “African Youths Speech” in The New African Magazine, 2019.

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