“We produce what we do not consume and consume what we do not produce” is what PLO Lumumba says to his surprised youthful audience. This was in the 2011 youth leadership summit in Nairobi. The relevance of this quote is exhibited by the ratio of youths in this country to the youth occupying key leadership and governance positions in this country.
Governance and leadership by the youth is a phenomenon that intertwines with the issues of democracy, constitutionalism, and the political goodwill in our society. Governance also involves administration of resources in a given society which requires strategic policing. Combined with literacy on the aforementioned, the effects on the society can be positively overwhelming. Democracy is not just about free and fair elections but is deeply entrenched in recognition and promotion of the various rights and freedoms provided for in a country’s constitution. Of utmost importance in this case are the rights and freedoms regarding the ascension to governance and leadership.
Leadership is universal such that it starts from a family, self-groups, schools, institutions of higher learning, and eventually to the lucrative national level. This offers youths with various platforms to seize leadership opportunities. At the family level for instance, a youth can take leadership by showing responsibility. Responsibility comes in the form of taking a keen interest in family matters especially decision making on family projects. In self-help groups, youths get the chance to organize themselves, source for funds, manage them, and reap the rewards. Through such innovative platforms the youth have shown good leadership.
Institutions of higher learning are another example of how youth leadership and governance has thrived. Democratic elections are held on a regular basis and students form unions through which they voice their opinions on an array of issues. Perhaps the most memorable times in Kenyan history regarding student unions movement is way back in the late 1980’s through to the late 1990’s. This is a period where students held demonstrations to voice their dissatisfaction with the then Moi government on national issues mainly on democracy. These youths show passion and energy in their demonstrations, two very important requirements for leadership in any society. Whether the current student unions express the same, is a debatable issue.
However, it is unfortunate that the youth have not yet assumed key leadership roles in our country. Despite the above mentioned instances where the youth have shown exemplary leadership, both the youths and other factors such as lack of political goodwill have conspired to ensure the elderly still assume key leadership roles. The youth constitute more than a half of our country’s population, according to the 2009 population census. Regrettably, only a small section of the youth is graduates. Leadership and governance require academic qualifications without which most youths are locked out of leadership positions.
Additionally, present youths have lost focus and taste on national development issues. This is exhibited by the fact that most youths have little or no time following political and economic developments in both the local and international levels. Instead, most of the time is spent on gambling, watching foreign movies and soap operas, and other events that are of little or no relevance at all to youth leadership and governance. It is not surprising to find a youth(s) with micro information on national issues such as major government officials, trends in the political scene, and the country’s economic health. A common excuse is that these issues have no direct impact on them (them here referring to ignorant youths). Such lies compounded, ensure the youth stay far from promoting youth leadership and governance.
Last but not least, the youth lack cohesion and oneness among them to achieve their collective goals and more importantly, leadership. This is on the high most notably during elections where the incumbent and incoming politicians turn youths against each other. Tribalism is usually at the heart of all these animosities by the youth. It is more saddening to know that tribalism has infiltrated our institutions of learning hampering the efforts made at encouraging youth leadership and governance.
In conclusion, the issue of youth leadership and governance needs a collective approach. The youth, the government, and other stakeholders in the society have roles to play in this issue. The government needs to invest in institutions where the youth are taught governance issues, create an enabling environment for youth to contest and rise to leadership in the society. Other stakeholders such as universities can organize public lectures where prominent people in the society mentor the youth on governance and other related national issues. Finally, the buck stops with the youth who have a lot to work on. Focus and literacy levels top the list of to do’s for the youth. Unless the youth develop the sense of ownership of the society
and need to be masters and mistresses of their own destiny, youth leadership and governance is certain to be in the shadows for years to come.