Salvaging The Rot In Our Society

No doubt our society is in decline. It may feel safe to shrug this off as mere postulation since its progressive decay is yet to assume humongous dimension. But the declining fortune is already stark and if nothing is done to stem it, a social order where erosion of every time-honoured values, may chance.

I admit of no sane society anywhere in the world. None is without its own peculiar challenges. The only difference perhaps is the degree and the willingness to deal with them. Each time I think of the creeping decay an uncanny feeling assails me. The fear of possible implosion, evident in the impetuous actions of our youths, haunts like a dybbuk.

Recently, I was driving from Enugu through Oji River to Awka and somewhere in Oji a terrible gridlock occurred. At first it was difficult to establish the cause. It wasn’t as a result of bad road because that portion of the old road is fairly motorable.

It wasn’t also a case of accident because oncoming vehicles did not indicate. I have to alight from my car (as did some others motorists) to find out the cause - the chances of an ease and the possibility of navigating free should there be a deadlock.

I was chagrined to see a mounted column of masquerades on macabre display on the road. As we gained on them, I noticed the masqueraders were deliberately standing cheek by jowl on the road to deny free flow of traffic.

Sadly, most of the obstructors of the traffic were youths of impressionable age – some of them still spotting early bumfluff. Impiously they demanded and collected tolls from already frazzled motorists as a condition for passage. It was an awful experience.

Two emerging scenarios are evident here. One, is the obvious waste of productive energy among youths. Two, is celebration of impunity as a way of life. I was broody for the rest of the journey.

I could not understand such unmitigated waste of productive energy and the temerity of toll demand. I was concerned not because what I experienced was novel, but because the rot is fast gaining acceptance. A trip to most villages within Igbo land will expose a narrative of disorientation among youths.

Daily, an appreciable number of them resign to rustic village life where they band together to indulge in such things as sipping of kai-kai (local gin), playing the masquerader and kissing up to VIPs at occasions. Most of them school dropouts and without clear ambition as to productive engagement. As a matter of fact, most of them can be violent when inclined and their energy easily finds expression in insurgency.

This problem is in no way peculiar to any town or village. It is almost widespread. My town Nteje is also guilty of the same decay. The number of unproductive youths in the village grows by the day. We are making efforts to have most of them absorbed in some of the youth acquisition projects of the state government. To the credit of the administration there are efforts to take a sizeable number of them off the street.

Evidence of this, apart from the skill acquisition programs, can be seen in mass engagement of most of them in the billion dollars agricultural development in Ayamelum, the recent engagement of hundreds of them as sweepers in operation keep Anambra clean. It is in keeping with youth employment that the state did not disengage over 5000 of them employed by the previous government some weeks before disengagement.

It is my considered opinion that other governments should get down to brass tacks before we lose our tomorrow. If half of the energy dissipated on social vices by these youths is channeled to productive engagement even kidnapping would peter out. This is because some of the unwarranted violence, crimes and even death visited on society are as a result of wrong application of the teeming energy.

Why, for example, should masquerades display outside of village squares? On what authority do they constitute themselves into toll collectors on public road? There have been other cases of unrestrained revelries among youths apart from the experience on the old Enugu – Oji road. And in most cases the fallout has been acute violence and even death.

Not long ago at Umuchu, a bucolic town in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State a truck (clunker) loaded with building materials skidded off the road and rammed into reveling youths. Many of them died. As I write, this experience is difficult for Umuchu and, indeed, Anambra state to live down.

Regardless, that celebration was indiscreet. It did not take into account the propriety of using an esplanade. No doubt, celebrating within range of major roads has dire consequences one of which was the terrible accident. Had the celebrants (most of them youths) been more circumspect and restricted themselves to designated square the accident might have happened in vain.

It is time efforts should be concerted to arrest the progressive decay and channel energies of our youth to productive engagement. Like I stated above the efforts of the current Anambra state government are encouraging and should be supported by everybody. Youths on their part should get the lead off their shoes and imbibe the idea of leading a purposeful life.

Life is not all about reveling. There is more to it and the earlier the idea sinks deep in them the better. Otherwise, it is very easy to live the life of indulgence and intemperance which delivers to age a body permanently worn out. That is, if many of them do not enjoy themselves to untimely end.

I have the belief the situation can be remedied when society recognizes that it needs productive youths as much as the latter need a functional social order to positively express themselves. Neither should feign ignorance for as long as the creeping social disorder remains a potential threat to all.

Rowland Odegbo
Aborgu 11 na Nteje

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