If you’re 16 years old, you’re ‘practically’ an adult. In many countries, a 16 year old can get married, drive a car, drink alcohol, get a job, join the military, and so on, although with parental or adult consent.
In my country, a fifty year old is largely considered a ‘youth’ even though we are all very much aware of the fact that the official retirement age here is sixty. This thinking is such a strong part of our orientation that the members of our society who fall within the youth age range (16 – 25 according to the UN) are seen as ‘babies’.
It helps us put into perspective why the reaction of so many people this past month was aloof. Young people came out to protest against police brutality in the country. The general feel was, “what are these kids making so much noise about?” I’m glad to point out that those ‘kids’ found their voice. Not only that. They came out loud, and strong, and made sure that they were heard. Also, they refused to back down in the face of contempt, abuse and eventually attacks on their lives. Their voices were so loud, while it was giving us a headache, it got the attention of international communities. Unarmed, with no influence or power, they deployed their God-given right. They gave us their voices to remind us that in our country, we should matter.
There is another group of kids however, who do not yet know how to use their voice. They’re quick to use their fists. They come out with sticks and stones, wreak havoc and mayhem. It’s how they know to be seen and heard. They are at the bottom of the list of the victims of this great nation. Should they not matter too?
At this moment, while history is being made, we all have a responsibility to these ‘kids’. We have to teach them to discover their voices and use it to tell everyone whether they want to hear it or not, that they also matter. Their lives, dreams, hopes for a future also matter. After all, all of us, together, are the fabric that’s woven together to form our country. We are all Nigeria. We are one.
Here’s my message to every ‘kid’ out there. You are not insignificant. You matter. You are not helpless. You are armed with a priceless weapon. It’s your voice. Use it. You deserve to be heard.