Show Them the Ropes

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By Yemi Onafuye
Succession is important to me now as a young person, not because I am overly anxious to take over power but rather because I increasingly grow concerned over what tomorrow hold for this great nation, Nigeria. Who are the leaders of tomorrow? This is something to worry about considering the fact that leadership has been the undoing of Nigeria thus far. If we would not remain undone, our leaders have to be different. 

I once came across two schools of thought. The first opined that leaders are born not made; the second stated that leaders are made not born. I agreed with the latter since the characteristics that make a person a good leader are learnt over time. Even if some of them are innate potentials, they have to be developed before they can be of use to anybody. This means it is a delusion to simply point at the youths once the question “who are the leaders of tomorrow?” is asked, without taking into consideration the fact that tomorrow’s leaders have to go through a making process, the result of which would determine what sought of leaders they become.   
The big questions are ‘who are the present societal influences responsible for the making of youths today?’ ‘Who are those that affect the minds and thinking of the bulk of society’s young adults, adolescents and children?’ ‘Are these influences positive or negative in relation to societal progress?’ 
Chimamanda Adiche, a reputable writer and public speaker with marks in African Literature, professes to have been influenced as a youth by Chinua Achebe, a legendary giant in African literature.  She read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart at the age of ten. John Maynard Keynes, a renowned American economist with great contributions to economic thought that helped tackle the great depression of 1929, was as a young adult influenced by older economists like Alfred Marshall and A.C Pigou. With these and many more examples we realize the sought of greatness and immense societal benefit that influence can birth.
Future society lies on the influences of future leaders today. If this be the case, then someone sound the alarm because bulk of today’s youngsters draw inspiration from entertainers. Seven out of every ten youngsters will prefer movie, sports, fashion, celebrity and music channels to news or research channels. On the internet, they browse mainly social networks, music download sites, fashion sites and latest celebrity gossip. They flip to entertainment and sport sections of newspapers and magazines, stamping other sections ‘boring’. All these aside the fact that today’s youngsters wear earpieces most of the time, connected to handheld and pocket-sized audio and video players. One would wonder what time they have to think outside the entertainment box.
Entertainers might not be ‘bad’ in themselves but the effect of their influence on the future leaders is adverse to societal progress for a number of reasons.
First, due to it’s ease and leisure perspective, entertainment in most of it’s forms helps people relax.  The excessive exposure of youngsters to entertainment therefore, gives them a leisure orientation. They are always ‘relaxing’. Sight is lost of such values as hard work and diligence which are vital to a meaningful future society. This can be tagged ‘the influence of ease’.
Secondly, talent seems to be more pronounced in the entertainment industry. Even though many entertainers are highly educated, their talents such as their ability to sing, dance, act or play a certain sport remarkably, always take centre stage while their education and training stay backstage. Today, an increasing number of youngsters ‘don’t like school’. They perceive education as unnecessary. Everything has to be as fun as a television show. This is ‘the influence of talent is all you need’.
Quite a number of entertainers are young, rich and famous. It is not fallacious to say majority of them have done a lot of work in terms of time investment and training to be who they are, but the influenced youngsters rarely see it that way. They see young people like themselves who have made millions and are famous for doing almost nothing. The outcome is a search for avenues to make quick money and fame with little or no efforts thus ‘the influence of quick money, quick fame’.
With the level of moral decadence amongst entertainers, one would double sound the alarm at the thought of their being the major societal influences. Many entertainers are closely associated with scandals and indecent behavior and this again reflects in the lifestyle of their young followers who happen to be the leaders of future society. ‘The influence of moral decadence’ entails a morally bankrupt pack of future leaders which spells d-o—o-m for any society.  
Taking a shallow look, one might think society has always been this way, but looking deeper through history, it’s clear that the trend is new. Entertainers have not always had the largest share in the influence market. In the past, scholars and inventors had the largest share with most young people wanting to be educated. Undoubtedly, the fact that entertainment today is made available via highly convenient media has contributed immensely to the trend. 
This is an awareness call. I am sounding the alarm. If tomorrow’s leaders would be anything worth hoping for, their making process has to be on the mind of everyone today. Leaving this responsibility in the hands of entertainers is like keeping a bone in custody of your dog. 
During the last Nigerian Presidential inauguration in May 2011, the President was recorded to have said “The Nigeria of our dreams must be built on hard work and not on short cuts”. I totally agree with the President, however, wrong influences on tomorrow’s leaders has set them on the path of ‘shortcuts’, shortcuts to nowhere, shortcuts that would mess up the Nigeria of our dreams. They have to be set on the right path via right influences for a promising future to exist. Who exactly holds the power to set things straight?

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