By Linus Okechukwu and Festus Iyorah
Youth Journalism International
NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria – Youth interests must be part of Nigeria’s national rebirth and transformation, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said at a journalism education conference this week.
Abubakar called on the media and society to help advance those interests.
“We must help our youth to find their part in this world or the one they will help to create, and help them follow that part with enthusiasm, commitment, fidelity and dedication,” Abubakar said. “The media can help our young people by exposing bad deeds, promoting good deeds, highlighting good people and good deeds. That way we can help our youth to help change the world for the better.”
Abubakar gave his keynote address, “Media, Youth and Nigeria’s Development Challenges” at the 16th annual conference of the African Council for Communication Education at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
The conference will be of great importance given that “it deliberates on ways to ensure that the more than 10 million out-of-school children are in school,” Abubakar said.
The former vice president called youth to action.
“Get an education, acquire useful skills; become aware; dream big; and aim for your dream,” he urged them. “Do not constrain yourselves; and do not settle for half-measures. Follow your heart; the road may be rough but then only rough roads lead to somewhere desirable. Opportunities abound in this country’s economy and in the economy of the 21st century which we should be building.”
The conference, which focused on the impact of communication – especially new media – and on children and the youth drew renowned scholars from the United States, Sierra-Leone, South Africa as well as a number of Nigerian academics.
Professor Chris Ogbondah, who teaches journalism in America at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was pleased to be part of it.
“I feel great! A conference like this in Nigeria is a learning experience in terms of gaining knowledge,” said Ogbondah. “It is a time to tap from other people’s brain. For me, it is always a learning experience.”
Students who attended were thrilled at the opportunity.
“I feel very great to have participated in this kind of conference which has gathered scholars from different walks of life,” said 20-year-old James Ojo, a first-year student of mass communication.
“I have really learnt a lot,” Ojo said. “I have gotten a lot of experience and knowledge about communication.”
Second-year mass communication student Victor Agi, 20, said he felt very excited to have participated in the conference. He said the lessons learnt in the conference would remain invaluable.
“Communication has had negative and positive effects on the youth. For me, this type of forum is very important. It is a conference I would love to attend again and again,” Agi said.
Professor Cecil Blake, who teaches African studies at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, was enthusiastic about being in Nigeria.
“I am always happy to be in Nigeria. I feel I am part and parcel of this organization,” Blake said.
Ogbondah said the conference theme, “Communication, Children and the Youth in the 21st Century,” is relevant because the pervasive nature of today’s media has made any public discourse on children and the youth valuable.
“Technological revolution has made this the age of instant communication where children and youth are more exposed to mass media than ever before,” the professor from Iowa said.
With a large number of parents now working, Ogbondah said, children and youth are normally left at home unsupervised, so the theme of the conference comes in handy at a time when the world is increasingly becoming technologically-driven.
“It is good to have a theme like this that will examine the type of effects, if any, may be having on children in terms of exhibiting violent tendencies and criminal behavior” Ogbondah said.
Blake, who previously served as Sierra Leone’s information minister, said rapid developments in information and communications technology have exposed children and youth to the media, so the conference theme came at a time when it is highly needed.
Despite the negative effects of social media, Blake said, “It is too early to speak categorically on whether” they should be banned outright or used solely for academic purposes.
Blake equally charged professors “to nurture a young generation who would diversify their research” given the dearth of diversity in content and communication researches generally.
Blake commended the African Council for Communication Education in Nigeria for remaining committed to the organization and taking a leadership role.
“Without the ACCE in Nigeria, the organization in the continent is meaningless,” said Blake.