Policy Briefs


Catholic Youth And The Commitment To Common Good

Remarks By Mr. Oseloka Henry Obaze, MD/CEO Selonnes Consult Ltd. At the Investiture of the Patron//Patronessesof the Awka Dioceses Nigeria Federation of Catholic Students and the Launching of “The Colossus” Magazine At St. Joseph the Walker Chaplaincy, UNIZIK, Awka, Saturday 29th April, 2017  


President Francis Nlang, Executives of NFCS, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Okafor, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to thank Mr Francis Nlang and the executives Nigeria Federation of Catholic Students (NFSC) Awka Dioceses for their gracious invitation during the Investiture of the Patron//Patronesses of NFCS and the Launching of “The Colossus” Magazine.  

I decided to accept and honour this invitation because of the importance I attach to Nigerian Youths and the role I sincerely believe that they can all play in building a just egalitarian society. Moreover, as Catholic students, I can identify with you and the values you hold dear, being myself a proud product of a Catholic legacy school, Christ the King College Onitsha. What I will say here is nothing new. They are issue I have raised elsewhere, in my speeches, policy briefs, books and interaction with those in leadership positions. Because you are students, let me start with education.

Nigerian Youth and Legacy Schools

The colonial masters who gave us Western education laid a solid foundation with a view to fostering leadership. To strike a balance, they established public or government schools and the missionaries also established parochial schools. What is important is that these two category of schools yielded tangible results. Hence you have legacy schools owned by the government, like the renowned Kings College Lagos, Government College Umuahia, Government College Ibadan, Government College Ugheli, Government College Afikpo, Edo College Benin City, etc. You also have Anglican legacy schools like Igbobi College, Lagos, Baptist Academy and Dennis Memorial Grammar School Onitsha. Inevitably, you have Catholic legacy schools like Christ the King College Onitsha, St. Patrick’s College Calabar, and St. Finbarr’s College Lagos, etc. Today, we also have Catholic Universities. There is Peter University in Achina, and another Catholic University is planned in the Onitsha Archdiocese, I believe in Ojoto.

What did the establishment of these missionary schools mean? First, they struck a balance. Faith-based education was an imperative for qualitative leadership. Second, education is too important to be left to government bureaucrats. And third, intellectualism devoid of religious grounding and moral values is nonsensical. And what could be the highest moral value for any Catholic student within the broad context of our dogma – it is to love your neighbour. Loving one’s neigbour translates the pursuit of common good, which is the theme of my remarks today.

Youth and Common Good

In 2015, I came across a newspaper advert in The New York Times of July 12, 2015, by Josh Tetrick, the CEO & Founder of Hampton Creek, in the United States. Josh Tetrick’s letter was addressed to “Dear 23-year-old”. The second paragraph was revelatory as it was poignant. It said: “And more than any generation before, you have a commitment to common good over individual gain – an ethos that reaches across traditional divisions such as race, ideology, partisanship”. You will agree with me that his observations resonate and relate well to our gathering in Awka today.

As students, as Catholics, and as future leaders, what are your common goals, beyond making our world a better place? Can such goals be accomplished without qualitative education and high moral and leadership values and a commitment to common good? In the fullness of our reflection, it will all begin to make sense why our “commitment to common good over individual gain” matters.

Youth and Qualitative Education

Qualitative education is the foundation of any nation and civilization. Regrettably, in our country, Nigeria, the quality of our education has slipped markedly. Similarly, the financing of our education remains well below the 26% of GDP recommended by UNESCO. It is obvious therefore, that the Nigerian government alone cannot underwrite and manage our education. Space must then be created for Missions to run parochial schools as they did in the colonial days, but the collective support or individual endowments will remain crucial. Government and Mission must continue to collaborate in the education sector. Only such a concerted partnership can uplift our schools and educational system across new frontiers and guarantee that our youths are adequately prepared for the leadership roles they are destined to play.

NFCS is a congregation of youths domiciled in Nigeria. The differentiating ethos, is that you collectively retain the adjectival qualification of being Catholic students and therefore, Catholic youths. But the challenges you face and the realities are hardly different from those faced by the average Nigerian youth. Indeed, some may say that you belong to the cadre of privileged youths, because you are already literate and still seeking higher knowledge. So let me delve briefly with those challenges facing our youths, and why you must all strive for common good and go beyond narrow or selfish preoccupations.

Grasping the Place of the Youth

By definition, youth are young people, considered as a group and aged between childhood and adulthood — that is to say 15-24 years old. The Nigeria youth is today challenged by long-held cultural perception, which impact directly or indirectly on youth empowerment. Indeed, our culture and perception weigh negatively against our youth. We as adults and parents, expect to see our young, but do not expect to hear them speak amongst adults; as such we stifle their views and contribution to public debate. Furthermore, our youths that are on the wrong side of the society and law dominate our attention than those who are doing well, who are in school and seeking that common good. So rascality, truancy and cultism have coloured our perception of youths. Such stereotyping and labeling is wrong. In this context, there is the tendency to use our youth as political tugs only to abandon them.

 Youth Bulge & Nigerian Statistics

But Nigerian youths are not alone in their challenges. The world’s youth population stands at 1.2 billion and should reach 1.3 billion in 2030. Most youths live in Asia and Africa; 226 million youth aged 15-24 live in Africa. Globally, there are 100 million street children and 12.6% unemployed global youth. Here in Nigeria, our youths comprise 70 million of Nigeria’s 180 million people and some 54% of these youths are unemployed. And of the 57 million out of school children worldwide, 10.5 million reside in Nigeria alone.

There are two sets of unemployed youths that are worth noting; the educated, skilled and unemployed and the illiterate, unskilled and unemployed. Consequently, some 10% of the world youth population are categorized as NEET – (not in education, employment or training). We must note that youth unemployment gives rise to inequality and that disenfranchised and angry youths will inevitably turn to violence, cultism, and criminality as they seek to take revenge on the society that betrayed and abandoned them. The difference is that those youth who like you are Catholics and therefore imbued with a mission of common good and upholding high moral values, will work hard not to fall off the proverbial edge.

Empowering Our Youths

Beyond paying lip service to the welfare of our youth, there is much to be done to carry them along. The youth must also do their part, and Catholic students and Youths must even do more. I have already offered some ideas in my interview, wherein I counselled Catholic Students and youths to remain true to their faith, calling and aspirations and to remain focused. I also advised that “the most seminal changes in the world have been orchestrated by individuals, who have pursued and remained focused on their vocation and cause and above all remained humble.” But there is more.

Our youth must be given the space to take a lead role in their collective emancipation and welfare. The core premise of youth empowerment is therefore encouraging our youth to take charge of their lives. They can do so by addressing their needs from their own perspectives and determining how best to improve access to resources and transform their consciousness through their beliefs, values and actions. Secondly, there must be the recognition that our youths exist and can handle their issues and welfare without adult or government interference. NFCS, SUGs and National Youth Councils are various medium for engaging and empowering youths. Consequently our youths must have a say in government; and should be represented by persons who are well trained and focused and humble – not by individuals who are prone to rascality, violence and unredeeming utterances.

We must also strive hard to make our youth globally competitive by freeing up of resources for economic development and for future posterity. Presently we are missing out on the so-called demographic dividend, which derives essentially from our youth. As regards capacity building, there is an urgent need to further expose, mentor, train and offer access to global best practices as means of making our youths globally competitive. Needless to say that those of you who are students, you must stay in school and finish school; and seek to engage in professions and trades where they are skilled and globally employable.

For our part, as parents, policymakers, government officials and clergy, we must continue to facilitate avenues that allow our youths to commence start up industries/companies and to have unimpeded access to resources including micro finance. As you may be aware, there is also an ongoing campaign in support of the #notTooYoungToRun Bill. It will require amending the 1999 constitution to change the age requirement for public office from 30 years to 25. The fact that the campaign is on, is testimony to our awareness of a need for change. My personal take on the matter is that there must be uniformity for youths; if at the age of 21, our youth can do national service, vote, drive, drink alcohol, become a soldier and fight and die for your country, they should also be able to hold certain public offices.

Finally, we must strengthen our institutions and policies that cater for the youth. Away from creating endless youth policy platforms like NAPEP, NYC, GEEP, SURE-P, Graduate Internship Initiative, Youth Parliament, Youth Empowerment Support (YES), we need to get our youth involved in programmes like YALI (Young African Leadership Initiative); they need sponsors and mentors; and give them space to operate responsibly. We must look as establishing Youth Chamber of Commerce; Youth Arts and Craft Centers; Youth Expositions and Fairs, Youth Job Fairs. The Holy Family Youth Village in Amansea is a good example of how we can expose our youth to the quality of life and socialization obtainable elsewhere. It’s worth knowing that ANDELA, a coding start up company is another good example; it got a grant of $25 million from Facebook by focusing on the opportunities presented in the digital space. You too can do the same. With the rise in youth population, comes increased unemployment. So you must excel especially in the digital space. Follow your passion; create startups that will solve problems in this country and beyond. Believe me, you will never lose relevance.


Seeking common good is possible, if our youths make that niche their anchor and mission. Let us never assume that our parents will cater for us from cradle to death. Each generation has its niche and its mission. As Catholic students and youths, the future of this country will be in your hands in the next two decades. This is the time to shape your vision, commitment and to seize the moment. Don’t just stand by. Do your utmost and let God do the rest.  

 Thank you and God bless.


Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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