Empowering Northern Nigerian youths: Breaking the ‘yallabai’ mentality

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In the heart of Northern Nigeria, amid its dynamic landscapes, young minds converge, exchanging tales of ambition and hope. They share aspirations to lead, innovate, and carve out a better future. However, interwoven within their narratives are strands of frustration as they find themselves trapped in a cycle where opportunities appear scarce, and paths to success obscured by the dominance of established leaders. Across generations, a dialogue unfolds. Elders, steeped in tradition, impart wisdom garnered from their experiences, yet reluctant to relinquish their grip on power. They speak of the importance of respect, of upholding the values that have stood the test of time. However, beneath their words lies an underlying apprehension—a fear of change, of ceding control, and uncertainty of what the future might hold.

Amidst this backdrop of hope and fears, a prevailing obstacle to progress and inclusive governance emerges—the “yallabai” mentality. This cultural disposition refers to a reluctance among established leaders to mentor and empower the next generation. It reflects a deliberate intention to cling to power and influence, with leaders preferring to maintain their positions rather than pass on authority to younger individuals. The persistence of this mentality hinders the development of youth leadership and perpetuates a cycle of dependency, where the younger generation serves the interests of established leaders rather than being empowered to lead themselves. Locked in a struggle between tradition and modernity, Northern Nigeria finds itself at a crossroads where entrenched beliefs clash with the demands of contemporary society.

Historically, Northern Nigeria has been marked by hierarchical power structures, where authority and influence are often consolidated within specific circles. Within this context, the “yallabai” mentality has thrived, fostering an environment of exclusivity and resistance to change. Established leaders, cautious of relinquishing their power, have hesitated to mentor and empower younger individuals, fearing a potential threat to their own status and influence.

Additionally, cultural norms and traditional practices have reinforced the prevalence of the “yallabai” mentality. Deeply ingrained values of respect for elders and deference to authority within Northern Nigerian society have led younger individuals to hesitate in challenging the status quo or assuming leadership roles. Consequently, this cultural dynamic has perpetuated a lack of intergenerational dialogue and collaboration, solidifying the barriers to youth empowerment.

The influence of the “yallabai” mentality permeates deeply into institutional structures, shaping their dynamics and obstructing the socio-economic progress of the youth. Reflecting the prevalent cultural norms, institutions often prioritise maintaining existing power hierarchies over fostering meritocracy and equal opportunities. This institutional bias not only reinforces exclusivity but also erects systemic barriers that hinder the advancement of young individuals. Within these frameworks, opportunities for youth leadership and involvement in decision-making processes remain constrained, as established leaders opt to retain control rather than nurture emerging talent. Consequently, the aspirations of young people are stifled, and their potential contributions to society go unrecognised, resulting in feelings of disillusionment and disenfranchisement.

Addressing the entrenched “yallabai” mentality in Northern Nigeria and its detrimental impact on youth empowerment demands multifaceted solutions. Firstly, raising awareness about the harmful effects of this mindset is paramount. Educating both young individuals and established leaders on the significance of mentorship and inclusive leadership practices is essential for challenging prevailing norms.

This awareness-building effort should extend beyond formal education to encompass community-based initiatives and grassroots movements aimed at fostering a shift in societal attitudes. Additionally, fostering intergenerational dialogue and collaboration is crucial. Establishing platforms where young people and established leaders can converge to exchange ideas, share experiences, and collaborate on common objectives helps bridge the gap between generations. Through meaningful engagement and mutual respect, diverse perspectives and talents across society can be harnessed to drive positive change.

Alongside raising awareness and fostering intergenerational dialogue, implementing concrete measures to facilitate youth empowerment is essential. Mentorship programmes, leadership development initiatives, and skills training opportunities can equip young people with the tools and support needed to navigate complex socio-political landscapes and realise their full potential. By investing in the next generation of leaders, we not only ensure the continuity of progress but also unlock new opportunities for innovation and development.

Concurrently, institutional reforms play a pivotal role in dismantling systemic barriers and creating an enabling environment for youth participation and empowerment. Policies should be revised to promote transparency, accountability, and merit-based advancement within governmental institutions, educational systems, and community organizations. Through these combined efforts, we can remove structural impediments and promote equal opportunities for all, building a more equitable and inclusive society where every individual has the chance to thrive.

As we reflect on the journey ahead, it becomes evident that the transformation of deeply entrenched societal norms demands not only steadfast commitment but also a generous measure of patience. While the proposed solutions provide a roadmap for progress, reshaping these ingrained ideologies cannot be achieved overnight. It necessitates a sustained and collective effort from all members of society, with the youth assuming a pivotal role as torchbearers of change.

In the face of challenges and setbacks, maintaining unwavering dedication becomes paramount. Embracing this journey with resilience and optimism, every small step forward, no matter how seemingly insignificant, contributes to the larger goal of forging a more inclusive and empowering society.

In a region where the “Yallabai” mentality often hinders youth empowerment, embracing solidarity and teamwork becomes even more crucial. By standing united and rallying around shared aspirations, the youth of Northern Nigeria can harness their collective potential to usher in a brighter and more prosperous future for themselves and generations to come. While each youth may possess unique talents and ambitions, it is through collective effort and mutual support that we can truly effect substantial change in our communities. Drawing inspiration from the timeless wisdom of Helen Keller, let us recognize the transformative power of collective action: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”


Nabila wrote from Abuja


Source link: Daily Trust/

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