It is amazing when a gospel you have preached for years stares you in the face. In historical times, that could be seen as God confirming a vision. Wolfing down pasta in the relative coolness of an air-conditioned restaurant across the street from the Vatican as temperatures outside climbed to near 40 degrees Celsius and television screens brought the agony of those in the countryside losing their homes to fires sparked by climate change and its fall out, I could feel a vision being confirmed.
Many years ago, I had seen climate change as both a threat and opportunity as it could enable a thinking leadership to make recruiting our youth bulge into a green army to save a planet imperiled with funding of the many new jobs and skilling up coming from those with huge carbon footprints, in the horizon. Even more importantly for me, it gives the Obi-dient youth of Nigeria a chance to test what President John F. Kennedy urged of the youth of America by suggesting that they ask not what their country can do for them but what they can do for their country.
Climate change is devastating the planet. Across Europe, including the city of London, fires brought misery and those jumping into pools of water for relief were drowning. Our depleting forests in the south and the advance of the Sahara Desert southwards have been eating away at the planet’s fight back options. Handing those who generate the bulk of the emissions stripping away the ozone layer, a bill deployed to put the youth to work increasing forest stock in the South and stopping the Sahara with tree planting, could be a path to massively reducing unemployment with a decent wage.
In my previous comments on this strategy I have suggested that the youth hired into this green army spend first half of their working day greening up the environment and the second half acquiring practical skills they can deploy in a drive up of manufacturing anchored on new industrial policy focused on the country’s factor endowments in which value is added locally and we seek to be competitive on the value chains we can seek to be dominant players even into global markets.
August is Africa’s climate month and a few weeks later the world will descend on Egypt for COPE 27.
The time to show that a proactive generation is out to take back their country could be a series of proactive moves that could use some themes in climate change to mobilise each other in volunteer initiatives to clean up and green up the environment.
Such moves would, besides the obvious immediate and direct health and well- being benefits prepare the grounds for policy paths for a transformation agenda that will have salutary effect on the economy and the shift from sharing of revenues to production, as it moves culture from taking to giving. This will practically serve the change that Peter Obi is advocating.
I have already proposed that the Centre for Values in Leadership collaborate with initiatives to facilitate this.
The youth of Nigeria ought to position themselves to take advantage of these coming together of patterns to announce the great brave new future they want to capture. This is why watching the patterns shape up here in Rome sketching the World’s environmental troubles about which Pope Francis wrote that remarkable Encyclical letter, Laudato Si.
This is the youth awakening in Nigeria that I have worked and prayed for these last 30 years taking off in the Obi-dient movement; and the desperate yearning of Nigerians old and young for a new way forward that is fundamentally different from this present darkness, apologies to Stephen Ellis, I can say of Nigeria, this house has not fallen. There are enough Nehemiahs to rebuild the walls but it is possible to say to Karl Meier “This House will not fall,” it is not yet midnight in Nigeria and high noon is straight ahead.
Patrick Okedinachi Utomi
•Utomi is Convener of The Big Tent of the Third Force