By Fr Bitrus Galadima, OSA
- Who is a youth?
- What is yahoo culture?
- What is the problem with Yahoo culture?
- What is the Role of the Family and Faith in Tackling the Problem?
WHO IS A YOUTH? Youth is generally defined in dictionaries as “the period between childhood and adulthood” or between adolescence and manhood or womanhood”. Although there is no universally agreed definition of the youth age group, the United Nations defines “youth” as those between the ages of 15 and 24 years, which is more or less the age bracket of children who are between senior high school and college/university. Their population is estimated to be 1.2 billion, accounting for 16% of the global population and is expected to grow by 7% by the year 2030.
In Nigeria, the number is even higher, as youths between 15-24 are estimated to be 19% in 2020, and 0-14 years are estimated to be 43%, thus making those below 25 years to constitute about 62% of our population, a bit higher than the estimated 60% in the African continent.
It is also estimated that about 11 million young people join the labour market each year in the continent while only about 3.7 million jobs are created annually, leaving over 8 million youths jobless annually. As you add 8 million jobless youths yearly, you can see how scaring the numbers get as years pass by: 16 million in 2 yrs; 32 million in 4 years etc.
This is the larger context of the Yahoo culture and any other criminal culture we are experiencing in the continent.
WHAT IS YAHOO CULTURE? One Omosule Abimbola Lawrence, in his May 13, 2017 upload on Nairaland.com, defines the Yahoo culture, popularly called Yahoo Yahoo, as simply referring to criminal activity of indulging in advance fee fraud schemes or involvement in internet crime. Today, they also talk about Yahoo plus, Yahoo extra or Oracle plus, which is basically a merger of traditional internet fraud and voodoo or charm, to hypnotize victims.
THE PROBLEM WITH YAHOO CULTURE: According to Lawrence, the yahoo boys enjoy status of big boys in the society and are socially recognized among their friends… [and others], due to their flamboyant life style.” He further noted that the internet fraudsters are mostly youths between the ages of 18-35, which is basically the age of early adult life and the age of maximum creativity in the direction of either good or bad.
If you check other crimes such as banditry, kidnapping, militancy, terrorism etc., which are making life impossible in our country today, the foot-soldiers are also mostly around this age bracket. What that simply shows is that the youths are walking fast but in a wrong direction; they are very much engaged but in wrong enterprises. As it is often said, where there is no real information, rumour or wrong information thrives. We can similarly say, where there are no real or right jobs, wrong jobs thrive; where there are no good roads, the only alternative is to travel on bad roads but people have to travel.
As I was preparing for this discussion, I came upon the response of a youth to Lawrence, as he became preachy about the yahoo problem. This was the response of the Youth and I think it is very instructive to hear what youths think and their defense as they get involved in these crimes. He wrote:
“Yahoo-Yahoo will not stop until government does the needful. Those ruling us are scammers as well. Older generations are thieves. Imagine the billions we hear every day, so youths should die of starvation, right? Many guys are using proceeds from yahoo to feed their families. Imagine your parents are pensioners and they are owed seven months each, who do you turn to for money all the time? Make your money and diversify into other profitable businesses.
What this guy is essentially saying is that, youths see our politicians as the yahoo-yahoo club of the older generation, scamming from the younger generation. So, it is clearly a larger societal problem where they youths feel that their present and future is being criminally stolen by the political class which is composed essentially of the older generation.
Another perspective to view this problem, in my view, is from the perspective of the disappearance of the middle class. We have a growing number of very rich people and a simultaneous growing number of very poor people. What you have in this case is that you are either criminally rich or you are living in a criminalizing poverty. That middle ground where virtue lies, where nobody is stupidly rich and nobody is so poor as to have to resort to crime, continues to shrink.
Most of our parents who got a decent education and started life pretty decently, know that the structure of the society in which they lived did not just allow you to become rich overnight but it didn’t live you without hope. Not many people drove the most expensive cars or owned private jets, yet a graduate was not left stranded; he could get some reasonable loan to get himself a reasonable car; he could get a low-cost, well-furnished house and start his life, accumulating wealth only as a matter of hard work and smart choices over time.
And there were no so many prosperity preachers. This is where the Church may be also part of the problem. Churches were basically the custodians of ethical and moral values, on the one hand, and Churches made investments in socially enabling projects such as hospitals and schools and were basically people’s second home, on the other hand. Thus, Pastors were not known to be the richest human beings around; they did not own big cars and private jets, even though a lot of them came from already developed countries. They didn’t flaunt their privilege before their poor and struggling congregations; rather, they used such missionary aides to invest in educational, health and social facilities, and to borrow the metaphor of Pope Francis, pastors smelled like their sheep.
Today, in a very poor community, with no light or school or water, where probably the most privileged of the villagers drive motor bikes, the parish priest or pastor is driving an exotic car or lives in a mansion that makes him so unlike his community. If he drives such a big car or lives in such a mansion in Abuja or Onitsha or Portharcourt or Lagos, it may be understandable because he may look like one the people in his community but he would certainly look odd and extravagant in my village. Our politicians also live similarly, so unlike the people who live in the communities they represent. This may not be the whole of the problem, but it is certainly part of it.
THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY AND FAITH COMMUNITIES: The Family, being the cradle of life, is the basic unit of society and as such the most influential institution for any kind of human formation: social, economic, spiritual, ethical, moral, etc. Thus, the family and faith communities (Churches), being custodians of spiritual, ethical and moral values, can collaborate and be very instrumental in addressing this problem of youth crimes in general, and the Yahoo culture we are addressing in particular today.
For us in the Catholic Church, the family and the Church have always been seen as great allies. In fact, the family setting was the first social setting of the early Church. Prior to the famous edict of Milan in 313 between the emperors Constantine I and Licinius, which permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman empire, early Christians gathered and worshipped in houses of members, which Church historians refer to as “Domus Ecclesiae”, literally meaning, “The house of assembly”, effectively meaning “The House Church.”
What that means is that the family and the Church have been from the very beginning intimate collaborators. Therefore, just as families constitute our Churches or Parishes, the Church must live constantly conscious of its nature as constituted by families and of its origin as a family assembly, “Domus Ecclesiae”. In fact, the meaning of Parish is the Greek expression, “para oikia”, “para” being a preposition meaning “around” and “oikia” being the plural of “oikos” which means “house”. The parish is therefore, “the houses or families around”.
Families and Faith communities must see themselves as partners in raising children and youths with values of right conduct, right ends and right means, hence, the catechesis of young adults and adults which I proposed in our last conversation, remains a crucial issue the Church must find a place for. Alongside being an occasion for imparting the knowledge of the content of the faith and providing answers to rational doubts and questions regarding the faith, the forum can be an occasion to provide practical guidelines for our young people on creating legitimate wealth.
In concrete terms, poor parents must desist from pressurizing their children to be rich before 40 and rich parents must learn not to hand their children huge amounts of money to throw on the faces of their struggling and hardworking contemporaries, but to train them on how to productively earn their living and see them grow and really earn their wealth, thus inculcating a culture and mindset that legitimate wealth comes with years of consistent hard work and smart investment.
To be fair to the Catholic Church, we remain one of the few Churches that still emphasize right conduct, right means to a right end. But we need to go a little bit more in creating institutions where people can legitimately work hard and experience firsthand the truth value of the axiom that hard work pays. We can create a model for the rest of society. We have the capacity to have hospitals, banks, universities where these things can be seen in practice, and not just content ourselves with being critics of governments and politicians. After all, the Catholic Church gave Europe its first universities and thus, formed the basic culture of Europe where despite their secularization; still operate on the basis of those core values of hard work, honesty, right means to a right end. Nobody thinks he can easily be a billionaire in his 30s in Europe. But he knows that if he works hard, he can live reasonably well and only with time accumulate some reasonable amount of wealth that may be helpful in giving his children an easier start but will not insulate them from the need to work hard and smart.