Today happens to be the Cameroonian National Youth Day. I have been thinking about the true meaning of a youth day. For as long as I can remember, it has always been a speech from the President, and marches/parades from children across the nation. But is that really what the National Youth Day is all about? Well, for starters, I must admit that growing up, I was always really proud of marching on that day. It was as if somehow, I suddenly mattered to the country… as if, from my child’s world, I could somehow influence changes in my country: bring clean water, stop the electricity cuts, build bridges, make better roads, build airports, etc. It was as if, by marching, I had a say in the direction of my country, I was important; I mattered! 11 February was not just a day off to watch the parade on TV, it was a special day, a day dedicated to me, to my needs as a youth, to my well-being, to my inner desires, and to my potentials.
As a teenager, the thought started to thaw a little bit, was 11 February only about the President’s speech? was it just a time to cajole me as a youngster into thinking that I was important? that there was light at the end of the tunnel? that I was the future of the country, when around me, adults were feeling like the future had been beaten out of them? How was I supposed to make changes, when looking at big brothers ahead, I could only see unemployment looming in the horizon? How was I supposed to concentrate into doing well in school or achieving all these great things I was asked to, when the future looked so grim? What was the future going to look like with me in the picture?
Today, I see that it was actually necessary to acquire all this education, to read, and to focus, because in reality, even if the president’s speeches were empty words… I have the obligation, no the duty, to think of my elders: Ruben Um Nyobe, Felix Moumié, Abel Kingué, Osendé Afana (who was Cameroon’s first PhD in economics), Ernest Ouandié, and countless others who sacrificed themselves so that I could be better. Yes… it sounds so easy, but to think about it should bring fire, no, rage into our hearts. Just thinking about all the great minds we have, all this great potentials, talented musicians who influence the world (like Ekambi Brillant who produced Angélique Kidjo who is now a world star), footballers, writers (Mongo Beti), comedians, doctors, scientists, journalists (Pius Njawe), who live and die like paupers, should give extra, ten times, 100 times more fire into our hearts, and really make us realize that we are the indeed the future of our country, and nobody else will build it for us, not even 80 years-old ministers. I live you here with K’naan hymn to the youth which was sung during the 2010 FIFA World Cup: “Out of the darkness, I came the farthest, … Learn from these streets, it can be bleak. Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat. So we struggling, fighting to eat, And we wondering when we’ll be free ... we patiently wait for that fateful day… it is not far away… when I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom just like a waving flag“.