The Power of Questions

I was at an International Youth day Forum recently, and the Publicity and outreach coordinator of Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) made a comment about youths in Akwa Ibom not asking questions. This got me thinking about why we as Nigerians do not ask questions about important issues that concern us. Recently the government selected 1000 youths to train on ORACLE certification. Some questions about this were raised. How were the 1000 selected, many people did not hear about this. But nobody is asking the government these questions.

We need to ask more questions to get the answers. If you don’t ask, they will not tell. We need to be the sparks for challenging, inspiring, engaging talk, willing to ask the hard and important questions and to provide honest and authentic answers.

We need to stop conversations that divide us from each other and create conflict in the society. Instead we need to use conversations to rediscover and redefine our common good especially as it relates to youth issues. “Words create worlds” and we need to use our conversations to build a better future for us. 

Thinking on these, reminds me of a conversation I had some years ago in the United Kingdom with a fellow PhD researcher who was researching digital literacy among young people in Africa. She is from the Netherlands, she asked me a question. She said “why do Africans not ask questions or explore issues” Because when she had interviews with some young people from here, they were giving YES or NO answers, they need not go further or even ask questions, they did not even ask her why she was asking these questions.

My answer was that we have been socialized from children not to speak until we are spoken to. I told her about an incident when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was in the car with my parents and they were talking about Tampax and they seemed to be very perplexed and excited about this thing called Tampax, so I asked, Mummy what is Tampax? The way they shouted at me to shut up, you would have thought I just abused them. That is how we all grew up. Children don’t ask stupid questions even when these questions would give you the answers that can help you as you grow up.

This affects every area of our lives. I remember when an in-law took her son to the hospital because he was very ill. He was asthmatic, so I went to visit and the doctor was giving him all kinds of drugs and IV medications, so I asked her what he was giving him. She said she did not know, so I said “have you asked the doctor” and she looked at me like how can you question the doctor. She said “he is a doctor, he knows what he is doing” I was shocked that someone would entrust their children’s life into the hands of a doctor without asking questions. It continues to amaze me how people go through life without asking questions.

I have always been inquisitive and my mother used to say I ask too many questions. But even I was shocked when I went to start post graduate studies in the UK after a first degree in a Nigerian university. The first class I attended, the students were questioning the lecturer and even disagreeing with some of the points the lecturer had raised. They were presenting their own point of view from real world experiences. I was shocked and thought to myself how these people can interrogate the lecturer like this. I was coming from an educational system where the lecturer is like God, anything he says is Yeah and Amen. But low and behold, the lecturer was not upset; in fact he was excited that the students were engaging with him.

So we have been socialized not to question things but to accept whatever we are given. This has so affected us that regarding governance we don’t ask questions. I believe that asking questions start conversions on important issues. I believe in the power of conversations. When people talk about what really matters to them, we can shape who we want to be and what we create in the world. But, we’ve lost faith in the power of what conversation can do for us, so we don’t ask questions.

YAF thinks it is time to start asking the important questions especially regarding youth development. What are the plans that Government has for building a sustainable future for the youths?

YAF is starting a Radio Program on Planet FM, every Tuesday at 3pm, called Youth HQ. Youth HQ is a public space for conversations. Let’s ask the important questions on issues that affect us.

If the Governor was listening to you what questions would you ask him? Post your questions here, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Youth Matters Mr Aniefiok Iwa-Udofia has assured us, he will answer all questions as it relates to Youths. He is friendly and approachable.

Let’s start these conversations now.

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