"I was recently moved to tears when I read the accounts of some highly educated but jobless youths in a national newspaper. One of them, who graduated in year 2000 with a degree in Computer Science said, “When I look at my life, I pity myself. I had no idea I would ever be in this situation while in school. All my efforts to get a job have not materialised.” Another one, aged 33, said, “It is a shame that a country like Nigeria cannot get jobs for its citizens. After eight years of ceaseless search for a job, no one (not even God) can blame me for giving up... Look at me with my qualifications and willingness to work but unable to get a job. Of what use is my degree then? This is the biggest shame I have borne for years.”
"Yet another one, a 2002 Civil Engineering graduate, said, “There is no trick, no method nor strategy I have not applied to get a job. I have volunteered for many organisations. I have submitted thousands of applications online and through physical contacts. I have attended occasions where CEOs meet. I have been to job exhibitions in many states. I have been to agencies and job recruitment firms. My brother, I don’t know what else to do.”
"There are millions of idle young persons in our country roaming the streets daily in search of non-existent jobs. Many have become frustrated and angry with a society that has failed to care or give economic space for self- expression. Many have been recruited into criminal gangs where they have employed their training and skills negatively against the society. The scourge of unemployment has created an insecure society that is becoming increasingly dangerous to live in.
"In their search for jobs, many have been fleeced by dubious recruitment firms and employment agencies that have mushroomed in an environment where regulation is lax or absent. Through legal and illegal migration, many have voted with their feet. There are those who have joined the international drug syndicates as petty couriers. Many young women have gone into open or disguised prostitution at home and abroad. Crime has become sophisticated because learning that should have been used to build the society is being used by the idle youth to destroy it.
"It must be a cruel nation that frustrates and alienates its young ones from the economy thus exposing them to dehumanising and criminal activities. It is a sign of gross economic mismanagement that the nation’s security has been compromised because too many people have been excluded from the economy. In a country of 150 million, 100 million are under the age of 30. 70 million people are under 20. The unemployment level of people aged 16 and 24 is 46 per cent. A nation with such a frightening level of social exclusion can never expect to be at peace with itself.
"The ready excuse for this unacceptable scourge of unemployment even from respectable quarters is that the youths are jobless because most of them are half-baked graduates and therefore unemployable. This argument is meretricious and misses the point. We should stop insulting them. I am of the opinion that our young people are intelligent and competent and can hold their own even in more developed climes.
" I know many Nigerian graduates and school leavers who were regarded as half-baked at home but later went abroad to distinguish themselves in various fields. For many reasons, many children are more brilliant than their parents because they are now exposed to a bigger body of global knowledge which has widened the scope of various fields of study. School syllabuses are now wider for any given level of education than they were in the past.
"Even in those days when fresh graduates were recruited directly during their final year in the university, they still had to undergo induction and in-house training to meet specific job requirements of the organisations employing them. Why then do we call today’s graduates half-baked because of the pre-job training they require to perform specific tasks?
"The real trouble with the Nigerian economy is that there is an illusion of growth when the system is actually shrinking. In a parlous economy such as ours, to be highly qualified, competent and skilled is not a guarantee for employment. When the two major tyre manufacturers, Michelin and Dunlop, shut down their factories few years ago, many skilled and competent people lost their jobs. Competent textile workers were thrown into the labour market when the industry collapsed under the crushing weight of inclement business climate.
"The plain truth is that when an economy is shrinking and de-industrialising, both the skilled and the unskilled, the competent and the incompetent, are at risk of losing jobs. But when an economy is expanding, even the half-baked and unskilled find something to do to earn a living. Advanced countries provide social security pay for their unemployed citizens because it is the responsibility of government to create job opportunities for all.
"The scourge of joblessness is worsening because Nigeria with the rest of sub-Saharan Africa is at the back water of globalisation. The region’s share of global GNI fell from 2% in 1960 to 1% in 2000, even though it has 11% of world’s population. Its share of international trade dropped from 3.8% in 1970 to less than 1.5 per cent in 2000.
"The case of Nigeria is quite pathetic. The oil sector which contributes over 70% of government revenue, 90% of foreign exchange earnings and 40% of GDP only provides 1% employment. Besides, owing to a parlous real sector, the nation’s economy is import-dependent, creating jobs for the citizens of other countries.
"To begin to create jobs at home therefore, the government must nurse the introverted economy back to good health by revamping the nation’s decrepit infrastructure. Apart from the huge capital outlay required to improve power supply and transport infrastructure, necessary reforms must be deepened to lure the private sector into providing rail services and other infrastructural facilities. Above all, specific products such as rice, refined oil products, fertilizers and food must be targeted for local production.
"To create jobs at home, the nation’s real sector must gradually become globally competitive. The main task before President Jonathan and those newly elected persons is to expand economic opportunities for our teeming youths. A nation flowing with natural resources should have no business with unemployment."