Work has been described as a means of giving one’s life purpose, direction, order and dignity. It also helps to support oneself but when a high percentage of the nation’s youth are unemployed due to government’s lack of ingenuity-what happens? The results of these are youth restiveness, crime, violence, e.t.c. The rate of unemployment in Nigeria is on the increase with the disappearance of jobs in the public service, the churning out of an estimated 120,000 graduates annually by Nigerian Universities and Polytechnics, lack of industrialization e.t.c. Many youths have taken to robbery, extortion of money from people and so on.
Our political leaders do not have a national sense of urgency to a problem which the Sultan of Sokoto calls a time bomb waiting to explode. Though the issue of unemployment in not peculiar to Nigeria alone. It is a universal problem but the Nigerian government has not taken the necessary steps to arrest this situation rather, it has remained silent.
One would have expected that the privatization program under the immediate past president, Olusegun Obasanjo was aimed at providing employment for the jobless youths of this country but the program has failed in this regard.
Some people have said that the graduates that are churned out by Nigerian Universities and polytechnics have unemployable skills but could this be true? And if this assertion is correct, could the graduates be blamed for the lack of employable skills? Everyone knows that the standard of education in Nigeria has drastically fallen besides most educational institutions in the country have not tailored their programs to meet the demand of the workforce. This makes their products ill-prepared for the labour market. Most companies have to train fresh university and polytechnic graduates in order to acquire the skills necessary to perform their roles.
Another terrifying issue is how thousands of graduates roam the streets for so many years in search of jobs. The lucky ones who eventually get an offer after about five years of graduation would most likely have forgotten the little skill they were able to acquire while in school and unless they become trained, such graduates would not function effectively on their jobs.
Former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in a reaction to the different calls, appeal and demand by concerned Nigerians for the scrapping of the NYSC program said that “in the face of high level graduate unemployment, the NYSC offered a stop-gap measure against joblessness.” This statement may be true to some extent but the fact still remains that these youth corpers join the league of unemployed youths after the mandatory one-year National service except for a few number of them who becomes retained by the organizations they were posted to work.
Apart from the unemployed graduates, other cadre such as the secondary school drop-outs and school leavers as well as the ‘agberos’ also make-up the unemployed youths in Nigeria. Vocational training centres which were meant to cater for this set of youths are not in existence. Also, skill acquisition programmes which could empower graduates and non-graduates alike are hardly developed by governments. These youth centres and programmes, if functional, would afford the teeming population of unemployed youths in Nigeria the opportunity of acquiring sellable skills thereby making them productive. This will in turn reduce violence and crime among others.
The absence of such youth empowerment programme across the federation has led to an increase in the number of miscreants/street urchins who indulge in crime, violence e.t.c. The procurement of commercial three-wheeler vehicles and the promotion of ‘okada’ riding by the past administration is not a solution to the issue of unemployment in Nigeria. They have become a nightmare rather than a solution. What government needs to do is create new jobs and provide welfare programmes for the young teenage mothers, unemployed and underemployed youths. Our resources are enough to be widening spread among the citizens of the country.
According to Senator Arthur Nzeribe, “huge incomes accruing to the nation are consumed at the top by politicians” but these monies can be used to provide welfare programmes for the unemployed youths of the country while government create new jobs. It can also leverage low income earners most of whom their jobs don’t pay enough to support their families. Government at all levels cannot afford to be passive about this issue, they must act as a matter of urgency to arrest the situation if a society free of incessant crime and violence is what we crave.
Bolaji Aregbesola contributes from Nigeria.