As a young teenager, just fresh from secondary school, I went to work in Nigerian broadcasting and that eventually defined my life into the future. I was not alone in that sea of opportunities which Nigerian youth could literally swim in, during the 1970s and 1980s. University students and others got holiday jobs during their vacation; earned useful pocket money, but above all, experienced the world of work that was to absorb them after graduation.
That way, the chains of patriotic responsibilty to the country were forged. The harangues to nationalism and patriotic labour did not ring hollow and the legitimacy of the state was shored up by its responsiveness to the yearnings of the citizenry, but especially, its youth. Today the secnario is very different.
If an opinion poll is organised, the preponderant opinion amongst the youth would be that they want the opportunity to vote with their feet, and find climes new, where they can secure the basic decencies of existence. We have spoken severally of a Hobbesian state of existence in Nigeria today, but the situation of youth hopelessness is even more scary! Nigeria’s youth is the real timebomb waiting to explode; if it has not already done so: prostitution; drugs; alienation; craze for quick-fix wealth; crimes of all hues and a loss of belief in Nigeria and the promises it holds for their future! And believe me, Nigeria’s ruling class is not preparing a future for its young; in fact, the future is being spent in the present and wasted in manners which suggest that those who should don’t even fathom what they are ruining now and its import in the years ahead.
If anybody thinks that I am over-dramatizing the issue, please check out the statistics. Last week, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Youth and Social Development, Depo Oyedokun, told the press that Nigeria has 40 million unemployed youth; of this staggering figure, 23 million are UNEMPLOYABLE. Yet according to the Rep., “more than 50 per cent of our population comprise youth between the ages of 18 and 30 years”. It is worrisome, according to Oyedokun, that a greater majority of that population is “unskilled, unemployed, under-employed and even unemployable”! He went further that “it is a calamity…it is a disaster. To say that you are unemployable means you are a candidate for crime. It means there are 23 million people that you can draft to commit murder, rape and other crimes. It means we have an army of thugs, rapists, assasins here and there”. Honourable Oyedokun said the statistics are not precise, which means it might even be worse!
At a related level, the Federal Ministry of Youth Development also brought out a Youth Employment Action Plan, which said that between 2009 and 2011, about 13million youth will be requiring “productive employment”; while the figures also state that “Nigeria generates about 4.5million new entrants into the labour market annually”. Unfortunately, the labour market is only able to absorb ten percent of the new entrants annually. The report confessed that the employment state of the educated has worsened, with those between the ages of 15 and 24, being worst hit, followed by those between the ages of 25 and 44 years. The report blamed the growing divergence between economic growth and employment generation; poor quality education; training and skill development among some of the causative factors for the trend in unemployment.
And if anybody thought the problem will meet urgent resolution, you had better think again, because Umaru Yar’adua was reported by LEADERSHIP newspaer of Monday, October 12, 2009, as saying that the rate of unemployment would persist for a long time, as there was no solution in sight. The reason was located “within the context of the current global economic crisis”; what the president is saying is that the regime is paralysed for as long as the international capitalist system continues to be locked in crisis. And for me, this is the fundamental source of the problem which faces our country: the phoilosophic choice made to remain within the paradigms of an unproductive, neo-colonial form of capitalism, while the fundamental interests of the Nigderian people are not addressed. Nigeria’s ruling class is totally bankrupt in terms of its priorities and assumptions and that haunts every step it takes; this deficiency is very glaring in the state of youth despondency and unemployment, because there is no serious national plan to create the productive jobs which even their own document called for.
They are fixated with a so-called private-sector led economic development paradigm which does not deliver in terms of jobs, except if selling recharge cards has become the type of job that our youth should be offered as jobs by a caring country. In my view, the Nigerian state must create jobs in the public sector as well as allowing the private sector to do same. Any deluded ideological fixation with a private sector-led jobs creation mantra will only lead the country to perdition. The youth is restless because the jobs are not there and with the way things are going we will harvest an explosion of crisis into the future. Our ruling class can continue their looting binge while deluding themselves that their so-called private sector will create jobs. But police statistics also talk about gangs being led by highly educated young men who are unemployed; what is the age bracket of those who kidnap as business? Those who stand by road sides hawking sex? Who are the Yahoo boys? What is the average age of those desperately trying to run out of Nigeria? It is the youth; they have lost hope about this country and are expressing their frustration in various types of crime. Believe me, we are sitting on a very active volcano of youth despair, and when it erupts, the lava can cosume the Nigerian state!
OUR LAW MAKERS WANT TO BE ABOVE THE LAW
Last Wednesday, a Bill to grant immunity to members of the National and State Asseblies scaled through the second reading; titled “A Bill for An Act to Amend the Legislative Houses, Powers and Privileges Act, Cap L12 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and for Other Related Purposes, 2009”, when stripped of subterfuge, wants to give the legislators immunity from arrests. Bill sponsor, Henry Dickson, said “a lawmaker should not be arrested on the basis of mere allegation…(only) if the prerson is caught committing the crime. Furthermore, security agencies making arrest should do so only if the leadership of the House has been infomed. This way, according to Dickson, “the lawmakers would be adequately protected and the country’s democracy deepened”. See what you make of this absurd law by our so-called representatives. If they are not clamouring for automatic return tickets, they are asking to have immunity from prosecution, apart from the huge sums of money they pocket all the time! Nigeria’s democracy is a charade which allows these individuals to partake in the impoverishment of the nation and now they have become so deluded about their importance as to contemplate the passing of this ridiculous Bill!
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