By Peter Osalor
Even so, well over 40 million Nigerians continue to be jobless despite the recently announced figure of 29%. Unemployment, however, is only one of many reasons behind youth unrest across the country and in the Delta region in particular. Others include:
â€œLack of economic support activities and training programmes.
â€œMarginal youth participation in community decision making.
â€œAdministrative failure, official negligence and corruption.
â€œInsufficient humanitarian and social welfare initiatives.
â€œHigh cost of living and failure to meet basic needs.
â€œLack of education, socio-political empowerment and self esteem.
â€œDrug abuse and violence; inadequate recreational facilities.
â€œProblems of good governance in the Niger Delta
â€œOver exposure to negative western cultures
â€œOver exposure to the culture of greed
â€œEthnicity and lack of National consciousness
Over the past decade, militants have abducted hundreds of foreign workers employed in the Niger Delta, forcing oil, telecom and construction companies to declare force majeure on multiple ongoing contracts and withdraw non-essential staff from vital installations. The security situation growing out of area is now a major deterrent to new investment, and not just in the oil sector or in the Delta.
The larger repercussion of the Delta crisis has been on Abujaâ€™s efforts to achieve rapid and sustainable development through enterprise revolution. Clearly, that effort faces its biggest challenge in the escalating petro-violence.
Past initiatives in this regard, like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), could only accomplish limited success in the areas of youth development and conflict resolution, largely due to bureaucratic inefficiency, inconsistent policies and the absence of regulatory frameworks. Because of its complex geopolitical and economic history, youth empowerment in Nigeria demands a holistic approach focussed on certain key issues:
â€œOverhaul of the education system with specific emphasis on skills development and vocational training.
â€œProvision of meaningful employment and occupational avenues that are consistent with local realities.
â€œAdministrative reforms that focus on transparency and accountability in youth policy implementation.
â€œRehabilitation programmes that successfully wean away militants from violence and into economically productive endeavours.
â€œInstilling attitudes of national pride among the youth through creatively designed outreach programmes.
â€œPromoting extensive youth entrepreneurship by means of financial concessions, technical assistance and grants-in-aid.
â€œSafety-net social policies that persuade the coming generation of Nigerian youth away from crime and violence.
â€œIn the contest of Nigeriaâ€™s troubled past, maintaining political stability and authority of democratic institutions are critical to the success of any worthwhile youth revival initiative
â€œEffective poverty alleviation programmes that focus on enterprise development as a viable means to legitimate prosperity. Mobilization of the youth workforce to promote rapid entrepreneurial development in rural and urban areas alike.
â€œImprovement in per capita income, standard of living and related human development indices through implementation of informed social and economic policy changes
Much as entrepreneurial development is central to the theme of national revival, so is peace in the Niger Delta region. President Yaraduaâ€™s amnesty offer in fact expressly cites that many Niger Delta militants are â€œable-bodied youths whose energies could be harnessed for the development of the nation at large.â€
To develop a nation of entrepreneurs, there must be a multi-sectoral, multi-level and multi-phase undertaking that begins with a collective resolve to get out of the old mould of doing things. We need passionate promoters of the entrepreneurial spirit that can inspire an entrepreneurial revolution in Nigeria and even Africa in totality. Hence, a radical and coordinated attempt to accelerate wealth creation through the promotion of innovative business practices. This acknowledgement is a standing testament of the fact that Nigeriaâ€™s long-term goals are unachievable without the whole-hearted participation of its sizeable youth population, even those who insist on holding on to their guns for now!