A UNITED Nations estimate in June 2013 put the total population of Nigeria at 174 million. Of this, the number of those in the youthful age bracket is put at 68 million with a staggering 41.5 million unemployed and 4.5 million entering the job market annually.
The older generations believe they’ve played their parts. After years of working with the government and going into retirement, some feel satisfied and even expect their children to carry on with the same age-old myopic tradition. But then, even government jobs are now very hard to come by without the necessary connections. The most important consideration for the few vacancies declared now is who the applicant’s godfather is rather than the skills, competence, experience or qualifications.
The unemployment situation is becoming so chronic that excuses are being made for it like saying that graduates of Nigerian tertiary institutions are unemployable or just a “bunch of lazy bones”.
It must, however, be clear from the statistics above that it is a fallacy of hasty conclusion to say 41.5 million unemployed graduates are unemployable. And here are some few questions we should ponder on:
Why is it that most Nigerian graduates we refer to as failures, those that graduated with third class or pass travel to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, etc, and still come out amongst the best?
It is also easy for those who graduated when employment was readily available for graduates to now preach the gospel of self-employment. Many of those who retire from employment did not venture into entrepreneurship despite the experience gathered over 35 years of formal employment. So, how easy is it for fresh graduates without formal training and financing to become self-employed?
From the statistical jargons above, it all boils down to the fact that Nigeria has a pretty huge amount of human capital lying fallow. This is a huge asset that most developed countries would have been too glad to put to profitable use. It is also a reason why we hear of young Nigerians being baited with visa lotteries from advanced economies, thus our graduates, Masters and PHD holders are being lured away, leaving us with the unhealthy, the dull, the weak, the old, the unintelligent, the criminals, etc.
It’s like sieving and leaving the shaft. The best of our human resources are busy building the White men’s world. We keep losing a very significant amount of our human resources because we are not using them productively. And these all boils down to the fact that the role of the Nigerian graduates in a sustainable economy cannot be over emphasized considering the strength in our numbers.
For sustainable economic growth and development, an acceptable working measure has been defined as indicator by the United Nations Development programme, UNDP, called Human Development Index, HDI. HDI is a composite index of human development measuring the average achievements of a country in some basic dimensions. The most important of the indices is knowledge as measured by adult literacy level. Nigeria is ranked very low in literacy ratio alongside countries like China, Ethiopia, Egypt, Mozambique, and Pakistan, to mention a few. They are all rated less than 0.5 and those with the highest HDI are in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, etc, with a correlation index of 0.964.
Ironically, these countries have very HDI, yet we unwittingly release the little we have to them, basically because they know how productive our people can be.
Potentials as Nigerian graduates are huge and shouldn’t be left alone in the cold like motherless children. They should be used for development and must be engaged productively.
Have we bothered to ask why it’s easier to win a visa lottery as a medical doctor or as a master’s degree holder or a first class graduate? Although part of the function of government is to provide basic needs for its citizen, Nigerian youths understand that government cannot provide jobs for all. Nonetheless, providing enabling environment would go a long way in addressing this issue. Nigerian graduates and youth in general are capable of anything.
Imagine a scenario whereby a terrorist attack is carried out by some first class unemployed graduates. Premeditated murder, homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, etc, would be done perfectly with little or no trace, especially in a society where security agents are recruited based on their height, who they know, number of push-ups or press ups they are able to do, the morphology of the feet not based on how intelligent they are!
However, the energy the youths put into carrying out these crimes and various negative endeavours can be channeled into productive activities. This cannot be done alone. Nigerian youths need enabling environment, land, capital and machinery.
These are not too much to ask are they?
Mr. Oluwaseun Ola, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.