By Innocent Alikali
MR PRESIDENT, THESE FRUITS ARE LOW-HANGING, PLEASE PLUCK FOR US
I rejoice with you on your return for a second term as President, Federal Republic of Nigeria. Like many compatriots, this joy is laden with very high expectations.
The worsening conditions of Nigerians in the last four years calls for an aggressive approach to governance and poverty eradication considering that the greater part of your constitutionally allowed two terms has been spent with poverty ravaging even more intensely.
Let it be stated, and very quickly too, that when youth unemployment situation is reported to have worsened under your watch and Nigeria assuming the unenviable status of the world’s poverty capital, it does not imply a void of programmes towards halting and reversing the ugly trend.
While it affirms the battered economy and high poverty level in the country at your assumption of office, it also suggests that the approach of government over the last four years in addressing the situation is far from being adequate and certainly not the “magic wand” promised through the CHANGE mantra of your party.
An air of despondency blew, and still blowing across the country when rather than hitting the ground running, your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), forayed into buck-passing, narrating to Nigerians the unpalatable stories they know very well and without which there wouldn’t have been a need for change at all.
The much cop-out by your party especially from information ministry particularly conspired to deny you, in your first term, the audacious approach of tackling youth unemployment in a manner that should make you, your administration, and Nigeria a global reference in addressing the world’s biggest concern – youth unemployment.
Your Excellency, that Nigerians still voted for you en masse and return you for a second term despite the many promises not fulfilled is a rare privilege and a golden opportunity to exceed expectations via innovative approaches for an immediate solution to the high rate of youth unemployment, hence poverty eradication, national peace and prosperity.
A dire situation calls for a daring solution. But to start at all there must be a good understanding of the situation.
Your Excellency, in your remarks at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Westminster, United Kingdom, Wednesday the 18th of April 2018, you had said of Nigerian youths, “More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil-producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free.”
Your Excellency Sir, it is my sincere belief that between then and now your perception has changed of an average youth in Nigeria. This is because there can be no bigger obstacle to a genuine effort towards addressing the dire situation of youth unemployment in Nigeria today than a negative perception of the youths and a wrong understanding of the situation at the most important quarters.
This perception only compounds the frustration of the youths whose generation has been denied by yours of all that the country offered your generation as youths. Your Excellency Sir, Nigeria gave you and members of your generation free and globally competitive education to the highest level, but your generation bequeath to the present generation carcasses of the old form that cannot feature close to the best 300 in the world.
Whereas members of your generation suffered no single day of unemployment after school since job offers were made to them even as undergraduates, the present youths roam the streets many years after graduation without hope.
Your Excellency Sir, the least my generation expect from yours and luckily under your leadership is an undiluted commitment to writing the wrongs. Surely there is no better way of doing so than complete devotion to tackling unemployment squarely while you are President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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You will agree that immense potentials abound amongst Nigerian youths which can be harvested by giving necessary support to every entrepreneurial initiative by the youths thereby stimulating more such self-employment drive towards turning job seekers into creators of jobs as a way of solving the unemployment problem like magic.
Your Excellency Sir, let us look at how to achieve this. First is to declare youth unemployment as an emergency and admit that solving it is beyond the resources of government at the centre.
Any effort short of this which should make Nigerians of all walks of life rally support against the common enemy of youth unemployment amounts only to a romanticizing of the ugly situation.
Certainly, no country of the world had succeeded in tackling youth unemployment, its attendant poverty and social issues of the magnitude we have by its government alone but by deliberate mobilization of support by the leadership from all and sundry.
It is the lack of this leadership initiative of galvanizing necessary support and contributions from Nigerians in their individual capacities, as corporate organizations like churches, the Muslim Ummah, the diaspora Nigerian communities and others that is solely responsible for the description of Nigeria as a country that suffers poverty amidst plenty.
This is because the world recognises that Nigeria’s enormous wealth is not just in her rich hydrocarbon and solid mineral resources or her vast and verdant landmass, but in her endowment of rich cultural benevolence by which communities have contributed money to offer a scholarship to some of their own, paid medical bills for sick members, put a roof over the heads of members in need and even extended their kindness beyond the country’s shores in providing food and freedom to countries in distress.
Your Excellency Sir, this beckoning and indeed, enviable disposition of Nigerians to the common good and the immense resources that abound with them as individual well-meaning citizens, their religious organizations and their communities in the diaspora holds the solution to youth unemployment in Nigeria.
Mr President Sir, the youths and Nigerians in general expressed a firm belief in your capacity to reach to this solution and very quickly too when they voted en masse for you in the last elections.
Let us consider the opportunities each in brief:
- The Churches
Churches in Nigeria like other parts of the world are congregations of followers of Jesus Christ, doing as Jesus did while on earth. It is for this reason they are called Christians in the first place.
With the biblical command to love one’s neighbour as oneself being the summary of Christian doctrine, Christians both as individuals or groups in churches are under divine mandate to meeting first, the physical needs of food, clothing, shelter, and then the spiritual needs.
Your Excellency, there is enormous wealth among churches in Nigeria as evident in both physical and social developmental strides they undertake.
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Beyond the multi-billion naira magnificent edifices they build as places of worship across cities in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, Nigerian churches and their leadership commit to meeting a myriad of social and economic needs of Nigerians in a manner that shows huge potential to do much more, if Mr President will catch on this disposition for a massive pool of resources and expertise towards the desired goal of addressing poverty and unemployment.
Mr President Sir, like you did in your wisdom by commissioning your second-in-command, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to deliver results with Trade moni, this is another apt reason to do the same. As a pastor himself, let him take your message on the urgent need to decisively address youth unemployment in Nigeria to the leadership of churches with a charge to joining forces for tackling the problem squarely. Mr President, I insist, there is so much wealth in the churches that can be deployed for this purpose if you’ll reach out for it.
The Muslim Ummah
Your Excellency, there is enormous wealth within the ranks of Muslim Ummah that makes one wonder why we have this level of poverty in Nigeria today.
A fair sum is always given out as Zakat by many faithful, but which are rarely used by beneficiaries for creating means of livelihood because of hard-biting needs.
In a paper titled, “Islamic Strategies of Poverty Alleviation: A Neglected Dimension of Development in Nigeria,” presented by one Dr. Ahmad Maigari Dutsinma et al, he stated that the non-implementation of Islamic strategy of poverty alleviation via the institution of Zakat and Awqaf in Nigeria is largely responsible for the high level of unemployment and acute poverty in Nigeria.
Dr Dutsinma maintained that “Islamic institutions like Zakat and Awqaf are very important economical tools that if utilised well, would definitely not only eradicate poverty but reduce government spending towards improved socio-economic development in the country.
Your Excellency Sir, that you’re a devout Muslim with a thorough understanding of Zakat offers desired consolation that in this emergency situation of high youth unemployment, you’ll herald a new level of Zakat that makes for direct engagement of youths in productive ventures. I see this happening with ease and enthusiasm given the positive dispositions of Muslim Ummah in Nigeria to the compelling injunction of Allah on Zakat.
Mr President Sir, the rallying of Muslim Ummah and Nigerians generally for this noble cause is only waiting for you to make happen with the urgency that you know better.
Individual Patriots and Corporate Organisations
The emergency status of youth unemployment in the country necessitates the calling on Nigerians of all walks of life, putting aside political sentiments and other diversionary inclinations to rally support for the needed solution. Nigerians who have a lot to contribute towards addressing this ugly situation earnestly desire appropriate leadership initiative that will explore their patriotic disposition for bringing solution to the problem and its attendant social nightmare.
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A vista of opportunity for galvanizing forces for great gain was opened when a Senator admonished his fellow lawmakers to each sell four of their many luxury vehicles and recoup some money to be used in creating employment for the youths. That this the suggestion received a resounding acceptance by the lawmakers indicates that with needed inspiration from you Mr. President, much resources can be mobilized from the people’s Representatives – the lawmakers – at state and national level.
Moreover, with a little inclination to selfless and people-oriented leadership, your Excellency, members of your cabinet as well as state governors and their team members can, at this trying times, consider no personal sacrifice too big to be made especially in relinquishing a little of their comfort for job creation towards our collective aspiration of a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria free of youth restiveness, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, and the myriads of social concerns that give Nigeria a bad image abroad.
Mr President Sir, it was your deep concern and passionate desire to provide jobs and prosperity to the poor and the huge unemployed youth population that informed your decision to take only 50% of your remuneration as announced to Nigerians shortly after your assumption of office in 2015. According to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his address at the public presentation of a book titled: “Making Steady, Sustainable Progress for Nigeria’s Peace and Prosperity” in Abuja, you had said of yourself and your Team that “since the government provides accommodation, food, and transportation for us, we don’t need a full salary.”
The Vice President also admitted that your rare frugality, integrity and a leadership style that is people-centred made him to follow suit in relinquishing 50% of his remuneration.
Your Excellency Sir, imagine your cabinet members following your steps and doing the same, state governors emulating your worthy example fully or in part by just devoting their security votes to direct employment generation, youth unemployment in Nigeria will be gone in less than 12months. If it is true that poverty and the high rate of youth unemployment are the root causes of insecurity in Nigeria, then the so-called security votes can only be more appropriately renamed as “youth employment votes.” This is a desideratum to a genuine effort against youth unemployment, poverty and indeed, insecurity in Nigeria.
The diaspora Nigerian Communities
A particularly huge resource base with immense potential for massive job creation is the communities of Nigerians leaving in the diaspora. With an estimated $25billion (the equivalent of Nigeria’s national annual budget) remittances in 2018 alone, Nigerians in the diaspora offer hope of immediate solution to youth unemployment in Nigeria via a deployment both of their cash and skills.
Your Excellency, this will happen if you leverage on their patriotic disposition for addressing this hydra-headed problem of youth unemployment.
Your Excellency, you will agree that there is no better way to quench the raging fire of corruption in Nigeria than to focus on the removal of fuel (poverty and unemployment).
Your administration’s anti-corruption crusade will achieve its desired results only if youth unemployment is reduced to the barest. We have had beautiful programs and policies (including those used in the last four years) of government aimed at addressing youth unemployment but which, by their failure, raised suspicion of a dubious political conspiracy of keeping Nigerians especially the youths poor and unemployed for perpetual political exploitation.
Your Excellency, whereas no reason exists to doubt your avowed commitment to tackling youth unemployment in the country, only the extent to which you explore the foregoing opportunities within the short time left of your administration in addressing the bad situation can make a difference. Call it a revolution and you’ll be correct.
A revolution that guarantees the next level where and when a high rate of youth unemployment, its attendant poverty, social misery and insecurity in Nigeria will be no more. It is the kind of revolution Nigerians desire. Mr President Sir, surely all the support you require from Nigerians to take our dear country to this level by removing her biggest albatross – youth unemployment – are as low hanging fruits. Please reach to them and pluck for us.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA.
Long Live Mr President.
Long Live The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Innocent Idoko Alikali
New Dawn Youth Initiative
Email: [email protected] 08034544770