From all indication, youth unemployment is a menace in Nigeria and constitutes a real danger and a threat to Nigeria’s democracy.
IN Nigeria, democracy has been restored over a decade ago, with so much hope and expectations by the people. For instance, it is assumed that with democracy, people would be free to choose their leaders and representatives and hold them accountable for the overall objective of fast-tracking development and improving the general living condition of the masses. This expectation is not misplaced, considering that Nigeria has abundant human and natural resources in different parts of the large land mass that ranks as the largest black nation in the world, with estimated population running to 150 million.
However, the reality on ground has shown that this expectation is yet to be realised and just as the globally respected writer and novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe wrote in his scholarly booklet titled “The Trouble with Nigeria”, Nigeria’s fundamental crisis of development lies squarely with non-visionary political leadership because there is absolutely nothing wrong with our geography or climate as a country created by God. Hence, the growing sense of despondency among the masses and especially the younger population who ought to be groomed and economically empowered to become very productive and contribute significantly to Nigeria’s economic advancement. In other countries in North Africa like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya where dictators held sway for over three decades, people made up largely of restive youths have revolted against the system and in some cases have successfully removed such dictatorship to make way for the new found democracy even though in places like Tunisia and Egypt, the expectations of the revolutionary youthful populations have not been sufficiently met because some forces are attempting to hijack the outcome of the popular revolutions to install their reactionary elements to control the political process.
The major concern here therefore is given the kind of violent agitations that pervaded the above mentioned countries with relatively better living conditions than Nigeria, what is the guarantee that large army of unemployed youths will not engage in activities that would undermine the stability of democracy in Nigeria?
The problem of chronic youth unemployment is very evident in Nigeria. Every year thousands of graduates are churned out for whom there are no jobs and the relevant government agencies like the Federal Ministry of Labour/Productivity and that of youth development have spectacularly failed to formulate and implement pro-job creation policies to sufficiently galvanise the innate talents and overwhelming energy levels of these young Nigerian graduates of universities and other tertiary institutions.
We need to recall the ignominious role played by restive youth in the oil rich Niger Delta region prior to the Federal Government’s declaration of general amnesty and we need to also know that majority of the foot soldiers of the armed Islamic insurgents in the North waging a war of attrition against the Nigerian state and other non-state actors like Christians and moderate Muslims are youthful persons who claimed to be unhappy with the status quo. For Awogbenle and Iwuamadi (2010), the statistics from the Manpower Board and the Federal Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria has a youth population of 80 million, representing 60 per cent of the total population of the country. Also, 64 million of them are unemployed, while 1.6 million are under-employed.
The rising tide of unemployment and the fear of a bleak future among the youth in Nigeria, have made them vulnerable to the manipulations of agents “provocateurs” as can be seen from the increasing cases of violent crimes such as armed kidnappings for ransom, targeted/hired assassinations and other manifestation of organised crimes like drug/human trafficking that have become unprecedented in our clime. Have we ever wondered why armed kidnappings seem to have become larger than life in our modern day Nigeria? The shock however is that governments at every level in Nigeria pay lip service to actually providing workable panacea to these disturbing cases of youths’ involvement in violent crimes.
From all indication, youth unemployment is a menace in Nigeria and constitutes a real danger and a threat to Nigeria’s democracy. Funny enough, the ruling party at the federal level in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party still live in denial of the fact that they have misled Nigeria into the current situation of near-anarchy and lawlessness characterised by mass poverty, and collapsing infrastructure. The political party recently celebrated 14 years of its creation but was unable to justify the way the huge financial resources amassed by Nigeria from export of crude oil were expended. There is total non-existence of accountability and transparency on the part of very important government agencies such as the NNPC regarding how huge sums of public fund grew wings and disappeared into private pockets of highly placed government officials.
The youth perceive the two anti-graft agencies in Nigeria as sleeping on duty while politicians steal Nigeria blind. Even other political parties that control other layers of government in the South West, South East and South West have failed to account for huge resources that ought to be spent to procure vital infrastructure to service the basic needs of the poor and impoverished masses made up largely of the youth. Such tendencies can give rise to violent youth restiveness if not comprehensively tackled.
Therefore, to massively curb youth restiveness, officials should among other pragmatic and practical steps: increase allocations and realistically/transparently utilise these financial resources for youth development and youth-related programme such as capacity building workshops and the delivery of skills on entrepreneurial leadership for the youth of Nigeria; ensure accessibility of information for skill acquisition, self employment, job opportunities, and self-reliance among youth through seminars, workshops, and lectures whereby youth are selected on merit to attend and benefit from the outcome and inputs into such empowerment programmes.
Importantly, government must not relent in the crusade against all forms of corruption in public and private lives in Nigeria; Government must play its constitutional role by creating enabling socio-economic and political environment, including the provision of infrastructure to make industrial climate investment friendly, and the current scramble by former government officials to acquire public assets through the tainted privatisation agenda must be discouraged because if such impunity is allowed it will become a bad signal that those who go into government offices and steal the public blind would be rewarded with ownership of government funded public assets such as the facilities of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) for which the media recently reported that two former military heads of state and a former governor are in the race of their lives to buy into.
These recommendations good as they are will not make any meaning if government officials known to have stolen public fund are left without bringing them to face the consequences of their dastardly criminal act of corruption and economic crime. This anti-graft posture, if vigorously and transparently pursued will encourage investors to invest and thereby create jobs in order to absorb the unemployed youths. Those genuine investors who want to invest must not be discouraged through bureaucracy and bribe-induced delays because this is one factor that has continued to discourage foreign direct investments since even the World Bank study recently confirmed that most businesses are compelled to pay bribe by government officials in Nigeria. The ease of doing business must be made transparent and open so that the enabling environment for jobs to be created for the youth could be encouraged in Nigeria.
Finally, we believe that unless a reasonable standard of living is guaranteed and equitably provided in Nigeria for the youth, they will continue to tend towards violence and crime. Social order can only be promoted in Nigeria when “children, young persons and the aged are protected against any exploitation whatsoever and against moral and materialistic neglect.” Only by squarely providing the necessary economic, social and political support for the youth and by gainfully engaging them in nation building can we begin to break the link between youth and violence in Nigeria.
* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.