Opinion: Nigerian youth and the get rich quick syndrome

by Alex Enemanna

Over the years, our youths have been caught in the web of devising means to survive and remaining afloat in a capitalist society like ours. With the earth-to-heaven disparity between the rich and the poor, thriving in such a society, at least to a point of meeting basic necessities and acquiring basic ingredients that dignify humanity becomes a herculean task, exclusively reserved for men (women) with big hearts.

According to a survey conducted by Vanguard in 2015, 86% of our youths are pro-enterprise. If this is true, why is the rate of unemployment still sky-high? Why are the concomitant effects of unemployment such as cultism, arm robbery, prostitution, drug abuse, political thuggery, hired assassination, pick-pocketing and many other social vices still visible footprints on our national soil? Against all odds, about 30% of these intended entrepreneurs according to National Bureau of Statistics have had their businesses registered, wielding so much zeal and enthusiasm, eager and willing to start up business to contribute to our pitiable GDP, employ fellow youths and live a life a life with a minimum standard. Most often than not, this high spirit is short lived and never saw the ray of reality. What then happens to the bigger dreams? That will be a discussion for another day.

Singapore with a population of about 5.535 million (2015) is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of entrepreneurship development with over 35% attainment compared with Nigeria that is about 4%. Their success in this area according to Scott Anthony in his 2015 Harvard Business Review article can be attributed to three factors; a Hospitable environment for start up, serious government skin in the game and the use of soft power to address hidden barriers to entrepreneurship.

Suffice it to say here that the youths’ desire to accumulate stupendous wealth over night has been heightened by what the government has done/is doing, refused to do/not doing. For instance, infrastructure which is one of the indices that makes a business to thrive is conspicuously lacking in most Nigerian cities. People still chant with unassailable excitement “up nepa” whenever light is restored after several hours or days of outage, that is for those who see it. One would have thought that with several billions of dollars expended on power since 1999, we would have achieved an appreciable milestone in this regard. Never. Our roads are death traps especially in the Southern part of the country. They are barely bicycle-able let alone being motorable. Security is a huge challenge and access to raw material, cumbersome.

Who would see our politicians display the kind of opulence and luxury that accompany their office and would not be tempted to be like them? Who no like better thing? They have all the comfort they need courtesy of our common wealth yet have slanted their obnoxious policies towards ensuring that younger generations will never dare to be like them. Simply put, the model they set is what the youths are following.

Our ranking on the ease of doing business over the years has remained a source of worry. Even with the so-called improvement recorded in 2014, what has significantly changed? The four regulatory areas of starting a business, dealing with construction permit, registering property and enforcing contracts as benchmarked by World Bank are still daunting challenges across the 36 states of the federation and Abuja. It appears as if the policies of the government is permanently wired towards crippling and strangulating the idea of those nursing entrepreneurship. With perfect business plans, our youths do not get palliatives in form of loan, tax waiver, equipment from the government beyond the political rhetoric that only protects the interest of those in government and their cronies. So many Nigerians have their reservations as to what the Bank of Industry is still doing, serving as a conduit to gulp our highly limited patrimony by way of paying salaries to workers that are nearly in-existent.

One can now see that the desperation of our youths to survive at all cost in a society with little or no social security; where hunger is no crime; poverty is no sin; rat race is the norm; dog eat dog; market forces is the religion and every man to himself and God for us all is nearly justified.

So many of our compatriots will forever live with the injury, better still scars inflicted in their minds by the popular Ponzi scheme that swindled them of several billions of Naira. Only a few were lucky to get their money back. Even when the news of the crash of the scheme filtered the air, many of their “investors” in an effort to provide a soft landing to their fatally broken heart could not believe it. Those who couldn’t handle it committed suicide and brought tears to their families. Some religious organisations went as far as organising crusades, prayer and fasting to “uncrash” the scheme and get their money. The rest as often said is now history.

Yet, as if mmm swoop was not enough lesson for slaves of do-nothing-and-get-rich, other online abracadabras such as twinkers, get help, givers forum, MMM still rared their dubious heads, like honey to the bee, our people still fell victim, a society that never learn from past mistakes, again, their money went down the drain.

This is happening when all is not well with our economy, when the value of Naira is on a greased pole to the abyss, when each month comes with at least 10% increase in inflation rate, when essential commodities such as milk, bread, sugar even garri, akamu, semo, beans, rice, oil, onions, tomato are out of reach of the common man. Now, do you still wonder why our youths have resorted to self-help to survive? Apart from total unemployment, under-employment and job dissatisfaction are potent factors that have fueled the youth desperation to keep their heads above water.

With the legalisation of lottery in Nigeria, the likes of Bet9ja, Access bet, Winnas bet and all the rest are having field day smiling to the bank on the account of our youth’s hot chase for financial fortune. Even though the age limit of expected participants is pegged at 18+ according to National Lottery Regulation Act 2005, you’ll be shocked the number of children you will see at such centres forecasting games, even those who barely know the value of money. You will see them carrying their tickets around in their wallets with utmost dignity and respect as not to misplace it. Alas, when it fails, you hear things like “na one cut am”. You hear them call the spoiler clubs unprintable names. This correspondent took his time to visit some of the centres around Abuja. The story is the same, children, youths, adults and even old men jumping atop each other trying to get the attention of the attendants to predicts. There is also a virtual which enables you forecast and get your result in 90 seconds.

Further investigation also reveals that most of the children who are of secondary school age have no means of income which leaves one wondering where they get their money to pay for their forecasts. Observations also reveal that it has made some youths lazy in a way. If you can use N200 to get N50,000 and above which is enough for feeding and clothing, isn’t it enough to make a career out of it?

The internet, which we contributed little or nothing to create has also become a safe haven for sundry crimes to thrive. Recently, the police in Ogun state arrested a 26-year-old man Abiodun Joseph for impersonating the Ooni of Ife in his Facebook and Whatsapp accounts which he used to dupe unnamed people to the tune of N600,000. This is one of such several cases for which Nigerian youths have become highly notorious in South Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Middle East. Well known internet fraudsters are worshipped in some communities with South East taking the lead. Some community leaders for fear of being stripped of their stomach infrastructure by these criminals have not only maintained a deafening silence but have also reward criminals with chieftaincy titles.

The reason why you may not see those daughters of darkness perching all over the junction in the city is not unconnected with the tremendous support they are getting from some obscene social media such as TWOO, Baddoo and others which makes it easy for them to connect with a nearby client with a click of button without necessarily standing by the roadside as was the case in the past.

We only get to know how “wicked” those Asians are when some misguided desperate drug pushers are caught and handed the punishment they so asked for. When they go and succeed, start beating their chests on how hard they have worked and start intimidating the rest of us with their rotten and ill-gotten wealth, it never makes any headline.

Our youths still die in droves at Mediterranean in an attempt to go feed on a greener pasture in Europe through the back door of Libya. Cases of our youths trading their organs to survive is still a recurring decimal in various parts of the world.

The freedom of movement is in line with universal declaration of human rights adopted by United Nations General assembly in 1948. Citizens are therefore allowed to travel anywhere provided it is back up with a valid travelling documents. There must also be genuine intents and purposes for such journey. Nigeria already has a sufficiently battered image in the international community. Any attempt to make the country more popular on the wrong page of history will be a great disservice to her and her citizens.

Our country is so blessed with all that pertains to life and godliness but we have not been so lucky to have leaders who have the right key to unlock the window of our success, progress and prosperity so that all the citizens will be happy for it. What we have is few happy people, many sad people. That is the tale of the rich and poor in our society.

If Singapore, a supposed small country that gained Independence with Nigeria at the same time from colonial rule has gotten it rightly in many indices of national development and is now a first world country with life expectancy at over 86%, why are Nigeria and her citizenry still grasping for air to live?

Our youths are innovative, creative, hardworking and industrious. They are not greedy but merely desperate to survive in a society that never planned for them. It’s over time been proven that given the same opportunity elsewhere, they will soar like eagle and cause a paradigm shift.

Great Nigerian youths!

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Alex Enemanna is a student of International Institute of Journalism Abuja

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