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Nigerian youths and failed hope of job opportunities

Babatunde Ayedoju

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There was a time when pupils in primary school sang a song in Yoruba, translated into English, thus “Your shoes will make an impressive sound (ko ka) if you pay attention to your studies”. That song carried with it a promise that with good education, the future is secured for the youths.

A generation has passed in Nigeria that witnessed the fulfillment of that promise. Gone were the days of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and even 1990s when youths graduated and had lucrative jobs with mouth-watering offers waiting for them.

According to Chief Samuel Adekunle, a seasoned Accountant, in his days, as they were returning to Nigeria after studying abroad, prospective employers would be waiting for them at the seaport. Each would give his offer to entice the fresh graduates. That was the time when some people got lucrative jobs with even senior school certificates.

Bamidele Adeyemo, a former banker also gave his testimony about employment when he boasted that, “I never struggled to get job. All the jobs that I got came easily”.

In the words of Professor Suleiman Salau, a professor of Mass Communication, in the past, employment was “very easy. It was not as bad as it is now. Many factories and industries were operating then, including private organizations and they were employing young graduates. The reason why the situation is like this is that we have more graduates and the economy is not vibrant enough”.

Many years later, another generation arose that did not know the good old days, the days when jobs came easily, when someone could have a job waiting for him even while still an undergraduate, without any “connection”.

We are now in an era where there are many graduates but few jobs available for them. As a result of this, a lot of young men and women roam the streets searching endlessly for jobs they may not get at the end of the day.

The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook (1991), reported that measures taken under the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in Nigeria have resulted in instability in the unemployment rate – the national unemployment rate, estimated by the Office of Statistics as 4.3 percent of the labour force in 1985, increased to 5.3 percent in 1986 and 7.0 percent in 1987, before falling to 5.1 percent in 1988.

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While that might look like facts from yesterday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the unemployment rate almost tripled when it moved from 12 percent to 30percent between 2015, and 2018.

This is the reality in Nigeria where, according to the National Population Commission (NPC), youths (defined as individuals between the ages of 15 and 34) constitute about half of the country’s entire population.

The COVID-19 pandemic that occurred in the year 2020 also compounded the situation as many people either lost their jobs or were forced to temporarily stay away from work. The teeming population of youths who were looking forward to receiving employment letters for their dream jobs had to wait till further notice.

Over the years, well-meaning Nigerians have expected that the government would create jobs for the populace, after all, Nigeria is blessed with many mineral resources on which industries can be built.

On the other hand, some people advocate that youths should better begin to search for ways of creating jobs for themselves.

In an interview with The Hope, Professor Victor Olumekun stated that “What a government does is not just to create jobs but to create an enabling environment for the people to create jobs for themselves”.

We also have a notable leader in Nigeria who said that Nigerian youths are lazy. However, looking at the situation of things in Nigeria, one may need to reconsider that statement. A lot of Nigerian youths have decided to resort to self-help measures. Over the years, we have seen youths venture into several money-making ventures, some found to be fraudulent and others proved to be “legit”. We now have Nigerians going into several businesses such as fashion design, confectionery, and even agriculture.

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To buttress this, Charles Okoto, a young graduate who is into Information and Communication Technology (ICT) admonished graduates who are just coming into the labour market not to put all their eggs in one basket.

In his words, “We have an employment challenge in the country and a lot of people who are seeking to gain employment tend to meet a high level of competition because almost everybody wants to get in, and apart from that, we still have shadows of corruption in some of those systems”.

He further said, “For some, what they will need to do is get a temporary job where the income will sustain them and help them add to their skills and certifications. Also, it might be the right time to bring out ideas that can help them establish the businesses of their dream. The business can be full-time or part-time. Some people open businesses and end up not having to go back to look for a job”.

Much recently, there has been a shift of focus towards online businesses. As stated earlier, when the COVID-19 pandemic came, a lot of people were forced out of jobs. The economy also suffered as people were not able to go about their usual businesses. That has now made online businesses gain more attention and prominence. Such businesses include forex Trade and cryptocurrency platforms such as Bitcoin, Tron, and Ethereum among others.

Some years ago, a lot of Nigerians, both young and old, had a nasty experience with Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM) spearheaded by Sergei Mavrodi. It suddenly crashed after people had invested a lot of money into it. As a result of that, many people have developed a phobia for any business venture that has to do with the Internet.

According to Opeyemi Emmanuel, an online business enthusiast, the first step is to drop the mindset that every business online is a scam.

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Charles Okoto also noted that while there are both legitimate and illegitimate businesses online, we should channel our energies toward the legitimate ones. He further stated, “The rise of COVID-19 shows the importance of online business. You do not have to be physically present. Most businesses have to come online to keep their place in the market. The population of the earth and Nigeria has a larger percentage of people online than on-site. It’s better to think about services you can offer online. That is a good way of establishing different youths in the country”.

Okoto further advised, “Learn a skill such as web design or mobile app development. It is a way of servicing the community with your skills. If you don’t have time for such skills, your business can be transformed into something online. All you need is to bring in someone with the needed ICT skills.” He added that it is a good way of covering the unemployment gaps in the country if we can begin to prioritize some of these skill areas for youths to go into”.

Opeyemi Emmanuel opined that “Cryptocurrency is a noble venture for Nigerian youth in the wake of unemployment because they have the opportunity to increase whatsoever amount of cash they have, no matter how little, basically from the comfort of their homes. It involves using their smartphones to leverage the internet and using digital marketing skills to promote the business. If youths can put the digital skills they’ve got such as digital marketing, and social media followers among others into a digital business like cryptocurrency, they will observe they can have daily earnings without causing any damage or any effect to someone else.”

Emmanuel also noted that “Having your money in digital form is a very profitable way to save your assets and cash, especially Naira, to avoid depreciation in the initial value of your cash and assets over time.”

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