Nigeria: Story of a country mocking herself

(By Olu’Seun Esan)

In the past five years, an average two million people enter the job market despite the declining rate of job creation in the economy, fuelling the massive joblessness in the land. Unskilled and semi-skilled workers dominate the structure of the labour market. A striking observation is that one in four Nigerian was unemployed in 2012 compared to one in seven in 2008. Also notable, is that unemployment is becoming more of a rural phenomenon 25.6 per cent compared to 16.1 per cent in urban areas. There is a wide disparity in the unemployment rate, with the range spanning 7.5 per cent to 39 per cent. The highest unemployment rate is in Yobe State with 39 per cent while Lagos State has the lowest rate of 7.5 per cent.” 

MY heart goes out to those bereaved families who lost their beloved one in a stampede not of war or of famine, but a stampede to look for job, to seek better livelihood, to serve their fatherland, to make enough to have an average life and earn a living. A stampede among hustlers strengthened by hope; I mourn those hope dampened, the sun that sets at noon.

  They were trying to escape death by starvation, they met death by stampeding. They left home that morning clad with shorts and vests like children during inter-house sports competition, families and neighbours who knew what was happening in town were wishing them ‘goodluck’. If their families had known they should at least have given them one more hug or if possible prevent them from going. Would we say we were wrong to be Nigerians, is it a crime to be a nationality of this country? I don’t believe those preventable deaths are the acts of God as some wordless individuals would console tens of families of the casualties of this cheap deaths procured for her citizens by a careless country.

  If Nigerian had been a country that had the slightest care for her citizen or that government institution has the meanest respect for nationals, I believe these deaths would not have occurred. The Nigerian Immigration Services would not say they didn’t expect such mammoth crowd since every one of them must have registered somewhere, online most likely. What control measures did they put in place? I am yet to be convinced that stadia around the country, a stage for the whole world to behold, are the best place to bring our teeming youths all in the name of employment. In other climes, that have respect and care for her citizens, exercises that promise to bring many people like that are mostly batched, so that a controllable crowd could be had at a time. Here we are, we had not only washed our stinking panties in the market square, we washed it right in every major stadium in almost all state capitals in Nigeria. Even if the attention of the whole world was not focused on the exercise, those preventable deaths must have commanded attention and showed to the whole wide world that we are deeply in trouble and we seemingly do not know it or refuse to care.

    Trust Nigerian journalists, PM newspapers will be the first to have a steaming headline from the tragic event while some mindless and heartless individuals would even link it to political parties to score cheap points that it is the failure of one party or the other. All tabloids of the following day would have it screaming of how our nation exposed her youths to needless stampede just to secure daily bread. This brings to mind the words of Segun Akinlolu’s music ‘an average man doesn’t ask for too much, he only wants what you and I want, a safe place to lay his head at night, is that too much to ask?’

   While we can’t blame journalists for doing their job or for making a living, either or both, they could not have kept quiet either; they owe us a duty to report and inform. Sinister motive or not they are doing a duty. Private companies in Nigeria probably would never make such mistake that a major government institution made, an institution that has one of its secondary if not primary mandate as keeping the citizen’s safe. Sacrificing innocent youthful and promising souls for someone’s carelessness and failure in proper planning.

   The government agency mocks Nigerians youths for being massively unemployed, the press mocks the government for being irredeemably careless; and the rest of the world watches. They watch our failure as a nation, our non-chalant carelessness as a people. They watch our land being drunk with innocent and promising blood; they watch us spill the blood of our very children and yet everyone wakes up the following morning going about his businesses as if nothing happened; only the bereaved could say what they lost. A pitiable dilemma we are. While there seems nothing wrong in trying to recruit for vacant positions in an organisation, there are thousand things wrong in lives being lost to regrettably avoidable deaths in the process. If we cannot care adequately for ourselves, do we then have the right to blame expatriates and foreigners for treating our youths with utter disdain either on home or foreign soil? Counting tens of deaths across the country on a single Saturday exercise is highly unacceptable. In fact, if the exercise were conducted in a dozen days no life is supposed to be lost.

   We drape our national flag over the coffins of the military or para-military men who died while on duty, what then do we do to people who were slip shoddily killed while applying to be enlisted to the service. If it were our enemies that killed them we would have said they died protecting us, but how then do we mourn the people that the ineptitude and sloppiness of some people killed. We can’t protect our citizens against terrorist insurgency; we can’t protect them from accidents caused by danger paths that we call roads, our hospitals aren’t even equipped enough to cure diseases and care for the sick, and ultimately the very service who is supposed to protect our borders caused deaths for some people’s sons and daughters, who are other people’s uncles and aunties.

   A presentation at World Bank Regional Workshop on Youth Employment in 2013 reported that Nigeria with a population of about 160 million is the most populous African country and among the top six most populous countries globally. With an annual population growth rate of 2.8 per cent the country is yet to experience the demographic transition (illustrated by significant decline in fertility rate and high dependency ratio). Arguably, eliminating youth unemployment is more challenging where there is no demographic transition. Of the labour force of 67.3 million people in 2011 which was about 41 per cent of the total population, 76.1 per cent was gainfully employed. This, however, is about 10.5 per cent decline from 2008 figure.

   In the past five years, an average two million people enter the job market despite the declining rate of job creation in the economy, fuelling the massive joblessness in the land. Unskilled and semi-skilled workers dominate the structure of the labour market. A striking observation is that one in four Nigerian was unemployed in 2012 compared to one in seven in 2008. Also notable, is that unemployment is becoming more of a rural phenomenon 25.6 per cent compared to 16.1 per cent in urban areas. There is a wide disparity in the unemployment rate, with the range spanning 7.5 per cent to 39 per cent. The highest unemployment rate is in Yobe State with 39 per cent while Lagos State has the lowest rate of 7.5 per cent.

  All categories of educational levels below post graduate had double digit unemployment rates above 20 per cent, (20.2 per cent for bachelors’ degrees to 33.4 per cent for Junior Secondary School Certificates). Unemployed educated and young people are a growing phenomenon of the unemployment crisis. Based on age group classification, the 15-24 age group has the highest unemployment rate of 37.7 per cent, followed by the 25-44 age bracket with unemployment rate of 22.4 per cent. These millions of poor and unemployed youth are made up of a mix of educated and poorly educated young people.

   Also, the 2012 National Baseline Youth Survey Report issued in December 2013 by the NBS in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Youths Development states that 54 per cent of Nigerian youths were unemployed in 2012. “More than half, about 54 per cent of youth population were unemployed. Of this, females stood at 51.9 per cent compared to their male counterpart with 48.1 per cent were unemployed.’’

  All these are disturbing statistics that may predict future violence for the country if something urgent is not done. The recent stampede at various locations in the country in one day for a government agency jobs is a sign to the unpreparedness of the government and its agency in combating what is a national menace and in fact, adding salt to injury.

• Esan is the state team leader, New Initiative for Social Development, Osun State.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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