“The more prosperous a state is and the more equitably and justly distributed its wealth is, the less liable it is to the danger of internal disorder and the more able it is to discourage external aggression.” Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987)
IN economics, unemployment refers to the condition and extent of joblessness within an economy, and is measured in terms of the unemployment rate, which is the number of unemployed workers divided by the total civilian labour force. Hence, unemployment is the condition of not having a job, often referred to as being ‘out of work’ or unemployed.
It is an understatement to say that majority of the graduates churned out by the universities in Nigeria on yearly basis are unemployed, rather, the fact remains that the jobs available cannot absorb the jobless hands that idle away on the labour market. As at October 2012, the Statistician General of the Federation, Dr. Temi Kale, said: “20.3 million Nigerians are currently jobless and not employed in any form of job.” Indubitably, a majority of the youths in the country falls into this category. The country’s unemployed youths roam the streets on a daily basis in search of greener pastures. They continue to hope against hope that the ‘haves’ will have mercy on them and give them their dream jobs. While on the other hand, the ‘haves’ and their accomplices in government continue to retain the vacancies most especially in federal parastatals for their children who are yet to complete their education in higher institutions of learning all in the name of federal character.
Opportunities are reserved for less qualified and yet-to-be qualified applicants while qualified applicants are denied employment due to flimsy considerations. What an injustice! More than ever before, the unemployment rate of the country stands at an alarming figure of 23.9 per cent. This is not without all the trillions of naira expended in the last 12 years as national budget. However, the effects of the unemployment crisis in the country spare nobody regardless of the social status.
The first casualty of this economic monster called unemployment is our value system. The value system of the Nigerian society has depreciated greatly and this social decadence is easily noticed among the youths. It is now a common thing to see some ladies in their 20s and early 30s patrolling the streets of big cities as ladies of evening. They now see prostitution as a display of entrepreneurial skills and a way out of the socio-economic pressure being mounted on them by the society. It is now not uncommon to see some female youths in cabaret posing nude. They trade off their treasured virtues for some wad of currency notes. Due to high level of competition among themselves, they now dress indecently exposing their cleavages and even their private parts in order to attract the attention of their ‘customers’. They see nothing wrong in sleeping around to secure jobs.
In the same vein, some of the male youths now see robbery as an occupation. We see how they are being paraded on the pages of newspapers as crime suspects. The worst being the issue of cyber-crime traditionally called ‘yahoo-yahoo’. The social networks meant for making friends and sharing creative and constructive ideas have been turned to dubious means of making money by Nigerian youths. As of today, youths of other climes, creeds and breed find it difficult to deal with Nigerian youths, having at the back of their minds the dubious character that Nigerian youths can display; persons of questionable character mail scam messages to their unsuspecting victims most especially corporate organisations asking for cyber security codes. Hacking, cyber stalking, spamming, address mugging, e-mail spoofing, pharming, phising, phreaking et cetera are also popular cases of cybercrimes in Nigeria.
The second brunt of unemployment being borne by the Nigerian society is insecurity of life and property. We now watch helplessly as hapless youths in our society dissipate their energies on destructive endeavours as is being witnessed in the case of terrorism. Nigeria today has become an open field where despicable social vices reign supreme and the security agents watch helplessly as they cannot curtail the perpetrators. No doubt about the fact that the perpetrators of these evils are youths in their prime who want to create a so-called alternative society that will at least provide them their basic needs for existence. The youths in this category see the Nigerian society in the words of Frederick Douglass “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that the society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, persons nor property will be safe.”
These youths see nothing at stake if the whole country is on fire! They make themselves available hands to prosecute evil acts while their godfathers capitalise on the unemployment crisis to use them for their selfish ends. They terrorise the very fabric that holds the country together. They see a situation where they give back to the society (Nigeria) what it handed over to them. It is now a case of a fowl, which perches on the rope; neither the rope nor the fowl is at ease (Adie ba l’okun, ara o’rokun, ara o’ro adie).
Properties worth billions of naira and lives are destroyed as a result of the activities of the terrorists in the society. They believe they have found a way to register their grievances and as well as meeting their needs. They are no longer answerable to anybody (not even the law of the land) except to their godfathers.
Closely related to the issue of insecurity discussed above is the economic sabotage suffered by the country. Some of the unemployed youths see nothing wrong in vandalising infrastructural facilities in the country as far as they get paid for such an act. The transmission infrastructure for telecommunication services such as fibre cable links and power generating sets are the worst hit. These gadgets have consistently become the target of vandals. These vandalisations not only lead to breakdown of communication between subscribers but also cause embarrassment to business and national security. Mr. Emeka Oparah, vice president, Corporate Communications/Corporate responsibility at Airtel Nigeria said that vandalisations of the telecom service were regular occurrences. He cited the example of base station in Abia State where Airtel Nigeria lost four generators to the vandals.
Speaking on the same premise, Uthman Garba, director general, Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said: “Businesses are suffering in the North and we desperately need the government to restore peace to the region as businesses have collapsed. The destruction of communication infrastructure would further worsen it.” This has hampered the free flow of strategic information, which is necessary for intelligence gathering between security agents. In most cases, our security chiefs rely on third party to gather needed information in order to nip a brewing violence in the bud. This results in tardiness in expediting action as the third party may also conspire with the violent gang. During the eruption of violence, many business investments are lost and economic activities are brought to a standstill.
The northern geopolitical zone of the country is the worst hit as so many telecommunication gadgets had been blown by this deadly sect. It was reported the other time that premeditated bomb attacks were carried out by the Boko Haram terrorist sect against MTN, Airtel, Etisalat, Globacom, Visafone, Helios Tower and HIS Nigeria. As a result of this series of attacks, a lot of workers in the telecommunication sector have been thrown out of work. Not only this, private investors who have interests in investing in this sector have been scared off.
Moreover, the southern part of the country is under the siege of kidnapping and militancy. As a way out of the economic logjam that some of the employable but not employed youths in this region find themselves, they have taken to kidnapping and militancy. Kidnapping is a lucrative enterprise with millions of dollars a year in the country. Oil workers and other foreign nationals are often targeted because of high ransom money involved. Also not spared of this scourge are the relatives of high-heeled individuals in the country.
Besides, especially on the creeks, piracy has now become integral part of kidnapping and militancy in the Delta. The Nigerian pirates operate like their Somali counterparts; they are very organised. There are investors (godfathers), accountants, logistics officers, welfare officers, (in charge of the hostages), and a pirate leader on land, then the group in charge of the actual attack. Every individual involved is trained in specific aspects; equipment handling, weapon usage, navigation and they are also conversant with the creeks. They attack vessels loaded with crude oil.
It was reported on 24th December, 2012 (according to British Broadcasting Corporation News) that pirates had kidnapped four sailors after attacking their vessel off Nigeria coast. The hostages were foreigners. The pirates are only interested in the ransom money that will be paid by the companies that their hostages work for. The major bargaining tools of the pirates are the lives of their victims. Millions of naira are staked on the lives of the hostages. The companies in most cases do make the payments otherwise the pirates are left with no other choice than to kill their hapless victims. The attendant consequence of this despicable act is reflected in the quantity of crude oil being exported by the country, as there is a remarkable reduction in the volume of crude oil export and these results in the reduction of revenues accruable to the purse of the government that will be spent in developing the infrastructural facilities of the country.
Moreover, the use of unemployed youths as political thugs has now taken the centre stage of our political system. It is not uncommon to see unemployed Nigerian youths staking their lives and ambitions for their political godfathers simply because of the crumbs from the national filthy lucre. These youths in their productive ages carry all sorts of dangerous weapons during electioneering. They are mostly paid to cause violence in the camp of their godfathers’ political opponents. They use all sorts of dangerous political weapons such as guns, machete, daggers, axe et cetera.
They are simultaneously paid to kill and to die while protecting their political godfathers who might have promised them their dream jobs if elected. They are used as political pawns on the political chessboard. The electoral umpires are handicapped in curtailing these ferocious youths, because they get donations from these same unscrupulous politicians in order to meet some logistic demands. The police are helpless for the same reason. Our national politics is now shamefully dictated by the army of political thugs controlled by the politicians and their political parties as against politics of national issues as is being practised in developed democracies world over.
Furthermore, this violence continues even after the elections. It is not surprising that attacks are launched even in the wake of elections. These attacks are launched either to scare away the political opponents and their supporters or the political thugs from the opponents’ camp launch the attacks to destabilise the government in power. Either way, loss of lives and properties takes the centre stage. Moreover, as a way of compensation, the political jobbers cum political thugs are not disarmed and this leads to proliferation of dangerous weapons in the society. This leads to upward spiraling of robbery and other social vices in the society.
However, it is my firm belief that if the unemployment rate in the country is drastically reduced through provision of basic infrastructural facilities (such as power, good roads) and encouragement of local investors through incentives, tax cuts and diversification of Nigeria’s economy through commercial investment in agriculture, not only will the unemployed youths be fully engaged, the societal instability that has gripped the fabric of the country will be reduced to the barest minimum if not totally eradicated.
• Adetipe is a Youth Corps member serving in Abia 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.”