Unemployment rate has not been so high as expressed recently that no fewer than 21 million Nigerians are unemployed.
Victor C. Ariole
There is something unique about Nigerians you won’t notice it until you step outside the shore of the country […] [A White] said to me, Nigerians are the only Africans that come here (USA) and do well. – Enobong Roberts in The Sun
Human nature abhors idleness and that was why Marxism tended to make impact after the second world war and African leaders like Senghor, Nyerere, Amilcah, Nkrumah Modibo, etc saw in Marxism a KUMBAYA ideology meant to express Africa’s ideas of Harambé, Corvé, Igwebuiké; that is, collaborative work for collective wealth as the best way to keep humans out of psychological trauma that give room to depression, exclusion and misery. Enobong expressed that as she saw the struggling spirit of the Nigerian everywhere she went in all the continents she had been.
So, like the late Abiola (MKO) said, when people are willing to be trained for relevant work and what new work demands, it is the duty of management to do the needful to get the best out of the people and not create room for unemployment. Before the advent of formal education, people are made to be apprentice in one trade or the other so as to keep them busy; and it behoves the leaders of the people, that whatever is seen that has employment value is sustained so as to motivate the people doing it. It is even why the capitalist nations pay much to see that entertainment and sports where the youths seem to drain their energy are kept moving so as to reduce cases of depression and banditry. Leaders know that keeping people in the range of 5 years to 35 years very active is a necessity never to be shied away from if ever a country wants to be peaceful and prosperous. Hence, the importance of education so as to avoid ignorance taking over the space.
Marxism failed Africa as such leaders were unable to sustain the tempo, and from those who exercise some elements of capitalist ethos or liberal or mixed economy, there was a relative prosperity which ought to have been sustained also; though financial crises and internal wrangling and wars among the leaders made such progress to turn regressive. These were the examples of Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc. In all, unemployment rate has not been so high as expressed recently that no fewer than 21 million Nigerians are unemployed.
It means Nigeria must wake up to avoid relapsing to the state of hopelessness of youths in neighbouring countries that make the youths prefer to be suicide bombers.
Indeed, it makes one wonder about MKO’s postulation and the observation of Enobong as she traverses the continents seeing Nigerians at work and coming home to hear that most of Nigerians are unemployed or, is it, unemployable. It is just an issue of weak management of humans and their reward values as it seems to have turned to “monkey dey work baboon dey chop”. It could be demoralizing and demotivating.
Examples abound of such demoralisation and demotivation as people toil and they get no adequate reward for their work. Imagine someone claiming that farmers and teachers are poor; so, he couldn’t have ventured into such; and the person is a pro-chancellor of a University who should work hard to revert the wrong reward system.
A farmer of cassava for example could be in the business with its chain value of garri, gum, starch production for years without owning any house, living in a thatch house, and I see it as I traverse some areas in Rivers State or in oil producing villages like Ndoni-Egbema villages. These are areas that can keep millions of Nigerian at work if such work is well defined and well rewarded for the efforts of those doing it.
In the herdsmen ravaged middle belt, where economic trees like mango, oranges, cashew, etc are in abundance, lack of agro-industry conservation infrastructure does not allow for optimum gain of their efforts hence another demotivation and demoralizing process: I see young people from Benue and Adamawa riding okada in Lagos as if Okada remunerates better than remaining in a highly mechanised and industrially enabled rural area for more rewarding living.
Even in our seas that cover over 10,000km2 by international permission, over 1million youths could find reason for livelihood there, even if it means coastline works and guarding it. Go to the Caribbeans where it is only Seas you see, Africans still find room to live harambé life. Yes, there is poverty but it does not make them forget Harambé and Kumbaya ethos.
Now, check out in some rural areas where mining is going on, the people there are so much so impoverished that you begin to wonder if their elite really mind about their existence. Minerals, hard stones, iron ore are so much making money for few people as the majority languish in penury. How won’t that translate to unemployment.
There are so many of such occurrences in Nigeria like it is in Congo Democratic Republic that you begin to wonder where the African ideas of Kumbaya, Harambé, Igwebuiké, Corvé, have been taken to, as if Africans have thrown away their humanity which pricks the conscience of Africans wherever they are, as they see that people are left out in the common heritage of the planet earth that requires that all find their level; at worst, in the feeding ground that translates to “egbe bere ugo bere…” let the eagle perch and let the hawk perch… the sky, the trees and the mountains can accommodate all.
Ariole is Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Lagos