President Muhammadu Buhari is no doubt faced with the daunting task of addressing youth unemployment sterring many graduates in the face. In this piece, Dozie Emmanuel examines the numerous challenges and possible threats this will pose to his administration.
Obviously, the youths represent the hopes and aspirations of any society seeking to enjoy a brighter future. They are the bedrock for any effective and sustainable development. The youths are integral in building a virile and healthy nation. Perhaps, this is why most advanced countries come up with programmes and policies geared towards equipping the youths politically, socially, economically and even morally for the future. At this age and time, investing in the youths has not only become a priority, but also a necessity.
Conversely, the story is rather a sad commentary in most developing and underdeveloped countries of the world where corruption, abject poverty, unemployment and disease have assumed a frightening dimension, thus threatening the general populace, including the youths. In some of these countries, the youths have suddenly become an endangered species with bleak and uncertain future.
It is, however, not surprising that crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, arms smuggling, rape, assassination, thuggery, vandalism, terrorism and sea piracy have become so frequent in most of these countries.
It was in the quest to address this global concern and perhaps re-position the young people for leadership positions, that the United Nations in 1998 declared August 12 of every year as ‘International Youth Day.’ The day is set aside to give the youths a sense of belonging and due recognition in the society. It is also a day world leaders and policy makers are reminded to take into cognizance the socio-economic, political and general well-being of the youths in decision making.
In Nigeria, for instance, youth unemployment still remains a huge challenge. It is one of the biggest challenges Jonathan’s administration had to battle tooth and nail to tackle. Despite efforts to create jobs via various government policies, youth unemployment currently stands at 50 per cent. According to the World Bank, unemployment rate in Nigeria stood at 22 per cent in 2013, while youth unemployment was at 38 per cent.
The immediate past administration made conscious efforts in investing in the future of the country and its resourceful and creative youths by inaugurating the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria, YouWiN Programme to address youth unemployment. The programme did not only create over 27,000 jobs; it also empowered many youths in various fields of endeavour.
The task appears insurmountable today, simply because successive administrations had no clear-cut policies as well as the political will in addressing the rising youth unemployment. Unfortunately, these so-called leaders were more interested in winning elections and clinging to power.
Regrettably, these long years of neglect is gradually robbing off on the youths in terms of their potentials, abilities and responsibilities as future leaders. Thus, it has invariably led to the upsurge in crimes and youth restiveness across the country. Of course, the consequences of not investing in the young people in a country like Nigeria would slowly, but surely spell doom for the country.
In-as-much as the YouWin programme has been applauded both nationally and internationally for its success, the gospel truth remains that unemployment is still a social misfit steering a good number of able-bodied youths in the face. In fact, many unemployed youths roam the streets in search of government paid employment. Every year, the various tertiary institutions in the country churn out hundreds of thousands of graduates without any clear means of absorbing them either in the formal or informal sector. Sadly, many of these young people end up on the wrong side of life due to frustration and peer pressure.
During his campaign tours, Buhari promised to put in place necessary infrastructure that would create jobs and empower the youths. As one of the major challenges facing Nigeria, people are beginning to wonder how the current administration can turn things around giving the comatose nature of the economy. Even the 500, 000 jobs promised by the president in 2016 appears to be a tall dream in view that the budget is already a deficit budget. While some have argued that political-will alone cannot address the issue, many others are of the view that the right policies and programmes should be in place to attract the right investors.
Nevertheless, it has become imperative that state and local governments should key into such initiative by having concrete programmes for the youths, especially in areas of education, skill acquisition, entrepreneurship and agriculture. Besides, vocational and technical education should be given priority attention. Young people with requisite skills should be made to fill the existing lacuna of inadequate skilled manpower in the country.
What does the future hold for Nigerians youths? What kind of legacy are the leaders leaving for the youths to emulate? Are the leaders really interested in building a nation that will outlive them? Is the assertion that the youths are the future of tomorrow still attainable and realistic?
Again, this administration should ensure that the process of accessing soft loans in the banks should be made less cumbersome. A situation whereby young, fresh and highly talented graduates are unable to access as small as N250, 000 to start up a small scale business of their own is rather unfortunate.
It is, therefore, imperative that leaders of this country should be teaching the youths the real essence of leadership and service; they must be able to harness and utilize these multiple talents that abound on the young people. Our leaders must tap into these abundant potentials to leverage on the future. For Nigeria to be reckoned with in the years to come, the youths must be well groomed and nurtured in all facets of life. The future of Nigeria lies in the youths and the sooner our leaders come to terms with this fact, the better.