Daily Trust (Abuja)

19 April 2010

Nigeria: Nepotism as Bane of Graduate Employment

opinion

Kaduna — The hopes and dreams of graduates in Nigeria are daily meeting the sharp rocks of disappointment posed by corruption and nepotism. Nigeria's economy is largely public sector driven, because government is the largest employer of labour.

The private sector development is being hampered by lack of infrastructure; hence this pivotal sector cannot absorb the ever growing number of graduates now roaming the street in search of not too available jobs. Therefore, this forced our graduates to on a daily basis turn to government ministries, agencies, extra-ministerial department, military, paramilitary and government parastatal for vacancies and possible placement.

A friend of mine, recently applied for a job he was qualified for, and his father queried him on why should he applied for a vacancy in a government establishment, where he had neither a godfather to see him through nor money to pay his way? My friend countered that indeed, he didn't have a godfather and nor did he have money to give to secure the appointment. But he has God to look up to. His disappointment was clear.

Disillusionment not because he had to seek divine intervention, but because the Nigerian system of employment has so degenerated to the extent that it's absurd to apply for a vacancy without a godfather or money to give, however highly qualified.

Some our future leaders are being exposed to all sorts of "you must give gratification syndrome"; to get a job they qualified for. It is only in Nigeria that aptitudes tests are conducted to psychologically assuage our teeming job-seekers. For at the end of the day, it is those with the right connection that get called.

And by analogy, you may liken this to a politician who spends his money to secure votes during election; of course, the first he does after assuming office is to recoup his 'investment' and definitely make a profit. The dangerous dimension is that, a graduate who secures a job through such dubious means, however qualified, must first recoup. And before you know it, looting of the public treasure becomes a celebrated evil. A cycle of corruption is thus begun.

The federal character principle had in the recent past come under severe attack by some section of the media and our elites. I do not agree with the opponents of the federal character principle for the reasons being adduced to utterly myopic and at best simplistic. The apposition that there is an appreciable increase in the number of qualified graduate from practically every state, hence, the principle is no longer relevant. This does not put into consideration that the principle had its root in the passion for fairness.

And logically, this seemingly increased number of qualified graduates from hitherto, educationally less developed state further stressed the indispensability of the federal character principle. This is to avoid sentiment induced domination from one state or section of the country, under guise of having equally qualified graduates. The principle breeds cross- fertilization of ideas for national development.

Merit is not an exclusive birthright of any tribe or state. Come to think of it, even now with the recognition of the federal character principle by the 1999 constitution, but yet if you pay a visit to a parastatal or ministry in Abuja, you would mistake it for a particular household in Ogun or Imo state as the case may be.

Therefore, you may agree with me that there is intrinsically nothing wrong with the principle, but it is the operation of the federal character commission, the body responsible for its enforcement that needs to be seriously looked into. It is most likely, that the opponents of the federal character principle were disappointed with the operation of the Federal Character Commission.

Federal character principle promotes nationality unity, for it gives everybody a sense of belonging. But the federal character commission is a toothless bulldog; it neither barks nor bites. The commission puts eye on advertisement of vacancies that such adverts must last for six weeks, what happens after the stipulated six weeks, the commission becomes tongue-tied.

A clear point of reference is the recently released Nigeria Navy short service list. It is now a recurrent event to see some shortlisted candidates without an application number. The valid question is, is it that such applicants did not apply or their application letters were missing? Or were such applicants that careless not to have written their application numbers on their script during the test?

This further raises doubts as to whether they really passed the test as required. And if either of these questions were true, it then means that such applicants were so privileged for their names to have come down from heaven and get slotted in without application numbers.

There are so many suspicious cases like that. What about NECO, that equally released names of short-listed candidates for interview, but some did not apply for any particular post as depicted on the list, but yet got shortlisted. In Nigeria, if you have one of your own at the top, you don't need to apply for anything or attend any interview, for these were meant for another species of applicants.

Well, NECO was even reasonable compared to UBEC, which having called for applications last year through the media, but only some selected few were called through text messages for appointment and subsequent absorption. Some even alleged that the recruitment was done before the advert.

Isah wrote from 1 Kwaru Ajilo Close, off Majalisa; Badarawa, Kaduna

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