The death of jobless youth last weekend brings to the fore the crisis of unemployment in Nigeria. Successive government of Africa's most populous nation, a leading oil producer, have failed to create jobs. Now the youth need to rise and demand a better life from the rulers
The civilized world must feel horrified at the news of the brutal massacre of poor Nigerians in their course of striving for a better and decent job last Saturday, 15 March 2014. According to the Punch Newspaper of Sunday 16 March, 218 people died nationwide during the screening exercise that was conducted by the National Immigration Service. According to the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, 520,000 Nigerians had applied for the 4, 556 posts.
This indeed is a bad time for youthful ebullience. To ensure we don't make it to the labour market, they decided to deny us access to quality education by imposing astronomic fees on higher education. However, we defied them by our determination to obtain higher education and when they found out they couldn't stop us through this obnoxious policy, they hoarded their jobs and started reminding us at every juncture how we are not suitable for the labour market. Right from NYSC Camp, they introduced us into what they referred to as Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED). For twenty-one days in the para-military camp, they kept telling us that we must become the next entrepreneurs such as Dangote, Adenuga, Otedola and their ilk by getting ourselves involved in some menial jobs such as shoe-making, tailoring, fishery and farming - as if that was what Dangote and his breed did before they became the richest men in Africa! And during the service year, they gave us a monthly allowance and encouraged us to make judicious use of it by acquiring further entrepreneurial skills. They collected our money and awarded us entrepreneurial certificates that are worthless after the service year.
With all our intellectual acumen and academic gown, we came back to town jobless. To make ends meet, we fell back on barbering and Okada [taxi motorcycle] riding. Then we keep asking ourselves why we went to school in the first instance. And as if that is not enough, they decided to add salt to our injury by defrauding us of the token we were making through our sweat. They knew where to get at us. Just announce the vacancies in a government parastatal and the frustrated youth would jump at it. Then came the announcement of the vacancies at the Immigration Service with a ₦1, 000 charge that was levied on each applicant. Reasonable people protested this obnoxious policy of NIS but to affirm that it was a national conspiracy, Federal Government gave its backing for the abhorrent charge. We paid the money out of the little we were making through our toiling and from the 520, 000 applicants, the NIS made ₦520 million. And at the end of the day they not only failed to provide a conducive environment for the test but also murdered 18 of our wretched contemporaries.
Ours is a country that underrates the youth. Old people have simply refused to know when to retire or encourage the youth who can contribute meaningfully to the country's development and hand over the eternal torch to those that follow. They have failed to realize that public life is a relay and not a straight mile.
The history of heroes is the history of the youth. To be no better or greater than the past is to be inferior, mean and foolish; it is to abuse noble means and to sacrifice glorious opportunities for the performance of sublime deeds. As a result of these retrogressive policies of the Nigerian elders, irrespective of political affiliations, the wingless eagle called Nigeria is encumbered on the ground continuously.
And for the youth, this has confirmed the assertion that our help is not going to come from any quarters,; the youth must demand their rights in the country. Unlike some people's erroneous thought, revolt is a characteristic of every country that aspires to develop, as mere stability is symptomatic of senility or ignorance. It is the place of youth to rouse the entire citizens from smug complacence to the affirmation of those great ideals of insight on which alone progress and survival of Nigeria depend; life is not stagnant and the old order continually gives way to the new. The spice of life is in action and youth is its bloom; to deny youth the chance to blossom like the flower is to deny the people development.
The monopolistic combines of NANS and other opportunity seeking youth associations which could have rendered substantial help in the project are too busy formulating a plan of dulling the senses of promising youth. Rather than channeling the concrete agitations and making demands that would better the lot of the suffering youth, they are busy courting the favour of the government at every level. They were formally part of us but they left us in order to take their own shares of the national cake and once they get to Abuja, they denied ever known us. Their denial of us before the cock crow twice may be painful to some but understandable to the keen watchers and followers of Nigerian events. After pretending to preach revolutions for a decade they, now successful businessmen, politicians and men of pleasure, were terrified when they saw the inevitability of one. To demoralize and betray the course of the youth is a great cardinal sin to mankind. History will not be kind to them.
To aggravate the situation, some youth are nursing a fake belief that our survival lies in the so-called political opposition in Nigeria! Such teeming youth are perhaps ignorant of the fact that the history of national struggles from the French Revolution onwards has shown that the bourgeoisie may be have some revolutionary elements at the outset but would soon become reformist, satisfied with minor concessions from the enemy; they are unstable, inconsistent, erratic and vacillating, compromising at crucial moment of the struggle with the enemy with whom they have common economic and cultural ties; as soon as they find an elbow room within the oppressive system they betray without any qualms of conscience their youthful allies and oppress them whenever in a position to do so, for they are not after fundamental changes in society but after such minor reforms in the State structure as would allow them to amass wealth and lord it over us.
The government through its NIS agents disciplined us, defrauded us and then snuffed lives out of our compatriots! To worsen our problems, their spokesman, the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro said it boldly that we were tear-gassed and maimed because we were unruly and impatient! Haaa! Never before has any government been guilty of such treacherous and ignominious role as the author of this baneful and sadistic attempt to disillusion and swindle an already disenchanted segment for the gratification of the fiendish bliss of the sworded and helmeted political 'Stalinists' to whom the upsurge of Nigerian youth is a potential threat. To them, prestige is more important than the people, and the victory that is not based on fraud must be raised on force: justice is out of their agenda and humanism is reckoned as weakness. And so the heartless beast has lived from decade to decade.
Sadly, however, I suspect that Nigerian youth in the frenzy of revolutionary propaganda and menial jobs such as barbing, hairdressing, recharge card outlets, taxi driving and daily argument at innumerable newspaper stands across the country will soon learn to demand our rights. And when we the common people decide to rise, none of them will be safe. Then the darkness will loom. Very sad indeed!
Adewale Stephen, Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM