Solution to unemployment in NigeriaTruthfully, I’m not a writer, in fact I have never published any major article in my life, I guess this would be my first. But I just thought I address one recurring issue which I find amongst my age group and my peers. An issue that I have heard so much about on the news, radio, on peoples lips that I can’t seem to escape it. And so I said to myself, let me address this thing once and for all before it engulfs me. Who knows, my son or daughter might just get to read this one day and I hope it will be of value to you as I am sure it will be of value to them.

Let me ask you this question, and before you answer I advice that you take some quality time out of your all so busy life to think about it with candour. Perhaps you have been the head of the Human resource department of one of the foremost banks in Nigeria for the past 25 years and you have interviewed countless graduates and aspiring employees, or maybe you just got employed as a graduate engineer, accountant or botanist at a very respectable firm (assumption here is that the firm’s line of business is parallel to what you read in school-good for you isn’t it?) or perhaps you self-started an aluminium producing factory or a public relations firm and you have been successfully running it for the past 35 years with Julius Ceaser type profits, or maybe you just graduated and you have been applying for jobs online and attending interviews weekly/monthly, or you might even still be in school (secondary, university or even primary) as you read this article right now. So my question to those who have a degree is this…would you be doing what you’re doing right now any less competent if you didn’t have that degree? Or has the acquisition of that degree been the sole reason for your level of competence, knowledge and delivery since the day you were employed or you started up that firm/business till date.

As a graduate, or as someone who just recently gained employment, my question to you is this…has your degree been of real value to you or was it a password, coupled with your NYSC discharge certificate, the minimum requirement you needed to be invited to an interview for a job that you might not even use the knowledge gained in the 4, 5, 6 or more years of your tertiary and/or formal post graduate education. Interesting isn’t it? our reaction as humans when we are confronted with nail biting facts or opinions that might or might not bend our pride a little bit. But the fact is, you have nothing to worry about since you’re probably the only one with your eyes glued to this article reading it right now and I don’t even know you – although I wish I could, the logical conclusion would be that, it wouldn’t hurt to be truthful to yourself this time around because I promise you that you will leave the last full stop of this article with your pride and ego intact, irrespective of the revelations you find here to be true or false. So in your answers to my questions and in your thoughts, I suggest ”QUISQUE SIBI VERUS” – to thine own self be true.

Well, I guess the question on your mind is, where is this guy going with this? or perhaps, what gives him the temerity to question if my hard earned degree at whatever level has been of value to my life, and then you would instinctively tell yourself, of course it has…well, I guess it has, because it enabled me get this job and a whole lot of other benefits that accrue to me right now on my job as well as the respect I gained once I demonstrated that I was brainy and financially buoyant enough to apply for and come out with a first degree, a maters degree or even a doctorate degree.

The level of unemployment in Nigeria and even the world over is no longer news, and that is not what this article seeks to address. But this bane of unemployment seems to be hard felt in Nigeria, perhaps because we as Nigerians sing about it at the slightest opportunity a little more frequently and aggressively than the average earthling does. And in case you haven’t noticed, most of the wonderful policies being rolled out by our ever loving and capable government at all levels are aimed at poverty eradication and the reduction of unemployment…bla…bla…bla…as we hear on the news and read in the papers almost every God given day in our dear country Nigeria. But I was thinking, and I may be wrong, that if out of, say, the past 50 years of our existence as a nation, we have been trying to eradicate poverty and unemployment using the same means which obviously aren’t working, then doesn’t it mean someone isn’t learning? or perhaps this poverty and unemployment is so engrained in our system that it just doesn’t seem to want to go away. Or perhaps, someone isn’t really trying to eradicate it or could it be that we’ve been programmed not to see that the well meaning policies targeted at solving the problem don’t seem to be solving the problem? Or wait, maybe we all just don’t care…in fact, I’m guessing this option should have come first. So yes, we just don’t care as far as myself and mine are well catered for and gainfully employed, then to hell with the herd.

Oh my, we seem to have deviated a bit, and since I’m a lover of music, for obvious reasons, in the voice of wizkid…”back to the matter”.

So what is the matter? The matter is this…this one question that at some point or the other, must have crossed your quiet and pondering mind. IS HIGHER EDUCATION STILL A GOOD INVESTMENT?

This question seems necessary at this point in our development as a nation and as individuals because a lot of people feel cheated and lied to when they were promised by mummy and daddy or uncles and aunties, or a higher authority in their lives that, once you go to school, don’t worry, you are sure of a bright future with the kind of car I’m driving or even better, a big house, a wife or husband that will love and respect you and a whole lot of kids to play around with, not to talk of the plenty money that you will have. So concentrate on school ok?

It might be worthy of your notice that the question just asked could have been painted in various ways to make it seem less stupid that you think it sounds, but I believe that the simplest form of a thing gives us the most value as humans and that’s why the food we take in has to be broken down into its simplest form for it to be of value to us.

So it wouldn’t be wrong for us to ask that question now, would it? Especially as Nigerians.

I just heard on the news this morning that there is now a forum of unemployed graduates, and I thought to myself, if I were the one who started such a forum or if I were to be a part of this forum, what would our main objectives be? Let’s see…
1. Maybe to pressure the government as a group into creating more employment opportunities for the seemingly growing number of self acclaimed unemployed graduates?
2. Or maybe to gather a group of people in the same situation in which I am so that we can sympathise with one another as of course, we would best understand the situation we are in like no one else would.
3. Or could it be to direct ourselves to the latest job vacancies being posted in newspapers, on job websites, BBM, twitter ,2go, facebook, eskimi, and the list goes on.
4. Perhaps to sit and brainstorm on ways to make ourselves employable by looking out for the skills employers need and trying to see how we can get those skills.
5. Or Perhaps to see how we can pull knowledge and resources together and start up a business in order to provide a service and then receive pay in return for that service.
6. At this point, I guess I’ll leave you to come up with other possible (positive) objectives of such a forum…please be creative.
So, is it just me, or why do I have a feeling that such a forum would be less likely to focus on options 4, 5 and 6 and would be more likely to pour themselves-body, mind and soul- into options 1, 2 and 3.

My question most times is this, is it that through out your years in the university, you were never able to identify a particular skill, or set of skills that you can put to use legitimately -without having first sat in front of an interviewer or a panel of interviewers- in exchange for money?

Or is it that you’re not as lucky, well spoken or as rich as the guy/lady who started the company or group of companies you are presently applying to. What if he/she never started that company, would you be applying to become an employee today?
Or maybe you just don’t like the faces of those at the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC) where it would take a less amount of money, risk and stress to register a business, than you presently spend on travelling from one state to another day-in day-out, month-in month-out, believing that one day God will reward your “Hustle”.

Why has thinking, self-evaluation, courage, determination and the ability to listen to the voice inside you, so much eluded us as Nigerian Graduates? WHY? WHY? WHY?

All those companies out there, what are they doing that makes them so successful? They are providing a service or perhaps selling a product. What makes you feel you would be any less successful if you choose to provide a service and not be serviced. And now you’re saying “I’ve heard that before” right? From each and every one of the countless motivational speakers and mentors whose books you have read and seminars you have attended. Reading books and attending seminars and getting that degree that qualified you to bear the name “graduate”, all that is called “knowledge”. The question is, where is the “action”? let me state it here categorically that your education was not meant for knowledge, education is meant for action. Attend all the schools you want, read all the books you can place your hands on, attend all the seminars you can afford -seminars that those who have read the same books you read are moving on to the action part by organising – all that is of NO USE if you never put it to use, If you never take action, take initiative, take responsibility for your own life. Even the Bible says “Faith without works is dead”. I guess I’ll have to ask one of my Muslim friends what the Quran has to say about this.

Lets go through some questions I’ve been asked by some graduates,
Questions : na paper them dey take start business abi? Abi you wan give me money make I start business?
My answer : Why on earth would I give an individual money to start a business when you haven’t shown me what you can do.
Other reasons of in-action are
The idea I have needs a lot of money to lift off.
And so on……

Let us imagine for a moment-don’t forget, its an imagination o!- that you never had the opportunity to get a degree and be called a graduate. Does that mean you would die jobless and broke? Or would you fight and struggle against all the odds to still make a life out of your life, like so many people around you in the same environment as you, are doing and more in the future will still do legitimately.

I believe its high time we as Nigerian Graduates spoke a little less about the problems which obviously isn’t getting us anywhere and spent our lives trying out various solutions. Comrades, I didn’t say you should think or talk about solutions but to try out solutions. If trying out solutions were your aim, then thinking about possible solutions would not be a matter of choice but a MUST. But if you spent all your time thinking, you might just one day, choose to think no more, putting you farther away from ever trying.

I hope I’m not beginning to sound like a motivational speaker because I am not, and besides, if you wait for someone to motivate you in this day and age, then my brothers and sisters, like we say in pidgin english, ”you go old”.

Doubts and fear are natural, we all doubt our abilities, we all have one phobia or the other, but don’t let those intangibles keep you from making something tangible out of your life.

At the beginning of this article, I asked a question about the number of us who are actually putting our degrees to use on our present jobs. Not a lot I must tell you, ok, maybe a lot but definitely not all. A degree just shows the world that you are trainable, that you have the capacity to learn, to set your mind on something and achieve it. Transfer that skill, zeal and determination you put into getting that degree especially in a country like Nigeria into your post graduate life. If we don’t push ourselves to the limit, how will we ever know how far we can go? If we never start something, then how are we to make that thing.
Job seekers say, they want so so and so years of experience, but if they don’t employ us, how are we to get the experience? Oga and madam, let’s do a reality check, do you think the recruiters really care about how you get your experience? All they want to know is, will he/she help us make more money? No body takes for granted a man/woman who will help them make more money.

Permit me, my people, na naija we dey. We are Nigerians. No be we talk say “any way is a way”?
Make we no do am anyway, make we do am the right way…think about the right things, say the right things. If we wait make the money arrange all before we start our business, we no go ever start. Start where you are, start small with what you have. It is when you start that you can make money to make more money. And frankly, I’m only talking about money here because that seems to be our only definition of success today. How much do you have? Who is your god father?

If you maintain that getting your degree was not easy then don’t think that life after that degree will be any easier if you don’t try to make it easier. We spend way too much time talking and far too little time doing. That’s why I’m even considering a career in radio presenting. All we keep hearing is how hard and bad it is, we have fed ourselves that information for so long that it has become our reality.

I just wish I were talking to you face – to – face, so you could see how much this Nigerian topic that seems to be on all our lips thereby keeping us from doing the good we have to do, has made us a nation where “man is so unkind to mankind” like Tuface said.

Its becoming more like the only way to solve the unemployment saga in this country is to actually start sharing wads of any denomination of the Nigerian currency hand-to-hand because that, I’m thinking, will calm people down for a while to do some thinking, not about how to solve the problem which is still staring at us in the face, but thinking about what to spend the money on.

Ladies and gentlemen, silver or gold I do not have, but what I know is that, if we must turn this country around, we must first begin with ourselves, but yet again, we have heard this before. So does it mean that words are beginning to lose their value? or like I said, there’s just too much talking and no doing. Comrades, let us use the most important muscle in our bodies- our brains- to think solutions and not problems, and when you have found a solution, overcome that fear and doubt by taking action. “NON LOQUI SED FACERE”- NOT TALK BUT ACTION. Imagine if the director of a movie would never shout ACTION! would a movie ever be produced? In the same way, shout to yourself, cry to yourself, plead with yourself to take action, positive action, and it will be as if things are just lining themselves up in your favour.

Dear comrades, I implore you…”TEMET NOSCE” – KNOW THYSELF.
So for those of you still in school, don’t drop this article until you have decided right here and now, if you want to graduate and add to the statistics of the so called self acclaimed unemployed graduates or are you going to identify that thing you can do and do it so well in service to others and thereby be employed. Because employed or unemployed is really a choice. Employment doesn’t mean nice suits and flashy cars and meetings or an over rated pride combined in fine mix with self-glorification, being employed means you provide a service, you sell value, and you get value in return.

So, a lot has been said and the way I see it, you have two choices, you could drop this article and continue to complain about how bad it is, or you could take action. Either way, it was your choice and you will realise sooner or later that you really cannot blame anyone or any institution or any government for whatever reason, but yourself. Winston Churchill said ”Whether you say you can or you can’t, either way you are right”. Allow me to paraphrase “whether you talk say I fit or I no fit, any which way, na so e go be”.
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The writer Aboje Ocholofu is a Lead Consultant at Eighthmaygroup. Contact him for your project management trainings, business plan development, business registration with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and business proposal writings. Email:abojeocholofu@eighthmaygroup.com[/notification]

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