UNEMPLOYMENT IS DEADLIER THAN BOMBS

L-R: LABOUR MINISTER EMEKA WOGU AND NLC PRESIDENT ABDULWAHAB OMAR.
L-R: LABOUR MINISTER EMEKA WOGU AND NLC PRESIDENT ABDULWAHAB OMAR.
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Long before mid-June this year when the former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo raised alarm on the prospect of an imminent bloody revolution in sub-Saharan African countries including Nigeria if the grave crisis of unemployment is not realistically tackled, yours faithfully has also known that unemployment is deadlier than bombs, the types that have become the pre-occupation of the deadly extremist Islamic religious group-the boko haram so much so that these dangerous bigots throw them indiscriminately to endanger the lives of several innocent Nigerians in places like Borno, Bauchi, Suleja in Niger and the Federal Capital Territory.

Unemployment apart from resulting from inequity and the gross abuse of fundamental human rights of citizens by the members of the political class, has also assumed the dangerous position as the probable destroyer of modern day civilization.

My take on this line of thinking is that unemployment is deadlier than bombs being thrown around by religious extremists who are largely seen as uneducated, poor and substantially not very exposed. But thinking about the prospect of several of our unemployed youth joining the growing ranks of disaffected Nigerians and thereby decide to exact revenge on the society, the impacts and consequences of educated youth learning how to make bombs and to throw these weapons of mass destruction intelligently to some apparently legitimate targets like facilities of the state and at the direction of political office holders, will be apocalyptic and grave to put it mildly.

I am convinced from the bottom of my heart that Nigeria’s political elite are sitting precariously on the keg of gun powder if they keep neglecting the fundamental constitutional duty of deploying public funds and resources towards programmatically creating the enabling environment for the large army of unemployed youth most of whom are educated and exposed to have opportunities for self/gainful employment and for further human/self development. Unemployment in Nigeria is therefore a widening time bomb which if not detonated through a controlled process of comprehensive transformation of the collapsed socio-economic infrastructures could result in so much grave social dislocation in the coming years.

I say so because from all the statistics available on employment from internationally reputable organizations, Nigeria is doing very badly. When therefore the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo delivered a lecture at the recent international labour organization’s forum in Europe and warned that bloody revolution may result from total lack of employment for the Nigerian youth, I subscribed totally to his position and further stated that employment is a very basic human right that ought to be respected if Nigeria ever hopes to become a respectable member of the international community in the foreseeable future because even in the Western World where unemployment is not as grave as ours, there are series of social welfare packages/safety nets dolled out to the unemployed to make them keep body and soul together.

Obasanjo had stated; “When I was younger…, there was only one University in Nigeria, but now we have about 120 Universities and other tertiary institutions and they churn out an average of 600,000 graduates yearly. My worry is that there are no jobs for these growing armies of youth….”

Like most Nigerians who reacted negatively to the warning made in Viena by Obasanjo, I had the temptation of condemning the messenger rather than dissecting the message. I initially reacted by referring to the scholarly book by Duncan Clarke titled “crude continent; the struggle for Africa’s oil prize”, published in 2008 in which he clearly indicted the government headed by President Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007 for gaining so much from oil revenue but not using these resources to improve the living conditions of the majority of Nigerians including the millions of unemployed youth for whom former President Obasanjo has now become the crusader for their right to employment to be respected.

In that 674- page book, Mr. Duncan Clarke who has 40 years’ background in the economics of Africa and the developing world had stated graphically thus; “During Obasanjo eight year tenure as President Nigeria earned $223 Billion in oil revenues. However, basic living conditions worsened significantly for most Nigerians. Around 70% remained in survival mode, living on $1 US dollar per day [80% of oil revenues benefiting around one percent of the populace]”.

But the implication of that comment by erstwhile Nigerian President Obasanjo is that the current President has the historic opportunities of righting the several wrongs of past administrations in failing to effectively create sustainable/enabling environment for job opportunities to be made practically available for the millions of our unemployed but educated and exposed youth.

Dissecting Obasanjo’s message from the perspective of the fact that employment opportunities are human rights, I subscribed to the scholarly reasoning of Winston P. Nagan who reminded us that at the United Nation’s 1995 summit on social development, the core labor rights such as freedom of association, the right to organize, and collectively bargain were reaffirmed as fundamental human rights.

Though Winston Nagan quickly stated that the above stated development do not explicitly articulate the idea of an individual’s enforceable human right to employment or the states’ duty to provide employment or a corporate obligation to do what is possible within sound business practice to avoid unemployment strategies of doing business. But the writer stated rightly that if we conceptualize the right to employment and labour as encapsulated in the value of skill, it is possible to briefly map the way in which skill is a base of power for securing other articulate humans rights values.

It is therefore laughable that the senate of the Federal Republic could gloss over an important issue of ensuring that the executive arm of government builds a quality data bank of unemployed Nigerians so that proper economic policies, projects and programs could be pragmatically implemented to tackle the security nightmare posed to Nigeria by the unprecedented rate of unemployment. The issue of unemployment must be considered as a national emergency by the federal government and multi dimensional approaches other than mere talk shops must be adopted to bring this menace to a manageable limit. The current administration must ensure that corruption is eradicated and that public resources are spent wisely to fix the collapsed infrastructure in Nigeria so that opportunities for self employment and development for the youth can be created.

Big Corporate organizations in Nigeria must as a matter of necessity implement wide ranging measures to create wealth for the benefit of all especially the less privilege and unemployed members of the nation.

Jeffrey Sachs in his book “The End of poverty: how we can make it happen in our life time” stated that it is our generation’s challenge to end poverty and reduce unemployment.

He wrote thus; “It is our breathtaking opportunity to be able to advance the Enlightenment vision of Jefferson, Smith, Kant, and Condocet. Our generation’s work can be defined in Enlightenment terms; to help foster political system that promote human well-being based on the consent of the governed; to help foster economic systems that spread the benefit of science, technology, and the division of labor to all parts of the world; to help foster international corporation in order to secure a perpetual peace; and to help promote science and technology, grounded in human rationality, to fuel the continued prospects for improving the human condition.

Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria and can be reached on [email protected]


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