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Of graduate's unemployment and the lies that our elites tell

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By Mohammed Dahiru Aminu
I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Nigeria in August 2010, and I was called upon to engage in the compulsory one-year national youth service, which I completed in March 2012. At the time I passed out of national service, I had no intentions to seek employment with immediacy. As an undergraduate, I always had an enduring intent to obtain a postgraduate qualification after national service. Thus in September 2012, I began my postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom which lasted fourteen months. In late 2013, I graduated with a Master's degree and without delay, I returned home; to Nigeria to begin the process of job seeking. Aware of the joblessness figures in the country, I did not think that getting a job would come just so easy.

After my Bachelor's degree, I met a Nigerian elite—a friend of my father—who asked me why I had gone to Lagos for national service when I could easily have met him so he could influence my service to an important oil company in the northern part of the country; where he works. The elite thought that my choice of serving in an obscure little organisation in Lagos was not a perfect one. In the spirit of Nigerianness, I quickly apologised to the 'big man' and told him I could easily use his influence in the future, which he has shown willingness to provide to me, ad libitum. By a quirk of fate, I would meet again with this elite at the airport on the day I would depart to the UK to begin my studies. The elite readily recognised me, asked me about the course I intended to study, and also about my new university. Sure enough, like always, he reassured me that whenever I am done studying, he could easily get me a lucrative job offer.

Three months to the end of my studies in the UK, I asked my father if he could phone his elite friend to inform him of the near-completion of my education, so that the elite could be alerted in good time to enable him prepare to the process of my employment. But when my father called to inform the elite about me, the elite told him I still needed to officially conclude my studies and have my certificate handy before he could do something about my employment. Being a smart man that the elite seemed to be, I knew my father's friend was in a clever display of a bid to buy himself more time.

After having obtained my postgraduate qualification in late 2013, one day, while waiting to catch a domestic flight in Abuja, by another quirk of fate, I caught sight of my father's elite friend who happened to be waiting to board the same flight I would board. He told me that since I now have my postgraduate qualification handy, that when we arrive at our destination, we would talk about my supposedly lucrative job in earnest. After we had arrived and spent a few days in our destination, my father would phone his elite friend to remind him about me. But trust the smart elite, who asked my father what I had studied; feigning ignorance of my discipline as though he never met or discussed my course with me, in the first place. The elite also asked if I had a certificate of national service, again feigning ignorance as though he wasn't the person that reprimanded me for serving in Lagos. The type of questions that the elite kept asking were all obvious efforts to find that little thing that would either buy him more time or would out-rightly disqualify me from the supposed job he had promised. Unfortunately for him, my records seemed very straight: a good Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree on top of it, and a certificate of national service.

Now what's more? The only way out for the elite is to tell my father a much expected regular line of defence: you know these days, the jobs are not there. Tell the Nigerian elite to help you secure a job and he'll not waste any time telling you that you did not read the appropriate course in the university; and/or that your degree is a Lower Second Class or a Third Class; and/or that since you have a Lower Second Class, it is apt that you obtain a Master's degree; and/or that since you are still serving, you must complete and have your national service certificate handy before talking about a job. When all criteria are met, the Nigerian elite wouldn't give up: these are hard times, give me some more time, the jobs are not there, so easily. To give a wide berth to my father's phone call, the elite said he would send his email address to enable me drop him my resume and relevant credentials.

But one attribute common to the Nigerian elite is his/her lack of self-effacement. For sake of politeness, the Nigerian elite lacks the simple courtesy of acknowledging receipt of an email; thus no reply ever came from my father's elite friend. Of course, as you would guess, no phone call would ever come from the elite again, to either me or my father. All subsequent attempts to reach my father's elite friend had been abortive at best. The best way to avoid me and my father is to stop answering his phone calls: the surest way to go blank.

Ordinarily, no university graduate should be made to wait on any elite in order to find a hire commensurate with his/her education and training; save for a country where merit had been taken to the air. Jobs should ideally be found on merit. But ours is a country where a few elites have amassed for themselves and their immediate intimates all the factors of production—land, labour, capital, and entrepreneurship—which makes them and only them the sole deciders of who gets what from the system. But the elite equally enjoy a sundry of benefits in all the menaces that they deliberately afflict on us, ordinary citizens; from unemployment, to insecurity, ineffective healthcare delivery, bad roads, perpetual power failure, sordid education, etc. In short, there is an unspoken existential story of a colossal corruption behind all the daily happy opulence that we see in the lives of our elites. Thus, it is profitable for these elites to continue to wreak perils on our lives by sustaining their happy opulence—you may call it vested interests—everlastingly.

This is but one narration out of many that unemployed graduates often go through in Nigeria. It is a story of graduate's unemployment and the lies that our elites tell.

Mohammed Dahiru Aminu, can be reached at [email protected]