Former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has charged the nation to urgently arrest the increasing unemployment problem in the country. Kalu made the call yesterday while delivering a lecture on good governance, job creation and role of the media during the launch of the book, Guide to Youth Self Employment written by Sam Nwanze in Abuja.
Kalu said, “in as much as the unemployment scourge ravages our country, so long must we continue to talk about job creation and employment.”
He added that so long as Nigeria, which is the sixth largest oil producing nation on earth, continued to face an intimidating youth unemployment rate with over 40 million of the population jobless and hopeless, so long must intellectual exchanges continue to be on the front burner of national discourse.
According to Kalu, “the logic is simple: if we don’t get our youths productively engaged during daytime, they will surely keep us busy and sleepless during the night time. You know what I am talking about. The upsurge in crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and other violent crimes are, to a very large extent, directly attributable to joblessness,” the two-term governor of Abia State submitted.
Kalu further said Nigeria was writhing in the throes of devastating unemployment, adding that though the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) pegged the number of unemployed Nigerians at 39 million, such figure could only have been a conservative estimate.
He said, “in the last 14 years since the advent of democracy, our unemployment rate has seen a dramatic escalation. Between 1999 and 2007, our unemployment percentage jumped from 8.7 percent to 23.9 percent.”
Quoting the World Bank’s 2009 unemployment assessment of Nigeria, Kalu said, “in 2009, the World Bank published a report which showed that Nigeria had about 40 million jobless citizens which was about 28.57 percent of the population,” even as he said that unofficial sources believed that the number of unemployed Nigerians could be over 50 million.
According to Kalu, “this is also a conservative figure, given our tardy and unreliable record-keeping process. We have many Nigerians in the villages, small towns and cities who are not captured in the unemployment index. What this frightening reality tells us is that a third of our huge population estimated at over 170 million, is roaming the streets jobless. This state of affair portends a frightening time bomb,” he added.
On the possible danger of unemployment rate in the country, Kalu said the nation had seen the dangers inherent in untamed youth unemployment in other parts of the world, positing that such could happen in the country. He further said Nigerians had borne witness to how countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Greece and others, unraveled like a castle of sand dunes.
Kalu added: “Indeed, the mass uprisings that exploded in 2011, the Arab Spring, are direct consequences of the neglect of that critical factor in good governance. The Arab Spring was unquestionably a youth uprising against unemployment, harsh economic conditions, social injustice, despotism and tyranny. It was the revolt of the youth against intolerable living conditions in the affected countries.
“When you have a huge chunk of virile and robust youth rotting away without jobs or prospects, are we not laying landmines that will ultimately blow up in our faces?
“In Nigeria, no one can say that we have not been sufficiently warned about the dangers of not aggressively tackling the upsurge in mass unemployment, especially among the youths. Never in the history of this country has kidnapping been as rampant as it is today. From the young to the old, to even the elderly, no one is safe from the onslaught of daredevil kidnappers. From the high and mighty to the lowly and humble, everyone is game for these marauders.
“The upsurge in kidnapping in our land should worry us all. There is hardly any month you do not hear of kidnap cases. Of course, there is a correlation between youth unemployment and kidnapping. From the stories told by kidnappers’ victims, many of those who now see kidnapping as a meal ticket are youths between 22-30 years old. In some instances, even 18-year-old youngsters have been recruited into the evil enterprise.”
Kalu said the intractable challenge must be confronted squarely and Nigerians must prevail in that endeavour. The scourge of unemployment, according to Kalu, could only be confronted with aggressive job creation schemes, adding that it was an urgent priority that could not wait for tomorrow.
“It is my strong view that it is better to create jobs for the army of the unemployed youths than to spend our huge resources cracking down on youths who have turned to crimes because of the harsh economic climate,” Kalu stated.
In his remarks, President Goodluck Jonathan, noted that good governance was central to everything else, without which no other thing would work. Jonathan who was represented by the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, added that good governance had been the driving force of the current transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration.
The president said for a very long time, Nigeria had had governance deficit, which the nation had admitted. According to Maku, “that is why Mr. President has now made it a priority to put attention in improving the quality of governance. And Mr. President is doing this by looking at certain issues,” he said.
Reviewing the book, Professor Joseph Mba of the Strategic Business School, Lagos, said the author drew from sociology, journalism, psychology and practical entrepreneurship to discuss in a rich, simple and practical manner, the unemployment situation in Nigeria, the challenges and effects of youth unemployment, simple and small business the youth could engage in.
He added that the author provided in the book, inspiration and motivation to Nigerian youths to shift their mentality from government dependency to self-dependency, from focus on white-collar jobs to commitment to self-employment.