When we look critically at our youth demography considering their role as major stakeholders in economic development, coupled with the myriad of challenges in governance which is highly symptomatic of administrative inefficiency and weak institutional performance, one would quickly realize there exist inescapable constrains to the timely attainment of sustainable development goals where there’s equally an endless vista of opportunities for youth.
Presently, we live in a world of economic uncertainties; the financial space is increasingly shrinking. Decision makers are primarily faced with the challenge of prioritizing fiscal expenditure. Where this concerns our burgeoning democracy is, the burdensome sustenance of our large political structure; allocations to overheads both at the local, state, and federal tiers of government vis-a-vis investments that will enhance macroeconomic outlook. These factors are competing for priority and in turn limiting growth objectives.
A situation that comes into play is the challenge of fulfilling our promises of structural transformation by, first of all, investing hugely in the development of our Human capacity to be globally competitive. No nation ever survived sustained period of transformation without transforming her PEOPLE. At the centre of any transformation recorded in human history is the capacity of the people to be productive. Even in war, countries that quickly capitulate are the ones with poor human capacity to either physically defend themselves or achieve that through use of weaponry.
As a country, we haven’t at any point; either by deliberate policy actions or by executive order, considered Human capacity development a matter of priority and/or urgency. When such decisions are ever taken they are sacrificed on the altar of corruption.
Back to the crux of this subject of discussion. Youth. In my opinion, a major criticism of past efforts at development planning in Nigeria has been the outright disdain for the capacity of youth to not only be productive, but to drive and sustain economic growth plans. In the 3rd Chapter of our National Youth Policy, it outlined Rights, Responsibilities and Obligations of both of the government to youth and youth to the country. However, a perception index on these key aspects would expose government’s inadequacies. Here’s my rationale: the country presently suffers poverty of employment for youth – not fewer than 6% of young graduate s have guarantee of wage-earning jobs 3-4 years after leaving school, and I mean decent jobs with assurances of all the components in place. This has given our school-to-work transition a poor outlook. Our School leavers and young graduates lack skills that will make them competitive in comparison to youth in a good number of countries in the sub-region. While millennial capabilities count, skills acquired in the past isn’t adequate to position them for specific jobs in the labour market, (mismatch for emphases). This quickly reminds us how education has failed in its promise of delivering “Learning Outcomes.” It is an arguable fact that education in Nigeria is on its deathbed. This has shot up our pursuit for schooling abroad on one hand, and migration on the other hand.
This points to many facts: Where education has failed, government has failed. Where a government has failed, it denies young people their basic right, and when all of these play out, the economy slips.
While growing up, we saw breathtaking videos of Nigeria’s potentials for greatness. I, particularly cut an eye for development seeing panoramic views of huge arable farm lands with Cotton plantations in Katsina, Cocoa silos in Ibadan, Palm kernel in Imo, the sky-scraper like Groundnut pyramids in Kano, the Oil fields in the Delta. Those videos usually wraps with clips of Infrastructure and Densely populated areas in Lagos state (largely, energetic young people). In the end, nothing inspires me more than hearing the word: “Nigerian people.” Therefore, to me, Nigeria revolves around its youth.
But today, when I think about all that needs to be done and should be done by the Nigerian youth, I can’t help but ask if a people in penury can bring Nigeria to its promise land.
Of great importance at this point is to help youth with speedy transition into work; one that typifies Decent Job, revamp the education sector by standardizing it to have Skills and Entrepreneurial bent. Vigorously pursue stability of the business environment as this will guarantee jobs, improve security to catalyze foreign direct investment for more jobs for our youth, increase budgetary allocation and reduce income volatilities by implementing youth-driven public sector job policies and as stakeholders in the implementation of public procurements. Social safety nets in form of Conditional grants should be inclusive and extended to people in fragile and/or disparaged regions.
Above all, government should adopt a youth-driven economic framework.