REPOSITIONING THE NIGERIAN DIGNITY; A POINT OF CALL TO ALL AND SUNDRY By Oyeniyi Iwakun

A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under the sun –Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle must probably be referring to Nigeria with the above statement,

where millions of its productive population sadly wanders on the street scouting for jobs to no avail on daily basis. Perhaps, they are victims of fortune’s inequality.

Education in Nigeria can be interpreted in twin terms, first is its regimented curriculum and aftermath reliance on the government.

The pre-colonial African society is presumed to be exceptionally organized and smooth despite the absence of standardized theories for explanations of the various activities before the advent of western education by the colonial masters.

Even at that, the early beneficiaries of western education who received first hand mentorship from the colonialists still enjoyed the full dividends of becoming educationists. Maybe, because of the direct trainings they got from the western educationists or possibly the unalloyed helping hand the state extended to them coupled with high determinations and discipline.

A Grammar School Certificate holder (now Secondary School Certificate SSCE) was usually sure of one job or the other awaiting him after school no matter how poor his performance might be. It is now imaginable that the employment opportunities for College and University graduates or even professionals at that time would be limitless. The first question that comes to mind is; why were things so then?

Come to think of it, virtually every individual possessed one skill or the other to complement formal education. Discrimination against (and overrating of) courses of study over others wasn’t existent im the early days as everyone was regarded as professional in his field of specialization. Above all, everybody (both educated and uneducated) engages in farming as major pre-occupation activities.

Agriculture was at the center stage of the nation’s economy that the post colonial Nigerian government had to create sustainable institutions and policies for Agriculture (Agric settlements, Oil palm, Cocoa, groundnuts processing companies, among others) until the sudden discovery of crude oil in the seventies (1970s) which led to the crumbling of these structures.

In those days, even the uneducated persons were fully engaged in their areas of interest and expertise by government who dimmed it fit to provide a level plain ground for trades, commerce and entrepreneurial development. In fact, hardly could an idle man be found on the streets of Nigeria.

The Nigeria of then was close to “an essential state (a perfect society)” as described by Socrates the great philosopher, but what do we see today? A stratified society characterized by contradictions, hopelessness and helplessness. A Nigeria dominated by class (rich versus poor, strong against weak), fraudulent leaders and fratricidal followers. A society with decay educational, political, religious and traditional systems where morality the great household is no more and only the broken fence stands.

Those who study Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Architecture are now regarded as professionals while others are addressed as unprofessional thereby creating inferiority and avoidable wrong impressions about our educational system. This will however not go well with the pursuant of these over exaggerated professional courses and the Nigerian state. For instance, the Nigerian universities have limited their graduates to be dependent on government and beogeosie for employment and survival. “Professionals” (Pilots, Aerospace Engineers, Lawyers, Medical practitioners) for instance after spending more years in the University studying the course still end up jobless.

In retrospect, what the society offers them after school becomes challenging as it differs from their areas of expertise. Unfortunately, they turn down early offers that come their ways on egocentric stand “I am a certified lawyer or medical doctor, how can I do this kind of small job? Can they pay for my worth?” and this trends on until frustration sets in.

Amazingly, government’s only offer is the mandatory one year National Youth Service (NYSC) where it’s imperative for every Corp members to learn at least one skill among available options (Tailoring, Cosmetology, Welding, Fish rearing, piggery among others) under the “Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED)” scheme or diversify to activities within the academic confines of the so-called unprofessional courses. Again, why the professional studies in the first place when better opportunities seemed to be in the unprofessional ones?

The question is who is to be blamed? The society, the parents, the youths or even Providence for not being fair? Today, Pilots have taken over taxi driving as reported by naij.com recently “over 500 unemployed pilots and aviation engineers have taken to menial jobs like taxi driving in Nigeria”.

Lawyers are now taking over tailoring, cosmetology. Medical doctor’s specializing in farming and other professions attributed to illiterates or lazy people.

We hear on radio, read on newspaper pages everyday on government’s intention to diversify the economy and also return to the Agric era but nothing substantial is being done.

The causal factors have been adduced to misplacement of priorities, imposition by parents and environment, lack of orientation, poor educational system and government failure.

Most Nigerians cannot defend the rationale behind their choice of academic careers. They study a course because their neighbour or sibling studied it. In some cases, to satisfy parental wishes while shying away from economic realities of the country.

Engr. Roland Ajiboye, An Entrepreneur, Aerospace Engineer and Aviation expert has advocated for diversification among professionals while identifying core areas of strength and entrepreneurial development as key solutions to the problem of underemployment in Nigeria. Also, government must as an expedient point of duty recreate an enabling environment for skills acquisition and entrepreneurial development while declaring a “state of emergency” on unemployment in the nation.

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