Unemployment: The way not to go in youth empowerment (1)
WITH each new day, the fast-paced advancement in global trends makes it imperative for every nation to develop or die; reform or retard. A nation’s development, however, does not happen overnight or by accident. Nation building is the result of intense efforts at building a community and homeland, a phenomenal task not undertaken lightly, but shouldered by a nation’s government, its public and private sectors, and its people. The people, however, are the fulcrum in the developmental equation because they drive the systems and structures within the government, the public and private sectors. Therefore, people-empowerment is the critical element in national development.
People are the real wealth of a nation. That we exist as a nation with territorial sovereignty is because we exist as a people with traits of homogeneity. The success of our people is the key to our stability and sustainability, as well as the source of our global competitiveness as a nation. The super power nations that are leading economic cum political interchanges across the globe attained their hegemonic status by utilising their resources to empower their own people. Any nation that will flow with the waves of the 21st century tide must engage its brightest and empower its young talents.
Youth empowerment, as a developmental concept, has been misconstrued a whole lot within the Nigerian context. The term has been mostly associated with the large-scale purchase of buses, sewing machines, or tricycles popularly known as keke napepe to give out to the youth as a tool to enable them put food on their tables. Such models of ‘empowerment,’ within the social context, is a far cry from what the concept really is because it is skeletal, stereotypical, and systematically fails to take into account the destiny of the individual being supposedly empowered.
Youth empowerment is simply all positive effort made towards enabling the youth to consciously discover, conscientiously develop, and competently deploy their destinies for the effective service of humanity. It is all about enabling the youth to build capacity for service to humanity along the lines of their destinies.
In the light of the above definition, one can easily reckon that most empowerment programmes for the youth across the states, though laudable in principle, are not truly effective in practice. When you give a keke napepe to a man that is not passionate about transportation business nor have built sufficient capacity to serve the public along those lines, you didn’t empower him in the real sense of the word. As a precondition, an effective empowerment programme for the youth must be intricately connected with the passion, personality, natural ability, and the creative and innovative potentialities of the youth.
Over the years, the government made budgetary allocations for investments in physical infrastructure without channeling funds towards developing the mental infrastructure of our young people. Such lack of concern for the strategic development of our young people, in part, remains the bane of Nigeria’s inability to diversify her economy and maximise its true potentials. We explore our natural resources without exploring the natural potentialities of our young people. This has in turn, limited the flow of opportunities across diversities of sectors within the polity thereby creating an imbalance of sorts occasioned by too many hands chasing very few openings within few sectors.
The Immigration saga of last year where close to 800, 000 youth nationwide were chasing 3,500 sold-out immigration jobs is a reflection of this sad reality. In that 800,000 people, we possibly have very good writers, artisans, musicians, traders, architects, journalists, caterers, consultants, and entrepreneurs that have discovered their talents, developed them but probably lacked the financial resources for start ups, hence they became easy prey for a job scam. The government needs to step up and shoulder the responsibility of harnessing these natural human resources for the all-round development of our nation.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai noted in his book My Vision, “A diamond is nothing more than a stone until it is cut and polished; only then does it become a precious stone.”
In the light of this assertion, the Sheikh noted that the people of Dubai are the most important ingredient in the development process of Dubai as a nation. He, therefore, considers the development of his country’s human resources as the gauge for the development of his country. He invests the resources of the nation to tap the potential of people, inspire them to generate great ideas, help them develop wealth, and transform their ideas into major projects and job opportunities. He reckoned, “If we fail to educate young people, develop their skills and generate the spirit of excellence and creativity in them, we will never, under any circumstances, have a successful development process.”
In the same vein, you will agree with me that the majority of the youth in Nigeria, like diamonds, are nothing more than stones until they are cut and polished; only then do they become precious stones.
This quickly brings to mind the life of Africa’s leading entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote. The historical account of his early life and development has it that he had an intense passion for business at a very young age. While he was in primary school, he bought cartons of sweets and sugar boxes and traded them to make money. After years of developing this craft, he received some funds from his uncle, founded the Dangote Group, and has built it into the biggest quoted and most diversified conglomerate in Africa. He is widely acclaimed to have done more than any other African entrepreneur to put the African economy on the global map.
Now, whoever imagined what would have happened if Dangote didn’t have the financial resources to bring to light the greatness he felt on his inside? This makes it imperative for the government to assist in providing these resources for young people to cultivate their ingenuity for the service of humanity.
• To be continued.
• Danfod is the lead resource person at Passion and Living Resources International. He wrote from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org.