One of the greatest challenges facing Nigeria is providing the youth meaningful and gainful employment, social empowerment and opportunities for personal development. The educational system Nigeria inherited from colonialism at Independence is one which gave the student literacy and numeracy, but not the capacity to gainfully control employment destiny of the recipient of this education. As a consequence, it was the kind of education which prepared the youth to be servants, messengers, clerks, assistants, officers, managers, etc.; preparing a coterie of persons who, upon graduation, have little survival instincts, employment or employable skills, for a job market that depends on others and the government. This kind of education can only take a society so far and no farther.
Many countries with similar history of colonialism and neo-colonial dependency have at one time or the other, realized the limitation of this kind of education and they have taken deliberate steps and measures to make the necessary changes. Examples of countries which have done that are Brazil, India, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In the case of Brazil and India, we see that given their demography, they now constitute what is described as emergent economies – becoming industrial powers of their own on the back of local human resources, making some of the best technology products and being leaders in alternative energy production and ICT. Nigeria under an APC government should do just that for the benefit of our teeming youths and the country in general.
A large part of the problems of insecurity, apathy, and despondency that Nigeria faces today is a direct result of the neglect of the youth. Our youths are not facilitated to dream of better future or to secure themselves opportunities that will make them have confidence in their humanity and their society. It is not by accident that we face the challenges we face on all fronts, and it will be heartening for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to be proactive in taking steps and measures to ensure that an APC government provides various programmes aimed at empowering its citizens.
Jamaica is a very small country compared to Kaduna, as Kaduna State has a population of about 6,500,000 people, while Jamaica has a population of about 2,700,000 people. But in various ways, Jamaica is years ahead of many of our States in Nigeria. It will not be idle boast to say Jamaica has evolved one of the most sophisticated best practices in terms of training of manpower, small scale entrepreneurial capacity development, tourism, sports and entertainment. There are three areas that an APC government can explore for collaboration, adaptation and sharing. These are:
In terms of human employment and vocational training and empowerment, Jamaica has made tremendous strides, which Nigeria can benefit from, with proper collaboration and adaptation. Jamaica has gone even further in capacity building to post-graduate programmes for vocational experts. The hordes of school graduates we produce in Nigeria today, not to mention the tertiary level graduates, continue to fill the pool of the unemployed, disillusioned and despondent set of youths, who are very vulnerable to abuse, recruitment into criminality, prostitution, destitution, crime and violence. But this does not have to be so, because Nigeria has always been blessed with an abundance of resources which if properly tapped by well-heeled workforce can transform the nation into a prosperous entity for good living.
Small Scale Enterprises
There is no doubt that in today’s world, small and medium enterprises are the engines of growth in all developed and developing societies. When the economic crash hit United States of America in the middle of the last decade, the country immediately emphasized the empowerment of small enterprises to drive growth. There are so many industries in Nigeria which young people can fit into with little financial outlay. But the first step is training. The second is support and empowerment by the Government. The cattle industry is a rich one with diverse opportunities. Agro processing of various types are also there. For example, Kaduna should be supplying the rest of the Country and some West African countries with various products, given our good fortune of geography and placement in the country. But these possibilities depend on various variables. These require first a proactive government to recognize the opportunities and to seriously invest in them.
Nigeria used to produce the best in virtually all aspects of sports, from athletics to boxing, swimming, high jump, tennis, wrestling, judo, etc. Now most of our youths have no sense of that history, and we have not built on our past greatness. But nothing teaches the youth discipline and responsibility more than competition through sports. It also teaches the youth about the culture and humanity of their competitors. Many countries are going to Jamaica to find out the miracle trick. Jamaica has excelled in the world of sports because of deliberate investment in sports at all levels. In the last decade, Jamaica has been the dominant force in athletics globally and Nigeria can learn from this and invest in its youth to make that leap of faith toward individual and collective greatness.