The Catholic Church of Divine Mercy in Lekki Phase One recently organized a free entrepreneurship workshop for youths in Lagos, as part of its 2018 annual Unusual Praise event, coming up in December. Many young people took part and competed for prices in Business Plan preparation and such critical business skills. This is commendable, and part of the growing effort of the private sector, and not-for-profit organizations, to chip in to the resolution of the current employment crisis in Nigeria.
Whatever the reasons may be, the fact is that more and more young Nigerians are choosing to do their own thing – work for themselves, make their own money and generally boss themselves. Self-employment is becoming very attractive among the youth, even in the face of hitherto very attractive opportunities in such sectors as banking and energy. Granted that the declining economic fortunes of both country and people may be playing a part, many young people are now showing more interest in self-employment than before. Of course, many are unwilling entrepreneurs who would have preferred a decent job in the corporate world or the civil service but found themselves on the margins of the economy. Still, many more are deliberately seeking to find niches, around which they start an idea and grow it in value. This trend, which is rising and holds great development potential for the country, could not have been possible without the equally rising wave of entrepreneurship training and mentoring opportunities coming up more frequently. Many private individuals and entities, especially the not-for-profits, are doing a great job in providing these opportunities, mostly for free.
Nigeria is a great country by many standards. Despite all the challenges thrown in its way, it has held its own in the comity nations in certain areas. But it is not unusual to see those who say that Nigeria is a great country being mocked and derided for holding that view in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence of failure. They are often accused of living in what their critics call “fools’ paradise”, not abreast with what other great countries have achieved. Some of the critics go to the extent of asking for a listing of the achievements of Nigeria that make it great; and quite frankly, in many cases, such evidence is not commonplace. However, what nobody can deny is that Nigeria is big and the people are entrepreneurial.
Still, critics insist that Nigeria has not added value to its citizens since independence. After over 50 years of independence, they charge, Nigeria remains a smorgasbord of mutually antagonistic ethnic islands, separated by widening mucky waters of rivalry, hate and disunity, which some of her leaders deliberately engineer through nepotism and divisive conducts. The waters have sadly widened over the last few years and continues to do so. It is time to begin to work on a Nigeria that works for all; not a few.
Nigeria, has not won any conflict with its neighbours; instead it has shown signs of fear or weakness, when confronted by seemingly weaker neighbours. Indeed, rather than show its might, as some global and regional powers do, even by annexing territories, Nigeria sometimes rather easily allows chunks of its territory to slip into the hands of other more territorially ambitious elements. Like a joke, Nigeria ceded some parts of its own territory and even citizens in Bakasi to an ostensibly weaker neighbour, Cameroun. Today, there are more internally displaced people in Nigeria than many nations at war. A rag tag insurgent group called Boko Haram is holding its own against us, overrunning security posts and hiding in our forests. These dislocations have had negative impact on the youth.
There is a growing menace of idle youths on the streets of Lagos today. Many parts of Lekki Phase One have been occupied by young boys who sit idly on the kerbs day and night without any visible job. They claim to be security guards but they outnumber the houses on the streets they sit. Some of them attempted to kill a legal practitioner in Lekki last month but failed and are now with the police. It will be necessary for the state government to take note of this growing number of idle youths and join the private organizations in the state to provide them with a sense of belonging, before something terrible happens.
Although the country has had seemingly intractable challenges with governance, the potentials for the greatness of Sub-Saharan Africa still lies on how Nigeria figures its way out of its perennial leadership challenges. We can begin with a few statistics that show us as a country that is capable of greatness and leadership on the world stage. God began to sow the seed of Nigeria’s greatness when he assigned to live in it, a people who find it very easy to be happy. This has reflected in the lifestyles of the people. We are a happy people by any standard – our dressing (rich and colourful), our cars, mostly big and expensive, and our ambitions, very big. Jokes apart, happiness is a proper and indeed major index of social progress of any human community. Nigeria had once been ranked number one in world happiness by the Economist, several years ago. Things have got harder for the citizens, over time but according to the World Happiness Report for 2016, Nigeria is still considered the happiest country in West Africa, and the 5th in Africa, after Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. We can make things better for our people.
The Nigeria Labour Congress has had a bad outing in the minimum wage saga. It has been reduced to its barebones by this controversy, which has portrayed it as a selfish union that does not seem to understand the real issues confronting the nation. There are actually, so many more important reasons why labour should have downed tools since 1999 than minimum wage, but it failed to act. To plan a national shutdown because about one per cent of the population is angry over its income does not appear quite noble. I can tell labour for free, ten things over which a national shutdown is appropriate and overdue.
The world has an index of market power known as Market Potential Index. Nigeria was ranked the highest in West Africa and 5th in Africa for Market potential in the 2016 report. This report also indicated that Nigeria has the largest market size in Africa. The Market Potential Index provides valuable information for firms interested in international trade. With the world fully globalized, it is no longer an option for a country to positively manage its international trade opportunities. It is compelled. The index helps international companies that plan to expand their markets to other countries to find direction. This ranking provides an opportunity for Nigeria to become a destination of choice for countries looking to expand in Africa to consider choosing Nigeria due to its enormous market potential. This measure not only considers the size of the market, it also takes account of its growth rate. A fast growing market like Nigeria holds a latent power.
There is also the Global Talent Index (GTI). The GTI report for 2015 ranked Nigeria as the 4th in Africa for talent attraction, development, and retention. Nigerian youth have proven that they have talents. From Nollywood to our pidgin English music explosion. We must give all the necessary support to our youth so as to reduce tomorrow’s army of the poor.