By Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim
In all the brouhaha about zoning, most politicians and their handy men and women in the media, have left out the most important question: how to zone the youth population into significance in society, through sustainable employment.
The campaign season is here again, and a lot of politicians will be visited by young people. The youths need to ask about their plans for Jobs, not just about the promises of Jobs. ASK THEM HOW?
An unemployed or underemployed person is economically disempowered, and cannot in actual sense exercise political power except as a political hireling, whose votes and voice can only be bought.
A Job is more than a means of livelihood. Job socialises an individual, and make him or her accountable for time and resources. It organises a person and creates personal discipline. Fredrick Engels makes this eloquently clear in his 19th century seminal work: The Part Labour Played In The Transition Of Ape To Man(1876).
The most important question in Nigeria today is Job and Security. The national unemployment rate in Nigeria is 33.30% and 54% amongst ages 15 to 25, compared to 4.24% in China, a country of 1.4billion people, Nigeria is only 200million.
We can blame Covid-19 pandemic, insecurity and so on, but the truth is that, the last time job creation was seriously central to the policies of the political leaders, was between 1955-1965; the period of limited self government and early independence, when industrialization was pursued seriously by the Western regional government with proceeds from cocoa trade, and the Northern regional government with the proceeds of groundnut and cotton trade.
Ilupeju, Agbara, Ikeja industrial estates, housing hundreds of industries as well as many industries in Kaduna, Kano rose from these policies.
Nothing creates value added jobs more than industries and manufacturing. To be added to this, is the new Cyber Economy, as well as processing of solid and liquid minerals.
Any nation with low industrialization and manufacturing, must of necessity have high unemployment.
China is a country with over 1.402 billion population, but with low unemployment rates, because her manufacturing sector contributed 26.18% of the GDP in 2020, while that of Nigeria was 11.79% for the same period.
We have heard about getting everyone to go to farm in order to have jobs. That is not what we are talking about. Any nation where everybody is a farmer can only be pre-eighteenth century society. Most advanced countries do not have more than 4-6% of their population farming. And to be meaningful, such farming has to be tied to industries.
The jobs needed are also in education, where teachers and counsellors are needed; in health, where doctors and nurses, medical laboratory scientists, psychologists are needed.
The Global outsourcing market of the digital economy also provides opportunities for millions of jobs.
When industries are built, Engineers and
Technicians; workers are needed, likewise Auditors, Lawyers, Accountants, Store keepers, Personnel and Administrative cadres etc.
Massive infrastructural investments can also create jobs, especially when it is not dependent on massive external borrowings, and not completely dependent on too much foreign technology content, that carries the risk of creating a debt trap, and unserviceable infrastructures that become white elephants in the long run.
Small businesses in the informal sectors can be supported to create jobs.
When government runs comprehensive health programmes, there will be more need for more beddings, beds, disposal packs, Laboratory reagents etc.
Comprehensive education means more furniture in schools, more modern boards to be manufactured, more pencils, more crayon, and more jobs when such items are produced locally. In most cases, technologies to produce them can fit a tiny room.
Jobs are needed to be created at every level of government, not just at the Federal level.
The youths and jobs should feature centrally in our political lexicon on the way to 2023. The youths are the critical zone.
May Nigeria succeed!