I have always wanted to visit the four walls of a University. Having written Jamb and WAEC once, the thought of finally being free from their bondage was finally over. But most of all I wanted to experience the feeling of university life, independence and pursuit of academic excellence. That was why I enlisted the prestigious law into my jamb form with the hope of becoming a sound legal practitioner like Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana etc.
Well, my hopes were dashed as after the post Ume, my name was nowhere to be found in the law admission list. I was later informed that I had been granted political science to study as I didn’t meet the criteria to study my first choice of preference.However I was skeptic about the course. I always wondered of the opportunities the course presented in modern day Nigeria. I kept asking myself, will I be a politician after reading such a course? Politics wasn’t of any interest to me, but due to the desperation of seeking admission, I accepted the course and decided to tread into the future blindfolded.
Moving on with life, 6 years later when I graduated from school with my B.Sc degree (2.2). I am sure you are wondering why it took six years to read political science which should originally have been for four years. Well the answer isn’t farfetched. Asuu strike had a role to play in it. So for two years and a missed NYSC batch, I could finally call myself a graduate. I was a young man ready to take on the challenges of the world. I could remember the day I finished my NYSC program, I was beaming with smiles with the eagerness to start fending for myself. I have often heard from previous Corp members that life was difficult on the outside, and there were no employment opportunities but that didn’t really faze me. I felt it couldn’t be that bad as these ‘lazy’ people were projecting it to be. I was in high spirit. I felt unconquerable, filled with burning energy to do exploit for my nation.
I decided to use my degree to seek employment in my field of study. I was shocked to learn that my course had absolutely no relevance in becoming or achieving any political appointment in this country. It was purely based on how much wealth and connection you had. I applied to virtually all government ministries but I wasn’t even called for an interview. Not a single one. I was bluntly told by recruitment agencies to bring the complementary cards or get my form endorsed by senior governmental figures in this country before I would even be considered. These were people I have never seen in reality but only on the pages of our dailies. Since it became obvious I couldn’t conjure such requirements I decided to re-strategize.
I then decided to shift my attention to the military. Atleast the military would always appreciate a graduate right? I remembered that my dad always say that back in his days, the military always come begging for graduates to enlist. I had already wasted a year of my life applying for government administration jobs. Besides, what other choice do I have? My family’s countenance had already started becoming unpleasant. I was been given the raised eyebrow look whenever I visited home. It was the demanor you would portray if you were expecting returns for your investments and you were not getting it. The pressure was starting telling on me.
I also tried enrolling in the Navy. I wrote my test at Lagos Ojo barracks. When I got to the test centre,the sight of the number of applicants who also came to write the test killed any hope I had. On investigating, I found out we were about five thousand people who came for the recruitment exercise in Lagos alone of which just 10 recruits were needed from each state. The shocker came when I overheard a naval officer telling his colleague that we were just wasting our time. His words exactly was “see how them just they do as if they wan die. Them don choose who them want for state government house already. All this one na just formality.” With slouched shoulders and a shattered morale, I looked outside the examination hall and saw government convoys going into the naval quarters with fanciful car plate numbers. Anyway to cut the long story short, I didn’t make the supposed 10.
I decided to try the air force. The recruitment process was terrible. In fact it was the worse I have been to. The queue was so long It began to look as if we were about to be judged by our creator in heaven. We were exposed in the scorching sun for hours. Some of us were beaten and treated like animals during the exercise. Fragmented images still flash through my mind whenever I reminisce about that dreadful day. I remember when my knees began to buckle. I could feel my intestines grabbing the four walls of my stomach in protest for food. I also remember the constant dodging of soldiers whip, the pushing and shoving, then off course how would I forget the multitudes of faces staring down at me with some holding on to pure water sachet. I was told I fainted. Your guess is as good as mine. I didn’t make the list.
I shifted my gaze to the immigration service; still there was no luck in that. I was told without mincing words to get four hundred thousand naira as processing fee for my application to be considered. Did they think I was stupid? If I had such an amount, wouldn’t I start something of my own?
As at this moment a year and six months has gone by. This was when I was introduced to insurance. I was told to sell different kinds of policies which would benefit our prospective clients. The job entails me to be placed on commission which means for every penny I bring into the company, I would be given a certain percentage. To get a good commission, I would walk round the city of Lagos begging strangers to invest in the scheme. It wasn’t a good form of business as people were acutely aware of the fraudulent nature of these insurance companies. Many of them don’t even pay claims as at when due. There were times I would go to see a prominent client only to be disappointed.Most times I ended up being stranded with no transport fare using unscrupulous means just to get home. Eight months into the job and I had nothing but 40 thousand naira in my account as my savings. My brother, I had to quit so as to save myself from serious health issues, insults and a degrading personality.
Atfer four more years of a fruitless and futile search I ended up becoming a secondary school teacher earning just fifteen thousand naira per month, yet my employer still feels she did me a favor. I was being maltreated and trampled on by other colleagues . Most times I am denied of my priviledges as I am always told “there are no physical chains binding you here. If you don’t like the system you can leave”. Did I hear you say leave? I can’t. My dilemma has been compounded with the fact I now have a beautiful baby girl who is a year and four months. I need to play the fatherly role and also accept responsibility for my actions. It hasn’t been an easy ride because it is impossible to survive with such an income so I resorted to other forms of menial labor just to augment my peanut salary. So yes indeed, there is a physical chain binding me there. It is the chain of desperate survival and hopelessness.
To me it’s the psychological torture that was more painful. I am well over qualified but underpaid and disrespected which equally leads to frustration and lack of job satisfaction. I do the zombie walk each time I leave for work in the morning. These days, I transfer the aggression and frustration to the students on the slightest provocation. The emptiness in me gets bigger everyday as I hear stories of my mates who are gainfully employed and doing well for themselves. To compound the problem, there is no dignity in the job these days. Many of us are given tasks that are belittling and degrading. Little wonder a parent called us ordinary WAEC holders during a PTA meeting.
I never imagined it would be this way. That I would be so irrelevant to my society and nation as a whole. Every single day that goes by I am faced with hopelessness and the future is looking bleak. I am already close to the non employable age bracket. I see outrageous job requirements e.g. not older than 25, master degrees with 8 years working experience etc. My hopes are waning. Desperate measures needs be put into place.
So sitting here and looking back, I ask myself where did I get it all wrong? Was it a wrong idea to further my education in the university? Would I have been more successful if I had skipped university and done some form of apprenticeship? Who knows I might have been a proud owner of chains of businesses by now. What is the future of next generation of graduates? What if……..
Sadly I know I am not the only one in this predicament. There are others like me out there as well. I decided to write this as a way of raising serious questions about unemployment issues in Nigeria. Based on Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, 23.9 percent of Nigerians are currently unemployed. This means approximately more than 40million graduates (which is still rising as you read this piece) compared to Germany 7.8percent unemployment rate. I also read the US created 72,000 jobs only in December 2013. So why is ours different? Why is ours rising each year? And what is our government doing to tackle this menace?
The sooner government realizes this is a national threat the better as we have seen the harsh effects of youth unemployment manifest itself in various forms across the country. Kidnapping, armed robbery and even militancy in the Niger delta and to some extent the Boko Haram menace could be identified as some of the negative outcome of unemployment.
Those that want to become entrepreneurs should be encouraged by the government. Readily accessible loans with low interest rate should be given to graduates to enable them start up small scale businesses. Government should also set up skill acquisition programs right from our secondary schools so as to prepare the future generation to become independent. This acquired skill will open up a whole new innovative process whereby our graduates will begin to compete with the rest of the developed markets.
But most of all, jobs should be created whereby graduates can be placed into work environment where they can actually practicalize what they have learnt in school. The merit system should be reinstated just like back in the days. This will enable successful applicants to carry themselves with pride, dignity and honor as remuneration wouldn’t be the core value for job seekers. It is often said if you do what you have a passion for, then you will effortlessly excel in it no matter the pay. This in turn will create maximum job satisfaction which leads to overall healthy and social life.
As for me, I have no choice but to keep my dreams alive. I must continue to tug and push until the doors of frustration finally breaks through. With continued determination, and prayers I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; or maybe it could also be the light of a train that would eventually crush me keeping all hopes alive that at the end of this dark tunnel of my life, I will see the beams of light flooding through my soul once again.