Ilorin Emirate: Tackling Youths Unemployment and Crime Control
By Yusuf Lawal
The Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), as the parent body of all socio-cultural groups, associations, unions and all forms of gatherings of Ilorin indigenes has continued to play its traditional role of galvanising, articulating, aggregating and championing the Ilorin Agenda which is centred on the growth, upliftment and development of the people and the Emirate. The noble objective is a task that must be on the front burner of all indigenes of the Emirate.
The topic of today’s lecture and the full import of its implication are not new as they are not unknown. My voice has just to be requested to be added to the voices of those who have continued to talk, discuss and find solutions to the crisis of unemployment as there is no single home or family (nucleus or extended) in Ilorin today that is not experiencing some forms of difficulties in finding jobs for the numerous young school leavers that have acquired certificates at different levels but have continued to search for jobs endlessly. Though, the topic of the lecture is on Youth Unemployment, however, the seeming lack of job opportunities does not affect the youth only.
There are many adults in our community today who are agile, able, ready and qualified to be engaged in the productive sector, but they have continued to also search endlessly for something to do to earn a living. We now have fathers, mothers and children in the unemployment market.
This is why, otherwise very responsible and educated adults and elders in their rights and homes have become beggars, thugs, hanger-ons, overnight politicians, etc doing anything, everything and all things just to survive. However, the unemployment crisis is not and cannot be a licence for anyone to become a criminal, as I have listened to sad commentaries and read articles alluding and giving excuses for the involvement of some persons in all sorts crimes and criminality, particularly heinous crimes. How does one justify kidnapping under any excuse? How do we justify exhumation and beheading of corpses in the name of unemployment? How do we justify armed robbery for lack of jobs? Are these not more difficult, sinful and shameless work than exerting the same energy on tilling the land farming and being productive? (May Allah continue to guide us right).
This lecture, even though has the Youth in its title, its content and context suffice for the adults too.
WHO IS A YOUTH?
A youth is a person who is within the age bracket of 18 – 35 years. Youths are in the early period of existence, growth or development.
Nigeria, with current estimated population of One Hundred and Ninety Five million (195m) according to United Nations projection and information from National Bureau for Statistics, has an estimated population of about One Hundred Million (100m) youths which is about 52.4% of the Nation’s population.
The population of the Five (5) Local Government Areas in the Emirate in 2016 was about 1,370,500 with the following breakdown:
➢ Ilorin West – 493,000
➢ Ilorin East – 280,000
➢ Ilorin South – 280,000
➢ Asa – 168,300
➢ Moro – 146,700
Total – 1,370,500
Going by the population of youths in Nigeria vis-a-viz the entire population of the country, it can be suggested that the youth population in the Ilorin Emirate at 52.4% was about 904,859 almost hitting the one million mark. This is more than the population of many countries including Malta, Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Sao Tome, Djibouti, Comoros and many others.
A significant percent of this youth population is either unemployed or underemployed.
This is therefore a clear crisis before us but it is surmountable with strong commitment, political will and determination on the part of all concerned. In local, national and international politics, a problem begins with a conflict, if not checked, it develops into crisis, if not handled properly, it degenerates into a war. Many wars would have been fought all over the world, but for the senses of reasoning that have allowed to prevailed over the spur of the moments, many calamities and unnecessary casualties would have been recorded. In the same vein and manner, we must also rise to the challenge of not allowing the unemployment crisis degenerate beyond our capacity to arrest it.
WHAT IS EMPLOYMENT?
Employment in the context of this lecture can be described as being productively engaged on a job with commensurate remuneration.
WHAT IS UNEMPLOYMENT?
Unemployment can, therefore, be conversely described as a situation where persons who are equipped with knowledge or skills or both are unable to be engaged on jobs commensurate with their knowledge or skills or both.
WHAT IS UNDER-EMPLOYMENT?
Under-employment can be described as a situation where persons are engaged in jobs that do not reflect the persons’ training and the reward system is less commensurate to the expected financial and other obligations expectations.
WHAT IS OVER-EMPLOYMENT?
Over-employment can be described as a situation where workers are overworked for a period beyond what the workers can sustainably work. Their excess work is not rewarded.
UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS IN ILORIN EMIRATE
The unemployment crisis that is predominant today in Ilorin is a precarious one which however is not different from what obtains in the country as a whole. But this is not to suggest that ours in the Ilorin Emirate does not have some peculiarities which can be treated in isolation of the general crisis.
We must therefore respond properly, intelligently, appropriately, adequately and timely to the unemployment crisis in our Nation to avoid or arrest threat to national security, peace and development with negative potentials of any form of calamitous consequences.
HISTORY OF EMPLOYMENT IN ILORIN EMIRATE
Before the arrival of European businessmen and then later the British colonialists in any part of Ilorin Emirate, the jobs in which people were engaged was dictated by the situation and circumstance of the people.
At a point when the people’s circumstance and living were only to satisfy basic human necessities of food, clothing and shelter, the traditional employment was farming and hunting. The farmers engaged in food production. The hunters also engaged in hunting as a means of livelihood. There were also others forms of traditional employment but these two were very prominent.
Children took after parents in these forms of employment. In later years weaving, pottery, building and other forms of employment became prominent. Everyone was engaged in one form of productive activity or the other. Even the traditional institutions and the clerics were also engaged in productive activity. Everyone needed to survive, so everyone worked. Not even religion was used as a mean of livelihood. Pupils were not paying the clerics for the teaching of Quran. In Ilorin, as in other towns and villages, many compounds were named after the occupations of their progenitors as the people were proud of the work they were engaged in. (Ile Oni isu, Ile Elere, Ile Eleko, Ile Aladire, Ile Aladie, Ile Olopa, Ile Onilu, Ile Olode, Ile Alawo, Ile Onikoko, Ile Onisona, Ile Akapo, etc).
When the European businessmen arrived and export of farm produce and slave trading thrived, some people moved into marketing of slaves and served as middlemen for the sale and marketing of farm produce. The first informal western education curriculum was the teaching of basic arithmetic and accounting which were use for business transactions and calculation of profit and loss. So the first set of people who took up white collar jobs were those engaged by the European businessmen to serve as intermediaries in slave trading, farm produce, as house-keepers, as interpreters etc. They learnt Arithmetic and English and the knowledge served them adequately for the jobs they were engaged to do.
During the same period, there were lots of internal strifes, ethnic and religious wars fought amongst different groups. These created another form of job opportunities, whereby people took up employment as warriors and these came with attendant remuneration, affluence, influence and fame. People were also recruited as soldiers into the superpower nations and colonialists armies in which they fought during the first and second world wars.
The colonialists brought about other forms of job opportunities particularly, following the introduction of the full-time western style of administration either in the form of indirect rule or direct administration of the colonies. Schools and hospitals were built, the formal judicial administration was introduced, native authorities were created, tax administration was modernized, infrastructures such as railways, waterways, airways, road transportation, etc were either introduced or modernised. Recreational activities such as clubs, sports, theatre were formally created. All these brought about new employment opportunities. Teachers, judicial officers, prison officials, policemen, soldiers, tax officials, administrators, sanitation officials, medical staff, rail workers, waterways officials, road maintenance staff, and many others were trained and engaged in full employment. Jobs were there for the taking. No one was left out. Everyone had a job to do.
Meanwhile, with the introduction of full western education, some persons who were engaged in traditional employment abandoned their trades and vocation for the new European jobs.
Following agitation for independence, new elites emerged amongst nationalists and politicians. Politics gradually became a full time job for some persons. With the attainment of independence by Nigeria in 1960 and the attendant departure of the colonialists, new employments were opened and expanded in the bureaucracy, organised private sector, multinationals and politics. Free education in some parts of the country, affirmative actions which led to increase enrolment in schools and recruitment into military service and discovery of oil in the country completely changed the direction of job opportunities and employment. There set in the rural-urban migration. Agriculture which was the main stay of the Nation’s economy was being gradually abandoned for monthly paid salary jobs. Corruption, nepotism, laziness and different vices that derailed our steady growth set in. The First Military coup, the Nigeria civil war and oil boom in the 60s and 70s completely changed our productive focus. We lost the groundnut pyramids, flourishing cocoa business, coal and palm oil production and many agricultural businesses. With these losses and the over bloated bureaucracy, we also lost many job opportunities.
Unfortunately, instead of quickly retracing our steps and bring back the business, we have continued to play the ostrich. It seems that we are determined that we would not go back to agriculture, mining and other productive businesses until we have finished with oil.
Since the mid-80s, it has become apparent that the white collars jobs cannot be adequate for the teeming population of young men and women who were graduating in droves from educational institutions.
Unfortunately, each time there is a clamour for opening of job opportunities, this is being wrongly assumed and suggested in some quarters, that it is for Government to declare more vacancies in the bureaucracies and that is why we celebrate when some Governors or Chief Executives declare vacancies in the teaching service, traffic management, environmental services, etc. Are these the ways to respond to youth unemployment crisis? Certainly, not.
Today’s world has gone digital and most of the economies that are doing very well, particularly, the Asian Tigers which share the same background and indices with us have taken advantage of the digitalisation in the area of Information Technology, skill acquisition, service delivery, modern agriculture, mining, etc. Most importantly, they have changed their attitude and perception toward economic growth and development. Many of these Asian countries have large population like ours, they have fought civil wars like we did, they have had their share of colonisation like us, they have experienced coups and military regimes like we did, they have their own corrupt leadership like ours, they have tasted bad governance as we have done, ineptitude in bureaucracy, nascent democracies, inconsistent policies, etc.
But the good news for them is that, they have quickly risen above these negative narratives and charted new courses for their countries and today, we make glowing reference to Indian, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. Lately we have been talking about United Arab Emirate (UAE), Qatar, Oman, etc. The young crown prince chap in Saudi Arabia has also started some silent but very visible revolution of the country’s economy.
In Nigeria, we have continued to lament about our shortcomings, but we do not seem to be able to rise above the lamentation and complaints, rather than take the bull by the horn. With every step that we think we have taken in the right direction, the result is many backward steps in the reverse direction. The new words in our dictionaries today is vote buying, and the greatest culprits are the youths who are collecting three thousand naira (N3,000) to vote and indirectly continue the condemnation of their today and their future. The same people who should use their numerical strength to change the narratives are the ones serving as thugs but paradoxically called the good boys (they now have girls too).
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO THE UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS?
CHANGE OF PERCEPTION, MINDSET AND PSYCHOLOGY
By now, we must know that there is a limit to the number of workers that government bureaucracy can accommodate and therefore we should look elsewhere for the creation of job opportunities for our youths. The youths who are migrating to Europe are not going there to look for Government jobs. In most instances, their skills determine the kind of jobs they engage in. Many young people who migrated from Ilorin in the 60s and 70s did not go there to look for Government jobs. They took up job opportunities in the various companies in Apapa. They joined construction companies to build the bridges in Lagos. They were part of the construction of the new estates in Ikeja, Surulere, FESTAC, Satellite Town, etc.
There is a need for a change of perception, mindset and psychology to know that job opportunities are not about government work only. The private sector is the largest employer of labour in thriving economies.
Government and the organised private sector should create the enabling environment for the modernisation of agriculture business. This will make agriculture business to thrive and it will also encourage many people to go into the agro-allied businesses. Agriculture should not be limited to just producing maize, cocoa, groundnut, palm oil for local consumption and export, but taking it to the next level of utilising these produce in the value chain agricultural production and for value added ventures and businesses.
Agriculture is a very huge and productive sector. Ilorin Emirate is very lucky and blessed with large expanse of land in all the five (5) Local Government Areas. The land is good for all sorts of farming particularly, in Crop Farming, Cattle Farming, Poultry, Animal Husbandry, etc. If Government can harness the potentials in these areas, many youths would be off the streets. Individuals and Groups should also be encouraged to do joint businesses in the areas of ranch development whereby a group of people can create big ranches and bring all their cattle there, where a dairy business can be established and it can also serve a major market for cows, hide and skin, leather works, etc.
In all these, Government is only to provide the wherewithal rather being directly involved.
Though the Lagos and Kebbi States Government joint efforts in rice production is a model which can be encouraged, Government should not run agriculture as a business venture. I would like to see Kwara and Delta or with Akwa-Ibom or Rivers farming partnership where individuals or group of farmers would be engaged to produce one or two cash crops in large quantities for local consumption, export and in value chain production, Government should only provide the enabling environment and support the farmers with loans that are favourable. Government should also provide security and infrastructure such as roads and power to the farms.
SKILL ACQUISITION ON NEW JOBS
There is a need to fully embrace the new jobs in the market, particularly those that are Information Technology driven.
Information and Communication Technology business would continue to thrive for a long time because of its fast, efficient, effective and cost saving service delivery. The biggest transport business in most part of the world is UBER or Taxify and others related to them. It has many vehicles in its fleet without owing a single one. It has only used Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to bring everyone under one business and it has brought value added to transport business and this has come with a lot of dignity for the drivers and owners unlike the negative way and manner that people perceive traditional taxi drivers especially in the third world.
One of the biggest retail shop business in the world is Amazon without the promoters owing any shop. Rather, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been used to bring all shops and commodities under one platform. It is also efficient, effective and cost saving. Cant some educated youths in Ilorin Emirate use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to bring all workmen such as electricians, plumbers, mechanics etc under one umbrella? So that, with one phone call to just one number, one is assured of the best service at all times. The Third Estate is currently training fifteen (15) youths in web design and IT appreciation. The IEDPU has done a lot in this sector also and I acknowledge the contribution of the Ilorin Emirate Youth Development in the same direction. However, these efforts are little drops in the ocean when compared with the number of youths who require such training.
Therefore, Government can partner with various groups to take up large number of trainees and also provide the wherewithal for their engagement after the training by assisting needy companies with some incentives that would make their business thrive.
CREATIVE AND ART INDUSTRY
This is an untapped area in the Emirate and the industry is very big with many sub-sectors such as Acting, Directing, Marketing, Costumes, Make-up, Wardrobes, Songs, Backstage, etc. Meanwhile, as at now only the Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello) family is deeply involved in this. The Third Estate is trying to sponsor some youths to take up training in the creative and art industry.
Youths in the Emirate are encouraged to venture in the creative industry. This is without prejudice to their courses of study in the tertiary institutions.
POWER AND ENERGY INDUSTRY
With the large chunk of resources Government is committing to power and with the potentials in Power and Energy Industry, it should be an area of focus and development that can also address the youths unemployment crisis. There are many sub-sectors in the Power and Energy Industry and these include Training, Solar, Cabling, Generation, Distribution, Marketing, Rural Electrification, Services, Renewable Energy, Oil and Gas, etc. No economy can survive without power as virtually all the sub-sectors of the economy are dependent on power. Therefore, it is also a big industry which should attract many employment opportunities. However, there must be adequate training of the youths in the different sectors in order to be engaged appropriately. The Third Estate recently sponsored some youths from the Emirate on Installation and Maintenance of Solar Power in Lagos in partnership with International Corporations and National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN) and the Group is relying on its partners to engage these trained youths in the appropriate sector.
BUILDING AND HOUSING SECTOR
Shelter is one of the basic necessities of life. There is gross shortage of housing in Nigeria compared to the population of the country. The industry also has many sub-sectors, including Architecture and Design, Quantity Surveying, Project Management, Painting, Plumbing, Electrical, Services, Maintenance, Estate Management etc. This is another huge sector that can provide many job opportunities. However, there must be basic training in the various sub-sectors to be properly engaged.
Lately, we bring in painters, plumbers and workmen from Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic because of our belief in their expertise. We can also train our youths so that they conveniently take up these businesses.
This is a familiar terrain for the youths but one which is waiting to be harnessed. The potentials in sports are enormous and a win-win for the youth if properly exploited. Sports business sub-sectors include Training and Fitness, Stadia Development, Kits and Equipment, Marketing, Media and Broadcasts rights, etc. These are aside the major participants in sports such as the Sportsmen, Referees, Coaches, Managers, Fans, Sponsors, etc. This is a huge sector that youths can embrace, not only in terms of being active in sports but also participating in the management and the business sectors.
RESTAURANT, TOURISM AND RECREATION
Restaurants of local and intercontinental cuisines are springing up all over the country. Tourism and Recreational Activities are also waiting to be tapped and all these are sources of income and employment. Youths and adults alike should repackage this sector to become productive and very lucrative.
CLOTHING AND DRESSING
Another basic necessity of life is clothing and evidence has shown that it is an economic sector which is very buoyant in the world.
Therefore, the farming of cotton and the skills of tailoring and fashion designing are areas which should also be explored by our youths. Many tailors are brought into Nigeria from Senegal, Togo and Ghana and they are taking up job that the youths of Nigeria should have the opportunity of first refusal. A lot of importation is done in the area of textiles because most of the textile companies in Nigeria have become moribund. Committed efforts can be made to bring back the textile through intensive and large-scale cotton farming. The youths should be able to produce all the school uniforms, military uniforms and other uniforms through local fabrics and via local tailors and fashion designers.
OTHER POTENTIAL AREAS OF CONCENTRATION OF BUSINESS, TRAINING AND SKILLS ACQUISITION
The United Nations has drawn up Seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for every country to implement and execute. It is expected by 2030, virtually all the goals would have been achieved, which invariably means that many countries, including Nigeria would be investing a lot of resources in each of these programmes:
1. End to extreme poverty
2. Zero/No hunger
3. Guarantee Good health
4. Guarantee quality education
5. Gender equality
6. Clean water and sanitation
7. Renewable energy
8. Good jobs and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
10. Reduced inequality
11. Sustainable cities and communities
12. Responsible consumption
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
15. Life on land
16. Peace and justice
17. Partnerships for the goals
Having identified the sectors that would attract huge and concerted funding in the immediate future, our attention in the area of acquisition of knowledge and skills should be focused in these sectors. These are ready market that would attract employment opportunities soon.
The Government of Kwara State, Local Government authorities, Cooperative Societies, Community Groups like IEDPU, Third Estate and others, Individuals and every well meaning indigene of Ilorin should rise to this challenge. I suggest that a Stakeholders Forum should be convened to work out strategies that would redirect our focus by creating a roadmap for the creation of job opportunities that transform our community’s economy. Ihidina Siratal Mustakin (May Allah guide us right)
Ladies and Gentlemen, if there are concerted and genuine efforts, our response to youth unemployment crisis would yield fruits and these would be to the benefit of all.
The youths need to be engaged productively in order to create atmosphere for peace, tranquillity, growth and development. It is going to be a collective efforts and everyone should see this as a task that must be done.
I thank the IEDPU (Northern Zone) for this opportunity to offer these few opinions. I have only added my voice to the so many who have spoken on the same topic at different fora. The opportunity of the 2019 general elections would provide us another platform to express ourselves and clearly send a strong message on the way forward for our Emirate and our Nation. Our destiny is in our own hands and we are educated to know what to do with our power through our votes to give hope to our youths.
Dr. Yusuf Lawal FNIM
Director, Test Administration
Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Abuja