Most politicians, especially heads of government, are full of promises, but the end of the matter is usually worse than its beginning. Nigeria has had more than its fair share of broken promises from past administrations.
So, when President Goodluck Jonathan repeated the often annoying promise made by past leaders to create more jobs for the youths, it was taken by many with a trailer load of salt based on past experience.
Hear him: “”Fellow Nigerians, I have dwelt on some of our administration’s achievements in 2013 to reassure you that we are working and results are being achieved on the ground.
As we enter our Centennial year, there is still much work ahead. We are determined to sustain our strong macroeconomic fundamentals, to strengthen our domestic institutions, and to invest in priority sectors.”
“These investments,” he said, “will create more jobs for our youth. Government will at the same time, continue to scale-up investments in safety nets and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to take care of the poor and the vulnerable so that they too can share in our growth and prosperity.”
Many Nigerians doubt Jonathan, not because he had made such empty promises of job creation in the past, but simply because the job monster he is planning to take on appears beyond his capacity and that of his government. After all, many more organised governments in the civilised world were tackling the monster, and failing; that is, if you are not bamboozled by the trail of monthly statistics on BBC World, CNN, and their Eastern ally, Al-Jazeera.
However, his spin doctors are quick to point to his YouWin programme which they claim cannot be faulted. They may be right, but is it enough? Last November, as he launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN), President Jonathan revealed that when his administration came into office in 2011, youth unemployment was a staggering 35%.
He declined to say that the previous administration of Olusegun Obasanjo contributed in the main to the malaise, but discerning watchers read between the lines. He added: “The YouWiN programme is unique in the sense that it depends on Nigerian youths to create jobs for Nigerian youths. The programme supports enterprising young men and women to establish and grow businesses that enable them employ their peers and others. I promised that this programme will create at least 80,000 jobs.
“I am happy to report that, so far, over 26,000 direct jobs have been created across our six geo-political zones in various sectors of the economy. This includes 22,000 from YouWiN 1 and nearly 5,000 from YouWiN 2 (YouWiN Women) which commenced disbursement of funds just in September.””
Jonathan further eulogised the youths profusely, though many think he should sell the idea to state governors and local councils, who though may not need to spend as much as the federal government, and take the same number of beneficiaries. Indeed, everyone is asking the federal government to create jobs, but what about the 36 state governments and 774 local government areas in the country. What are they doing, and where are they doing it?
Yet, state government officials, political appointees, and even elected councilors drive through the bad roads of their domains in posh SUVs, amid the staggering unemployment. One of them, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, has challenged political leaders in the country to take decisive steps towards tackling the twin problem of poverty and unemployment, saying they were responsible for the high state of insecurity in the country.
The governor who spoke late last year in Port Harcourt when the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr James Enwistle, paid him a visit in Government House, Port Harcourt, said the problems needed urgent attention. His words:“Until we deal with the issues of poverty, wealth creation and unemployment, then we may not be able to solve the problem of insecurity.”
The media that quoted Amaechi did not report his own achievements in these directions; neither did they state that because of his battle with Jonathan at the centre, it was better for his state to have loafing youths that can be quickly deployed for special functions at political rallies, rather than find them jobs.
Another, but this time, a former Governor, Senator Bukola Saraki, last year urged the federal government to declare a state of emergency on unemployment among youths in the country.
If the YouWin jobs are not enough, may be others in the offing may fill the huge gap. The abject failure of the state and local governments notwithstanding, just recently, Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had her own tale to tell in a bid to convince Nigerians that the federal government was up and doing. Obviously frustrated by the failure of other tiers of government, she warned that the Nigerian economy would get into a precarious situation if the private sector did not cooperate with government to create jobs and reduce inequality in the country.
Speaking at a breakfast dialogue in Lagos last year, tagged: “The State of the Nigerian Economy in 2013,” organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), she accused the private sector of creating wealth for a few and not jobs, adding that the Jonathan administration had created a total of 1.6 million jobs in 2012 and another 431, 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2013.
As if responding to concerns raised by Amaechi and Saraki, she said that the quality of growth in the economy needed to improve adding: “we are not creating enough jobs. We need to grow faster in job creating sectors at between 10 per cent per annum to create jobs needed to substantially reduce poverty in the country. The inequality in the country is growing faster and the growth in the economy is not inclusive.
“If the private sector does not create jobs, the economy will be in danger. Only the top 10 of Nigerians are enjoying most of the growth in the economy unlike what is obtainable in the United States of America. We also need to take care of regional disparity and carry every region of the country along.”
On the moves to oil the economy and create jobs, she disclosed that the government in partnership with the KFW of Germany, IMF and the World Bank would create a development bank this year. This bank, according to her, would enable the private sector to borrow money for a 10-year period at reasonable interest rates. In addition, she said, the federal government would also privatise the Bank of Industry (BoI) and the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) and restructure them to be specialised banks.
And while presenting its N4.6 trillion “Budget for Job Creation and Growth” for the 2014 fiscal year to the National Assembly, Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that it would kick-start the housing sector for more jobs and support manufacturing because jobs would be created there.
But giving details of how jobs will be created by the Federal Government, Chairman of SURE-P, in Edo State, Mr. Lucky Imasuen, said late last year that the number of beneficiaries of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme, SURE-P, in the 36 states of the federation will increase from 3,000 to 5,000 this year. For N10, 000 monthly, the beneficiaries acted as traffic controllers, road cleaners, hospital workers, among other chores.
He disclosed that each of the 36 states currently engaged 3,000 beneficiaries under the programme, explaining that the beneficiaries of the programme were now being trained to make them self-reliant at the end of the programme which he said, was expected to end after one year.
With the positive picture painted by Jonathan, Okonjo-Iweala, and Imasuen, the silver lining in the sky brightens by the day in 2014, and perhaps it will shut the mouths of opponents and skeptics, and keep the bustling youths busy and away from the terrain of mischief and violence; especially political hooliganism as the electioneering campaign enters top gear this year.
Ehigiator writes from Benin via firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit: Sun News
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