Young Nigerians seek ways to secure their futures under a failing economy
During a panel with world leaders in London on April 18, 2018, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari referred to young Nigerians as “lazy Nigerian youths.” Many young people have still not forgotten that remark that triggered outrage back home.
Nigerian youths aged 15 – 35 make up a staggering 42.54 percent of the country’s population, accounting for 33,652,424 people. Yet among this same group, some 13 million of them are unemployed, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The unfavourable conditions have left many young people trapped between making a way at home or exploiting options to migrate to other countries.
Young Nigerians grew up hearing the chants of their role as the “leaders of tomorrow,” but that tomorrow never came into fruition. Less than one percent of young people currently hold any elective political position.
The practice of godfatherism has also made it a situation where those who finally enter often have to kiss their predecessors and party members’ feet, leaving most of them as mere puppets.
Several societal issues foster this sense of helplessness in Nigerian Youths:
● The schooling system is inadequate and incapable of efficiently meeting up the bustling young population’s needs. Many public schools are understaffed with high student to teacher ratios, lack the necessary resources for high-quality education, and often end up with graduates who can’t compete on a global front. Many private schools have sprung up, but only the middle to high-income households can afford them. The United Nations children’s agency estimates 10.5 million children aged 5-14 are out of school.
● Nigeria’s insecurity, primarily centred in the northern region, has recruited and drawn many young men and women to battle.
● The high unemployment and underemployment numbers have left many young people starting their businesses to source their income.
Many Nigerians who can afford it have now turned into economic migrants, seeking greener pastures elsewhere. Nigerians continue to fill up classrooms in Canada, Europe, and the United States. Other contributing factors to the growing exit include:
● Killings and insecurity: Different regions across Nigeria have turned into war zones. Security officials battle extremism, kidnappings, tribal and armed attacks. Sometimes, the same security forces instigate the unrest. More than 56 young Nigerians died after police officers responded violently to protests against police brutality last year. In one of the memorable clashes on Oct. 20, security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
● Corruption at all levels is also a significant factor. Virtually all the systems integrated in Nigeria have been wrapped tightly in the nooks of corruption. Young Nigerians seeking jobs in civil service must “know someone” or pay a hefty fee to secure their spot. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Nigeria ranks as the second most corrupt nation in West Africa only next to Guinea-Bissau.
● The cost of living has continued to rise. The cost of goods and services have hit a discouraging level. Last year, bakers said they needed to increase the cost of bread by 50 percent as the price of wheat and flour increased. Business owners also have to contend with additional productivity costs with a lack of stable power supply. Nigeria’s poverty headcount ranks at about 40.1 percent.
Many young Nigerians now flood social media with discussions about Canada, due to it’s Express Entry immigration system for skilled migrants. Nigerians in Canada create videos on YouTube and Twitter threads sharing their experience and offering tips to an eager audience back home. But applicants also face other hurdles.
Economic migrants into Canada, for instance, must show they have up to $12,000 in their account to confirm they can meet their needs when they arrive. The amount is even higher for families. Countries like the United States are also battling unrest that has left many black migrants wary of migrating there. Images of protests against police brutality and attacks against black people in the parks and sometimes in their homes splashed across international news over the past year.
The reality is most Nigerians, especially economic migrants, would choose to stay home if the system works. Nigerians now rank among the largest and most educated black immigrants in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Nigerian authorities would do well to incentivize its young population with more opportunities and avenues for success at home.