Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It has approximately 210 million population. Nigeria has the third-largest youth population in the world, after China and India, with more than 90 million of its youth population under the age of eighteen. While this is considered as a huge human resource, the youth also face unprecedented challenges including growing unemployment and insecurity resulting from ethnic and religious conflicts.
Nigeria is persistently engulfed with many challenges and problems which require systematic well-defined approaches to offer solutions and deliver a peaceful and promising future for the youth.
Retaining well-trained professionals has been identified as one of the goals of the government. The current situation still makes the future bleak for majority of them. Some say there is hope on the horizon, only if economic policies generate needed employment, youth policies backed by adequate funds by Federal Government of Nigeria.
In September, Kester Kenn Klomegah met with the former candidate of the Social Democratic Party (2019) for the House of Representatives and now the President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Hon. Emmanuel Zopmal, for an interview during which he talked about current situation, the challenges and the way forward. Here are the interview excerpts:
Q: Why are Nigeria’s youth, especially those in the Middle Belt of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, showing increasing signs of frustration?
A: Frustration, in any way, is part of human life. It could come at any time. There are conditions that make someone to be under frustration. The Middle Belt has been under immense political and economic pressure. You can imagine a society of people facing structural violence for several years with no sign of respite.
Q: What has contributed to the growing unemployment in the Giant of Africa?
A: Unemployment is an economic index. It can be relative in nature. People are employed in formal or informal economy. The extent to which people need to live an average life with an appreciable level of income that can provide for basic needs should be the major concern of the unemployment index. The unemployment perception varies in the public and private sectors. The growing unemployment index can be attributed to mismanagement of the economy and the system of education. Innovative education produces high quality graduates who can create jobs Frankly speaking, it is difficult to understand why Nigeria claims to be the Giant of Africa. Perhaps, this claim is only by its huge population. Besides that, Nigeria is not a Giant of Africa.
Q: What are your views about the policies of the Federal administration in addressing problems of the youth, especially young graduates?
A: Focusing on research and policy will help Nigeria address the problems of youth. Innovative education will help graduates to overcome employment challenges. Innovation emanating from talent or research will change the status quo by eliciting new ways of doing things.
Q: Does the current constitution adequately guarantee youth’s welfare? What are the pitfalls in the implementation of aspects of the Constitution that connect or relate with youth?
A: Unfortunately, I look at welfare as benevolence. It makes the younger generation too dependent and unproductive since government provides their welfare. Youth empowerment should simply be a question of policy not constitution. Nigeria's 1999 Constitution only provided policy; the issue of youth is not mentioned. It talks only about welfare of the "citizens" in the country. In my candid view, the capacity of education and skillset of the youth should be the welfare package of our government.
Q: As former candidate of the Social Democratic Party (2019) for House of Representatives, do you still press for youth issues?
A: In the African context, I am still young. The youth are my major constituency. As a former presidential candidate of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (2015), I will continue to press for youth's political participation, contemporary educational standard, skillset, and empowerment.
Q: What do you consider as the main challenges and the way forward for the youth in the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
A: The future of our youth must be secured by curbing the ravaging insecurity in the country. Secondly, the growing nepotism by government officials in public offices is bad for our youth. Government has to take the youth as its national priority. Deliberate policy programs in technological advancement will open up the new horizon for the youth. The youth have to be fully engaged in meaningful activities.
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
The author writes frequently about Russia, Africa and BRICS.