This past weekend, Nigeria celebrated its 56th day of independence from Great Britain. The nation has faced numerous obstacles including civil war, its recent fight with Ebola, its war on corruption, and a fledgling economy. According to Africa Check,in early November 2015, the nation’s unemployment rate stood at 7.5%. Statistics may say one thing but for Nigerians living in Nigeria, they have another story to tell.
Recently, I spoke with a cousin in Nigeria and asked if he celebrated Nigerian Independence Day. He replied, for what? Is there anything to be celebratory about? It’s been four months since he has been paid at work. However, he continues to go to work. FOUR MONTHS. How can someone expect to feed their family if they haven’t been paid? Along with that, companies expect employees to continue working. If they don’t work, they’re liable to get fired. A similar story is told by my aunt who works for the federal government. The last time I spoke with her, she hadn’t been paid in three months. One would think government workers were safe from the madness but that is not the case in Nigeria. For a country that is rich in natural resources, it is a shame that the economic situation is like this.
It’s no secret that Nigerians excel in education.However, having a degree or any type of education doesn’t equate to having more job opportunities. I have so many aunts and uncles with degrees on degrees, certificates on certificates and still no permanent jobs. They may get temporary positions, but even with that, the likelihood of timely payment or payment at all is still minimal. In a land where cronyism is plentiful, it leaves little room for qualified individuals to attain successful employment. If people aren’t paid, people won’t spend. Thus, the economy is not stimulated. I’m sure the government is working on something but right now it is not enough.
As an indirect result of unemployment, people resort to crime. Some may say it’s a direct correlation but I think otherwise. In my opinion, there’s a propensity to commit crimes when one is unemployed but it does not mean that everyone does it. Some Nigerians are stealing or robbing people to get by. Others turn to kidnapping. Nowadays, a person doesn’t have to be part of the social elite to get kidnapped. They can be a regular individual on the street. Desperate times have always driven people to desperate measures but does it have to be that way?
The election of President Buhari in May 2015 signified a new path for Nigeria. One that symbolized hope and change. He has fought hard to combat corruption and is trying to stimulate the economy through a newly passed budget. Despite the uncertainty of financing the project, Buhari is selling two of his jets as an example of his cost-cutting approach. My hope is that other leaders in Nigeria will take notice and assist with these efforts. Hopefully, there will be a trickle-down effect that will improve situations.
In the meantime, I have no doubt that Nigerians will endure. Nigerians have always been a resilient group of people. They are steadfast in faith and family. My hope is that these trying times will pull us together and allow us to have a larger collective voice. A voice that will resonate change and demand accountability from government officials. The day that happens will be a day worth celebrating.