Unemployment drives Nigerian graduates into ‘class suicide’

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If the report by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, that Nigeria’s unemployment figure had dropped from 33.3 to 4.1 percent is anything to go by, then the army of the unemployed youths, particularly the tertiary education graduates, should have drastically reduced.

But, the reality on ground is that hundreds of thousands of Nigerian graduates still don’t have jobs to do. From north to south and east to west, the story remains the same.

There is no job for scores of graduates being churned out every year from the nation’s universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education. Many even have masters’ degrees that were acquired walking a tightrope with the belief that once they have their second degrees, they would have brighter chances of getting good jobs.

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But, that never happened; instead it became their greatest undoing as most employers of labour shun them because they have no cognate experience and they would demand higher salaries.

For an average unemployed Nigerian graduate, the society has relapsed into a Hobbesian state, where life has become nasty, poor, short and brutish, with only the fittest surviving.

The situation is so precarious that in Nigeria today, graduates freely commit class suicide and resort to doing jobs considered way below their qualifications. They take up jobs reserved for artisans just to survive.

skyblast tv findings revealed that riding motorcycles (Okada), or tricycles (Keke), driving cabs or commercial buses, house cleaning and laundry services, generator repairs, running restaurant businesses or car wash services, as well as getting involved in estate agency services and petty trading, among others, have become beautiful brides for many unemployed graduates, who believe in dignity of labour.

For others who want to get rich quick, they find solace in fraudulent means of survival like kidnapping, armed robbery, internet fraud, advance fee fraud, ritual killing, among other dirty and illegal jobs.

However, for those who have decided to tread the path of honour, by shirking off the graduate tag and wearing the toga of survival instinct, the stories have been encouraging and interesting.

Although many are not comfortable where they find themselves, they have decided to remain there and make the place comfortable if they could get support from the government, philanthropic individuals or non-governmental organisations.

It is their belief that once they could get financial support from anywhere, they would be able to create jobs for other unemployed Nigerians.

skyblast tv went to town and discovered that some found themselves in certain jobs because they could not find white collar jobs after many years of frantic search. There are others who just conditioned their minds even before graduation to be self employed.

One of such persons who never wanted to work for the government or any organisation while still in school is Johnson Ademola, who repairs generators.

He had his first and second degrees in Philosophy and Sociology, respectively.

He later proceeded to the University of Ibadan for a doctorate degree programme.

However, in spite of his academic achievements, he still finds joy repairing generators- a job many think is reserved for primary or secondary school leavers.

Sharing his life’s odyssey with the skyblast tv, Ademola said: “I studied philosophy in my first degree from the University of Ibadan in 2007. My Masters degree was in Sociology from the same university in 2011. I am currently doing my PhD in Industrial and Personnel Management at the same university.”

He said he had never searched for a job since he already acquired vocational skills and was practising even before he gained admission for his first degree.

With this revelation, one is compelled to ask him why the craze for certificate acquisition up to a doctorate degree level, when all he wanted to do was to service and repair people’s generators.

He said: “I was a science student while in secondary school and I wanted to study mechanical engineering. So, when I finished secondary school in 1994, I decided to get this vocational training, which is a practical aspect of engineering while waiting for admission into the university to read engineering.

“But because it took me so many years before I gained admission and because of the wrong combination of O’ level subjects, I was offered philosophy and when it came, I didn’t have any choice but to grab it considering the number of years I had spent writing to pass JAMB exams. I just needed to study any course provided I went to the university and that was how my dream of studying mechanical engineering was dashed.

“I am also studying for my PhD because I want to go into lecturing afterwards. It gives me a great pleasure to impart knowledge on people; it has been my passion.”

He told skyblast tvthat his educational qualifications are a great asset in his current job because that distinguishes his works from those done by quacks.

“My level of education differentiates me from quacks who do not know the nitty-gritty of this job. It also attracts customers to me because the way I present issues is different from others who never passed through the four walls of the university. So, I have been able to stand out among the crowd. My education has made me exceptional from others,” he enthused.

He has added the sale of generators to repairs. He has some workers, who he said receive between N30, 000 to N40, 000 from him monthly as salaries. He has also grown his business to a point where technical schools now send their students to him for internship.

“I have three employees at the moment and I pay them a salary at the end of the month, although some are still apprentices. I pay them because I need to empower them to be able to take care of their transport and other needs. Students from technical schools used to come for internships here. I pay my workers between N30, 000 and N40,000,” he said.

Although he did not reveal his average monthly income for personal reasons, his ability to pay three persons between N30, 000 and N40, 000 every month, could give a rough estimate of the huge income he rakes in every month.

“I don’t want to disclose what I make in a month for personal reasons but I want to say that I am content with what I make,” he submitted.

James Okezie from Abia State works for Ademola in his workshop. He also has a first degree in Sociology from the University of Port Harcourt and a second degree in International Relations from the University of Ibadan.

He told skyblast tv his job hunting experience, saying: “I have been applying for jobs but I have not been lucky. Mr Ademola was my colleague in Ibadan and that’s how I came to know him. I decided to come and learn this work instead of staying idle at home.”

He admitted that he could now keep body and soul together without much stress unlike when he was seated at home, doing nothing.

He, however, urged the government to make the environment conducive for the teeming unemployed graduates to be self-employed like providing soft loans and ensuring steady supply of electricity.

Mr. Patrick Nnamani from Ikem in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State is a tricycle operator.

He graduated from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, where he studied Business Administration. He said he joined tricycle riding popularly called ‘Keke’ after several years of unsuccessful search for a job.

He said: “I searched for a job endlessly without success before I came to ride this tricycle. I joined this job through one of my friends called Rashidi, when I didn’t have a kobo. He gave me one of his tricycles and asked me to deliver N2000 daily to him, while I went home with whatever remained of my daily earnings. I did that for some time before I saved money to buy my own.”

For Mr Nnamani, the major problem militating against his business is funding.

He revealed that if he could get funds to buy more tricycles, he would be satisfied with the job.

He equally called for government support, saying, “The only thing the government can do to help us is to make loans available for us to procure more tricycles. For instance, if I can get money to buy more tricycles, like five or 10; I won’t bother myself again looking for any job. I would even let other graduates know that there is hope in riding a tricycle.

“They can’t continue waiting for the government to provide jobs for them. The government should just provide soft loans for us to be able to establish this business properly. There are so many graduates idling around, who would want to join us but they can’t even find any to ride. The major problem we have in this first gate unit is that we don’t have enough tricycles. Passengers outnumber the available tricycles.”

Onah Theodore Uzoamaka, an indigene of Imilike in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, is an English language graduate from the University of Jos. She has carved a niche for herself selling honey.

After graduating in 2007 and having completed her one year compulsory National Youth Service Corps programme in 2008, she did not waste much time searching for a job before she went back to the honey business she was doing before she gained admission into the university.

Although she felt disappointed initially because her main aim of going back to school to get first degree after her National Certificate in Education (NCE) was to get a good job, she later realised that the business was even more lucrative than any paid employment, so she committed more energy into it.

She said: “I studied the English language. I have used all I saved to look for a job; doing photocopy and transportation but all in vain. In fact, at a time, I was even duped of N40,000 trying to enlist into the Immigration Service.

“I have been doing the honey business even before I gained admission into the university. Before then, I had NCE and I felt that was why I couldn’t get a job; so I proceeded to get my first degree, thinking that when I did that, I would be able to get a good job but it never happened. When I found out that there was no job anywhere, I decided to go deeper into the business by going back to my village to source for the highest quality of honey.”

She lamented that agents of the government have not allowed her to even do the business freely as they constantly harass and intimidate her.

“People are happy with me because I serve them the highest quality of honey, but I was surprised when some people came to destroy my shop claiming they were from the local government council.

“They destroyed the whole place and I had to start afresh. That has been the government’s contribution to my efforts at surviving on my own. A situation whereby an unemployed female graduate would be struggling to survive on her own and the same government that failed to provide a job for her would come and destroy the same business, is to say the least; discouraging. I am demoralised completely and even the sales have gone down,” she complained.

Although some graduates do some of these jobs pending when they would get paid employment, Uzoamaka does not have such plans.

For her, it is the honey business all the way.

“I can’t tell you that I would use what I realise here to print CV, go to the internet to send applications or transport myself to submit job applications. No, I can’t do that again. It is not as if there are no jobs in Nigeria but if you don’t have connections, you can never get one.

“I have some of my colleagues who are gainfully employed because they are from certain parts of this country. They were not better off than me in school but that is the situation. So, I can’t use the little cash I am surviving on to say I am running around looking for a non-existing job; I can’t do that. At least, I am getting my daily bread from here even though the bread may not be enough,” she submitted.

Mrs Kemi Adewale Kehinde from Ogun State is a Business Administration graduate from the Madonna University, Okija in Anambra State.

A petty trader, Kemi decided to establish a small business after several fruitless efforts to get a good job.

“After my youth service, I searched for a job and eventually got a job with a stock broking firm in Marina. But, in 2008, when the stock market crashed, I lost the job because the firm could not pay us.

“Ever since then, I have been applying for jobs until 2010 when I decided to establish a small business, where I sell women products, like weave-on, perfume, body cream and things like that for women,” she said.

She also thinks she could remain in the business and forget about searching for a job if she could get a soft loan with low interest rate.

“So far, I thank God but my problem is that the location is not strategic and that has affected my growth in this business. It is not moving as expected; it is discouraging but I still hope that God will help me.

“If the government can provide a soft loan and I change to a better location, I won’t mind settling down permanently with the business. I think it is a good business if one finds a better location and sizeable cash to invest in it,” she assured.

In his own case, Emmanuel Agu, a Mass Communication graduate from the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu, decided to make ends meet by offering house cleaning and laundry services.

Since he graduated in 2004, he has done all he could to get a good job but he has not been lucky. Although he has ideas of businesses he could start with little capital like car wash, he could not do that because he lacks the capital to do that.

“There are some jobs you can do with small capital such as car wash but I don’t even have that little capital to start it.

“So, right now, I do house cleaning and laundry services and other little jobs that come my way to survive. I am still hoping for a better job,” he said.

Could he have committed a class suicide? He responded: “Far from it, although it has not been easy. In this part of the world, it is ‘the harder the work, the less the pay’. I am just doing it to survive and not that it is catering for my needs. It has not been easy because there is no encouragement.

Sometimes, after working for people, they will not pay; you will have to struggle before you get the little pay and the job is not even regular. In a month, you may get like two or three jobs.”

Rowland Akande, a native of Osun State is an Accounting graduate from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State. After a stint with an Indian company in Victoria Island, Lagos, he resigned in 2001 because the pay wasn’t good enough to sustain him.

He later joined estate practice as an agent and ever since then, he has never looked back.

“I have been doing my best and I thank God for that. It is a good job but you have to be patient because you need to learn the job. During my learning period, I associated with licensed estate surveyors, lawyers and colleagues, who are into estate practice. That was how I got to know the job very well. I have my clients and people have been giving me property to let and sell for them,” he stated.

Despite the challenges inherent in the job, Mr Akande has made it clear that he would never look for any other job again as he would rather channel all his energy into the estate practice, which he said, was lucrative enough.

On the challenges of the job, he said: “The major challenge is patience because you need to have a good knowledge.

“Documentation in this job is also very important; you must know all the necessary documents either for sale or for rent, particularly in the area of government property. You must also know how to search for a document to determine whether it is genuine or fake.

“As for job search, well, I am above 50 and I have also reached a stage in this practice that if connections start coming in, it will come with handsome cash. I have established myself. I have a large client base and they bring other clients because of the trust, integrity and competence they find in me.

“So, I wouldn’t want to just leave the job; I prefer to be an estate agent. That is what I use to feed my family; the sky is my limit. So, I am not keen about searching for any paid employment any longer. For now, I am a professional estate agent and I am enjoying my job.”

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