In the face of rising unemployment in the country, concerned citizens are seriously worried about how to mobilise youths to engage in economic activities that will promote their self-reliance.
Some reason that youths should be encouraged to discover their latent capacities and engage in productive activities that could facilitate their self-sufficiency.
In line with this particular thinking, a youth stakeholders’ meeting was recently convened in Ilorin to address issues relating to youth unemployment, youth restiveness and poverty reduction, particularly among the youth.
The meeting tagged ‘Kwara Youth in 2016’ was organised by Kwara State’s Ministry for Sports and Youth Development, with the theme, ‘Creating a Sustainable Youth Development and Self-Reliance’.
Stakeholders at the meeting suggested several ways through which the youth could be meaningfully engaged, empowered and kept out of trouble.
Prof. Hassan Salihu of the University of Ilorin, who chaired the meeting, said youth unemployment was a weighty issue that should be a source of concern to everybody.
Salihu, a professor of political science, underscored the need for the stakeholders to meet and discuss periodically until lasting solutions are found to youth restiveness and poverty, which he described as products of unemployment.
He emphasised that youths could be agents of transformation or destruction, depending on the way they were treated by the society.
“Challenges facing youth development include lack of sufficient information about potential areas that could be explored by them, the white-collar job syndrome, the youths’ unwillingness to take risks and their perception of government, among others.”
Going from the general to the specifics, Salihu advised the government to always sensitise the youth to several opportunities currently existing in the solid minerals sector, particularly in Kwara State.
The professor faulted the mind-set of some youths who believe they could only survive by securing a government job, saying that those youths were not aware of the fact that they could make more money in different technical and vocational trade areas.
“The unwillingness of many young Nigerians to take risks had impeded the level of their development and self-reliance.
“Youths should therefore change their perception about government and see government as an agency that could only create an enabling environment for them to survive.
“Our philosophy about government has to change. Government cannot provide everything except the basic duty of providing infrastructure and security.
“As long as we continue to see government as an agency that will provide everything, then the problem (high unemployment rate) will continue to exist.
“Government has its own duties, while the citizens have their own responsibilities. Our youths should only see government as an agency that can assist them by creating an environment that is conducive to their survival,’’ he said.
However, Mr Ayo Ajisefinni, the Provost, Enterprise Glooming Institute, insisted that government should engage in capacity building activities for the youth.
He described a situation where government cut the proposed budget for youth development activities as counterproductive.
He said that whenever such proposed allocations were slashed, the amount subsequently approved and released were often inadequate to make any meaningful difference.
Ajisefinni, nonetheless, urged youths to change their mind-set with regard to white-collar jobs, saying that they should instead redirect their efforts to entrepreneurial activities as there is a dearth of government jobs nowadays.
Also speaking Mr Kazeem Adekanye, the President of the Kwara State chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), solicited the domestication and implementation of the National Policy on Youth Development.
He argued that the religious implementation of the policy would serve as a panacea to several youth related issues.
Besides, Adekanye called on the government to encourage youth participation in government by involving them in policy making and decision making processes.
“If we are setting up a framework for youth development and youths are not involved in decision making, it is a sheer waste of time,’’ he added.
Some youths, who spoke at the meeting, wanted the government to create a sustainable means of funding their business proposals.
However, Mr Olusegun Soewu, the Technical Adviser to Gov Abdulfatah Ahmed on Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), said that the state government had approved over N6 million for SMEs.
He, therefore, urged the youth to come up with plausible and implementable business proposals to enable them to get government’s funding.
Soewu said that the fund was put in place for traders and artisans as well as those who wanted to engage in agriculture, mining and transport, among others.
Besides, the governor’s aide said that acres of land had been cleared and seedlings made available for those youths who wanted to engage in farming.
Soewu, nonetheless, noted that many of the business proposals that were submitted for government’s funding failed to sail through because of the insincerity of the applicants.
“For instance, an applicant could write a proposal for a business, purportedly worth millions of Naira, whereas what is needed to set up the business may be just a few thousands of Naira,’’ he said.
All the same, Mr Babatunde Salami, the Regional Manager of First Bank of Nigeria Plc., said that the lack of technical education in the country’s educational curriculum was also responsible for the rising rate of unemployment.
He stressed that the curriculum of university education was predominantly theory-based, with little or no room for practical applications.
“Nigeria has a 25-per-cent unemployment rate, which translates to 45 million unemployed persons. There is a great need for the re-orientation of our youths as to where they intend to be in the nearest future.
“Our economic diversification efforts should be targeted at agricultural and mining sectors, with a paradigm shift from oil revenues,’’ Salami said.