Unemployment in our country is at an all-time high and, as with any society, the associated danger confronting us is that a lack of jobs tends to come with a negative multiplier effect, often resulting in a state of insecurity. The undeniable fact is that idle minds become factories for nefarious acts. Apparently, that is one of the reasons why Boko Haram has no shortage of recruits and why it is possible for politicians to influence and use hoodlums to hijack legitimate protests, or win elections.
Politicians in our country have developed a strategy for exploiting our idle youths with short term promises of riches, but a long term strategy to maintain the status quo. Our politicians engage young hoodlums during elections to terrorise the people and control the outcome, but when they have secured power, they focus on self-enrichment rather than the extension of the benefits of power to those that were used to secure it. This cycle of exploitation creates a natural and recurring resentment against the political class. Not only are our youths not offered alternative sources of revenue or income (jobs) but the work that they can do ultimately ends up reinforcing the system that holds them down. Yes, there are examples of success, but only where those youths engaged in the system have learnt how it works and become so closely embroiled in its grasp that they become part of the problem.
As anger with the status quo rises, disillusioned youths on the street resort to protest or to membership of radical groups offering an alternative, often violent. Insecurity is bred, and any society with a growing insecurity is certainly not a good incentive for foreign direct investment. Why would any foreign investor want to pitch their investment tents in Nigeria when they understand that the climate of most emerging countries is twice as bright with fewer crises or systemic problems? There is an urgent need to act fast and stem this tide. But how can we create the jobs that our people so desperately need to break the status quo?
The natural inclination for many people is to make the government a scapegoat for what they are perceived to have failed to do. Given, government has not helped the situation, but we fail to see that, the world over, the task of creating jobs is never that of the government but that of private companies. Government should normally have no business being in business, and there is no better proof of this than in the failed numbers of state enterprises in Nigeria. But how many of our private enterprises have the independence to survive without government influence and, equally importantly, how many of our businesses have any interest in the greater good?
It is the clear responsibility of government to create an enabling environment for businesses to grow and to create jobs. That is why policies such as deregulation are highly recommended by global economists. The problem is that no matter how enabling an environment is, the way in which business is conducted is also an important factor in job creation.