But Asomugha added that: “Our prayer is for the government to succeed in providing energy for the country. This alone has the capacity to revive the dead industrial estates in Kano, Lagos, Kaduna, and Onitsha. When industries are working, thousands of jobs would be created and graduates coming out from Nigerian universities can easily be absorbed. In Malaysia and other newly industrialised countries, it is the private sector that is the driving force of economic development. We pray that our political leaders should have the sincerity of purpose to make the necessary sacrifices for this country to develop.”
Asomugha says over 2 million people have gone through the directorate. “At any point in time, 500-700 youth participate in our National Open Apprenticeship Scheme. Since the inception of NDE, at least over 2 million Nigerians have passed under the various programme of our agency.” But the streets are still crowded with snack-selling youngsters, some uneducated and some with university degrees, as the story of Umar James, an indigene of Kaduna State who sells steering wheel covers in the traffic jam along Kubwa-Abuja road. “My parents suffered to send me to school but look at me now,” he said in impeccable English. The problem, says Adama Baba, a Kaduna-based educationist, is not just education, even as she passed the buck back to job creation drives – or a lack of them – set up by government.
Kwanashie, however, proffered that the best way to reduce unemployment is for government to engage in productive activities. “We have to insist that that government put in place strategies to facilitate the expansion of productive activities that are labour intensive in all facets of the economy, as it is.” He said though the economic meltdown has affected Nigeria and shrank our revenue profile, something can still be done.” Maryama Abdullahi, 18, had a tough time convincing her parents to let her finish secondary school and not getting her married off. Now that she’s through, she cannot go to university because she has not made good grades to get a scholarship and her family cannot afford the fees. “I want to go to university. I know I’ll become something or someone great in this country, but I just can’t go further than I have. I’m frustrated,” she told Weekly Trust, at a Zaria market, almost in tears as she walks off balancing a tray of boiled groundnuts on her head, clutching a single clue to her education, a weather-beaten, dog-eared copy of Ebony magazine.
“The challenge, therefore, is for government to re-order its expenditure and articulate a pro-poor fiscal policy regime without which the backlash on unemployment in the country will be harsh,” Kwanashie said.
While the economy – or a lack of a vibrant one – is quickly fingered as a culprit in the fast deaths of Nigerian youth’s dreams of prosperity and productivity, it has as cohorts a ramshackle educational system which is the beginning of it all. While nothing goes on in the two sectors, it remains the same in the lives of Nigeria’s ever-increasing legions of frustrated youths. “We are waiting, even if it is apparent that it is in vain,” said Adnan.