Panacea for changing our battered international image – Part 2
The chronic economic situation in Nigeria which started with Babaginda’ Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1986 caused untold economic dislocations, job losses, humungous unemployment and general low morale in the country. As a result, we now have festering of crimes among our able bodied youth and such crimes include but not limited to 419 scam, unbridled drug smuggling, currency counterfeiting, kidnapping, illegal migration and human trafficking. These crimes are perpetrated within and outside the country and our youth left the country in droves. The unscrupulous activities of our youth in trying to get wealthy outside the country dent our image and good things coming from Nigeria are not countenanced as we are now regarded as people who want wealth without work. Things cannot continue for us in this fashion and all of us need to make concerted efforts to remove the present odium associated with our name all over the world.
Nigeria is not the first country to be faced with chronic economic situation with attendant youth unemployment, although in our own case, the economic problem is largely self inflicted. Great Britain had economic problems after the Napoleonic war and the Second World War, the United States of America faced its own economic problem during the great depression of 1933 and other countries like China, Russia and India had also had their fair share of economic problems in their history. The leaders of these countries devised ingenious ways of getting out of the quagmire. Our leaders need to be visionary and think outside the box. I have always wondered why our successive leaders with their economic advisers had not thought of adopting with modifications the ‘New Deal’ programme devised by President Franklin Roosevelt in solving the unemployment problem faced by Americans during the great depression in that country. On taking over power in 1933 as the 32nd President of USA, Franklin Roosevelt was confronted with seemingly intractable depression with millions of people loosing their jobs as a result of total collapse of USA economy. As a patriot, he confronted this problem frontally by launching the ‘New Deal’ programme which created millions of jobs and revitalized the economy. The new Economic Advisory Team (EAC) recently set up by the President under Professor Doyin Salami should examine how the team can adapt the principles of the New Deal to solve the unemployment problem in the country. The Buhari administration promised recently to take millions of people out of poverty as it has been done in China, India and Indonesia but the administration is yet to unfold the roadmap for achieving this lofty idea.
As long as our youth are unemployed at home, they would continue to migrate to other countries where many of them would engage in unwholesome activities and which would further dent our already battered image. Every Nigerian, irrespective of his or her status and achievement stands the chance of being ridiculed and humiliated abroad because of the bad way outsiders perceive us. I had my baptism in 1992 when I visited Lesotho as an external Examiner to the National University of Lesotho. As soon as the receptionist at the Sun hotel in Maseru mentioned my name as coming from Nigeria, two Lesothian boys as if the have rehearsed their response, blurted out ‘ Nigerian, I hope you have not brought drug to our country’. To say now that I was very embarrassed then is the greatest understatement. I could not engage the unruly boys in any shouting match because of my situation as a foreigner who could be harassed by Lesothian Police in case there was a scuffle between the boys and I. That day I just went to my hotel room dejected for being a Nigerian. I am sure other innocent Nigerians would have their own similar sad experiences to recall. There is a need for concerted efforts to change our battered image abroad and the task should start from here at home in Nigeria through creation of meaningful jobs for teeming able bodied youth who are rudderless and frustrated with their plight in the country. This, to me is the panacea for changing our blighted image outside our shore. We do not need to hire any foreign public relation company to do this for us. Innocent and patriotic Nigerians are really going through hell outside this country just because of the malfeasance of a few of our compatriots abroad.
Lucas wrote from Old Bodija, Ibadan.