Jobs Are Not Scarce

By: Deji Yesufu

The unemployment situation in Nigeria is at an epidemic point and any government worth its salt ought to have declared a state of emergency on the crisis that has enveloped the Nigerian labour market. Now, since Nigeria has hardly ever had competent leaders, it will be a waste of time for anyone to be waiting for government to solve the employment challenge that has enveloped the country. I have also long argued that the solution to the Nigerian problem will come from individual Nigerians, thinking through the country’s malaise, and using it as an opportunity to birth workable systems from which they will profit, and the country will benefit. This essay is one of such endeavours: I will be arguing in this piece that jobs are not scarce in Nigeria, and I hope to equip my readers with the kind of mentality that will forever place them in high demand even within a country’s economy that is near comatose.

One of the best things that happened to me after concluding National Youth Service in 2003 was going to Lagos and spending almost a year attending the Latter Rain Assembly, pastored by Tunde Bakare (the church was still at their former site in Acme, Ikeja). Bakare will say “…jobs are not scarce, only faithful men are few…” I sincerely did not understand what he was saying then because it surely did not align with my reality. I was jobless and save for the monthly allowance my late mother sent me, I was next to destitute. But I felt that there was some wisdom in that phrase, and I decided to build my work-life around it. It is simple: whatever I find myself doing, I must do it so well – such that I cannot escape the sight of those seeking employees for their jobs. One day, perhaps when I eventually write my memoirs, I will enumerate how the philosophy behind this phrase has practically promoted me in life and helped me secure all the jobs and remunerations that I earn today.

The first thing that the phrase “…jobs are not scarce…” teach is that we must realize that life is some kind of paradox. Where there is death, you find life; the one that preserves his life, loses it ultimately; the rich also cry; in the midst of lack is plenty; within crisis, you find the most opportunities; etc. What this phrase tells us is that fundamental to a successful life are well-laid-out principles in the hearts of men. It means that men of principles are likely to trump life situations almost all the time. Many years ago, Sola Aladejebi, a leadership expert, told me that he would rather make a certain decision now that he had little means and stick by it than wait till he had lots of money to make those kinds of decisions. He said if this is not so, his decision would easily be linked to his economic situation. What Sola was trying to tell me is that life principles are more important than immediate economic challenges. Too many people make decisions based on their economic or immediate needs; our decisions should be anchored on proven principles. It means then that we must be discerning of the times. While others may say that things are difficult, we should realize that it is within the most difficult times that the greatest opportunities arise. Indeed, jobs may seem to be scarce; but in reality they are not.

Second, “…jobs are not scarce, only faithful men are few…” is a direct deduction from the biblical admonition that say “…he that is faithful with a little, will be faithful with much…” There are three things that an employer of labour is looking for the most in his employees: trust, diligence, and faithfulness. I have refused to put “competence” in this list because I am convinced that an employee who knows practically nothing about a job but who is trustworthy, diligent at work and ready to learn on the job, will soon add competence to the three. Then when faithfulness comes along these, you have an individual that an employer cannot afford to lose. Maple Dappa of will say that character is better in an employee than skill. He says that skills can be learnt but character cannot. Those who come into the labour market with character are likely to become very well sought after with time.

These two points will lead me to something I gleaned while reading Chinua Achebe’s book “There Was a Country”. Achebe explained that when he came into the Nigerian civil service in the 1950s, the white men were preparing to hand over to Nigerians as the country’s independence approached. He said at that time, things were working everywhere in Nigeria. It appears that the British saw the amiable climate in Nigeria as an advantage and were seeking to make the country a little London. He explained that less than a decade from the time the British left, Nigerians simply feasted on what the white men left behind – leaving for their children a country that is not functional. Now, while we could easily belabour this point, I saw something else there. The white man is still interested in Nigeria and will give anything to live here if we could only provide some basics of life: security and a few functional infrastructures. And even beyond that, many Europeans and Americans with means are looking for Nigerians to whom they can entrust resources into their hands to build systems that will work in Nigeria, and will provide jobs for people of this country. This leads me to a word I learned from a Bayo Adeyinka seminar: “glocalization”. Glocalization is a hybrid of a word that combines globalization with localization. The idea is simple: the Western world is saturated and there are little or no ideas to break into their market over there. If anyone is seeking to make it big today, it is in investing in developing nations that have large populations and endless resources that the people are not tapping into. The white man who left Nigeria in the 1950s wants to return, but this time around they need middlemen in Nigeria who can help build their businesses and help it flourish. It is also to the advantage of the white man that Africa does well so that these endless streams of migrants that enter Europe and America will diminish. This is where the jobs are: with basic education, and with the character of trust, faithfulness and diligence, a graduate can easily enter work with these people and reap a fortune in the process. The experience gleaned from working with these people can even be used to set up your own business so that it becomes a win-win situation for the two parties.

It can be argued that one of the best things that has happened to the Nigerian economy is the failure of government establishments. There is nowhere in the world where a nation succeeds on the strength of governmental institutions. The best government can do is to provide basic amenities like roads, electricity, security, health, and education; the people will have to provide the rest for themselves. And no one can accuse the Nigerian government of not doing these things. In the 1970s, with the situation that led to the oil boom in Nigeria, the West had to buy oil from us, after Saudi Arabia had refused to sell oil to them, following a crisis with Israel. Nigeria suddenly entered opulence. Possessing more cash than it needed, the country embarked on massive infrastructural development – with the building of roads and the birthing of various government agencies. Eventually, the West settled its issues with Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria returned to the status quo. By this time, our people had become used to plenty and had no idea how to manage resources. It is this situation that brought massive corruption into government life, a situation we have not been able to rid ourselves of to date. Now, our young people have finished school and there are no jobs for them. There are no jobs because there is no production. And when you don’t produce, you cannot sell and earn enough to employ people to produce more. And because there are no jobs, everyone is digging into themselves to produce something. Our young people are entering the field of information technology; there is a boom in the Nigerian entertainment industry – with Nigerian-made movies and music becoming well sought after; and private businesses are thriving (those of us in the blogging business are doing this because we seek alternative sources of income). I envision that this generation of young people will build a nation that is no longer dependent on government establishments and largesse; our young people will build private conglomerates that will rival what is happening in the West. This is where the hope is.

On a final note, let me appeal to our youths who are either entering the university or are within the four walls of a tertiary institution: the worst mentality you can possess while in school is doing a course so that you can secure a job when you finish school. The plain truth is that there are no such jobs in Nigeria. However, there is an abundance of opportunities that can rile up jobs for you. While in school, you will want to do a course that will allow you to learn a skill; build a network of friends that will help your professional life in the future; stop watching those movies and spending endless hours on social media; join organizations in school that will hone your skill and beef up your resume; by all means stop spending endless hours in church fellowships – you were sent to school to learn a trade, not religion. While in the university, volunteer your time and effort with worthwhile organizations. When you finish school and have nothing to do, these people will invite you to come and work for them either on a part-time basis or full-time – one good turn serving another. By all means, young people, be productive with your time. You will finish school and all kinds of opportunities will be waiting for you to latch on. While others complain that there are no jobs, you will be smiling and thankful that you took the counsel of this blogger.

Indeed, jobs are not scarce… only faithful men are few.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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