By Kukogho Iruesiri Samson

National Immigration Service screening inside National Stadium, Lagos

 It is no wonder the Nigerian economy has become more of a trap and mine-field than a field for students to plant the seeds that they gathered during their years as within the four walls of the lecture rooms, slugging it out with lecturers in a very stifling academic environment. It is a sympathetic case of from frying pan into the fire when the optimistic graduate finds out that the university, polytechnic or college of education only sold him or her pack of lies in the form of a certificate that is worth less than a wish in a market that’s as discriminatory as it is predatory.

So it’s not shocking to find out that there are more graduates looking for job than there are gainfully employed – so much that even those that have jobs are grossly underemployed and even more grossly underpaid. But do they dare complain about their jobs? NO! Definitely not in a society where there are thousand others waiting in the wings to take the same jobs for even less pay. Sad, but it is the truth that has come to stay.

I have this theory that, the reason why many Nigerian youths will not get out of the quagmire of unemployment is simply their failure to look beyond the promise of their qualifications to the raw potentials they have which lies fallow inside. This failure is further worsened by the modern youths’ tendency to eschew hard-work and look down on skill-based employment which most will call dirty.
Interestingly, most of the people from this unemployed generation, who have managed to make it, had to make a break, far away from the madness to find an area of the economy into which they could key. It is therefore not unusual to find them becoming traders, fashion designer, bloggers, web designers, farmers, app developers, artists, musicians, food vendors, and a thousand other things that have no connection with whatever they studied as formal education students.
The failure of most youth is then their failure to recognize the real set of skills they already have or have to acquire. In most cases, the former is prevalent. An example of this is a lady who loves to piece clothes together for herself and maybe friends but lacks the consciousness of an entrepreneur. So she remains in the labor market looking for banking jobs when she would be better setting up her own fashion house and eventually becoming an employer. Same goes for the guy who is good at designing footwear but is out in Lagos, Abuja or some commercial nerve center contributing his CV to dustbins and forgotten files when he could have taken possession of his destiny, develop his skills and setup a shoe shop – on his way to being the Adidas of his time.
What am I trying to say? It’s simple – the employability of any graduate is not based on his or her certificate but the skills possessed by such. Now these skills may or may not be built on the qualifications already earned but they will decide the fortunes of any and every graduate, most especially the ambitious ones. Every individual therefore must try to acquire new or develop skills that will boost his or her chances of getting gainful employment as a self-sufficient person or a paid hand.

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A friend of mine was able to make a small fortune for herself while we were still undergraduates in the university just by making dresses for other students’ right from within her hostel room. By the time we were leaving the walls of the university, she was already sure of what she would do while most of her classmates were busy thinking of where and when to send their no-experience CVs to. That was how a microbiologist turned a fashion designer, a fairly successful one too. Another young fellow I know started poultry with just 10 chickens which have grown to become nearly 2000 layers and broilers in Zaria.
Just a few days ago, I met a graduate of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) who sells akara and puff-puff for a living. He now has 11 (eleven) young men under his employ. He told me it took him two years of unemployment to realize that his destiny was in his own hands. In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, a woman left her banking job to sell raw pap (ogi or akamu). Imagine that.
The question I ask most unemployed youth therefore is not what they graduated from the university with but what skills they had or have acquired since leaving the university as well as whether they have tried putting it to use. Their answer determines their employability – believe it or not.
So while I empathize with the average unemployed youth, I also candidly say most are the architects of their own woes. A mass communication graduate who cannot write a news article, talk more of operating a functional news blog; a so-called Agricultural studies graduate who cannot raise a hen; an Engineering graduate who does not even know how to construct a homemade boiling ring; a Computer Science graduate who has never attempted making an app or website… The list is endless.
They may blame the faulty educational system. But the question now is: how did those who made it from that same system went about it?
You can do it today if you decide to realize that the gospel truth being preached in the Nigerian society of today is ‘skills over certificates and experience over degrees.’ Learn a craft, trade, build your skill (s) and start a small business as you await the job of your dreams.

Kukogho Iruesiri Samson
Multimedia Journalist, Poet, Blogger, Author
Chairman/MD, WRR Group
Phone: +234-8060109295
Skype: kukogho.samson
Twitter: @BrainyPoet