UTME Candidates and Their Future

More than 1.7million young Nigerians are sitting for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) being organised by JAMB, starting from Saturday. Of this number, fewer than 400, 000 or 20% will be admitted into universities and polytechnics. Therefore, 1.3 million will join no fewer than 10million others who have not been lucky in the last decade or so.

What will these millions of young school leavers be doing? What have the older ones, who have graduated from tertiary institutions, been doing? This year alone, some 2million other Nigerian kids who have never been to school or dropped out after a year or two in primary school entered the job market. Some 10 to 15million others are already street kids without any form of education.

A horrible situation such as this could bring down government in any other country but Nigeria. Not only do we lack leaders that think about the future, we lack leaders who feel concerned about the future of their own progeny. How can there be security of life and property in a place where 80% of the people are either jobless or underemployed? A hungry man is an angry man, and an angry man cannot act rationally.

The fad now is for rich Nigerians (looters likely) to send their children abroad for schooling. While the children were still in the wombs, many had prepared an opportunity for them to obtain British citizenship by sending their pregnant wives to London. In other words, those who have been destroying Nigeria want their children and grandchildren to become citizens of well-run nations.

There is no better proof of criminals’ short-sightedness than this. For such parents seem not to have learned any lesson from Boko Haram or kidnappers or armed robbers. Unless their children remain “banished” from Nigeria, they will not live in peace and happiness. They will not be safe from terrorists and kidnappers. They will live in fear without regular power supply. And what’s the guarantee that they will get jobs in Europe or America?

We’ve got to start telling ourselves the truth: “East or west, home is the best.” Those who think they will escape the evils of bad governance or corruption are fools – there is no escape route. We either make Nigeria good or we suffer as citizens of the country. Schooling abroad is a temporary thing both for us and for our children.

Over the years I’ve offered advice on how to fix our education system, create jobs and ensure security for all. Those who find themselves in government do parrot some borrowed ideas also. What seems to be lacking is sincerity and the political will to do what is right. We’re more occupied with playing the ethnic game, winning elections by fair or foul means, stealing from the public treasury, telling lies and covering up lies. In the meantime, the clock ticks…

When eventually the youth decide to take their destiny in their own hands by embarking on a violent revolution, I hope they would be wise enough to identify where the problem lies: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” (Achebe, 1983) They should count me out! We’ve been talking but no one seems to have been listening.

The education system has failed even in western nations. That’s the main reason for “jobless growth”. Besides, the computer is taking jobs. School programmes are becoming obsolete, since the Internet has levelled the landscape for almost every profession.

What we call universities are merely glorified primary and secondary schools. No practical training, only tales by moonlight! The world is undergoing a transformation today not because of what they teach at Harvard or Oxford but because of the ingenuity of those who dropped out of school – geniuses like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Warren Avis and Michael Dell. Winston Churchill didn’t do well in school either. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma had no formal education and no certificate! Mark Zuckerberg was not taught how to establish Facebook in school.

To the youngsters who are sitting for the UTME, I say: May you pass your exams. You do well by seeking admission into university. But there is little hope because your leaders and grandparents [I won’t include your parents because our generation has been sacrificed also] have failed you. They have not prepared any jobs for you, and you are not going to receive good education that will provide the skills you will need for work. They just want you to be in school so you won’t be causing trouble at home. Some of your elder relations who went to school now peddle sachet water, groundnuts, kuli-kuli, imported apples and the like at motor parks, traffic hold-ups and in the streets. The males among them are doing their apprenticeship in touting, bus driving, okada riding or trading. Some may take to armed robbery, kidnapping or other crimes. The females may have to contend with teenage pregnancies, prostitution or early marriage.

Fifteen years ago, I predicted that the people we called “roadside” mechanics, electricians, plumbers and barbers would be the university “lecturers” of the future. I wrote that then because I couldn’t see how the economy would be able to accommodate our foolishness. I’ve been vindicated: today, we are hearing that one university after another is setting up entrepreneurship development centres or skills acquisition workshops on its campuses. I’m yet to visit any of the centres, but it’s certain that “roadside” technicians are invited to “lecture” our undergrads, just as they have been “lecturing” some graduates sent to them by the National Directorate of Employment.

That’s the way to go, if we must avoid a violent revolution. Institutions, public or private, should admit “students” who do not have even two credits in the GCE into their skills acquisition centres so that graduates of engineering can set up shops on graduation. Our schools should begin to turn out employers, not jobseekers.

Of course, an education that cannot offer a meal ticket is useless. An education that encourages someone in government to embezzle billions of dollars meant for future generations or stash them away in foreign banks is evil. Corruption has been attractive because nobody gets caught or punished. And our justice system stinks!

Unemployment gave birth to Boko Haram, kidnapping and armed robberies. Young people who spent 10-20 years in school cannot find jobs, and we expect them to clutch their certificates and wait endlessly. Nobody should expect to be spared when they take up arms.

It’s proper to judge a government’s performance by the number of jobs it can create. For 90% of our troubles as a nation comes from the jobs crisis. Industries are shutting down and there is no power supply to support self-employed people. Indeed, I salute all employers in today’s Nigeria.


Yet, agriculture alone can employ all of the nation’s jobseekers. Since we Africans have chosen to be lazy and insincere to ourselves, let us invite some Europeans, Asians and Americans to take over our large uncultivated farm fields. The Land Use Act should be repealed to give the foreigners unlimited access to land and other resources that God has blessed us with, but which we don’t know what to do with. Likely, agriculture will be even more lucrative to them than oil and gas.

Meanwhile, I foresee the emergence of groups like “National Union of Frustrated Graduates”, “Association of Misdirected Nigerians” or “Nigerian Union of Jobseekers” to press for the interests of the unemployed. The younger generation may not listen to a thieving governor or senator preaching about the benefits of education or farming. And they won’t go back to the farms like their illiterate grandfathers and great-grandparents, while their mates live abroad and waste funds their fathers had stolen from the public treasury.


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