Aluko Eniayo woke up, feeling giddy. She was expecting news later in the day, hopeful that her hard work would yield profit and respect.
She fantasised about what she would do with $500 if she won the poetry competition which she was informed of through a WhatsApp writing group, after pitching against young minds from other countries till she got to the penultimate round.
Her morning began the usual way, with the sun rising in the east, bringing light in its wake to her one-room apartment. It was her final year here as a Mass Communication student at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko.
Eniayo had big dreams. She planned to rent a better room where she will not share a toilet and bathroom with anybody. So, her prize would suffice and there will be some leftover for tuition fees.
But life had different plans. She was expecting a change, good news through the mail. Unfortunately, the news was different. The organisers apologised that her entry will not be considered because she is a Nigerian and she can not be trusted.
“I felt hard done by as if life conspired against me at the die-minute,” she said. “I mean, where is that ever done? I competed till the final round, only to be told I’m disqualified because I’m a Nigerian and we’re dubious! I felt extra sad.”
She deleted the mail and every detail of the unfair rejection from her inbox, but not her memory.
In 2020, Michael Pelumi shared his tale with his Facebook friends on how he won a $2,500 book grant (about N960,000 in 2015) and an all-expense-paid trip to South Africa for coming second in a South African competition with his entry ‘Power To The People’ in 2015.
The swift dialogues through mail made him ecstatic until he got the reply saying:
“This competition is only open to all AFRICANS, not Nigeria. We’re not sorry but we do not trust any content from there. We apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused.”
“You know the fun? One Eritrean writer replaced me. There is no anger or sadness. It is just one of those lows of being a Nigerian,” he wrote.
“There is no motivation to write. I’m just telling you that Nigeria is not what they tell you it is when you watch NTA and see it from the eyes of Channels TV or your state-owned TV station.”
For a country ranking 154 out of 180 countries surveyed for corruption according to Transparency International and second in the list of most corrupt countries in Africa, the youths now bear the brunt of the seeming distrust.
Worsening is the recent hike in internet fraud cases among Nigerian youth. As of September 2021, the anti-graft agency in Nigeria, EFCC, noted that cybercrime holds ‘80 per cent of its 978 convictions’ and the “cybersecurity threat landscape evolved rapidly and attacks increased in number and sophistication” last year, showcasing the effect of the cyber attack ‘one every 11 seconds.’
As of 2020, Nigeria was ranked the poorest country in the world, with “about 86.9 million people living in severe poverty, which is about 50% of its entire population,” according to Quartz Africa.
The severity only gave room for about 44.6% of young people to be employed, about 20% underemployed. This made some youths push their services like content creation, copywriting, graphic design, web creation among others beyond the Nigerian shores through online platforms.
Unfortunately, recent reports about ‘the Giant of Africa’ made it a herculean task for most of these youths to get opportunities, no thanks to recent arrests of Ramon Abass (Hushpuppi), Abidemi Rufai (Sandy Tang), who is a Senior Special Assistant on Special duties to Ogun state governor, Dapo Abiodun – among several others.
“We can improve the image of this nation using multifaceted approaches by teaching people the sense of self and patriotism,” says Shittu Fowora, a Public Affairs Analyst.
“This does not come by just wishing. It comes by creating an all-inclusive environment where people can believe in that dream of oneness, togetherness and greatness.”
He identified reasons behind youths legally seeking greener pastures abroad, stating that jobs are readily accessible through the internet for skilful youths.
“The internet has democratised jobs and the seamlessness with which smart folks get jobs requiring their skillset.”
“No one contravenes any law by reaching out and doing jobs for or on behalf of foreign clients so long as the pricing is agreeable to both parties.”
“Why young Nigerians may be seeking work outside their immediate space may include validation for the quality and reach and the better compensation for time, effort and skill.”
Shittu, who is a research leader of a Pan-African TV station, also blamed the socio-political system in the country on account of money laundering and other cyber-related crimes.
He disclosed that these include reliance on an overaged civil service, overpaid political office holders among others.
“When you continue to give them an education that is not appropriate for the 21st century or education that is not in demand, what you do is to dump them down.”
“They spend 5 years plus more years depending on how long ASUU decides to keep them at home. Then they spend probably one year doing national service.”
“Probably 4 years plus 1 year for national service plus another year for the ASUU strike. Add extra years of searching for jobs that are unavailable plus another year because those who are old enough to leave the system have reduced their ages and pretend as though they are not yet ready to leave.”
“What we should do is invest in mental and human capacity development. We need to understand that the real wealth of a nation is not what is in the soil but what is in the head.”
“A lot of Nigerians have been able to prove themselves worthy of getting the best of jobs. The rejections are much but there are Nigerians impacting positively in their small corridors of influence. They are able to impact positively from honest occupations and jobs that they do,” he concluded.
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