This dire prediction was made at the weekend by the country’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in a speech at a West African regional conference on youth employment in Senegal, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the African Development Bank.
The former president said that the rate of youth unemployment in 1999 when he assumed office was 72 per cent, but was reduced to 52 per cent [by his government] in 2004, only to rocket up again, to 71 per cent by 2011.
Obasanjo, who left office in 2007 after eight years, declared he fears for the future of Nigeria.
“I’m afraid, and you know I am a General. When a General says he is afraid, that means the danger ahead is real and potent,” he told the conference.
He said that the unemployment menace is responsible for the social crimes being perpetrated by various categories of youth, categorizing three of them as Area Boys, Yahoo Boys and Blackberry Boys.
Obasanjo, who is himself often accused of being behind some of Nigeria’s most severe problems, including the same unemployment predicament and foisting bad successors on the country, accused the current government of lacking “serious, concrete, realistic, short and long term solution” to youth unemployment.
He drew attention to doctorate degree holders who were recently found to have applied for jobs as drivers at the Dangote Group as an example of the problem, saying the patience of the youth will soon reach its limit.
Delving into the genesis of the crisis, he said that government officials in Nigeria talk of growth but not development, a phenomenon he said has led the rise in poverty levels.
He urged national leaders to create incentives that will encourage entrepreneurs to flourish, particularly in agriculture, a sector in which he called for special attention to agriculture as business as opposed to mere farming.
The former president, who has been largely successful in agriculture, although Nigerians say he took advantage of his position in government, called for easy access to land and micro credit, as well as a review of school curriculum for undergraduates to spend an additional year in school to learn entrepreneurship.
Obasanjo’s remarks are guaranteed to lead to harsh criticism in Nigeria because he single-handedly put into play the machinery that put President Jonathan, whom he is criticizing, in power. In addition to Jonathan’s incompetence, the current government is also known to be very corrupt, an ailment Obasanjo studiously avoids talking about.