When I heard the news of the Abuja stampede two years ago, I just couldn’t picture what could possess people to run into a stadium, trample and kill their fellow human beings. Could such desperation for work exist that would lead to death? When away from home one has the tendency to disconnect and soak into a life free from the customary traumatic worry that consumes the average Nigerian; but now I understand that there is a literal death race to employment in the country.
Being a recent graduate in Nigeria is one of the worst curses anyone could bestow on a person. Most people spend at least four years of their lives (if they are lucky to have a strike-free study) working, scraping the bottom of the barrel for their fees, and licking whatever flavour is left to get what little they can to eat and survive. Then they graduate from university with much glee and relief only to discover that the real world is just as bleak.
Imagine going through all that to realise that your labours were worthless and you can only find a N15,000 (£52) per month cleaning job, or you have to concede to selling mobile recharge cards for a living. Once, I spotted a man dressed in suit and tie in a 30⁰C morning sun, looking desperate as he held up a ‘home lesson’ sign to passing cars.
The unemployed are left to drift from one family member to another for food and shelter. In fact, many jobseekers have dependents that need to be roofed, fed, clothed and sent to school. They also have to care for aged parents and grandparents that haven’t been paid their pensions in years. In a family-focussed society, a person’s joblessness affects the livelihood of so many other individuals. How is one not supposed to go crazy?
The frustration sinks even deeper when one sees how their fellow Nigerians spend money as if it’s air. When they observe our leaders – the ones that should be looking out for them – frolicking corrupt millions and getting away with it, or when they see someone flying an entire wedding party to Dubai, many starving jobseekers cannot help but wonder:
“Why shouldn’t I rob you? Why shouldn’t I reach into your Range Rover and grab your purse when you wind down to buy plantain chips in traffic? You spend more money than I have in my account on your child’s primary school class party for goodness’ sake! In fact, why shouldn’t I kidnap you? At least from your ransom I would be able to feed my family and pay rent for a year or two, start a business and still have more than enough to spare”.
Abeg, do not despise the thief who steals to satisfy his hunger.
This supposedly budding country is bursting at its seams with unemployment. There’s so much to be done. Yet, the ogas on top prefer to don their agbadas, parade their corrupt potbellies from one party to another and continue to live in an angry, frustrated country.
Image | Abuja jobseekers stampede at a recruitment test | Source: BBC