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Dr. Uche Ogah.

Sometimes ago I heard Dr Uche Ogah lamenting about the huge youth unemployment challenge in Abia and Nigeria. As a man who employs over 18, 000 people directly and indirectly; most of them youths, I understand his passion. With over 12 industries and 16 subsidiaries to his credit, he definitely understands what the issues are; there are no job opportunities for our youths and where there are jobs many don't have the requisite skills to get them. 

Indeed Abia state and Nigeria has been unable to make appreciable progress because we are not paying attention to the problem of "unemployment amongst the youths". And that is pathetic. I remember that a few months before I had that discussion with Dr Uche Ogah, I was invited by a group of young people to an event where my role was to help them understand what was going on in the country, especially as it relates to the economic challenges of the moment. Weeks before then, they saw me on a national television discussing issues of governance and they believe that I should have some answers to give. 

My take away from the interaction I had with them include:

1. There is hunger in the land and most of our youths are affected. 

2. The education we have been giving to our youths are not solution based, there is no meet between our needs and our academic institutions; no quality education.

3. Our youths are literarily mentally demobilized by years of misrule.

4. Our youths indulge in cultism because there is no sense of security.

5.  They want to be useful but leaders are not finding them useful. 

6. The uses our leaders find for them are for political thuggery and entertainment.

7. Our youths have become desperate and are now in search for voodoo money; either through yahoyaho,  football bet, kidney merchandizing, yaho plus  (rituals), harlotry, armed robbery and kidnapping.

And these are all symptoms of a deep seated problem; youth unemployment and neglect. 

It is indeed worrisome to know that over 50 percent of our youths are unemployed. Yet there are many challenges facing the nation that requires the creative ingenuity of our youths. 

Especially, there is a correlation between the hunger in the nation and the large population of her unemployed youths. There is a correlation between housing deficits across the country and these millions of unemployed number. 

There is a correlation between our youth unemployment and thousands of cortege hospitals needed in rural communities of Abia and Nigeria; rural roads needed to be built; pharmacies needed in communities; street lights that needs to be mounted on every street and villages; streets that need to be swept daily; mass transit buses and modern taxis that are nonexistent in our cities; modern rail lines that are supposed to crisscross the country; doctors and nurses that are supposed to man our hospitals; modern abattoirs needed in every local government and district; secondary and tertiary health facilities needed in every geopolitical zone and states and local government.

There is a correlation between our youth unemployment and huge importation of goods; refineries needed in every geopolitical zone and states of Nigeria; independent power projects that are supposed to be owned by  states and local governments; alternative energy companies that are supposed to be springing up everywhere; over 5 million hectares of land needed to be cultivated annually; food processing factories that are supposed to dot communities; phone factories that are supposed to produce over 300 million phones that is supplied to African markets every year by the Chinese; electronic factories that are supposed to produce our television sets, radio sets, refrigerators and other appliances; and the many other needs of Africa. 

I believe like Dr Uche Ogah, that finding the correlation between these needs and the numbers of jobless youths in Abia state and Nigeria is key. At the heart of solving the youth unemployment and other associated problems in Abia state and Nigeria is finding the correlation.

Basically, the reason for huge youth unemployment in Abia state and Nigeria as Dr Uche Ogah noted is lack of quality education or training. Nigeria has not made education a priority. And where there are resemblances of education, they don't  really relate with the basic needs of the nation and skills required.

As Kelechi Deca said recently "our biggest undoing is the education system that was messed up. Anything that has a negative impact on education reverberates across every sector. Until we get it right with education, forget quality assurance in public service"

Americans, Europeans and the Chinese cannot continue to handle construction in Africa, fabricate our appliances and develop our softwares whiles we claim that we don't have jobs for our youths.

Hence, there is the imperative of redefining our education. We must give our youths the kind of education that makes them fit for engagement in the areas we have challenges and that will make them gainfully employed. That is the only means to solving the correlation. 

By now African leaders should be tired of talking about the availability and non availability of money for meeting our needs. That is lazy. It is my believe that we have all it takes to solve these problems in the now if only we can solve this correlation; defining the education recipe that meets the needs of the country and by putting our money where our mouth is. 

We should never expect to make appreciable progress with the abysmal budgetary allocations we make for education annually. Whiles huge amount of monies are made available for less than 500 people in the National Assembly to squander every year and civil servants and political appointees are handed the treasury to loot in the name of recurring expenditures our education system that is meant to take care of our youths is neglected. Even this year's budget that was recently passed by the National Assembly could not even make up to 5 percent available to prepare our youths for the future that will be confronting them in this era of global competition. Whiles our politicians are still only interested in what they get, neighbouring countries like Ghana and Rewanda are putting as much as 25 percent of their country's annual budget into education; to prepare there youth for the challenges ahead. That is shameful for our nation. 

As experiences in other climes have shown, money is not the problem. Because money  is a virtual reality. It is a by-product that results from solving problems. Meaning that our leaders must have the understanding of money matrix as it relates to creating value. 

Basically, Abia state and Nigeria needs to come up with a Marshall Plan (MP) that will redefine education in the state and the country. That is the pedestal upon which this correlation can be solved. And that is the pedestal that will give our youths the kind of education that is targeted at solving our problems. 

Abia state and Nigerian leaders must deal with divisive implantations. We need to build  alliances amongst ourselves and refuse the temptation to continue to pander to cheap selfish interest that has impoverished our state and our nation. We need to come together and develop educational recipes that will be prevalent across our state and our nation, focused on giving our youths quality trainings that empowers them to solve our needs and earn value. Our leaders should not be carried away  by ceremonial shenanigans. They must be focused on solving important issues like education, health and infrastructures that will bring solution to the people they lead. 

Our youths are becoming inpatient and we need to do something quickly to get them engaged and to use them to solve our problems. If we need more power; if we want our public buildings and facilities to be well maintained; if our schools require more trained teachers or more furniture; if public transportation is deserving of more infrastructure, equipment and personnel; whatever inadequacy you can think of, it can only mean that we are in dire need of educated youths who can take on these challenges. Indeed, the more these gaps that remain in our development efforts, the more relevant our youths must be as solution providers. Our educational institutions must be made to churn out the best qualities of youths there can be to face these challenges. And that will help Abia state and Nigeria solve "youth unemployment". 

The future of Abia state and Nigeria belongs to its teaming youth population, preparing them for that future is as much an important task as ensuring that the youth themselves appreciate very early the enormous historic burden that awaits them; the burden of leadership and service which ironically is the truest path to progress.

Youths are the future health, strength and wealth of any nation. As repositories of the vision of our state and country’s progress and growth, we must give them the kind of education that empowers them to solve our needs and benefit from their labour. We must engage them in activities and get them to participate in events that will contribute to the development of Abia and Nigeria and shape their  destiny.

There are no better alternatives, according to Dr Uche Ogah, "Only Quality Education Will Solve The Correlation" 

GREAT IMO JONATHAN is Special Adviser To Dr Uche Ogah on Media.

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