It’s time for Nigeria’s youth to recover our stolen dreams


Last week, Nigeria was declared the largest economy in Africa. But what does a GDP of US$510 billion mean to a market woman who is one of the 60 per cent who earns less than a dollar a day?

What does having a bigger economy than South Africa achieve when Nigerians are literally dying to find work?

Last month, 19 Nigerian job seekers died during a stampede at a nationwide recruitment exercise held by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

More than half a million people paid 1000 naira (US$6) to apply for just 4,500 jobs. Four pregnant women were among those killed.

After the tragedy, it was revealed that most of the jobs had already been allocated to people connected to government ministers.

We, the young people of Nigeria, have had enough.

We had enough when the first person was murdered by Boko Haram.

We had enough when the first kobo was stolen by our parasitic leaders aided by their foreign cohorts.

We had enough when the first multinational pilfered our oil and destroyed our land.

But the time has come to stop talking about change; the time has come for us to make it.

That is why we will be taking to the streets of Nigeria on International Workers’ Day, 1 May, for the Stolen Dreams protest.

What we now celebrate as May Day began in 1886 from the struggle for the eight hour working day in Chicago. In 2014, many Nigerians don’t even have that.

Officially, Nigeria has a youth unemployment rate of 54 per cent but in reality, that figure could be as high as 80 per cent.

Nigeria’s 100 million young people could be its most valuable resource – why are our lives being wasted?

We can continue to cry about the levels of unemployment in this country and to demand radical ideas about job creation, but the rhetoric is well-worn.

Instead, we need to focus on developing our young people to create and build the kind of workforce needed in today’s world.


“Nobody earns enough”

In our country we have millions of graduates who cannot find decent jobs.

We have millions of university students who cannot become graduates because their lecturers are striking over pay and work conditions.

And we have a school system that is overstretched and underfunded, meaning that only those that can afford to go to the best schools have access to quality education.

Every year, thousands of our most qualified workers– doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, engineers, lawyers – leave Nigeria to work abroad.

How is it possible that there are more than twice as many Nigerian doctors working in New York State than there are in the whole of Nigeria – a country of 170 million people!

Nigeria’s people are its most valuable asset but our government fails to see that.

Our government has always supported the needs of business over the needs of its citizens.

This ‘padi padi’ approach has led to the total exploitation of the Nigerian worker, to the extent that people are barely earning enough to survive, even on the minimum monthly wage of N18,000 (about US$110).

Almost everyone I know has at least two jobs in order to sustain themselves and their families. Millions more are forced to work in the informal economy where they have no protection and no prospects. From gatemen to bankers to pilots – nobody earns enough.

But not only do we tolerate this low pay, we also sit by and watch western expats earn as much as five times what we do for doing the same job because they are ‘experts’.

This shameful situation means that 53 years after independence we still can’t create the work force we need to run our own country. Simply put, the past and present governments have suppressed the progress and the innovative potential of Nigerian youth.

Like many other African nations, the Nigerian government has failed to train its population for the future – and this is its ultimate failure.

If the citizens of a country are well-educated and prepared to participate in the modern world, the government will see its citizens as assets. Assets which need to be protected and valued. But our government see our lives as cheap.

Whether in road accidents, being trafficked to Europe or murdered in terrorist attacks, we die and they say nothing.


A different Nigeria

But imagine if things were different? If Nigeria was secure – and made secure by Nigerians? If we had emergency call centres serving all 774 local government areas across the federation? Training centres for paramedics and emergency services personnel in case of natural disasters?

From jobs in forensics to data analysis to patrol officers – the potential to engage youths in this sector is massive.

Not only would investment in this area create jobs for Nigerians, but increased safety would create the space for other sectors to do the same.

Assets must be healthy. We are tired of seeing our brothers and sister die in road accidents when they could have been saved if only help had arrived on time – if at all.

This is just one example. There are many of other areas where millions of jobs could be created, allowing people to engage in fulfilling and rewarding work.

But developing these types of industries would mean our government would have to engage in real nation building work. It would mean consultations and research. But this time consuming and painstaking work is not why most of our politicians sought for public office.

We are constantly being told we have to attract foreign investment.

But I look at the big companies coming to Nigeria and they do little to develop the country. Except for a few people, most Nigerians are still essentially living under foreign control.

Our government has just passed a bill against homosexuality but the so-called “evil of foreign influence” does not lie there.

It lies in the fact that our economy has been engineered in such a way that multinationals are able to extract our precious natural resources to benefit shareholders in foreign lands while our young people are slaughtered like sheep while applying for jobs they don’t really want and can’t even get.

Our government neo-colonial policies only work for the minority – and the people know it.

That is why we are marching on 1 May.

The people are too many and the crumbs are too scant. It’s time to recover our stolen dreams.


To find out more about the Stolen Dreams protests, follow the hastag #StolenDreams on Twitter and Facebook, or visit