By Dele Adeoluwa
The tidal wave of unemployment remains a time bomb in these climes. We are actually sitting on a tinder box. It is a morass that continues to oil the hinges of the increasing crime wave and the concomitant social unrest.
It is certainly one of the endemic tap roots of the insecurity conundrum we are grappling with and which the authorities at various levels need to address more seriously. It is needless to remind ourselves that poverty and frustrations, which are a direct corollary of joblessness, obviously make idle youths highly susceptible to being hired by the various criminal gangs terrorising the communities.
These days, the employment space has continued to shrink so much so that thousands now chase very few job vacancies that come up once in a while. The March 14, 2014 National Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment tragedy remains a sore thumb.
It will be recalled that about 16 applicants reportedly died, while thousands of others fainted owing to the stampede that ensued during the exercise. The tragedy occurred as a result of the obvious poor crowd control on the part of the organisers, who, instead of phasing it to reduce the crowds, decided to hold it simultaneously in the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
About 125,000 applicants turned up in Lagos and Abuja alone. Thousands also besieged the various stadia, the venues of the exercise, in the other states, all chasing just 4,500 vacancies. In a desperate scramble to gain access to the various stadia, many of the motley crowds of applicants fell down. A total of 16 of them were consequently trampled to death in some of the venues, while thousands of others fainted due to suffocation.
The EndSARS protests that shook the nation to the foundation in October, last year, poignantly drew home how the slightest spark of ire could spur a conflagration. Although a lot of young, well-heeled and respectable individuals joined the protests and even coordinated them in most places, the action was overwhelmingly successful because thousands of despondent youths became easy foot soldiers for an action that totally ground vehicular movements in Lagos, Abuja and other major state capitals for almost two weeks.
The anti- police brutality protests were certainly a metaphor for larger grievances. The genuine protesters and the bilious mob that later hijacked the action merely latched onto the opportunity to let off pent up steam of frustrations, exasperations, hopelessness and despair largely due to years of spiralling unemployment, hunger and grinding poverty in the face of obscene opulence by our leaders at various levels.
The pent up anger accounted for the degree of arson and mindless killings as well as blind looting that took place, which vitiated the altruistic underpinning of the whole campaign.
Despondency has driven youths to desperate extremes. Once they are sated with all kinds of additives, frustrated, jobless youths become intrepid and unfeeling. They take to crime and all kinds of debauchery. Buoyed up by the high level of ostentation around them, the lure of lucre sets in. They begin to dream big and plan big on how to make it big. You need to eavesdrop on the conversations of some of these desperate youths, especially at drinking joints whenever they are high on the cocktail of harmful ‘concoctions’ they now consume. You will shudder.
Inured to sadistic influence, they take to violent robberies, kidnapping for ransoms, ritual killings and cyber-crimes such as Advanced Fee Fraud, popularly known as ‘419’ and Yahoo Yahoo. Some later veered into a variant called Yahoo Plus, a ritual practice that drew them into stealing ladies’ under pants.
Ironically, youths in this bracket hardly think about paid employment anymore. They are no longer contented with the prospects of earning what they now consider peanuts as monthly salaries. They now have access to ‘stinking’ wealth. They used to be easily noticeable in the neighbourhoods from their weird dresses and lousy, riotous lifestyle as they cruised around with loud music blaring from their posh cars. Some of them pranced and strutted, roistering in hotels and literally chaperoned by a coterie of ladies. The heat from the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) eventually forced them to go underground.
These sorts are a bad influence on younger minds in the neighbourhoods, who begin to nurse the dangerous ambition to be like them. This is how crime now catches them young.
Strangely, the mothers of some of these cyber criminals are now said to be forming themselves into associations. They are alleged to be resorting to all manners of weird activities, including the diabolical, to ensure that their children are shielded from the prying eyes of the law, while they (their children) make others weep through their malevolence.
That is the level of desperation that the lure of lucre is driving most of our youths and their collaborating parents. They will go to any length to escape the pangs of poverty. Theirs is the ‘Machiavellian’ style; the end, for them, must always justify the means.
The Buhari administration has put up a lot of programmes, especially loan policies, aimed at channelling youths’ boundless energies into creative and more positive ventures. The blight is, however, said to be the inadequate awareness and bureaucratic bottlenecks that have tended to hinder many of the potential beneficiaries of these facilities from accessing them. Government may have to look into some of the challenges around these facilities to get more youths into the ‘safety net’.
However, change agents — government, parents, schools, churches and mosques— will have to wake up and be more alive to their responsibilities. The worsening moral drift must be arrested. Otherwise, I shudder at what will become of this country in the next 20, 25 years when the present generation of youths begin to take over in all spheres.