The Presidential Review: Job Creation

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 One of the many economic challenges Nigeria has to manage is creating jobs fast and large enough to match the country’s exploding population growth. In the first quarter of 2021, a report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on its website noted that Nigeria’s Unemployment Rate had risen from 27.1 percent in the second quarter of 2020, to 33 percent, making it one of the highest on the Global List. The NBS report went on to show what so many of us already know: that more than 60 percent of Nigeria’s working-age population is younger than 34, and as such, it comes as no surprise that unemployment for people aged 15 to 24 stood at a heartbreaking 53.4 percent in the fourth quarter, and 37.2 percent for people aged 25 to 34. The jobless rate for women was 35.2 percent compared with 31.8 percent for men. The number of people looking for jobs will inadvertently rise as population growth continues to outpace output expansion. Perhaps the most painful and annoying part of the whole thing is the fact that the Federal Government has become reputed for loudly stating and clarifying these problems without proffering any real solutions!

With the general elections just a few months away, Nigerians can no longer afford to be swayed by petty sentiments and empty rhetoric. The country is in dire need of solutions, which can only be found through solution and result-oriented leaders. As expected, each presidential aspirant has put forth agendas that they hope to implement if elected.

Here’s what each of the three most popular aspirants has had to say about job creation:

Bola Tinubu

In his agenda, titled ‘My Vision for Nigeria’, Tinubu promised to build an economy that will make the nation’s Gross Development Product grow quicker annually for the next four years while also providing jobs for millions of youths in the country.

“I will focus on stimulating jobs, which will be my top priority as President. I will get Nigeria to work by launching a major public works program, a significant and heavy investment in infrastructure, and value-adding manufacturing and agriculture,” he said. Tinubu also promises a major public works and infrastructure focus, which will help in also boosting jobs in the country, which also includes regional hubs for development.”

He has also shared his thoughts on the matter in a now popular video, essentially saying that under his administration, there will always be something for the youth to do:

Verdict: Tinubu’s promise of major public works and infrastructure focus, which will help in boosting jobs in the country, but also include regional hubs for the development, is indeed laudable. In fact, it sounds quite solid. Sadly, history has shown us that having well-written documents does not equate to well-meaning governance, at least not in Nigeria. Asides the numerous concerns about his age, overall health, and questionable dealings in the past, many cannot help but worry that Tinubu will merely worsen an already blazing, APC-driven wildfire in Nigeria’s economy.

Atiku Abubakar

According to Atiku: “Job creation is what I do best.” The aspirant has, over the years, touted his credentials as a business owner with a long history of creating jobs not just in his home state of Adamawa but elsewhere across the country. In several of his speeches, he has alluded to the plight of young people in the country, going as far as to say (in one Facebook livestream some years ago) that “without the security of a job we cannot have security in our country. So without jobs there is no future for you or for Nigeria.

In his 2019 general elections campaign, Atiku promised to create a minimum of 2.5 million jobs in the first two years if elected into office. By attracting investments and supporting the 50 million small and medium-scale enterprises across Nigeria, the aspirant pledged to double the size of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and lift at least 50 million people from poverty in the first 2 years. According to him, the 2023 policy document tagged, ‘My Covenant with Nigerians,’ is an updated version of the 2019 document — a plan which targets rapid stimulation of the economy at the base, accelerating the growth of the real sector of the economy to open up self and wage-paying job opportunities.

Verdict: While Atiku has promised to run a disciplined and issue-based campaign, many have expressed concerns about his campaign’s focus on the private sector — concerns that seem all the more valid when one remembers that he has been accused of cronyism, especially when he oversaw the privatization of key government assets during his stint as Vice President between 1999-2007 (we haven’t forgotten the fallout from the Mittal/Ajaokuta Mills and all the drama that ensued). Many would vehemently argue that much of Nigeria’s productive sector was sold under dubious privatization under Obasanjo and Atiku, costing Nigeria millions in revenue and jobs.

Although he denies any wrongdoing and says the charges are politically motivated, his stance on privatization as a silver bullet for Nigeria’s numerous problems is questionable, especially considering the country’s unimpressive past.

Peter Obi

Peter Obi has pledged to turn Nigeria from a consuming nation to a producing economy if he is elected the president of the country in the 2023 presidential election. This includes “pulling millions of citizens out of poverty through job creation and providing a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.” The aspirant has also said that his administration will revive the moribund textile industries that used to be one of the nation’s revenue earners and improve the agricultural sector for farmers in the north through the provision of incentives and other farming implements to farmers — all of which is aimed at directly empowering the people.

“After we win the 2023 elections, we intend to use the instruments of job creation and regenerative investments to drastically reduce the high incidence of insecurity and poverty, while moving the economy from the consumptive to the productive mode,” he has said. The former governor has also spoken, both online and in person, about the fact that no country can grow economically with a 35percent unemployment rate, which, when combined with underemployment, equals 55percent.

Obi has pledged to aggressively support micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME), which, according to him, are the engines of job creation, so that they can effectively contribute to lowering the unemployment rate, as is the case in other countries.

Verdict: Many still remain skeptical about Obi’s passion for human capital development and his emphasis on investing in MSMEs. After all, the over 40 million micro-enterprises already in existence (often selling imported products) are seemingly still struggling to stay afloat. While one can commend Obi’s research abilities and even understand his vision, one must also tread carefully when comparing a country like Nigeria to other countries, and hinging our potential successes on the successes of others.

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