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[OPINION]: Abundant Skilled Labour: Why are we so Blest?

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by Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi

Had the Ghanaian novelist- Ayi Kwei Armah written his 1972 classic a couple of days back, one would have concluded that what was experienced at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Enugu in the course of last week informed the appellation he gave the novel. There, the narrative’s title reverberated not minding that the work is over four decades old. This isn’t about the plot of the novel as that is a different kettle of fish. The point of concern is just the title which asks: “Why Are We So Blest?”

Of a truth, any reflective person who saw or read about what went down at the premises of UNTH last Thursday when the establishment conducted interview for those who had applied for opening for administrative officers, would have appreciated how blest we are in human resources. And if such being is highly philosophical, he would have taken it a step further by asking: Why are we so blest?

The question begs to be asked in lieu of the fact that although just 10 candidates would eventually be employed for the post of Administrative Officer II, no fewer than 8,000 job seekers filed in their application. That is a clear confirmation of our being blest. For it implies that regarding the job of an Administrative Officer, we have nothing less than 8,000 persons who can do that job from the Enugu axis alone. Tell me any other country that parades this number of skilled manpower for just a slot? If you can’t, then know ye that greatly blest are we!
It is incontrovertible that the applicants are very qualified. This is because it is rare seeing a sensible Nigerian who would waste his precious time and dissipate energy by applying for a job he doesn’t stand the chance of being short-listed. This is without overlooking the fact that albeit in the UNTH job opening, out of the 8,000 that applied, only about 5,000 were short-listed. The reason is quite simple; the number of applicants had to be reduced somehow to make the job easier for those in charge of the recruitment process.

Hence, it was not necessarily because they weren’t qualified. It may be that what robbed them of being short-listed could be as minor as not dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s in their handwritten application. They could also have been shut out because one of their documents was rumpled. Aside the trivials, they appear very qualified. The persons I saw struggling to check the list of short-listed candidates exuded confidence that could only have been propelled by their being qualified.

But don’t be carried away. What I have so far laboured to establish is that we have an excessive number of highly qualified labour in this country. And that is very much a blessing even though we don’t have commensurate employment opportunities to absorb these over-bloated job seekers. It is in line with this that the million dollar question cannot but be asked: why are we so blest to the extent that we no longer have need for the excessive blessing? Can that be true: that we have become so blest that we now know not how to harness it? That is very true, if you ask me!

One point I can give to back up this claim is the fact that those who get away with the diadem are often times not those most deserving of it. In plain English, those who ultimately get the jobs aren’t usually the peak of the pack. Indeed, you seldom see among them those who are ready-made for the job in question. For if examination is said not to be the true test of knowledge, in like manner would interviews and job tests not be the true evaluation of who is best for a particular job!

And to make matters worst, the crowd the interviewers have to attend to makes it difficult for them to do away with substantial margins of error no matter how systematic they go about the process. Further, the ‘connection’ factor also accounts for why the best are sacrificed for the not-so-qualified.

All these explain why an unemployed economist will go to the bank and gets embittered to see a banker struggling with a job he has all the training for. The same way, a well-trained but idle broadcaster will be pained to watch an ‘intruder’ fumbling with a script he (the broadcaster) could have effortlessly delivered!

Why then are we so blest if it was to land us in this impasse? Did I just hear someone request such a blessing to be at bay instead of us being so blest? I know many would rather we have more industries, establishments than we have those seeking jobs. But, if that wish holds water, then would we be bereft of industries and job-creating businesses, since no investor will be attracted to a country where the supply of labour isn’t guaranteed.

That line of reasoning would also translate to reduced patronage as  unemployed persons form a major part of those who consume whatever is produced. The more they consume, the more these businesses expand and when there is an expansion, that would generate the need for more persons to be employed. This analysis flows from the verity that government does not employ much of labour. It falls squarely on the private sector which favours an arrangement where unemployed labour can trigger the need for people from among them to be employed.

That should partly answer why we are so blest; That we may, by patronising the goods and services produced by companies around us, work out our getting employed. However, it’s painful to note that they don’t always take this into account when it’s time to enlarge their workforce. This is because they have so many to choose from that patronage becomes inconsequential. But even if not directly, it still favours the unemployed somehow. For those lucky to get absorbed gets out of the competition allowing those remaining a higher prospect of being employed next time.

To further confirm our being so blest, in August this year, we heard of at least 6,251 job seekers applying for 400 vacancies at the Universal Basic Education, UBE, Enugu, where they would expect a monthly salary of N18,000. This goes to show that not only is labour available, it’s also cheap. The national minimum wage is pegged at N18,000, yet, instances abound where graduates collect N15,000 without qualms.

This affordability of labour is a sheer fallout of its availability. On the surface, this seems like a blessing only for entrepreneurs who employ labour, but on a deeper look, it cuts across as it can spur the currently unemployed to take advantage and become employers of labour. It can motivate them into starting their own businesses banking on the fact that labour is cheap. After all, labour is among the factors of production just like capital. So, what are they waiting for?

Let it be known that we are so blest so that we can be among the production hub of the world just like China and India. We can’t be this blest with manpower in quantum yet direct all our attention at just getting into the formal sector with few persons getting involved in the informal sectors. It is with such disposition that we would continue to have up to 8,000 persons chasing 10 positions. This would not help us nor our economy in any way. As such, government should create the enabling environment for this to happen.

The crowd that answered the call at UBE and UNTH alongside the crowd that grace other interview events across the country reveal that God’s kind of blessing to Abraham is surely upon us. That’s why our skilled manpower has become as numerous as the sand on the sea shore. All concerned should, therefore, see to it that this blessing is not abused but put into good use.

We are so blest so that we can always inject new blood into the system. A situation where those who should be retired refuse to go denies us of that. In the same vein, the obsession our government have for engaging the elderly in jobs that younger persons should do also makes mockery of our being so blest. Just imagine that the former SURE-P chairman, Christopher Kolade voluntarily gave up that position because of old age. Left for government, he can stay all he wants!

We should keep in mind that not every country have this kind of luxury. There are countries that don’t have enough skilled labour to drive their economies like we do here. That’s why there is the Technical Aid Corps- a platform through which the Nigerian government exports labour to countries in need of them. Every blessing ought to be harnessed for optimum benefit. When we fail to do that, then would we always have reasons to ask: why are we so blest?

Former Mr. Ejike Ugwuanyi turns Barr. Ejike Ugwuanyi
The joy of members of the family of Late Chief S. N. Ugwuanyi and their well-wishers knew no bound as one of their own, Ejike (my immediate elder brother), was called to bar on Friday, November 29, 2013 after successfully concluding his Law programme at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus and the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.

Ejyk’s case is a lesson in tenacity as he had since childhood aspired to be a lawyer. Thank God for allowing him the grace to bring his dream to fruition. It’s hoped he will have a successful time in the bar. Many thanks to our mum and siblings who bore the financial burden for him to attain this feat. May God’s blessings continue to rain on us all… Amen.

You can follow me on twitter @ugsylvester or reach me through ug.ugovester@gmail.com

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Opinion

Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?

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Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.

In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.

“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.

In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.

As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’

Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.

The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.

On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.

“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.

In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.

With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.

The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.

Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.

Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.

PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.

• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.

• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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Opinion

Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye

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We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!

So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.

Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A

Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.

The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?

The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.

He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….

The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.

Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences  of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”

It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.

My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.

Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.

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Opinion

Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth

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By Fredrick Nwabufo

Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.

I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.

But wait!

The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.

READ: Dethroned Sanusi Will Be Under House Arrest – Ganduje’s Aide

“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.

In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.

In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.

Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.

As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.

‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.

READ: Sanusi Breaks Silence After Dethronement As Emir Of Kano (Video)

And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.

To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.

So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.

But Sanusi was still talking.

Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.

I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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