Job Killers Are Terrorists Too By Aniebo Nwamu
Almost on a daily basis now, we read heartrending stories of how certain sub-human beings grow bloodthirsty and wipe out families in Jos, how certain hounds descend on their enemies in their places of worship, and how savage bombers are destroying Maiduguri and its inhabitants. The deadliest terrorists in our midst, however, have been those who kill thousands every day through poverty, neglect, starvation and joblessness.
At the end of World War II, British economist John Maynard Keynes urged afflicted nations to create jobs everywhere even if it meant employing people to dig holes and other people refilling them. He said so because he understood the implications of having many people out of work. I wish our leaders would understand the crisis in which we are now. As I listened to President Barack Obama’s jobs speech to the American Congress, on Thursday, I wondered whether Nigeria will ever have compassionate leaders. Americans are worried because they have a joblessness rate of 9 per cent. But here we are grappling with 70-80 per cent unemployment rate, yet no president or governor or minister seems to think there is a crisis. We lack original thinkers in government; all we’ve got are politicians or hypocrites waiting for the next election or the next slice from the national cake via overinflated contracts.
You’d know a leader that works from his looks: thinking or the mental stress it carries makes one look older than his mates. See how Obama has aged. The dashing young man that stunned the world three years ago has had grey hair and wrinkles to contend with. But he’s just 50. Though our own president, Goodluck Jonathan, may be 10-13 years older than Obama, you would think he’s Obama’s cook. Obvious reason: one burns the midnight oil while the other enjoys the best things the kitchen can offer.
Do we have leaders that are proud of their country? Whenever you meet a Nigerian governor or minister, just examine what he/she is putting on: a gold wristwatch from France, eyeglasses from the UK, shoes from Italy, designer clothing from America. On Thursday night, the American president said: “I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words: ‘Made in America’.”
Job creation is a matter of common sense. And common sense tells me that you cannot plant cassava and harvest yams. Nor does a goat give birth to a cow. Phone handset manufacturers and GSM companies reap incredible billions of naira from Nigeria every day. Up to 100 million Nigerians now own handsets, which they replace every three or four years and feed with recharge credits every day. We create jobs for the citizens of other nations – nations where people think, where inventors thrive, where education translates to usable skills. Each time we consume rice or frozen fish imported from Thailand or Britain, we create jobs for those countries. How can jobs be created for Nigerians when all manner of toothpicks, clothing, food, cars, phones, bicycles and even fuel are imported? Inviting Harvard-trained economists to come and run our economy cannot solve the problem; in any case, the teachers at Harvard don’t teach Africans to encourage self-sufficiency in their home countries.
Obama’s speech drew uncountable bouts of applause from an appreciative audience including those watching on television – Americans that believe in their country, Americans that are ready to work for their country. “The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services.”
In our own country, no president addresses the legislature or the nation in such kind words. And unemployment (even at 80 per cent) is too “trivial” a matter to attract a presidential speech. Truly, diseases and worries about the future make us Nigerians sick. But we are made sicker by our leaders’ neglect and lack of compassion. After listening to Obama, for instance – and he talks to them regularly – few Americans would despair. Here, our president rarely talks to us – except perhaps on May 29 and October 1, from prepared speeches that hurt more than they help. Since we don’t know what leadership entails, we should at least copy from American leaders; after all, everything we use here is made in another country.
It’s proper to judge a government’s performance by the number of jobs it can create. For 90 per cent of our troubles as a nation comes from the jobs crisis. Unemployment gave birth to Boko Haram. Young people who spent 10-20 years in school cannot find jobs. And you expect them to clutch their certificates and wait endlessly for non-existent jobs? Of course, education that cannot offer a meal ticket is useless. Education that encourages someone in government to embezzle billions of naira meant for our children and grandchildren or to stash them away in foreign banks is evil. That’s why the Boko Haram people won’t listen to a thieving governor or senator preaching about the benefits of education. They won’t go back to the farms like their illiterate fathers and grandfathers while their mates buy houses abroad and drive the latest cars with funds stolen from the public treasury.
For decades, commentators have warned of the time-bomb that unemployment represents. Boko Haram is just the beginning of that uprising. The Arab world has just uprooted or shaken their own governments. Will Nigeria be able to withstand the tremor that joblessness will unleash? So, whether it’s the west or WikiLeaks that is working to fulfil the doomsday prophecy of Nigeria’s disintegration by 2015, let those in authority know that the villain will use our own people – the unemployed, the neglected masses who don’t find any meaning in life anymore.
While the American government is working tirelessly to create jobs for its people, the Nigerian government destroys jobs. For instance, Obama recognises that “small businesses are where most new jobs begin” and now gives them tax holidays. What do we have here? Whenever you start a business, government strives to kill it. To secure registration alone, you are subjected to a maze of bureaucratic bottlenecks: pay this and pay that, see that man and this woman, do this and do that. There is multiple taxation: you pay to the local union, the national union, the local government, the state government and the federal government. You pay education tax (never mind that public education is dead already), property tax, income tax. Whether you make profits or not, you must pay taxes of every description. Ironically, the rich don’t pay taxes in this country. It’s the poor that pay. Even at marketplaces where the local people strive to eke out a living, tax collectors are on the prowl: If you have brought vegetables or a goat to sell, you have to pay rates; you may not get a receipt, for the money won’t get to any government coffer.
Our governments are job killers! Because of massive corruption, there is no power supply. Because of stealing in high places, there is no clean water, no good roads, no rail system. Indeed, I salute all employers in today’s Nigeria. If there’s hell on earth, Nigeria is the place. How can there be security of life and property in a place where 80 per cent of the people are either jobless or underemployed? A hungry man is an angry man, and an angry man cannot act rationally.
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