Wednesday, 22 July 2015 13:15

The Nigerian Youth and crime:A root cause analysis

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A young Nigerian being prosecuted by Nigerian authorities for an online scamThere has been an upsurge in the number of Nigerian youths aspiring too hard to become successful through the means of partaking in criminal activities. All over the world, headlines have read so many unimaginable things that have the name Nigeria as its main subject. As usual, the Nigerian youth have been made to bear most of the brunt that is linked to these “unimaginable”.

A staunch believer in the saying that says “blame the society” would agree that this vertical increase in criminal activities that involve the Nigerian youth has got a lot to do with the very negative socio-political nature of the entity called Nigeria.

While we hold on to and believe that there is no justification for evil, we should also dwell on the fact that every action has its own reaction. A quick rewind to the days prior to Nigeria’s independence will reveal the much needed components of a needful root-cause analysis that should be performed. This analysis would help in ascertaining the exact reasons why the Nigerian youth seems to have become accustomed to criminality and its vices. We should turn back the hand of time and study the possible reasons why we have become an army of criminal’s overtime.

The years before the Nigerian independence were characterized by the quest to acquire advanced education in foreign lands. Nigerian youths left in numbers, some through scholarships and some whose parents could afford it, also followed what seems to be the trend in those days. Most became Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers and Administrators. These youths later formed the bulk of the group who orchestrated the campaign for independence on graduation. These pioneers of the “study abroad” phenomenon mostly came back home after their studies abroad and the opportunities that awaited them on arrival were tremendous.

They were quickly absorbed into the thriving Nigerian civil service of yesteryears. They were perceived as the cream de la crème of the Nigerian society. After their studies, their resettlement in Nigeria was met with a very buoyant economy that has also started to show signs of exhaustion. The negatives started manifesting when some of these pioneers started dabbling into ethnic politics and corruption.

The aforementioned gradually started to translate into lack of foresight, economic development and the creation of a population explosion conscious economic environment. More people continued acquiring higher education while the economy started to nose dive into oblivion. Some of these pioneers who were by now, part of the government failed to consolidate on the important advantage of an independent nation which is development.

Gbam! The military struck and all hell broke loose. The “ethnic divide’ instituted by these “study abroad’ brigade was given a new twist, an armed and militarized twist. More hell later broke loose when the new military boys could not hold their things together. Little or no priority was given to the now increasing army of young graduates that came from all over the world and in Nigeria. The military boys derailed until the ethnic and regional divide that was obvious went from normal to a full blown pogrom which later translated to the Nigerian civil war. Again, the opportunity to develop the economy to accommodate the teaming young “Study abroad” and Nigeria group was lost once again. The proceeds of the beginning of the first oil boom in Nigeria was used to fight the civil war.

When the civil war ended in 1970, the reconstruction of the infrastructural damaged polity ensued. Again, funds that were supposed to be used in financing an economically viable society were inevitably diverted to the rebuilding of the country. The army of “study abroad” and Nigeria graduates continued to acquire new recruits, hence the limited resources at the time continued to be not-equivalent to the job opportunities available. Corruption and its vices started crippling in at an escalated rate. Looting and mismanagement became the order of the day. Civil servants became white collar criminals protected by the law. By now, the Nigerian University graduates have started tripling and quadrupling in number. Yet little or no provision was made to accommodate them employment wise.

Festivalof Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77) was a great show of what we could have used our excess oil earnings for. Even the government of that era opined that “we have so much money, but we do not know exactly what to do with it”. The aforementioned further showcased the level of cluelessness in the Nigerian leadership of that era. All they could think of was to invite the whole world to a bazaar and jamboree of wastefulness. Unstoppably, the number of young graduates who were job seekers continued to escalate, albeit, at a more manageable rate. FESTCA 77 became the monumental symbol of wastefulness that came to characterize the Nigerian leadership of that era and today.

Democracy beckoned again and the majority of Nigerians accepted it wholeheartedly .By this time, corruption have become institutionalized. Regardless the young Nigerian graduate still managed to secure employment but at the cost of great difficulties. This era marked the beginning of endemic unemployment as we know it today in Nigeria. Politicians started stealing state funds at an alarming rate. Funds meant for the development of the economy of Nigeria started growing wings and started flying away. The economy and employment opportunities started dwindling and drying up like a bucket of water left in the Sahara desert. Again, unemployment continued to thrive unabated.

The death nail was hammered when the military struck again for the second time, by this time, corruption and mismanagement have become a way of life, In fact, any attempt to abolish it abruptly might have led to the total collapse of the Nigerian economy of that era. Yes, it was that bad. The Nigerian economy was lined, “condimented”, and “ingridientated” by immense corruption and impunity. Very few provisions were made for the now millions of young Nigerian graduates who have now started roaming the streets with worn out shoes and empty belly. The disillusionment in the polity by then was unprecedented. The hopelessness was gigantic. By this time, our hitherto Nigerian prestigious institutions have started to become centers of mediocre learning. It was fast becoming not about the teaming graduates not getting a job, but about our graduates becoming perpetually unemployable. In essence, even if the jobs were to fall like manner, they would not be suitable for employment. The average Nigerian graduates are now laced with mediocrity. The years that followed the ouster of the first Nigerian Executive President and the emergence of another military dictatorship finally dealt a final fatal blow to any hope of the youths reaching full potential. The years from 1983 onwards were characterized by immense rot in the system. Our institutions of higher learning have become glorified secondary schools producing unbelievable mediocres as graduates.

All through the 90s, the main damage was being done, and matters were not helped by the emergence of a new breed of billionaires. These billionaires were men of questionable character. Men whose wealth was untraceable but yet celebrated. The moral fabric of what makes up Nigeria was shattered and its consequences still haunts us till today. Our young and often time mediocre graduates have taken to crime as a source of livelihood. Today ,it’s about some Youngman man facing the firing squad or getting hanged in the far east or a young man in his 20s getting a lengthy imprisonment for duping someone and dealing on drugs in South Africa.; For the Nigerian youth, a new normal have become not just possible, but generally acceptable.

To curtail all this acts of menace to the society and to stop this current trend from transferring and becoming the inheritance of the next generation of young Nigerians, I would suggest I total overhaul of the socio-political aspects of the entity called Nigeria. A very strong and progressive economy that compensates the educated and upright but admonishes the criminal. The government should institutionalize campaigns against ill gotten wealth. The government should also embark on a complete and committed clampdown on individuals who have looted the resources of this great nation from within and without. This will set a precedence that will discourage the up and coming youths from partaking in illegal activities

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Johnson-Ehidonye Patrick Sopuruchukwu Bernard

Mr. Johnson-Ehidonye Patrick Sopuruchukwu Bernard is Political activist and social critic on Nigerian, African and World affairs. Ambassador at the University of the People, Pasadena California. U.S.A