Governments all over the world designate certain days of the year for special events as a memorial in the life of the country. In Nigeria May 29, every year has become historic and significant for the obvious reason of uninterrupted democratic governance for 13 years transiting from one administration to another.
Credit must be given to the pro-democracy activists, journalists and all those that sacrificed in various ways towards the enthronement of representative government. A period such as “Democracy Day” affords the federal, state and local government administrations opportunity to take stock of their performance in the past, present and project what lies ahead to be accomplished before the expiration of the tenure.
There is no gainsaying the fact that no administration can claim to have justified the mandate of the people and the oath of office if the welfare of citizens does not merit the strategic initiative of the leader.
One major area of serious concern to government at all levels, which equally attracted greater attention at the electioneering campaigns before the April 2011 elections was the issue of security of lives and property as well as employment generation for the teeming youths of the nation.
The issue of unemployment in the country has reached a pitiable and an alarming crescendo that registers negative commentary of our successive governments. This perhaps accounts for the illegal economy created by some unpatriotic elements, since, the government has failed to create a legitimate avenue for the unemployed youth to expose their potentials. The devil therefore, finds them as willing horse to perpetrate criminality.
Under the present democratic dispensation from 1999, the leadership had given assurances of job creation efforts that deserve hyped mention. For instance, the liberalisation of the telecommunication sector that introduced the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM), to Nigeria in 2001, was the cutting edge achievement of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and certainly jobs were created.
It would be premature to judge President Goodluck Jonathan’s policy on employment generation having spent only 366 days as the substantive marksman for the new federal government. Recent pronouncements and body language have shown clearly that the focus has shifted to the age long agriculture as the highest sector that can engage more persons and also provide food security for the ever-increasing population of Nigeria. Several intervention initiatives have been launched to galvanise the sector attract more entrants.
Another area of great intervention was the power sector that has the capacity of stimulating the growth of Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs). The “YouWin “programme launched last year targets young graduates with entrepreneurial skills to aggregate their vision of a good business plan and the federal government rewards such brilliant ideas with seed money to actualise their conceptions.
Similarly, the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE) of the government also targets the engagement of more Nigerians in the productive economy from the resources saved from partial removal of petroleum subsidy regime. These moves being incubated today are expected to hatch and produce dividends of democracy to Nigerians. Here in Rivers State, the government of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi administration tackled the security challenge with the conviction that meaningful development can only strive in a conducive environment of peaceful coexistence.
This gave the needed leverage to the restoration of confidence in Rivers people to explore available openings and attracted other investors some of whom were leaving the state by reason of security concerns to reconsider their decision. The efforts generated the needed impetus and encouragement to embark on Public Private Partnership (PPP), arrangement as a way of advancing development strategies in the state. There are several of such partnership agreements with private investors especially since government is known not to be a good business entity.
Today, in the state, we have the Silverbird Cinema at the heart of Port Harcourt (a PPP concern), the highbrow residential estate with First Bank Plc at Rainbow Town, the PABOD Breweries, Risonpalm to mention but a few, have employed thousands of Rivers people in their workforce.
Under the Agro-tourism experience of the Rivers State fashioned after the Songhai Farm in Benin Republic, where several young farmers were trained by the state government many young farmers are today manning various units in the state version of the farm at Bunu-Tai, in Tai Local Government Area. As an intervention agency, the Rivers State Sustainable Development (RSSDA) is in direct control supervision of the farm. According to the Managing Director of RSSDA, Mr Noble Pepple, the farm has the capacity to train more young farmers in difference aspects that would empower and sustain them for livelihood.
In fulfillment of his promise at Town Hall meeting Governor Amaechi has established a commercial fish farm business venture that would employ interested persons to eke out a living from the outfit.
The same goes for the Banana Plantation, spread in several project sites dotted all over the 23 local government areas have created meaningful engagement of the communities to enhance their standard of living. Also, the Government of Amaechi constructed several health centres in the state and that may increase the number of doctors from 200 to 400 to ensure that at least each centre has a doctor to attend to patients.
To assess the impact of the employment generation drive of the administration, an unemployment data bank was inaugurated to collate information of employable persons, with a view to fine-tuning placement processes with the Ministry of Employment Generation, saddled with the responsibility.
As a government that adjudges education as one of the main thrusts of administration. It has built that a good with number of model secondary schools complete with world class infrastructural facilities. That foundation today attracts qualified teachers since no education can rise above the level of her teachers. The government recently advertised for the recruitment of 10,000 teaching and non-teaching staff to work in the schools in order to accelerate the standard of education in the state. From the above, it is clear that serious attempts are being made to generate employment opportunities in diverse ways for the people.
However, the daunting task which stares the nation in the face now is how to have a holistic plan of action that would assuage the fears of young Nigerian graduates of a possible bleak future after graduation.
The government, must of necessity, consider having a coordinated action plan for the short, medium and long term, a policy direction that would drive the process of engagement from all fronts. Besides, these steps when properly supervised would create the deserved impact by producing a multiplier effect in the system. We must acknowledge the steps taken so far but realising the large number of unemployed persons in our society, government should harness areas of comparative advantage and create the enabling environment for investment. Hence, more paying jobs.