The challenge of Youth and Graduate unemployment in Nigeria is a serious socio-economic malaise afflicting our country. It is estimated that over 60% of graduates of tertiary Institutions in Nigeria do not have gainful employment. This has bred many social dislocations, manifesting in social vices of all kinds.
I realized the enormity of this problem to Enugu North Senatorial District early. Our District is disadvantaged in many ways. We did not have the leverages of political and economic reach of some neighboring Districts. We hardly were aware when the government rolls out policies to stimulate any economic sector. Most of our graduates trudge the streets in search of white-collar jobs, which are mostly non-existent.
After an appraisal of the situation, I thought that the best thing was to devise a graduate training scheme whereby resource persons can impart some specific skills in candidates selected wholly on merit, to enable them be self-reliant, become creators of labour, integrate them into the productive sectors of the economy and take them off the streets. I wanted them to start small and build it big as many as many multinational companies did. Dangote for one. Even around us here, we can draw examples. Solive Oil. Peace Mass Transit. Ifesinachi Mass Transit. I wanted to imbue in the unemployed graduates of my District a sense of a self-belief; a confidence to conquer.
The scheme is not a political pitch. It is designed to meet a real economic need. Our people needed to be encouraged to pull themselves by the bootstraps, unto the height of accomplishments.
It took a lot of work. I moved from Office to Office in Abuja. From the Central Bank of Nigeria, to SMEDAN, to Bank of Industry. I pleaded. I solicited. I was turned this way, and that way. There is a need in my constituency, so I refused to be discouraged. I persisted. I went back repeatedly. We did the paper works.
Finally, there was a crack of dawn. Night became morning. We put structures in place. At great personal costs. Not one single kobo of any government agency has gone into this, yet. But we are glad we have the process going.
After a rigorous process of selection, the candidates chose the various trades of their choice. We got Resources person to take them through the various stages of the trade and how to write a bankable business plan, upon which the Central Bank, through a commercial Bank in partnership with it (in this case, I understand it is Sterling Bank), would disburse monies as Start-Ups for the Candidates. The candidates were then attached for hands-on skill training through an internship programme we designed.
The Candidates who underwent the training program know that it is serious business. We believe that its success will be a catalyst for the business development of many a young man in Enugu North Senatorial District. So, having concluded the training of the 1st set of candidates who went through the various stages of the Entrepreneurship training program, we decided not to break the wheel of progress. We agreed that commencing the 2nd batch is a viable step forward in consummating this programme which has cost so much in resources, physical and mental.
The event of today, therefore, is to kick-start the training of the 2nd set of candidates of the Graduate Entrepreneurship Program. All I would admonish the candidates is to emulate the first batch. A bird that is learning to fly, take lessons from its mother.
This programme is not one you can do with a laid-back attitude We are determined to make it succeed. And its success depends on the drive and the hunger to accomplish which the candidates must cultivate. I encourage you to give it your best shot. The saying, no pain, no gain, applies here. You must have the mental picture of what you can become in a few years’ time. With that, you must apply yourselves to the task, ensure you listen to the resource persons and take all stages of the programme serious. Talent is one thing; determination to succeed is another. Make the most of what you have been provided.
You may not realise it, but you are one of the few lucky ones chosen for this task. The labour required of you might seem high now, but like the woman who endures the pangs of child birth but delights on hearing the cry of her baby, you would look back and congratulate yourselves for taking this huge step.
So, I encourage you and wish you all the best as you take this important step forward in your life. May God bless you all.