Dr. ashimuneze heanacho gives his thoughts on
"Developmental Retardation and Graduate
Unemployment in Nigeria"

Human-element concerns fill Reuben Abati's "mad cow"
story, but I am over-wrought by the avoidable, tragic
death of Mr. Godwin Adodo, whom he reports as having
been gored by a presumably mad cow. According to Mr.
Abati, Mr. Adodo was a graduate of Yaba College of
Technology, a successor institute to Nigeria's premier
institution of advanced studies, The Yaba College,
which in the 1930s-1950s produced scholars of high
repute and probably, does still.

While it is not uncommon for individual graduates to
choose paths some of which appear to be uncommon and
unusual, my limited experience with unemployment among
college graduates in Nigeria, leads me to worry that
Mr. Adodo's employment may be indicative of a
seriously negative, socioeconomic phenomenon, which
has the potential of retarding Nigeria's social and
economic development. Forgive my ignorance, if
something is being done already, of which I am

Cautious and apprehensive that I may be grossly
misinformed, I hazard that, it is unusual that a
graduate of such a skilled caliber would voluntarily
choose to become what Mr. Abati reports as the
victim's profession -- commercial driving; not that
commercial driving is repugnant as such, although, it
could well pendulate at or near the bottom of
compensation among professions, in Nigeria's
socioeconomic environment.

I am aware of a few other university graduates, in my
extended family who, not unlike the late Mr. Adodo,
despite their educational accomplishments, are death a
nasty economic hand, by Nigeria's persistent, economic

About three years ago, six of my relatives, graduated
by various Nigerian universities, with first and
second class honors, remained without a meaningful
employment for an average of three years. Two of them,
who are women, found "jobs" as secretaries to  male
entrepreneurs, whom they allege, paraded them as if
they were sophisticated trophies and potential
mistresses. As they claimed, after they were subjected
to persistent, sexual harassment, their appointments
were terminated, because, they resisted the employers'
sexual propositions. One of my male, graduate
relatives became a motorcycle-courier until he was
almost killed on a Lagos road, when a
"Molue" driver deliberately crushed his machine,
callously breaking his legs, for daring to sandwich
himself between the commercial bus and another vehicle
ahead, in a rush-hour traffic.

Mine is an uninformed, social science extemporization
about the relationship between social policy, economic
development, level of employment/unemployment, and

I suppose that, most of us will agree that Nigeria is
economically underproductive, relative to its
potential for significant development. Similarly,
Nigeria's capacity to employ its own population seems
to diminish progressively, despite the country's
quantifiable fiscal ability resulting from the
production and disposal of oil. The third arm of this
tripartite conjecture is that the level of
unemployment in Nigeria appears to grow arithmetically
every year, in contrast to its regional neighbors,
most of which have far less resources. Much of the
unemployment is recorded in the urban cities, such as
Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, etc.

Statistics of Nigerian unemployment seems to consist,
not of uneducated, rural populations, who have been
uprooted by failing agricultural production resulting
from the absence of mechanization and decreasing
incomes, but of some highly educated populations, as
well, who normally, would form the core of the
productive vanguard in a developing country. In other
words, many of Nigeria's unemployed and consequently
poor, are well educated and skilled, even by European
and American standards.

Extant literature refers to Nigeria's underemployment
and low productivity, as constituting a vicious cycle
that explains the endemic poverty in the country.
Unless Obadan & Odusola of the National Center for
Economic Management & Administration (NCEMA), Ibadan,
are wrong, Nigeria will have no prospect of measurable
development or of improving the welfare of its people,
unless it enhances the chances of employment for its
university graduates.

Consonant to my comment on Wednesday, July 6
(Africa.... No. ) Simbeye (1992) and the World Bank
(1993) report that continuously enhanced employment
and productivity have been central to the brilliant
performance of so-called "Asian Tigers" and Japan,
implying that, absence of such enhancement visibly
retards Nigeria's chances. So we can deduce that,
correspondingly, high productivity stimulates both 1)
global balance of powers, which affect Nigeria and its
people, as well as 2) the direction of world
resources, such as labour. Nigeria exports far more
skilled labor and trained intelligentsia than its

As reported by Rensburg and Nande (1999) and Roberts &
Tybout (1997), high productivity increases national
competitiveness in terms of penetration of world
markets, since it indicates optimal capacity-
utilization of human and other resources. Econometrics
would show that such a situation would be accompanied
by high standards of living, low unemployment, and
social progress.

From the preceding, it seems unnecessary, any longer,
to show the empirical relationship, that unemployment
-- graduate unemployment, especially -- impedes
Nigeria's progress in many ways. In the words of
Akinboyo, 1987; Raheem, 1993; Vandemoortele, 1991;
Rama, 1998; Oladeji, 1994; and Umo, 1996, "it (the
prevailing economic policy or lack of one) is a
"colossal waste of a country's manpower resources,
which generates welfare loss," because of the low
output and consequently lower standards of well-being,
Nigerians are compelled to endure or suffer, in Mr.
Adodo's case.

If you allow me to regress to the instance of my young
graduate relatives, whose experience I introduced in
para.IV, at their joint request, and on the strength
of a documented business plan, my parents
offered them a loan and two used, refrigerated trucks,
shipped, not to Lagos, where it was feared that the
trucks could be stolen by better connected Nigerians,
but to Cotonou.

Today, these formerly unemployed relatives, graduates
of law, accounting, economics, agricultural science,
geography, and microbiology, seem to be doing well,
purchasing and preparing for food, chicken, fish, and
animals, such as cows, goats, and bush preys, which
they refrigerate and hawk to hotels, food kiosks, and
homes in suburbs of Lagos.

Two critical issues stand in disturbing relief in the
Adodo story: That Nigeria's university graduates have
limited chances of becoming gainfully employed; that
the country's economic condition is such that, it is
hardly able to absorb an optimal proportion of the
product of its own educational system. Nevertheless,
it may be optimistic that the situation offers a
condition for creative, alternative avenues to gainful
employment and that such alternatives deserve to be
examined and funded;

Youth and Graduate Unemployment

A report by the World Bank (Andrew Dabalen and
Olatunde A. Adekola, 2002) and another by Bankole Oni
of the Nigerian Institute for Social Research (NISER)
complains that Nigeria, with half the population of
West Africa and a vast spread of natural resource
endowments, the country has the potential to be the
source of growth and prosperity for the whole region,
instead of its current economic under-performance,
which is erratic and short of expectations, such that
66% of Nigeria’s citizens, educated youth especially,
live below the international poverty line, at just
$1.00 a day or $300.00 a year compared to Libya with
$12,000.00 a year and Malaysia with $8,000.00 per
capita annually.

Bankole does not hesitate to assert that "the main
causes of Nigeria's poor economic performance have
been economic and social mismanagement and misguided
policy choices.

A key-note pronouncement by Dr. Akinola, Primate of
All Nigeria Anglican Communion, at a Youth Conference
in Abuja, in 2004, attended to the issue of "youth and
graduate unemployment and its many attendant
problems," alluding to "idle hands becoming Satan’s
workshop." While conceding that no ready solutions
availed him, he hinted at the fact that, unemployed
graduates had been ensnared by crime, such as "419,"
armed robbery, and others.

Two aspects of his declaration are note astounding in
the context of this reaction to Abati's news report.
One is the explicit declaration that "many subjects
studied in Nigerian universities are no longer
marketable." For example, microbiology, political
science, medicine, technology, law, and public

While a half-hearted and purely tentative concession
may be made with regard to political science and Law,
one may be compelled to demur with respect to medicine
and computer science. Perhaps, one with a reliable
knowledge of Nigeria's economic situation would not be
as non-plussed as I am on this point. So, why?

The reverend doctor mince words about many of
Nigeria's graduates searching and WAITING endlessly,
for government employment, under what he described as
the "illusion that the government owes one a job and a

On those grounds, the primate advised Nigerian youth
to shift their "mindset...from being someone else’s
staff to becoming their own bosses. He challenged them
to demonstrate creativity, ingenuity, and
innovativeness, and to collaborate and start small
ventures of their own.

If this is the factual juncture, where we meet Godwin
Abati, in the context of his innovative,
self-employment, rather than his preventable demise,
then, of course, the crucial concern must rivet to the
problem of public organization and the administration
of commerce, health, and such regulatory restraints,
which will ensure that Nigerians in general, who would
otherwise remain unemployed, would be protected, as
they struggle to earn independent economic existence.
How can this be done?

The interrogative takes me to capitalization. How and
where would a graduate of law, public administration,
technology, science, or medicine obtain the seed money
to begin a business? If what I hear is true, Nigerian
banks tend to favor foreign entrepreneurs, where
"foreignness" is understood to mean having national
origin anywhere but Nigeria; even then, one has to
expend a large percentage of such loan as bribe to the
lenders and their middlemen and women.

Lest I forget, I do not mean to imply that commercial
driving is infradig for a university graduate. What I
mean is that, given Nigeria's level of economic
development, such employment seems unlikely to reward
one sufficiently or adequately.

But the question remains: how shall Nigeria ensure
full employment for its populations and prevent
needless death, such as Mr. Adodo's?