How Can We Create Jobs? By Debo Onifade

Many Nigerians followed the
US presidential elections and
showed a lot of excitement
about Obama’s victory. I
believe government officials
were also energized, as we
can deduce from the
altercations between ACN
and PDP that ensued after
ABT (Ahmed Bola Tinubu)
famously attended the
Democratic convention. It is
great that a significant
percentage of Nigerians have
shown great interest in
American politics, but it is
time for us to begin to
demand that our political
parties begin to copy ‘the
good things’ in American
politics. Throughout the
campaign period, Obama
and Romney had to
consistently explain how
exactly they intend to create
about 12 million jobs in the
next 4 years, which is a
rough estimate of what is
required to reduce
unemployment rate to about
5%.
Obama touted continuously
that his government
facilitated over 5 million
private sector created jobs
in the last 3 ¾ years. These
figures are verifiable and not
mere assumptions.
Sometime ago, the Obama
government had to review
the numbers downwards
after a verification exercise
revealed there were some
wrong assumptions. A lot of
direct government jobs were
also created in the last 3 ¾
years but Obama didn’t tout
this much because
Americans typically don’t
want to hear much about
government creating jobs by
itself. People see this as
‘bigger government’. In
America ‘bigger government’
isn’t entirely negative and I
have friends that got
government professional
jobs due to Obama’s ‘bigger
government’ policy.
In Nigeria, we (especially
journalists) must begin to
ask PDP, ACN, CPC, LP, etc
to explain to us exactly how
they are creating jobs, how
many jobs they have
created, how they intend to
create more jobs, and how
they will create jobs when
they win future elections.
By the end of this year, GEJ
should tell us how many
direct government and
private sector jobs his
government has created in
the last 18 months. The
same goes for the
governors. We need to
know which governor is
creating more jobs, what
party they belong, how many
jobs they are exactly
creating, how they are
creating those jobs, and how
they intend to continually
lower unemployment rates
in their states. Undoubtedly,
it is easier to create jobs in
some states than others, but
we must be able to quantify
government efforts going
forward. We should not be
satisfied with vague
promises and nebulous
achievements.
Thomas Jefferson said in his
1801 inaugural address that
‘a wise and frugal
government, which shall
restrain men from injuring
one another, which shall
leave them otherwise free to
regulate their own pursuits
of industry and
improvement, and shall not
take from the mouth of labor
the bread it has earned. This
is the sum of good
government, and all that is
necessary to close the circle
of our felicities’. This
statement fully corroborates
many of my points. First,
our governments must be
wise and frugal. You cannot
have enough money to
facilitate jobs creation if you
are wasteful and unwise with
spending. It will never ‘add
up’ and is just not possible.
So we must be asking our
politicians during debates
and campaigns how exactly
they intend to cut spending
when they win elections.
For the ones in government,
we must continually ask
them how exactly they have
been cutting spending.
Second, Thomas Jefferson
talks about security. Truly,
no government can have the
energy, funds, and right
concentration to tackle
unemployment if there is no
security. In fact, several
companies are not growing
in Nigeria today because of
security challenges. You
can’t keep shops or
businesses open till very late
because of security and that
means you can’t hire extra
staff for late night work.
People won’t even patronize
you because they are scared
to go out at night. Big
companies spend heavily on
security for their staff and
property, reducing the cash
available for them to grow
their business or invest in
other areas that would
otherwise have generated
employment. Third, Thomas
Jefferson talked about free
enterprise (I guess he may
have referred to very limited
or no government
regulation). The world has
changed since Jefferson’s
time and I am a strong
advocate of reasonably strict
government regulation. So I
differ with the highly
esteemed Thomas Jefferson
in this regard, but the clear
point to Nigeria here is that
government must always
think about private-sector
job creation and not think
only ‘bigger government’ all
the time.
We all know that ‘bigger
government’ in Nigeria is
‘bigger political appointees’
and this has always
escalated corruption. So, we
must shrink our
governments and develop
ways to facilitate private
sector driven employment
generation. Finally, I believe
Thomas Jefferson proposes
that Nigerian workers (like
those in other parts of the
world) should be paid
promptly and properly and
they should not be taxed too
much.
How do I think governments
can create jobs in Nigeria?
Among several other things
(some of which I have
mentioned above), the
following are the 3 areas
where I believe our
governments should focus
on to create jobs: (1) build
enormous housing and rail
infrastructure, (2) create new
strategies and infrastructure
to mitigate flooding and
prevent future devastations
(3) harness the power of
agriculture in our country.
Can you imagine how many
Nigerians will be employed if
federal and state
governments across Nigeria
begin to spend massively on
housing? Laborers, Artisans
(carpenters, plumbers,
painters, welders, builders,
metal technicians, etc),
engineers (electrical,
mechanical, structural, civil,
etc), architects, accountants,
surveyors, businesses
(quarries, metal companies,
furniture companies,
excavators, etc), finance
companies, food sellers
(they will be busy
throughout construction
period), etc. Aside from
generating employment, if
government fixes housing in
Nigeria and develop a good
mortgage scheme, people
will be able to own or rent
houses at less rates and
most importantly they will
be able to avoid the
standard 2-year advance
payment prevalent in
Nigeria.
It is indeed very sad that
fresh graduates or fresh
employees have to save for
several years and borrow
money in order to RENT an
apartment. In many parts of
the world, people usually
save up to buy houses, not
save up to rent. When
government creates
employment through
housing, they earn more
taxes, but ultimately if the
housing business is run
properly in reasonable
collaboration with the
private sector, these houses
will generate income for the
government over a period of
time.
I learnt from my parents and
uncles that the Nigerian
Railway Corporation used to
employ thousands of
Nigerians decades ago. It is
a shame that this
corporation was allowed to
die. If this sector is
revamped through public-
private participation,
engineers, drivers,
conductors, maintenance
technicians, book keepers,
accountants, top managers,
mechanics, etc will be
employed again en-masse.
In addition, people will
spend less on transportation
and their qualities of life will
improve. Less people will
drive their cars and pollution
will reduce. When pollution
reduces, health problems
reduce in Nigeria, so
government spends less on
health care and productivity
is enhanced. The business
generates income for
government, and it is a win-
win scenario for
government.
We have experienced
massive flooding and
devastation in Nigeria in the
last few months. This is a
wake-up call to our
government. It has been
estimated that Nigeria will
likely be spending hundreds
of billions to solve the
resulting problems and
mitigate future occurrence.
Nobody can stop natural
disasters, but we can build
infrastructure to mitigate its
effects. Governments should
think about youth
employment as they start
spending money to solve the
flooding problems. They
should not consider quick
fixes and give people
opportunities to steal
money. Government must
bring forward experts from
around the world (Nigerians
and foreigners) to develop a
comprehensive strategy to
mitigate future occurrence,
award the contracts to the
most reliable companies
(even if they are foreign) but
ensure that Nigerian youths
are employed to fully take
part in the design, planning
and construction works. If
these youths require
training, they should be well
trained. We must use this
disaster to rebuild and to
create jobs for people.
Agriculture is a topic I won’t
want to dwell too much on
because it is an area that I
think all governments in
Nigeria accept is our most
important path to success in
future. America is the
largest importer of Nigeria’s
crude oil, but we would be
foolish to think this demand
will continue for the next 10
years. Already, America’s
crude oil import from
Nigeria and some parts of
the Middle East has
reduced. I have been telling
friends for years that
America will no longer need
foreign oil very soon. When
America no longer needs
foreign oil, the new energy
sources will move to other
countries within a decade,
and global crude oil
demands will reduce
tremendously. Aside from
this, many African countries
are now ‘finding’ oil, so oil
will no longer be a special
mineral in about 10 years
from now.
What does that mean to
Nigeria? Bankruptcy looms!
The oil we currently have is
not helping us to develop
because of corruption. By
the time the oil loses its
value in about 10 years or
so, we will be down to
agriculture and a few other
minerals. On the other
hand, food supply is going to
be a major problem for the
world in coming years.
Several countries are already
planning ahead and Nigeria
must harness this
opportunity. First, we must
be able to feed our people
sufficiently, without
importing basic food. I
If we achieve this alone, our
GDP will grow significantly.
Even at the current level of
largely subsistence farming,
agriculture continues to
contribute highest to
Nigeria’s GDP every year. So
if we can grow the industry
to meet all local needs, we
would have done quite well.
If we can grow our
agricultural exports again as
we did in the 1960’s and
70’s, Nigeria’s GDP will grow
tremendously. But the most
important thing to me is that
agriculture can generate
millions of jobs in Nigeria.
Government should be
energized by the fact that
job creation will reduce
insecurity, reduce mortality
rates, make it easier for
politicians to govern, and
promote peace in our land.
This (not GDP growth) is the
true sign of economic
development!

Debo Onifade
debo@ieee.org

#CONSENSUS 2015

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