A country badly in need of reputation make over, now has its chief marketing officer, de-marketing it. President Muhammadu Buhari, the CEO of the Nigerian enterprise, who should naturally double as the country’s chief marketing officer, is sadly doing significant damage to the country’s reputation. Even more sad is the fact that he chooses the most impactful international platforms to inflict the worst reputational damage on the country he was elected to promote and market to the international community.
The latest de-marketing campaign embarked by the country ‘chief marketing officer’ has been a statement attributed to him while speaking with other world leaders as a panellist at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London.
Buhari is quoted to have said that ‘a lot of Nigerian youths are uneducated and lazy’ expecting to receive freebies from their ‘oil rich country.’ What Buhari described as freebies are ‘housing, education and healthcare’ three basic necessities that any responsible government anywhere in the world would provide for its citizens not necessarily for ‘free’ but by putting in place the right policies to enable ease of access.
This therefore raises the question, what has Buhari done or what policy has he proposed in the last three years to make it easier for Nigerian youths to have access to these necessities of good governance? Buhari and his family, have incidentally displayed a preference for foreign medical facilities than use the local ones. He is currently on the longest ‘official trip’ to a single country embarked upon by any president. He is the first president to have arrived for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings and would probably be the last to leave.
What is even more disheartening is the choice of the forum the president choose to talk down on the youths of his country. This was a business forum which had in attendance top business men and women from all over the world. There is no doubt that many investors in the room had their eyes on Nigeria, the biggest market on the continent. It was a great platform to put the country’s best foot forward.
Instead, Buhari decided to downgrade the country’s biggest strength in attracting foreign investment, an abundant and well educated youthful population. Imagine the reaction of investors present when told by the president of the country that they are planning to invest in that they will have to deal with a ‘lot of uneducated and lazy youths.”
Even more worrying is the fact that the president’s statement was a total misrepresentation of the youths of the country he governs. The World Bank puts Nigeria’s youth literacy rate at 72.8 percent as at 2015, the year Buhari was elected president largely with the support of Nigerian youths. This means that a ‘lot of Nigerian youths’ are actually literate. At least they can read and write in English, the global language for business.
However, there is a challenge which Buhari was elected to resolve. Despite having a highly literate youth population, youth unemployment and underemployment is at a significant 52 percent. This means that one out of two young persons you see on the street is actively seeking for a job but is unable to get one or can only get one that is below his or her qualifications.
The data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that youth unemployment has actually risen from 14.9 percent in July 2015 to a current rate of 33.1 percent. This means that under Buhari, youth unemployment rate has actually more than doubled. Whatever policy that Buhari has put in place to end youth unemployment is definitely not achieving the desired results.
The number of unemployed youths are increasing by the day and it is the responsibility of the government, and in this case, it is the Buhari government to stem the tide of rising youth unemployment in the country.
But a lot of youths have not ‘turned’ lazy because they cannot find jobs. They are engaged in different forms of productive ventures, many of which have gained international recognition and attention. The Yaba tech hub has gained international recognition, and so many tech hubs across the country. The innovation that is going on at the Yaba Tech hub attracted Mark Zuckerberg to this country, a visit that the Buhari government later took advantage of.
Sadly, Nigeria has not been supportive of the thousands of youths struggling to make ends meeting. Young tech entrepreneurs are harassed daily by the Nigeria Police because of their instrument of trade, their lap tops and phones. They have complained about it without Buhari intervening or doing anything to stop this daily harassment.
Funding opportunities are few and when available they are costly. Lending rates are as high as 30 percent. Venture capital funds are scarce. Government aid or grants for innovation is almost absent. The environment for doing business is tough. Yes, we have moved 20 places on the ease of doing business ranking but we are still down at the bottom of the global ranking.
Even little efforts like Youwin Connect and N-Power which the Buhari government claims to have put in place to stem youth unemployment has largely failed to make any impact. Youwin Connect winners are currently claiming that they are yet to receive any form of funding after going through some rigorous training programme that was supposed to enable them start their own businesses. N-Power is more of a cosmetic effort at tackling unemployment than a well thought out strategic action plan.
Nonethless many Nigerian youths have defied the very difficult Nigerian operating environment to succeed in their individual hustle. This has been shown with their social media responses under the hash tag ‘#LazyNigerianYouths.’ If Buhari cannot help the hustle of the Nigerian youth, he should please not ‘spoil’ it for them. It is a tough country for them and they met it that way.