BusinessDay

95% of youths say Nigeria heading in wrong direction

A new survey of more than four thousand five hundred young people in Africa including Nigeria provides yet another damning verdict of how the continent’s most populous nation is heading in the wrong direction despite its leader Muhammadu Buhari saying the country is in a better place today than he met it in 2015.

In the survey of youths in fifteen African countries and in which the youths were asked if they thought their country was headed in the wrong direction, Nigeria comes at the very bottom with a whooping 95% of the youths aged 18-24 saying Nigeria has lost it way in the wilderness. Compare that with only 41% of youths in Ghana and 58% in Uganda who say their country was headed in the wrong direction.

Rwanda comes out top with only 40% of its youths saying their country was heading in the wrong direction.

The statistics from the African Youth Survey 2022, carried out in 15 countries by the South African Ichikowitz Family Foundation, back up the pessimism expressed in BBC interviews by the BBC.

A telling result from the survey shows that young Nigerians have the most negative opinion in the whole continent about the direction their country is headed, with 95% saying things are going badly. Of all those surveyed, only 28% felt positively about the trajectory of Nigeria.

Nigeria heading in wrong direction
Young Nigerians have the most negative opinion in the whole continent about the direction their country is headed

The youths in Nigeria and other countries point to bad leadership, insecurity and tough economic conditions including rising levels of unemployment as reasons for losing hope in the country and for wanting to get out.

“The Nigerian insecurity is so appalling,” says 18-year-old Ayoade Oni from Lagos. This is one of the main reasons he wants to leave Nigeria.

Last year he was nearly kidnapped in “broad daylight”. He was on his way home from the phone repair shop when a gang approached him, demanding he hand over his belongings.

He resisted and was “walking very fast” to try and get away. He thought he had found refuge when he stumbled on a nearby shop with people inside who tried to lure him in, telling him he was safe with them.
But it was a trap.

Suddenly, a bus driver pulled up and warned him the people were “kidnappers”, instructing him to get inside the vehicle. “That saved me that day,” he recalls.
Nigeria is currently facing a kidnapping for ransom crisis, with perpetrators collecting millions of dollars over the years, according to a Lagos-based think-tank.

“I can’t go out at night, my parents won’t even allow me,” Mr Oni said. They have set him a curfew to be home by 18.30 each night.A “high unemployment rate, poor health sector, low standard of living [and] little to no job opportunities”, are the other reasons Mr Oni cites for wanting to leave the country.

As for eventually getting a job after he graduates with a degree in Computer Science, he is not optimistic. Most graduates are left with no option but to compete for the “few employment positions available, with most people being employed by connections or corruption”, he said.

If he left Nigeria, and relocated to Canada where he has his heart set on, he would have no intention of moving back to Nigeria. Most of his friends feel the same: “90% if not all of them” want to leave Nigeria, he says.

The world needs to wake up and invest in Africa, so that young Africans do not feel they have to move abroad to achieve their dreams at the expense of their home countries, according to the man behind the survey, Ivor Ichikowitz.

“It’s bigger than a brain drain,” Mr Ichikowitz told the BBC Newsday programme. “This group of people, 18 to 24 year olds in Africa, are saying: ‘We are going to improve our lives, even if it means having to leave and go somewhere else.'”

He said the fact so many young Africans wanted to move abroad could cause a migration crisis, describing it as “alarming”.

In the previous edition of the African Youth Survey conducted before the pandemic, most of the young people interviewed wanted to stay in their home nation and build a life for themselves there, Mr Ichikowitz said.

A lot of the young people his foundation spoke to wanted to move to South Africa, Europe or the US. But although South Africa was seen as “the holy grail” for many in other African countries, those in South Africa begged to differ, and wanted to move to the US or Europe, he said.

Read also: Innovative solutions to youth unemployment in Nigeria

It is in the interests of the whole world to keep young Africans, who estimates say will make up 42% of the world’s young people by 2030, “constructively engaged in Africa”, Mr Ichikowitz said.

That is exactly what some young people in Ghana who the BBC spoke to plan on doing.
Ghanaians feel the second-most positive on the continent about the future of their country after Rwanda, with 56% saying they are pleased.

“I can make it in Ghana because even though there are not strong institutions, and our systems seem to be weak – the lack of these could also mean that a smart social climber can break those barriers,” says 24-year-old Julius Kwame Anthony, the former head of the National Union of Ghana Students. “Relocating abroad may look rosy but nothing is really promised out there,” he explained.

Similar sentiments were echoed by 33-year-old businessman in Ghana, Ernest Larmie: “This is home, if I’m able to solve the problems here, when the next generation comes, they can also benefit ,” he says, questioning the logic behind moving abroad, just to help another country develop at the expense of your own.

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