Lessons are hardly learnt in the Nigerian system. That is why the mistakes of past years are faithfully repeated, with all the concomitant consequences.
Last Saturday, the Nigeria Immigration Service, once again, proved that they learnt nothing from the mistakes of the past. The government agency organized a recruitment exercise that turned fatal, albeit needlessly.
This round of recruitment had been more than problematic. It was the same exercise that cost the former Comptroller General of the NIS Mrs. Rose Uzoma, her job in January 2013.
The Minister of Interior, Mr Abba Moro had accused her of favouritism in the recruitment exercise, and after he got her sacked, he cancelled the exercise. This is 15 months after, and the ministry is still unable to organize an otherwise simple exercise. With the benefit of hindsight, would it not have been better to have an exercise that skewed to some favouritism, than an exercise that now claimed lives?
I have listened to Moro since the tragic exercise of last Saturday, and all I can glean from his submissions is his defence of his role, how he as a former teacher, he had planned XYZ for a successful exercise. He out-sourced the exercise to a consultant, Drexel Nigeria Ltd. He had no word of remorse, no word of comfort or consolation to the families of dead victims or those who injured. It is the height of morbidity!
So much commentary has attended the fatal exercise. But it all boils down to poor planning, aside the warped attitude of public servants, especially military and para-military personnel.
For the said huge number of applicants, good and foresighted planners should have spread the exercise. It could have been, for instance, to break the applicants into groups, say OND and HND on a given day, while BSc holders on another day and perhaps, BA holders on another day. This would have spread the pressure and the crowd, and possibly, avoided the calamitous exercise. Were the consultant and the minister trying to save cost and maximize profit from the N1,000 paid by the applicants?
There is also the huge and grave problem of crowd control capacity among our security personnel. Too often, there is a mix of wickedness and stupid zealotry in the discharge of their duties. In the Abuja incident for instance, the refusal to open the big gate to allow the applicants into the stadium, caused all the tragic mess that left 16 persons dead and 700 injured. Applicants had been invited for an aptitude test, so what was the wisdom of not granting them access into the venue, seeing the overwhelming crowd?
The same poor crowd control caused the death of eleven persons at the Port Harcourt stadium in 2011, during President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s electioneering campaign. The police officers manning the gate refused to open a back door at the stadium to allow people to leave. The melee that followed caused the stampede that claimed the said lives. Then they announced an investigation panel, as usual, but till today, more than three years after, the report of the panel is not known. As it were, those who died at the event, â€œdie throw wayâ€, as the Late Fela Anikulapo would say. I had a community-folk who died at the event and for two years, her body was abandoned in the mortuary because they were waiting for the promise of compensation from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The promise never came!
And back to the Saturday fatal fiasco, it is an eloquent testimony of how far into the woods Nigeria has gone in matters of unemployment. The surge of the applicants, in all the centres, and the desperation on their faces perfectly captures how bad things have been. It tends to query the oft-flaunted claim by government personages, especially the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, of the several millions of jobs that have been created as a result of government programmes and policies. I have always had my doubts about those wild figures. So seeing the sea of over two million heads last week who are chasing less than 5,000spaces, one is bound to ask Okonjo-Iweala where they have been creating their so-called jobs.
The huge turn out of applicants demonstrates the readiness of the Nigerian youth to meaningfully get engaged. The unemployment situation is fast becoming a tinderbox which must be tackled. What triggered the yet-to-smoulder flame of the Arab spring was far less than what we have in the unemployment menace.
I have always faulted the argument by neo-liberals that government has no business in running businesses, ostensibly because too often, the organisations are run aground. Those who push this argument usually claim that all that is needed is for government to provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. It had long turned out to be a miscalculation. Right now, the government jobs are neither there, nor is the so-called enabling environment in place to promote the job creation possibilities of budding entrepreneurs so as to reduce over-dependence on regular â€œgovernment jobsâ€™. Long gone are the days where even as secondary school students or undergraduates, there were â€˜Vac jobsâ€. Yours sincerely, in the late 70â€™s, had served as NPA tally clerk, in Warri during long holidays. That now is a pipe dream! Sad!
It is now so bad that when Dangote organized a recruitment for drivers last year, two Ph.D holders applied. What a country!
It is a cruel fate for deceased job seekers and their families. The parents had expended their hard-earned resources to train up the children, expecting that in no time, their wards or children would pick up a job and relieve them of their burden, as well as they picking up their own lifeâ€™s cross. I can imagine how the graduates, for years, have been pounding the streets in search of job. I can imagine their expectations on having been invited for an interview. I can imagine their prayers that morning. How would they have imagined that rather than getting a job, they were getting death? How would they have imagined that their trudge through the streets would end up in the grave, abruptly? It must be the worst hit of the Amalekite spirit: never reaping the fruit of a labour.
It is however consoling that the Federal Government has thoughtfully chosen to compensate the families of the dead and injured applicants by offering them three job slots and automatic placement respectively. Yes, it would lighten the burden of the loss, but will surely not wipe away the memory nor suffice for a lost life.
But are the deaths not enough to cause Moro and the DG of NIS, Mr David Paradang to resign? Must they wait to be sacked? Would they even be sacked? This is Nigeria!