When my WAEC result came out and I found that I miraculously made a P8 in Mathematics, I was so happy. But my parents thought otherwise – they wanted me to go back to school and re-register WAEC. Even though I sat for GCE and its result hasn’t been released, my parents didn’t want to take chances. Hmmmm. Me, go back to school, no way. My parents complained to people around and I started receiving admonitions and advices like “You want to end up a hairdresser?”, “You want to go and learn tailoring?”, “You want to fry akara?” (this last one always makes me laugh each time I remember it), and so many other funny and derogatory statements.
This same thing happened to my elder brother when he was struggling with JAMB. His own ‘advisers’ came with “You want to be a barrow pusher?”, “You will only end up a mechanic or a vulcanizer”, “At least you can become a taxi or bus driver”. All these came because he had to sit for JAMB twice before he was able to gain admission into a federal university. And to think that these statements came because he spends his spare time at a mechanic workshop where my father repairs his cars makes me feel bad each time I remember that period.
I know a lot of readers may be conversant with this type of situations. Funny thing is, it doesn’t end after graduation. Mine taught me that.
When I got a job in a private school, after my NYSC and several months of jumping from one interview venue to another, it all started again. This time the comments were things like “Why are you working here? Aren’t you a graduate?”, “Did you try so-so and so bank? They are collecting CVs now”, “Someone like you shouldn’t be wasting away in a school teaching children and being used bla-bla-bla” The morale-killing comments were just too much.
The truth is that our society has made it difficult for people to go into businesses and jobs that would have made them shine. We constantly hear things like – “So after wasting money going to school he ended up driving a taxi?” “So after all her shakara in the university her brain could only allow her do tailoring?” “There is no job so he/she went into business.” “He couldn’t find a job, let him manage teaching for now.” The society has actually chosen the works that are fit for graduates, secondary school leavers and illiterates. It has also decided on the right job for men and women. And we are all complaining of unemployment. What an irony.
Now, what do we mean by unemployment? One of the entries in Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as “a state of not having a job.” But if you ask me, I’ll say that unemployment is a state of not having the desired job. What this ‘desired job’ is should be left at the discretion of the person concerned. No one is in a position to tell people what is the best for them.
So I’ll ask. If I want to own a beauty salon where I can make both men and women look good, and I didn’t go for that dream because the society thinks it is too low for my status, should I still be complaining about the high rate of unemployment in the country? If I can make good and delicious akara but was uncomfortable opening an akara and pap joint because of what people will say, do I have the right to point an accusing finger at the government for the unemployment status? What do I really need to be employed, going into what I want to do or doing what the society dictates? These questions call for deeper reflections.
Let me motivate us with the story of two people I know so well.
There’s a friend of my sister. She loves to draw. During her university days, she found out that she loves drawing ladies in their different outfits. She started making funny sketches of ladies wearing new designs. These were her pastimes. During her NYSC, she decided to take her hobby to the next level. She went to a roadside tailor to learn the art of clothe-making. She found out that sewing didn’t catch her fancy so from there she went to a fashion school where she was taught pattern drafting and all. That was where she was sure that she doesn’t like sewing. But then, she can create new designs. So, she combined her knowledge from tailoring shop and pattern drafting training to go into fashion business. Because she doesn’t want to sew, she partnered with other tailors who sew her designs – both for custom-made and mass production. Today, she has a thriving fashion house in Abuja and she is an employer of labour.
Then, there’s my brother who loves cars and wants to find out how to keep them in good shape. You remembered what I said about his visits to a mechanic workshop during his waiting days? Well, he started this earlier than we know. We, his siblings, found out much later that his days of disappearing and re-appearing during his primary school days were spent in the workshop. But my parents knew all along and did their best to discourage that, which didn’t work because when he then turned their own cars into his own experimental specimen they had to let him go (lol). However, due to lack of proper guidance, he didn’t go for science subjects so ended up studying political science in the university. His love for fixing cars did not go. Like he told me, he doesn’t have to study mechanical engineering to learn how to fix cars only that he won’t be able to work in an automobile company. That’s true because currently, he’s working in a good legal firm but his side hustle is still car fixing – he diagnoses with car scanners, repairs minor problems and deals in Peugeot auto parts. Sometimes I wonder if he would have gone into full time car repairs and servicing if the society doesn’t think the way it does.
These stories are just a few among the numerous success stories I’ve heard. Look at Peace Transport company for instance. I heard he started his business by being a bus driver for someone else. Today, see where the company is.
Dear Nigerians, let us for once stop pointing fingers at the government. We have been doing that for a long time and nothing is coming out of it. Let us look deeper inwards and find out how to solve our problems. Find out what you truly want. Don’t worry about what the society will say, it won’t take care of you when you hungry, trust me. Go for that job or business which will keep you out of the list of the unemployed in Nigeria. You never can tell what will make you shine. Let your talent, knowledge and aspirations work for you. Remember the three E’s (efficient, effective, and easy – story for another day) and use them now to think of how to make them bring joy to you.
Dear Nigerian Society (I guess that means all of us), stop derogatory comments about occupations. No occupation is low. None is substandard. None is bad (except illegal ones). Let us encourage our youths to go for that which they love and can do best, even if the ‘money’ isn’t coming in yet. Remember, live isn’t all about white-collar jobs.
Let’s keep the hustle real. Team Heal Nigeria.