Last week Tuesday, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, while speaking at the sectoral debate of the federal House of Representatives in Abuja, drew the attention of the public to masquerade dressing that could provide jobs for “1000 young men”.
Perhaps, Alhaji Lai came up with such an idea to appeal to Nigerians as a person really concerned about rising unemployment amongst the Nigerian youth. But, his hyperbolic and illogical statement should trigger some questions. Had a minister uttered such in the immediate past administration, Alhaji Lai would have made a mountain out of the mole hill by dipping his pen in gall to expose how “insensitive” and “clueless” who made the statement is. We also need to weigh in to preempt Alhaji Lai from telling Nigerians that ‘rams in Mecca are as tall as Zuma Rock’.
Of course, if we consider the fact that Dubai’s tourism revenue is projected to hit $7.5 billion this year, up from the $4.5 billion generated in 2011, we cannot but agree with the part of Alhaji Lai’s statement that reads: “what we have in Nigeria are tourist sites. They are not tourist attractions. You need infrastructure to convert a tourist site to a tourist attraction…” And, had Alhaji creatively highlighted decent job opportunities in tourism other than dressing masquerades in his statement, no one would query his view.
However, that he said, “…there’s a particular masquerade in the South-East, it takes 100 people to dress him, another 100 people to undress him. If this masquerade is well packaged, it can provide employment in one week for more than 1000 young men. These are some of the untapped potential”, reveals how disconnected he is from reality.
Let’s call a spade a spade. Lai’s claim that dressing a masquerade could provide “employment in one week for more than 1000 young men” is nothing but gross exaggeration – Yorubas call such a statement, fabu nla – that tells that he’s fast becoming a joker at this period when Nigerians are in no mood for laughter. By extension, from the same statement, one could easily deduce the depth of the ideas that Alhaji Lai Mohammed offers his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari on other serious issues, because he seems to be completely short of ideas. Ironically, the same Alhaji Lai and his party men labelled ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan, a clueless and kindergarten president.
For Alhaji Lai Mohammed to have exaggerated that dressing a masquerade could provide employment for 1000 men, he must have assumed that Nigerians are so gullible that they would lap up whatever issues from him as deep wisdom. But, he’s wrong. The simple logic of this present instance: if big companies – breweries and telcos – employ less than 1000 young men weekly to aggressively market their products in mega cities like Lagos, Abuja or Kano, how would dressing just a single masquerade generate employment for “1000” young men in a week? Is the masquerade as big as mountain Kilimanjaro? I think there must be a mystery to this that business savvy easterners were not smart enough to find out about their own masquerades, and which Alhaji Lai seems to know so much about.
Moreover, if Alhaji Lai Mohammed thinks dressing a masquerade is decent and lucrative enough for an average Nigerian youth, would he encourage his son, Folajimi Mohammed, who presently represents Ikeja constituency 1 in Lagos State House of Assembly, to pursue a career in masquerade dressing? Of course, we all know that he would never wish that career trajectory on any of his biological children or children of his political cronies – some of who were illegally recruited into the Central Bank of Nigeria recently.
So, Alhaji Lai’s statement further reveals how the political elite offer Nigerian youth chaff, while their children – who are in no way better than the children of the masses – are offered the best out of the country’s common wealth. Alhaji Lai amplifies the minister of labour and employment, Dr. Nigige’s stance, which states: “our children should forget about white collar jobs for now. They should use their hands and learn how to lay tiles, make POP, do some carpentry work. These are jobs that are paying even in the western climes.”
Ironically, the purveyors of this idea of offering the youth the “short end of the stick” all enjoyed the good old Nigeria. But today, the fact that they can only think about odd jobs – jobs that they would never encourage their children to take – as solutions to rising unemployment amongst Nigerian youth, shows how much premium they place on the so called “leaders of tomorrow”.
Ahmed Oluwasanjo writes from Abuja.