Around May 2017, I was treated to an executive lunch, Sokoto standard, by Mohammed Umar. As the norm and meeting for the first time, our conversation delved from discussion on Nigeria’s myriad of intractable problems to our respective profession and career progression. Profession wise, Umar is ‘armed’ with an uncommon grasp of the nitty-gritty of the working conditions of development agencies and international nongovernmental organizations.
Impressed by his versatility and steadily progressing career: from an ordinary data entry clerk in one small organization by 2008 to a highly regarded M&E Consultant with one of the most respectable development agencies in the world, I asked Umar whether he thinks his expertise and technical skills can be shared with our teeming, unemployed youths. Well, he’s the type that doesn’t say no to good things.
Upon my recommendation, Umar created a WhatsApp group with simple, but interesting, rules: to share iNGOs job vacancies and, where necessary, to optimize members’ CVs and to provide interview tips and coaching. Shikenan! Nothing more, nothing less. As at close of the business of the day, the group has 258 members that cut across Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups and religious affiliations. It also boasts of experts of different fields and statuses, including state team leads and country managers.
From this simple effort, more than fifty members have reported success stories of securing jobs in one organization or the other from the vacancies shared in that group. I, for one, have secured two jobs and declined some. What is most rewarding, however, is that I have a rich network of professionals, from HR, Finance, Programs, M&E, to Logistics in almost all development agencies and iNGOs.
What this story demonstrates is that everyone of us has what it takes to make a difference. Umar is neither a politician nor a government employee. And, oh, he is not rich either. He shares no money and promises no heaven on earth to anybody. Unlike what has become our pastime (i.e. lamentations and what-have-you), Umar instead used his only asset as an experienced development worker to leverage on the existing platform we all have access to and provide nothing but information. All it takes for Umar to achieve this feat is to share information that is available at a single click on Google. In other words, our unemployed youths are staying idle and languishing in poverty not because they are incapable, but because we have deliberately chosen to dwell on what government should do against what we can do as enlightened members of the community, no matter how small.
I believe every one of us sees the challenges his community is facing, from poor educational background for kids and even adults to utter joblessness that strangle many to despair. It’s not enough to come online and start lamenting that the government is not doing anything [Does the government even care?]. We can all start what we think should be done, no matter how little. The little effort we downplay is all that matters to lay the foundation of greater things to come.
As a banker who has risen through the ranks to become an executive or a manager, you are quite sure of what it requires to be where you are, a little career talk and mentoring sessions will make a huge difference.
As a beneficiary of foreign training through scholarship, think of ways on how you can mentor the young ones through the processes. What I will however recommend here is that, as a senior citizen, you should not be hard on the young ones by gauging their capabilities based on your standards. Bear with them, they are just coming of age and learning what you’re going to teach them for the first time.
The change and development we all yearn for are continuous accumulation of aggregate of efforts made by you and I over a long period of time. Our philosophy should be how to leave the world a better place for our children.
I am not trying to absolve the government from the responsibility of providing quality education, job creation, security and what-have-you. No doubt, meaningful societal change requires not just the patchwork of few individuals on ground, but stronger policies and governmental actions as well. But is this a valid excuse to be passive, inactive and nonchalant?
We are not helpless, and our situation is certainly not hopeless. We can do better, nay, we MUST do better. No doubt, our leaders represent some of the worst set of humans on earth—heartless, cruel, and visionless. No amount of whitewashing can absolve them from being responsible for the sorry situation we are in. Nonetheless, I still believe our situation is not irredeemable and we can do a lot in lessening the pangs of poverty, ignorance and despondency that have overwhelmed us.
We are not helpless. We can, within our own small world, turn on the small light in a dark room. Change begins with me and you. Let’s all be Umars.