Simple Pleasures In The Midst Of Frustrations: Lessons From An Unemployed Nigerian Graduate

by Churchill Okonkwo

The Hype

He discussed with his collogues whether it is going to be UNN, UNIBEN, FUTO, UI, or UNILAG. He scaled through his WAEC in one attempt, gains admission the following year. Maybe not to his course of choice, but good all the same- he is making progress. Four or five years down the line in-between strike action by lectures, he graduates.

By this time he had dreamed of working in one of the multinationals, banks or a high paying company in PH , Abuja or Lagos; a flashy car and a cozy apartment to announce his ‘arrival’ to peers and the society.

Early Warning Signs

His National Youth Service got delayed for six months and when it got going, he was posted to Kogi State. Later, he was sent to teach in one government school in the village without electricity or water. He thought of his dreams and the one year that will be “wasted” in that bush. He consoled himself that very soon; the dream will be back on track.

Service year over, he moved down to Lagos. Shuttled between Lagos and PH, submitting CVs, taking to people that promised to help, being called for few interviews that leads to nothing. What’s happening?

Picked up a postgraduate degree form from FUTO should in case… one year down the line nothing has happened. No dream job. Intact, no job at all. The saved money has ran out. Everybody is getting tired and fed up of seeing him just hanging around in the house, hoping, waiting and complaining.

He starts a master’s degree program and reluctantly picked up a teaching appointment in one of the private secondary schools around to keep his brain together.

The Frustrations

His life as a teacher at Learning Field International School was blessedly short. Every week, he swore that he was going to quit. But as an unemployed university graduate completing a masters degree, he found it impossible to give up a pay check – less than Ten thousand Naira (=N=10, 000) that for the first time in over two years appears to be steady.

He resigned. He spends the next two years, repeating the first cycle – roaming the streets looking for job, while on the other side being frustrated by the refusal of his MSc supervisor to assess his thesis after three years of full time program.

He goes back to the village thinking the root of his problem is with ‘Ukpaka Ndam’– the deity of his ancestors. Six month on, nothing changed or so it seems. Then, he resorted to asking questions without answers.

Why has the sun refused to shine and the moon suddenly disappeared? Why has the river refused to flow? Why? When no answers were forth coming for his questions, he went back to a private secondary school and started teaching again.

It was while teaching in a village school, six years after graduation that the dream was finally resurrected and made alive. Just a phone call from Lagos and his life will never be the same again.

The lessons

Fortunately, he has learnt much. He has learnt that by refusing to succumb to as easy way out – drug trafficking, 419, armed robbery, examination malpractice syndication – he proved to himself once and for all that there is never an easy way out; that while government bureaucrat make you a statistic, you refuse to become a statistic. By conquering your own fear and despair, by coping, by persevering, by teaching, by writing, by surviving this crucible that is the Nigerian system.

He learnt that without the resources of a regular paycheck, you can still give to others – you can give to yourself. He has learned he is a survivor and therefore has little fear. Trying to sustain himself, he discovered unexpected resources; ability to keep hope alive while there is nothing about which to be hopeful; the determination to keep trying to find your niche in life, even when every attempt seems for nothing.

He learnt that the ability to feel good about himself does not hinge on the money to buy the latest fashion and a BMW; that in fact, self respect flows from helping other people, taking time to listen to a friend who wants to talk about a problem; putting smiles on the faces of his students in their quest for knowledge in the wonderful world of physical sciences. These are lessens they don’t teach at UNN, UI, FUTO or UNILAG.

The Final Word

His philosophical approach to life in Nigeria as an unemployed graduate is that; there are simple pleasures in the midst of frustration. That when it appears that you are lost as you continue to search for the Promised Land in the present day Nigeria, you should never give up.

Unemployed Nigerian graduates should never give up but should rather, discover themselves in the process of roaming the streets searching for a job.They should find something they believe in – the simple pleasures of life – and pursue that with all the vigor and strength in them.

For the rest of Nigerians; No, you don’t have to be like them .You don’t have to join the ruling party or turn to sycophant in the face of clear injustice and exclusion. You don’t have to give up you fight against corruption or exposure of ills in the society and the government. If Etteh can resign her position, it means our shouts and cries are having an impact no matter how small and thus, have to be sustained. That is the only way we can enthrone democracy and save Nigeria.

Keep the hope and the dream alive, nurture it, let it become a religion – an all consuming ambition and happy days must surely come. When our sadness will give way for joy; when scowl will give way for smile; when our tribulations will give way for triumph; tragedy for comedy.

You may also like

1 comment

Nuzo November 8, 2007 - 6:14 am

Nice write up, but it was more of a fantasy than a reality which happens in the life of 1 out of 15 unemployed graduates. The fact remains that most Nigerian unemployed graduates don't receive such miraculous calls from Lagos.

Secondly when did this graduate rediscover himself; after the call from Lagos or when he was conteplating on whether to quit teaching as a result of the low benefits compared to his dreams of living big?

I am very optimistic, but if truth should be told; there's little or nothing on ground to attract calls from lagos for the majority of unemployed graduates who has kept the hope alive. Maybe much later. But for now, there is still tragedy which has refused to give way for comedy. The only comedy you can get now is papa Ajasco, osuofia etc, which only last for a few munites and yet does not put food on the table.


Leave a Comment