“That all people are equal, but some people are more equal than others is nowhere more true than in the experience of unemployment. Unemployment is not a price ‘we’ all have to pay to restructure the economy and hold down inflation. Presented in this way, the real story of unemployment is hidden — that it is the same people who are always at risk of unemployment in an inefficient labour market founded on structured inequalities of locality, sex, race, disability, and age.” EITHNE MCLAUGHLIN, preface and acknowledgements, Understanding Unemployment: New Perspectives on Active Labour Market Policies
With the economic crisis in Nigeria, a country long plagued by bifurcated economy, unemployment among all ages, particularly the youth unemployment that has reached an alarming rate, is grappling with unemployment policy conundrums. The quotes above fittingly apply today to the predicament of the country’s chronically unemployed, the youth and those holding degrees in various fields who are desperately seeking for a job to eke out a living. Without a doubt, unemployment in Nigeria is a weapon of mass destruction, whose immediate casualties are all around us. Compounded with the situation is the complete absence of visible strategies to create jobs being advanced by the policymakers.
One of the consequences of joblessness is the simmering resentment of the Nigerian youth that may lead to an uncontrollable chaos in the future. When people are frustrated and hopeless, they may resort to illegal activities to survive. In addition, there are other hidden effects of unemployment ranging from psychological and emotional to medical traumas. The unemployed and underemployed, as well as their families are suffering immensely with no help from the federal, state, and local governments. With the unemployment, these families live in abject poverty with untreated medical and psychiatric issues. The situation in the country regarding joblessness is dire and widespread.
In any case, the state needs a transformation in both substance and policies to address the lingering unemployment in Imo State. The State would require a change agent now.
Well, I would admit that a change agent is a leader who “alters human capability or organizational systems to achieve a higher degree of output or self-actualization.” The prime goal of a change agent’s actions is to create enabling environment where individuals can do more and also explore new vistas—a paradigm shift. In such an environment, people constantly look for new ways to accomplish objectives/things. They’ll no longer be contented with the present as they find new ways to achieve goals earlier considered unattainable. A change agent not only provides vision and voice, but he/she also empowers the people. A change agent perseveres with a great deal of tenacity—failure is not an option; challenges are turned in opportunities in the mindset of a change agent. Reading books, I reluctantly took from someone provided me a rare window through which I caught a glimpse of the author’s character and leadership.
Well, at the last World Igbo Congress convention in Detroit, Michigan a few years ago, Dr. Batos Nwadike handed to me three books he later presented during the plenary session on behalf of Sen. Hope Uzodimma, the senator representing the Imo West in the National Assembly. He encouraged me to read the books touting them as scintillating and insightful. I was dismissive of the books and reluctantly took them and put them in my bag. The books written by Sen. Uzodimma were The Political Economy of Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria; Religion and Political Leadership in Nigeria; and Giant Strides of a Democratic Soldier.
I later read the three books and found the contents very revealing and fascinating for various reasons. The books, especially The Political Economy of Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria, illuminated the depth and breadth of Sen. Uzodimma’s knowledge in healthcare issues in Nigeria. His critical analysis of the problems and prospects of healthcare delivery in the country were very impressive. His policy prescriptions to mitigate the healthcare problems were sound and what are obtainable in the developed countries. Uzodimma realized that the recklessness at which the professionals deliver healthcare is alarming; what is more troublesome is that healthcare professionals are not held responsible for their mistakes and negligence. He said, “Among the necessary steps that must be taken is in the area of enacting comprehensive legal framework for healthcare delivery in Nigeria.” Uzodimma added, “The absence of a legal framework for healthcare in the country, particularly the absence of a National Health Act that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals, as well as the roles and responsibilities of federal, state and local government, in the management of healthcare delivery is a major minus for the health sector.”
In his book, Religion and Political Leadership in Nigeria, Hope Uzodimma x-rayed inextricable role of religion and politics in the national development as he found himself submissive to God who Uzodimma deemed as the source of all powers and authorities, including the political power. Hope attributed to God “the author and custodian of power and authority.” This book reveals that Uzodimma derives his inner strength from God and he believes that God is always in control of his political successes.
In Giant Strides of a Democratic Soldier, a collection of Sen. Hope Uzodimma’s addresses on numerous germane issues at various places to various audiences, Uzodimma raised pertinent national issues. The book which included his interviews, comments and news commentaries was laced with pressing needs the country is facing, especially in the area of healthcare. As I was reading the book, I was able to glean from it some strong policy statements such as preventive, reproductive, and childhood health issues. Without delving into the policy implementation conundrum, it is pertinent to note that Uzodimma is a legislature, whose role at this juncture is shepherd legislation that will address the health problems he has raised in his book. For him to acknowledge these national issues, is a step in the right direction for the country.
Hope Uzodimma stated that Nigeria is making a “sluggish progress towards achieving the 2015 targets for healthcare-related millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” In reproductive health, Uzodimma said, “Despite considerable gains in the past decade, Nigeria’s reproductive health indicators are still very poor. Country-wide, the total fertility rate is 5.7 children per mother, with a contraceptive prevalence rate of less than 10%.” He continued, “Furthermore, these statistics mask wide regional variations for example, the total fertility rate in the northwestern region is as high as 7.3%, with a contraceptive prevalence rate of 3%.”
In a country with abundant resources, child mortality rate is still very high. The phenomenon alarmed the Senator, who revealed his apprehension in the book. Uzodimma alarmed, “Child survival in Nigeria is threatened by nutritional deficiencies and illnesses, particularly malaria, diarrheal, acute respiratory infection (ARI), and vaccine preventable diseases (VPD), which account for the majority of morbidity and mortality in childhood.”
Despite the efforts of the federal, state, and local governments in addressing the healthcare problems plaguing the nation, more urgent actions are needed to avoid potential healthcare catastrophe in the future.
In his presentation at the convention, Dr. Batos Nwadike relayed that Senator Uzodimma urged Ndi-Igbo to be more confident about their political future in Nigeria based on the outcome of the country’s presidential election, insisting that the election result has shown that his people can speak with one voice politically. He considered speaking with one voice politically was a desired source of strength, and by no means, weakness. But he also cautioned that political advantage could only be derived from the voting pattern if “we extract maximum political capital from the realities of the elections” Uzodinma said that the election has thrown up several realities just as it has shattered a few illusions. However, the crux Uzodimma’s message was contained in his three books that were passed out to the attendees as the presentation was going on.
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