By Ezinwanne Onwuka
When Billie Joe Armstrong, American music legend, quipped that “our passion is our strength,” he probably had people like Umar Ibrahim, an ex-corps member, in sight.
Like other graduates, Ibrahim was deployed to Bauchi State in 2018 for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme.
But there was something striking about the 27-year-old graduate of Physics from the Federal University of Kashere, Gombe State: his passion to make a difference.
And he did, eventually, serving in different leadership positions at the orientation camp before he was deployed to his Place of Primary Assignment (PPA).
Ibrahim became a sensation on social media platforms in 2018 shortly after a picture of him commanding a parade passionately went viral, with many commending him for his zeal and patriotism.
About three years after serving his father’s land passionately, however, things haven’t gone as planned for Ibrahim — a development which made him to take up teaching at a private school.
His picture resurfaced online recently and ignited heated reactions with many calling on relevant authorities and concerned Nigerians to provide a befitting job for him.
In this interview with CRISPNG’s Ezinwanne Onwuka, he reflects on life after NYSC, challenges getting a job and other issues affecting the youth in the country.
Can we meet you?
My name is Umar Ibrahim Umar, a 27-year-old Nigerian born, raised and resides in Gombe State. I’m a B.Sc Physics (2nd class upper) holder from the newly established Federal University of Kashere. I served in Bauchi state, and now I am a private school teacher in Gombe.
Which year did you graduate?
I graduated in 2017 and served in 2018.
In 2018, a photo of you commanding a parade passionately during your service went viral on social media. What was the motivation behind that enthusiasm?
It was in Wailo permanent NYSC orientation camp, Ganjuwa (LGA) of Bauchi State. I started as a platoon commander and later became the overall parade commander due to my loud voice, passion and dedication. I was doing it because I believe in doing small things right, I would also do the big things right whenever I get the chance.
That photo was shot by an OBS member by name Sidiq Rufai on the day of passing out from camp. I barely noticed his presence during the parade because I was so occupied in trying to remember all the military parade words of command I memorised! A day after camp, my friends from every angle called me, telling me how I went viral and sent the photo to me.
How would you describe your NYSC experience, in and out of camp?
Well… I suffered more in camp because I had to treat my voice after camp. I was lucky to be posted to a Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) in Alkaleri (a small town between Gombe and Bauchi). So, I actually didn’t settle in the town for the service year. Rather, I always come back to my home town daily after work.
A few days ago, the same photo of you commanding a parade resurfaced online with the caption, “where is this guy now?” Could you share with us how life has been after service?
It hasn’t been easy. As the first son in a middle class family, after the service I need to be independent and also help in other responsibilities. I started looking for jobs but recorded no success in finding government job. I ended up as a physics teacher in a private school. Thanks be to God. With some hustles and what I earn from the private school, I take care of myself and assist my siblings.
Following the most recent viral photo of you on social media, precisely Twitter. In one of your replies to someone, you mentioned you are still unemployed but a while ago, you said you are a teacher. Could you reconcile the two statements?
Well…that depends on the meaning of employment. According to how I viewed his question, he was asking if I have been employed by any government agency!
So, I replied with ‘Not yet’.
So, what has been your major challenge(s) in getting a white collar job?
It’s about time! We all get to achieve what’s destined for us when the time comes.
In other words, you are saying you are convinced the time to get a white collar job has not come for you?
It may come today or tomorrow.
Has anyone reached out to you with a job opportunity since the photo resurfaced online?
A guy from Lagos did.
That’s great. I hope the result would be positive.
I hope so, too. But moving to Lagos for such an opportunity would be difficult for me.
But why? I mean, it could be a dream come true.
I’m still thinking about it.
Because of the high rate of unemployment in the country, most youths are contemplating leaving the country in search of greener pastures. Have you ever considered leaving the country because “things don’t work in Nigeria?”
Sure! I even got my international passport, applied for post graduate studies scholarship to Turkey before the coronavirus pandemic. But with the intention of coming back to lift my society out of poverty and introduce many opportunities.
So, would you say Nigeria is killing your dreams?
I still remain optimistic. There are opportunities everywhere, I could find mine here or outside the country
What can you say about the acute unemployment in Nigeria?
There’s need for improvement. We need to study the developed countries and make use of their strategies in providing jobs, especially for the youths.
Seeing that lots of graduates remain unemployed even after undergoing the NYSC Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) program, which is aimed at making them self-reliant, during their service year, do you think the programme is living up to its expectations?
They can’t just be self reliant without a little capital to start with. Take my own case, for instance. I have tones of ideas but I lack capital. That’s just the main problem. The graduates have so much ideas that can help them, their immediate community and even the country at large but they lack capital and support.
That is to say, you feel that acquiring skills without support in monetary terms to start up a business is unhelpful?
I’m saying skills acquisition + tools/materials/monetary support would be better.
Lastly, in your opinion what can the government do to nib the high rate of unemployment in the country in the bud?
Government at all levels should prioritise getting the interest of international communities to invest in the country, build factories, skill acquisition centres, reform the educational system into a system that promotes entrepreneurship and innovations, support graduates with start up kits and give youths the chance to be involved in the leadership system.
It’s been awesome having this discussion with you, Mr. Umar. Thank you so much for your time.
It’s my pleasure.