Last week, there was a fair bit of buzz in Nigeria. Not about politics, our economy or even Boko Haram. This buzz has to do with drivers and five hundred thousand Naira. In case you haven’t heard about it, (which would be surprising with the furore about the matter), Alhaji Aliko Dangote is allegedly looking for drivers for the Dangote Group of companies. The salary? N500k. The requirements? Applicants must be graduates.
For obvious reasons, the whole matter has taken the Nigerian social media circuit by storm. Opinions are sharply divided as to whether this is a positive action or an insult to everyone who has passed through a University.
I’ve been reviewing the matter since the hubbub started and I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. Permit me to share my reasons with you.
- Alhaji Dangote is neither a social activist nor the President of Nigeria. He is not the Minister of Labour and Productivity. He is a business man. His decision making process therefore, will be what’s best for his company. Why am I saying this? A lot of people seem to think that he is undermining the education sector or providing a short term solution to a long term problem. The truth is, it’s not really his business whether our educational system is good or poor. His first and main priority is his bottom line. We need to put things in the proper perspective. He is a highly significant figure in Nigeria, but he is first and foremost, the chairman of a business conglomerate – that is his career, and his first priority. It’s a bit unfair to condemn his actions in the light of our current educational and economic situation.
- For Alhaji Dangote to be specifically requesting graduates, it’s quite possible that there is a skill set that he feels is lacking in non-graduates. Perhaps he is importing a range of GPS SatNav enabled trucks that plot their own route from factory to depot and he needs drivers that can use the technology effectively, or maybe he wants drivers that can write and defend productivity reports. I have no idea. What seems clear to me however is that he feels for some reason that graduates will better carry out his expectations.
- 500k!!! I’m sorry, I’m really sorry if I sound materialistic, but in a country where most entry level graduates earn less than 50, 000, five hundred thousand Naira is a lot of money. When I started work after my NYSC, my monthly salary was Twenty Thousand Naira. Five hundred thousand Naira will give some lucky young people the opportunity to work and plan for their future without overly fighting to make ends meet. Smart saving practices could help you to save for your Masters, prepare for the business of your dreams or even buy a plot of land.
- In many ways, it is a stepping stone. The overall impression seems to be that there is no future in driving a truck. But working in Dangote Industries might give some the opportunity to manoeuvre a lateral change into a department in the company more suited to their educational qualifications and future plans. It gives you a valuable insight into the running of one of the the biggest companies in Africa, and might even help you to gain a better knowledge of business strategies for use in your own business. It’s not the job in itself; it’s what you can make it do for you.
- One of the biggest complaints about our educational system is the un-employability (if there is such a word) of our graduates. The driving job is a skill based job, meaning that whether you studied Zoology or Engineering, you have the same chance at doing well as any other person. You can build or display your strategic, planning and logistical skills in a job like this. This job has nothing to do with whether your lecturer came to class or not, it is not affected by how many strikes your school went on, or even if your University was accredited. What it is however, is an honest display of your ability and willingness to learn.
- Our educational system is in a shambles. There are so many graduates who graduate from school with not much more knowledge of their chosen course of study than they had when they started learning. We have placed so much emphasis on the paper that we forget that education is supposed to give us the skills to function in the work force. The number of unemployable graduates proves that this is not happening. This is a job people, in an economy where the average youth is unemployed or underemployed, we’re turning down a perfectly good job due to an over inflated sense of the value of our qualifications.
Finally, isn’t there supposed to be dignity in labour? When did driving become something only unschooled people could do? Do we honestly think that the guy who drives President Obama is a secondary school graduate with no better options? I grew up believing that it was my responsibility to do my best in every job I encountered, working hard and keeping an eye out for better opportunities. This mindset that “there are certain jobs I cannot do”; when the jobs in question are honest well paying jobs, and when there seem to be 5,000 graduates for every available position confuses me. If you had to choose between being unemployed or earning a good wage as a Dangote driver, would you rather stay at home?
I’m not sure what Alhaji Dangote’s plans for his new drivers are, but it seems to me that this is a job with a highly competitive salary and the potential to make highly advantageous career choices. Before we start turning our noses down at the thought of “wasting” our 4 – 8 years of education to become “mere” drivers, let’s consider the positive implications of this job. Imagine a country where our plumbers, mechanics and yes, drivers are actually educated and well trained individuals with a strong understanding of the mechanics and theories of their professions. Wouldn’t it automatically ensure a rise in our expectations of such people, leading to a rise in the quality of their work? I would like to think so.The Dangote vacancies are not a tragedy. They have much less to do with our current educational system than we think. In my opinion, it’s an opportunity for 2,000 very driven and ambitious young men and hopefully women, to get a jump-start towards creating a different type of future for themselves.