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During the youth service year, you begin to earn Federal and state allowances (“allawee”). You’re introduced to the world of work and earning while serving your country. It lasts for almost twelve months. If you’re lucky, you can get retained where you worked, but that’s not the reality for most of us. This is where what I call the post-NYSC blues begins to set in.

The post-NYSC blues becomes critical after two to three weeks of the passing out parade. At the end of that month, you’re suddenly aware that no money is forthcoming. You’re jolted to the reality of every job seeker in Nigeria. Now, if you’re living with your family, you begin to feel the need to move out in search of the greener pasture. This is when you’ll start asking tough questions about the future and what your degree can secure for you. I will narrate my post-NYSC story, and hopefully, you’ll find it helpful.

After NYSC, I taught myself, with the help of oga “Go-slow,” a professional photographer in my hometown, how to take pictures with an analogue camera that someone gave my father as a gift. It still had its manual, and it was just gathering dust in the storage. It was a gift no one needed at that time. So, out of frustration after a week of waking up, eating and doing nothing, I started reading the manual. Then it occurred to me that the annual Inter-House Sport at my former high school was a week away. I went and purchased a camera film to test-run my understanding of setting the right aperture and angle for shots. I took most of the shots at the games for free. Out of joke or sympathy, some of the students and community members took pictures with me. It was a humbling experience. Anybody who saw me carrying a camera around in my hometown would probably find it amusing. I suspect some of them were like, “how can a whole graduate be going about with a camera in the village?” or “Who taught him how to be a photographer?” I didn’t care. I just couldn’t stand idleness and joblessness.

I learned on the job. I took so many terrible pictures that I had to redo for the customers until I got really good at it. After a while, the business started bringing in money. I could feed myself and “drop something” to support folks at home. I could “escape” farm work for my dad. I was an earner now. It went on like that until I started my MA program at the University of Ibadan. I had even written a plan on how I was going to get a loan from wherever to expand the business and hopefully own a studio and a huge printing business in case I didn’t gain admission for the master’s program. I eventually got in and had to leave home.

I understand a new set of Corps members have been discharged from the NYSC programme. Please, while you’re still applying for jobs and other opportunities, occupy your time with something productive. You can learn a trade, a skill, or start a business. Some of you are still owed “allawee” by some state governments. When the money arrives, put it to good use! Invest in yourself to kill time. As a Mechanical Engineering graduate, you can learn a lot from boda Mufu the mechanic. A Civil Engineering graduate could learn something from that bricklayer or the building contractor in the area. Go there, offer to work for nothing if you can. If you need to learn computer skills, do it. If you need to start an extra-mural class for students in your area, do it. If it is cassava farming, do it. Don’t listen to those who will mock you or think you’re crazy. No one will take away the certificate and the knowledge you have acquired. It gives you a more competitive edge in mastering the new endeavor you have before you. An idle hand is not just the devil’s workshop; it is the beginning of poverty, low self-esteem, and underachievement. Subdue your ego and sense of entitlement a.k.a as-a-(fill-in-the-gap)-graduate, I-deserve-XYZ.

May you find a way to fulfill your heart’s desire. The only thing that beats work is more opportunities to work. If they’re not hiring, hire yourself and don’t be ashamed of the job you find to do. Go ahead and succeed.