The common thread that runs through trending social vices such as: yahoo yahoo, hookups, kidnapping, sex trafficking and money rituals is the desire among the youths to get-rich-quick illegitimately. Some have validly postulated that the embers of desire to get-rich-quick is being fanned by vanity pastors, celebrities and socialites flaunting affluence on social media thereby indirectly pressuring youths.

While this perspective is tenable, it tokenizes paucity of legitimate (online or offline) livelihood opportunities for Nigerians youths on the one side and absence of government-led or private-sector led initiative that could galvanize and repurpose the desire to get-rich-quick among youth for technological advancement and profits for state and market respectively.

Before suggesting what the government and parents could do to contain the pervasive get-rich-quick mentality among youths, it is apposite to state that the inordinate desire get rich among youth isn’t a Nigerian-specific challenge, rather it is a globalized phenomenon which has spread across the world via digital transformation.

The digital age has irreversibly transformed not only how we attend school, but also how we work (physical/remote), learn and earn income. In industrial age, University certificate is a sufficient condition for earning huge salary, however in the digital age, digital skills, such as: programming, web designing, video editing, sound engineering, online forex training, bitcoin mining, gift cards trading, social media content creation, digital marketing, mobile app making, computer gaming among others are legitimate means of earning stable income from the Internet and social media.

For instance, a digital age medical doctor could be earning salary in a private or public medical facility and at the same time earn passive income with his mobile medical app that conducts virtual consultations for clients globally. The point is that with digital transformation has made it possible for teenagers to get-rich-quick legitimately, for instance, Facebook was founded by a teenager!

To earn income digitally, no university degree is required, but digital skills. The implication of this is that the Internet provides a shortcut to boycott school systems and make money fast. Unfortunately, the short cut being offered by the Internet was wrongly introduced to Nigerian society circa 2002 as Yahoo Yahoo. Facebook was founded in 2004, apparently Internet fraud in Nigeria, predated Facebook. Yahoo Messenger was the main platform through which Internet fraud was being executed before Facebook.

Yahoo Yahoo, was later glamourized when Olu Maintain released the hit song Yahooze in 2007. Since then ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ has remained the most popularized, glamourized and celebrated narrative of making money online. We need a counter-narrative to uproot this entrenched wrong socialization! To do so, we need to popularize how to earn legitimate income from the Internet and Social Media.

The way forward? What parents could do?

The parents need not ‘demonize’ the Social Media. The best way I can characterize Social Media is to liken it to fire. Like fire, it can be put to positive or negative uses. It is from the same media that evil-minded teenagers learn the acts of ritual killing, that those in abject poverty learn how to escape from the jaws of abject poverty and deprivation. Both the government and parents need to nudge, encourage and incentivize youth to instrumentalize the Internet/Social Media for national development and economic prosperity.

Let parents encourage their children to learn programming. Luckily, there are free ‘gamified’ mobile apps where teenagers could learn coding. Remember if the parents of Mark Zuckerberg didn’t encourage him to learn coding at an early age, he wouldn’t have been able to give the world the gift of Facebook at nineteen years old!

Alternatively, let children learn video editing, graphics design, photography, film/skits making, data analytics, digital marketing, and mobile app making. The most important thing is to let them understand that there are legitimate means of earning income with the Internet or digital skills.

The way forward what government(s) could do?

The Federal, the state and local governments have responsibility to keep the teeming youth population engaged. It is said that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. The Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) which regulates the telecom sector, should persuade telecom operators in Nigeria to establish digital skills training hubs across the country.

In every local government council that hosts telecoms masts and base stations, telecoms operators, could come together and jointly set up digital skills centers. Thousands of Nigerian youth go hungry to buy data in order to stay online, being online is a coping strategy to survive paucity of livelihood opportunities – you don’t get it? Don’t forget about it! An online youth could be lucky to be selected for giveaways by generous celebrities.

Recently, I read in the news that MTN Nigeria made over N516 billion from data services alone in 2021. This represented 31 percent of its turnover of N1.65 trillion in 2021. The telecoms operators have a moral obligation to reward and support future career of Nigeria digital natives by setting up digital skills hubs in communities hosting their masts and base stations. They could put together their corporate social responsibility budgets to actualize this laudable project, which would further enhance Internet penetration and accelerate data consumption in Nigeria. These days both digital natives and immigrants spend more money on data purchase. It’s a win-win idea, if only the NCC could persuade the telecoms operators to see profit advantage embedded therein.

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