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Mailafia’s impactful Inaugural Lecture

By Obaka Abel Inabo
PROF. Dimis Inusa Mai-Lafia of the Department of Economics, University of Jos, is a Professor of Eco­nomics, Monetary Finance and Development. He re­cently presented his Professorial Inaugural Lecture at the University of Jos chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Hayward Babale Mafuyai. A world expert on monetary economics, Prof. Mai-Lafia eloquently de­scribed his research on unemployment and youth em­powerment during the lecture, entitled ‘The Structural Economic Dimensions of Unemployment: Associ­ated Factors and Imperatives for Sustainable Develop­ment.’ He said: “Unemployment is a macroeconomic problem caused by faulty economic, political and social structures. Treating all three in a single lecture may not be comprehensive, hence the decision of the Inaugural Lecturer to focus on structural economic di­mensions, though with interlinks.”
An interesting aspect of Prof. Mailafia’s lecture is that he successfully keyed into President Buhari’s government employment generation and entrepre­neurship initiatives. This is because he rightly believes that the agenda for positive change could start from Mr. President’s speeches on unemployment and entre­preneurship. For instance, Mai-Lafia quoted Buhari’s speech at the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council (Ministers) in which the President said that, “We are determined to diversify the economy in agri­culture to enhance employment and explore solid min­erals. The primary aim is to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of such staples as rice and wheat, and to become a major consumer and exporter. We intend to pursue policies that will generate massive employ­ment for millions of our youths. So, it is our resolve to root out vices such as kidnapping and neutralize the various forms of criminalities that threaten the social peace of Nigeria.”
Indeed, the kernel of Prof. Mai-Lafia’s lecture was a dispassionate excursion into the associated factors and policies that are meant to improve the employment of Nigerians as well as those that con­tribute to unemployment. The method of analysis used for this study is Multiple Linear Regression, in combination with descriptive statistics in graphs, tables and charts. His findings show that most “Ni­gerian youths are unemployable due to lack of rel­evant skills; the unemployment situation is so bad that most job openings were filled before they were announced, not on the basis of competence and expertise, but based on patronage and nepotism.’’ Prof. Mai-Lafia also discovered that, “The poverty incidence and rate of criminality and social unrest in Nigeria are the symptoms of structural and cycli­cal unemployment. Graduate unemployment is the worst, with high economic and social costs to Nige­ria.” The study recommends “youths development and empowerment, qualitative education and skills acquisition, diversification of the economy, expan­sion and patronage of ‘made-in-Nigeria’’ goods, exports, provision of adequate infrastructure, rural development, zero tolerance for corruption, regula­tion of imports and exchange rates as measures that could curb unemployment and result in sustainable development.”
I am of the opinion that the recommendations in Prof. Mai-Lafia’s study have succinctly captured President Buhari’s change mantra and job creation vision. He truly quoted an extract from Buhari’s acceptance speech that, “Shall we live in a nation where the ranks of the unemployment poor swell and their poverty increases, while the consorts of the powerful enjoy unprecedented wealth? The lives of the poor are bled dry while those of the power­ful soak in excessive abundance? The answers are no! no!”
During his lecture, Prof. Mai-Lafia gave a spec­tacular demonstration of practical philanthropy youth empowerment, in the lecture theatre! Go­ing philosophical, I wish to state that when one tries to discuss the philanthropic overtures of Prof. Mai-Lafia, the statement of Maya Angelou quickly comes to mind when he said: I have found that among its benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” Again, the giving attitude of Prof. Mai-Lafia could be captured in the immortal words of Winston Churchill when he spoke, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
In several instances, Prof. Mai-Lafia has liber­ated his soul and made lives by his unrestricted generosities. Among his philanthropic activities are: Awarding scholarships and different forms of sup­port to about 20 students up to the university level, payment of WASC/NECO/SSCE fees to about 60 less-privileged students. In addition, Prof. Mai-Lafia gave small capital support ranging from N20,000 to N100,000 to about 40 petty traders, stone crush­ers, and vulcanizers. Amazingly, between 2012 and 2014, he empowered some selected youths with 50 Keke Napeps (Tricycles) and 10 taxi cabs. Some of these activities were captured live by the Plateau Ra­dio and Television Corporation (PRTVC).
Readers might be itching at this juncture for the biography of this erudite scholar, and I won’t disap­point them. Born on December 25,1958 to Hajiya Laraba Rabi and Mr. Mai-Lafia Dinkirin of Buji District in Bassa Local Government Area of Pla­teau State, the young Dimis Inusa Mai-Lafia grew up to become an epitome of humility and service to humanity. However, the death of his father at a ten­der age, when he was still in primary school nearly truncated his education. As a result, the young Di­mis Mai-Lafia was on the streets for three years selling moi-moi, akara beans cake, groundnuts, and working on farms and minefields to raise for himself, support for the completion of his primary school. Re­counting this story made me misty- eyed. And, I noticed a tear drop on the laptop I was using to type this piece! I was overcome with emotions and I asked where his relations, uncles and aunties were? Thank God, the story of the young Dimi Inusa Mai-Lafia did not end on a sour note. Prof. Mai-Lafia got his FSLC, Teach­ers’ Grade II Certificate, B.Sc., M.Sc and PhD; all the degrees were in Economics. The unquenchable desire to acquire further education took Mai-Lafia abroad. He researched and studied at the University of Texas, Aus­tin TX, USA and at the State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook, USA, as a Fulbright Scholar. In the field of academic publications, Prof. Mai-Lafia has published in renowned national and international jour­nals, written textbooks, chapters in books, published conference proceedings, technical reports and mono­graphs, making a total of 36 publications in addition to acceptance letters from journals pending publications.
A widely travelled man, Prof. Mai-Lafia has visited over twenty countries worldwide. He has served his communities, State and the Federal Government. He was a member of the Governing Council of both a State and a Federal University: Plateau State University, Bok­kos and the University of Jos. He served as Dean in the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) during his sabbatical leave. That experience afforded him the opportunity to learn about a different system of educa­tion- the Open and Distance Learning System (ODLS). He had earlier served as Head of Department of Eco­nomics and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Jos, where he started his lecturing career as an Assistant Lecturer and rose to the professorship grade.
. (Obaka is a lecturer at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) and a PhD Economics Research Student at UNIJOS.

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