Dressing Masquerades: A New Employment Sector in Nigeria

Dressing masquerades… only a truly innovative mind would
have realized that like Agriculture, the potentials of that sector have been
under-funded and under-utilized.

That innovative mind is Nigeria’s Minister of Information
and Culture, Lai Mohammed who has said that dressing masquerades can create a
thousand jobs in one week for Nigerians.

Let’s not quote him out of context though. The Minister was
speaking generally with regards to his portfolio at the sectoral debate of the
Federal House of Representatives in Abuja on Tuesday. According to him, most
states in Nigeria have one festival or the other which if packaged very well
can provide employment for Nigerians.

In his words, “Most states today have more than one festival
a year, but the packaging and lack of capacity has not enabled them to make the
most out of these festivals. There’s a particular masquerade in the south east,
it takes 100 people to dress him, another 100 people to undress him. If this
masquerade is well-packaged, it can provide employment in one week for more
than 1000 young men. These are some of the untapped potentials.”

There you have it. The Minister has announced vacancies into
the masquerade dressing schools, who are we to turn it down?

Culture and tourism can be harnessed as source of revenue in
many states across Nigeria. A few are already harnessing it in the guise of
annual festivals such as the Argungu Fishing Festival, the New Yam Festival,
and the Eyo festival. Other attempts to generate revenue from culture were
initiated by Cross Rivers State with its epic carnival which has been
replicated across other states including Rivers, Enugu and Lagos states. So we
get HM Lai Mohammed… culture can provide employment albeit very temporary

However our paths diverse at the blatant untruth that one
masquerade can provide employment for MORE THAN 1000 YOUNG MEN in one week.
Before we get too angry though we need to ask; what is his definition of
employment? If it means young people carrying out activities just for the sake
of doing so then maybe he is right. If it means a source of income with which
the young men are expected to fend for themselves, their siblings and their
families then…we might get angry.

Again, when he said ‘young men,’ was he referring to the
tons of unemployed graduates in Nigeria and those in the youth service program
who are following behind? The same ones who are eligible to work in the Central
Bank of Nigeria if they ever got wind that a recruitment exercise was ongoing?
The same ones whose parents have invested their life’s savings to ensure that
they received top-notch education?

Or maybe he was referring to the illiterates’ young men in
the hinterlands. I mean, better a masquerade dresser than a cultist or

Supposing however that one masquerade did succeed in
employing more than 1000 young men in one week, what would happen after the
week-ends? Or after the festival was over? Oh I know! These young men will take
their earnings from their one week of employment as masquerade dressing and
invest it in the economy. They will launch new businesses in various sectors
and grow them with the expertise they gained from dressing masquerades. It
would sit prettily in their resumes too and they would be more likely to get
jobs. We could have a whole new generation whose success story starts with…” It
all started when I was employed as a masquerade dresser for one week…”

…seeing as we are all comedians these days.

Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya tweets as @JennyNkem

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