LET THERE BE LIGHT!

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I will tell you exactly what I told Uche a few days ago. He came here forlorn, just as you are, acridly bitter about unemployment, underemployment and paucity of jobs in Nigeria.

Nigeria has degenerated into a chaotic society, where inclusiveness is a farce. Admittedly, economic hardship is a global phenomenon; economies are becoming stiffer with crisis on and looming—looking from Greece to Portugal and indeed many European countries. Even US, China, Japan, the three richest countries are tightening up their belts, creating proactive strategies to set their economies right. Projected numbers indicate that unemployment will continue to increase in the near future.

Despite this global trend, Nigeria’s case is quite worrisome. Tertiary institutions churn out graduates in their large numbers, hundreds of thousands, with little or no job prospects. The economy has remained largely undiversified. Statisticians tell us that of Nigerians’ teeming 170 million, there are 112 million persons living on less than 1.25 dollars per day and are definitely poor. Of the 112 million, there are a hundred million destitute.

We know why things are this way, there are no jobs and the youths are, to be conservative, tepid; tepid towards self-employment and personal enterprise. In better climes, young men and women have seized the day, creating wealth, creating values, creating businesses and jobs. I don’t know what you read, but you young ones are the most ICT savvy portion of the population. Do you per chance know Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Serge Bryn, etc. What is common to them? They did not look for jobs, they created many. And you might also want to enquire how they succeeded.

Coming to the Nigerian front, do you know Linda Ikeji and Chibuzo Njoku? They are of your generation. Have you tried to ascertain the genesis of Innoson Nigeria Ltd or the Dangote Group? The beginning and founding of these businesses and the lives of men that labored for it will continue to hold great lessons for our youths, including you. They grew up in Nigeria, and they are making it.

Napoleon Hill once wrote that success requires no alibi while failure has no excuses. You can sit here and recount how you have attended tens even hundreds of interviews. You can complain till thy kingdom come about how dysfunctional Nigeria is but it will not solve your problem. If you prefer to engage yourself positively, there are opportunities here. It lies in the use and development of your knowledge base, augmented with the labor, resilient labor of thy hand! The magic stroke is: start somewhere!

If you would prefer the easier part, i.e. trading blames with the society, Nigeria will give you plenty of that. This country of ours is a double edged sword. Choose which side suits you. But I must tell you that trading blames would be like accepting the thin edge of a thick wedge.

Let me refresh your mind on the social situation here, youth unemployment is at least 70%. There are little or no water supply facilities. In the past ten years, I can count how many times I drank from a water source built by the government. All the hopes we had when the civilian rule was returned have been effectively rubbished. Institutions, facilities, infrastructure and societal values have continued to deteriorate. Health service is elite affair. Thank God for privatization of telecoms services. I wonder if the average Nigerians would have been able to access the World Wide Web or get wind of the www in any way. There is the problem of food scarcity and the rest of them. The whole scheme of things as you see them, is there something you can do to touch lifes, create values and serve the people in any small way?

I am still on the social scene here. For the umpteenth time, I have had to shout, let there be light! But the biblical creation account has refused to manifest in Nigeria. Nigeria’s brand of darkness has defied billions of dollars in investments and intervention. You may wish to discourage yourself asking, what really can I do without power supply? You might even fret that our roads have become death traps. Indeed, I cannot forget that Nigerian people and youths in their numbers have routinely died on Nigerian roads for the life-taking sin of traveling on our roads for personal enterprise, public service, leisure or any reason whatsoever. Travelling on Nigerian roads has become a sin and the soul that sinneth shall die!

These are heart rending situations and make doing business in Nigeria even more tedious, but as we say, shall you for fear of death evade the war? Youngman, these situations attest to a disparaging line I read from the Nigerian National youth policy saying that Nigerian youth is the most neglected by their government [pg 7]. But must you sit down and lament forever? You must rise from slumber to self-determination. Peter Drucker wrote that the entrepreneur creates value or adds value where it already exists. You certainly cannot do this sitting down and whining.

If you continue to wait for the government, you might suddenly realize that your future has been short-changed long ago! Come to think of it, those things are wrong, so wrong means that people are service thirsty. And of course, Nigeria is a consumer nation. I can only tell you that Nigeria is a fertile ground for entrepreneurship. Any service you can render will be valuable. Think, what can you do? Engage your brain. Find a company, no matter how lowly and attach yourself to it and learn the intricacies therein. Mentoring is one of the success keys for entrepreneurs especially in Nigeria where the business clime is rough.

Imagine if you have been under mentorship in the last five years that you graduated? The question is, the knowledge you have, have you been putting it to good use? This is an information age where knowledge is king! That knowledge you have, of what worth is it? Of what worth are your ideas? Create values for them.

You may have big ideas, grand designs and the need of capital. Everybody needs that, but I tell you something, you need to start that your business, yes, you do not know yet whether you will start and fail but “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.” I tell you one more thing, when you start, start small. Start with what you have, no matter how little. People have started and succeeded. I think and feel that you too will.

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