I feel highly elated to have been offered this platform to interact with you, my dear virile youths, representing the most enlightened class of Nigerian youths, upon whose shoulders the future of this country rests. To this end, I wish to most sincerely express my profound appreciation to the Director – General and Management of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme for graciously availing me this opportunity to once again rub minds together with you for your own development, as well as my own good.
Yes, for your development because our interaction today is purposed to open your eyes to the vast potentials that the Almighty God has abundantly deposited in you, which can be harnessed into productive and rewarding ventures.
On the other hand, I feel highly renewed whenever I interact with youths. I am a grandfather, a 1965 graduate of Economics from the premier university in the country, University of Ibadan, who retired from the National Youth Service Corps Scheme as Director almost 19 years ago. Notwithstanding my chronological age, you can be as young as you feel, or conversely, as old as you feel. Age is just a number as is often said. Meeting and rubbing minds together with youths having spent spent my youthful age in the scheme makes me feel like a virile youth like you. Therefore, I remain very young at heart! That is on a lighter mood anyway.
My dear children, before I go into the nitty-gritty of my discourse, I hasten to congratulate you on your call – up to serve the nation for one calendar year under the platform of NYSC. When you cast your mind back, you will discover that not all the people who began the academic journey with you ended it with you. Some fell by the way side, arising from poor academic performance, illness, paucity of funds, while others transitioned in the course of the academic pursuit. May their souls rest peacefully and blissfully in the Lord. Thus, your coming this far in life is a product of grace which the Almighty God supplies in abundance, then diligence and resilience which encompass hard work, commitment, vision, focus among others. It is highly expected that you will bring these sterling qualities to bear in all tasks that you will be engaged in, during and after the the service year.
Patriotic Nigerians, you are on the threshold of beginning another phase in your life. The National Youth Service Corps Orientation camp is a preparatory ground for this phase. The camp is like a crucible, characterised by discipline, regimentation and the principle of collectivism, designed to make you surmount any challenge after twelve months of sojourn in the ship of nation building which NYSC represents. In order to achieve the above stated objective, the managers of the scheme designed a well thought out orientation course content to challenge you both physically and intellectually. I expect you to pay great attention to all the programmes put in place by the scheme to prepare you not only for life during the service year, but life after the service as well. My dear children, ensure active participatory camp life because you will not pass through this route again! Any moment lost is lost forever.
On a sober note, unemployment has been a hydra – headed monster taking a heavy toll on the youth population of this country. There is no gain saying that the labour market is saturated with both employable and unemployable graduates, many of who graduated over ten years ago. This sorry state of affairs has resulted in despondency, in youths getting involved in all forms of criminalities and depravities – armed robbery, kidnapping, advance fee fraud, prostitution, ritual killings among other crimes that greatly diminish humanity.
The get-rich- quick mania has stung some many youths, blowing away their consciences, so much so that they commit the most heinous crimes without scruple. Indeed, we are in dire need of good role models for the youths and we urgently need values re-orientation in order to restore our lost values. This will be a full topic for another day. High unemployment rate stares us in the face and cannot be wished away. However, the good news is that NYSC has provided an escape route for willing Corps members to overcome the monster through the introduction of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development Programme. It is an answer to the often asked rhetorical question which is : After NYSC, what next? Undoubtedly, a lot must have been said about the SAED programme in this camp, I am only trying to conscientise you on the need to take the innovation more seriously.
Saying that the era of white collar jobs has gone is to understate an obvious fact. Skills rule the world today. China is arguably the fastest growing economy in the world today due to skills and entrepreneurship. In the country abound millions of cottage industries, employing millions of people. I will not be mistaken if I say that China has literally conquered the world in terms of commerce and industry. They produce for both European and American markets. Their products for the markets are to specification and must pass International Standard Organisation (ISO) certification test.
With virile and innovative youths like you, Nigeria can replicate the China module only if you believe. I want you to do away with this 8-to-4 job mentality, that is paid job mentality which has held not a few down and start thinking along the line of entrepreneurship. Think of how to become an employer, rather than thinking of strategies on how to traverse the length and breath of this country, weather – beaten, in search of scarcely available white collar jobs.
I had a distinguished career in the Public Service, attaining the rank of Director in 199, before my retirement in 2000. It was upon retirement from Service that I went into entrepreneurship, and discovered that perhaps, I would have been more fulfilled if from the outset, I went into the private sector. I was able to build a chain of businesses from the scratch, putting food on the tables of some Nigerians which gives me a lot of fulfilment.
Giving meaning to lives of individuals and communities is one of my core values in life. You are still very young, fresh, green and full of ideas. You belong to the Information Age. If I, comparatively speaking, analogue in thinking could make modest impact as an entrepreneur, the sky becomes your starting point, my children as you are better equipped than I am today.
Don’t be deterred by finances, rather, stimulate your creative ingenuity as ideas rule the world. There are one thousand and one wealthy individuals daily looking for potential profitable ventures to invest their wealth in. You contribute your idea as equity for the business, while the wealthy man commits his funds as his equity contribution. In the present Information Age, we all know that ideas hold sway.
Beyond that, let me admonish that making money is not rocket science. All you need to do is to create values, identify needs and fill up the needs and money will literally chase you. In all of these, you must never lose your character. Your character defines your personality. If you lose money, you can re-create wealth by creating values, but if you lose your character, you have lost it all. Character is invaluable.