By Bayo Adeyinka
History was made in Abuja on Saturday, 23rd of April, 2017. There were two major events that happened which I predict will have a very far-reaching impact on the destiny of Nigeria. The first was the National Conference of the Young Leaders Association of Nigeria a.k.a Nigeria Youth Forum which took place at Bolingo Hotel and Towers and the second was the National Convention of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party which took place at the Shehu Musa Yaradua Convention Centre. I was invited as one of the Guest Speakers at the YLAN event.
I was impressed by the organizational skills of the YLAN team. Delegates came from all the 36 states of Nigeria. A few flew in from other countries. The hall was almost packed full. When I heard that all the delegates paid their way to the Abuja conference, I nodded my head in affirmation of the fact that the members were serious about the objectives. Someone even travelled all the way from Ibadan just to hear me speak. I was humbled when she told me. To show my support for the goals of the budding group, I had paid for my own ticket and hotel and did everything pro bono. That was the least I could do.
When I took the podium, I told the audience that the conference reminded me about the Manchester Pan-African Congress which took place in 1945. 90 delegates including 26 Africans gathered in a small hotel room to discuss about Africa’s future. Present at the Manchester Conference were Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Hastings Banda, Peter Abrahams, Jaja Wachukwu, the widow of Marcus Garvey and others. At the time of the Manchester Conference, Awolowo was 36. Kwame Nkrumah was 36. Jaja Wachukwu was 27.
Hastings Banda was 47. Jomo Kenyatta was one of the oldest at 54. During the conference, something was ignited in the hearts of the attendees. Subsequently, a fire of revolution spread across Africa with nations granted independence from colonialism. In less than 15 years after the conference, Jomo Kenyatta became President of Kenya. Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda became President of Malawi. Kwame Nkrumah became the President of Ghana. Obafemi Awolowo became the Premier of Western Region and later Opposition Leader in Nigeria. Jaja Nwachukwu became the first Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria and its first Minister of Foreign Affairs.
I told the audience that the impact of the meeting will be felt in Nigeria in a few years to come. There was an applause all over the hall.
I spoke about how the greatness of a nation lies in unleashing the potential of its youths. I gave several examples of young people who have shaped the destinies of their nations and the world: Mark Zuckerberg who was 19 when he started facebook, Africa’s youngest billionaire Ashish Thakkar who is 31- an escapee from the Rwandan genocide, Collin Thornton who made his millions by fixing bad computers and setting up Dial-a-Nerd at 35, Adam Horowitz, an 18-year-old entrepreneur who started 30 websites in 3 years before he became successful, Jason Njoku who at 33 founded Iroko TV and recently received an $8m investment into his company. I told the audience he didn’t just hang around waiting for Buhari to make something happen or blaming Jonathan for not making anything happen.
I also told the audience that the average Nigerian youth needs a brain reset. They need their minds to be restored to factory settings. The Nigerian youth needs mental detoxification. I told the audience that some youth even fight over politicians, looters and their oppressors when they should rather fight against them. It was an appreciative audience that burst into a rapturous applause when I said, “While others are carrying the destiny of their nations, you are carrying the bags of politicians”.
I now shared a story with the audience. It was my personal experience during the Governorship elections in 2015. I produced two jingles for a Governorship candidate and I was asked to hand them over to the State Vice-Chairman of the candidate’s party. Together with a friend, we located the Vice-Chairman at a club house. He was seated in the company of another man- obviously his friend as they drank together. After playing both jingles, his friend who danced rigorously to both, suggested that the first jingle should be deployed for open-air campaigns while the second one should be for radio. He disappeared into ‘the other room’ with a beau and as we sat with the Vice-Chairman, he told us that his friend is the Publicity Secretary of the opposing party. A gasp went through the audience after I dropped the bombshell. At this point, I exclaimed, ‘Our mumu don do’ which the audience repeated several times with their fists clenched.
I shared the following as significant steps and roles that the youth must play in restoring Nigeria:
1. Understand that power is never served a la carte.
“Many of you have been complaining about the recycling of past leaders. You complain that young people are never given a chance. Power is grabbed. Power is not earned. It is not a right neither is it a privilege. It is not served on a silver or gold platter. You must struggle for it.
Drop that entitlement mentality. You need to pay the price for power to get it. It involves sacrifice and a lot of hard work.
It is time to force your way to relevance. It is time to take responsibility for the future because the future will not be inherited- it will be earned”. Even the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and only the violent take it by force.
2. Get angry
“By next year, there will be the first human head transplant by an Italian neurosurgeon but polio and Lassa fever has staged a comeback in this clime. By 2020, while others will be able to switch off their fat cells and eat anything they want without the fear of obesity while people die in Nigerian IDP camps because of malnutrition. Samsung will release foldable smartphones this year while your leaders grapple with production of pencils. This year, the robotic chef arm that can cook up to 2,000 recipes will be launched but in Nigeria we still source for cooks from Akwa Ibom and Cross River States”.
3. Do something
“Stop complaining and do something. Do something about electricity. Your brain is still fresh. As you ask questions, go further by seeking answers. Rather, be the answer. As you talk about the challenges, go further by seeking solutions. Rather, be the solution.
Does it not bother you that once you’re above 40 years, you have lesser years to spend as you arrive at the departure lounge of life? Should you not be thinking about the future more than the present? For instance, by 2050 Nigeria will hit the 1b population mark. Thirty three years before 2050, we are still stuck in subsistence farming. We can’t feed 170m people now so how can we feed 1b people? We can’t provide housing for 170m people now, so how can we provide housing for 1b people? While the rest of humanity is trying to land on Mars with 200,000 applicants vying for just 100 slots, we still find it difficult to run an airline”.
Find your niche. Faajihub was started when a cousin of Olaotan Oladitan, who’s one the founders, was coming in from the United Kingdom for her wedding. It was a challenge for her finding the people needed to make the event a success. Faajihub now has at least 700 vendors of different kinds. Faajihub is solving the problem of choice in event management. Brian Bett is a Kenyan agriculture techpreneur who designed a locally made greenhouse for the equivalent of N250,000. The cheapest greenhouse in Nigeria is about N1.5m. Brian is solving the hunger problem. GoMyWay is a ride sharing service started by Damola Teidi, a model in her 20s. Damola is solving the transportation problem.
Hotels.ng was started by Mark Essien and has over 6,000 hotels on its portal. Mark is solving the hospitality problem.
PrepClass is an app by Olumide Ogunlana aimed at helping students prepare for exams. The app assists you to identify your weak points apart from the core functionality of preparation for exams. Olumide is solving our educational problem. Jobberman, one of the top jobs websites in Nigeria was started by the trio of Opeyemi Awoyemi, Ayodeji Adewunmi and Olalekan Olude in 2009 during the famed ASUU strike. Jobberman is tackling the employment challenge. What problems are you solving? Stop merely existing. It’s time to start living. Let your life be a contribution to humanity and not a contamination to humanity”.
4. You need a critical mass
“Organize rather than agonize. Don’t just think outside the box. Throw away the box. You have the numbers- use them to force a real change. What does it take to win an election: numbers! You can register a new political party. Or form a critical mass or pressure groups in an existing one. Set up accountability groups across local governments and states. Participate actively in the political process. Identify some young outliers and rally round them so as to get them to political office”. I also waxed scriptural by quoting Genesis 27 verse 40: When you become strong enough, you will break his yoke from off thy neck.
I reeled out a few statistics:
APC won Nassarawa with 392,000 votes- Nassarawa has a population of about 2m people
APC won Lagos State with 811,944 votes- Lagos has a population of close to 20m people.
APC – 327,310- Oyo State- Oyo has a population of about 6m people.
PDP – 289,867 – Ebonyi State- Ebonyi has a population of about 2.1m people
I zeroed in on Lagos as I considered the tertiary institutions alone outside of the clusters where one usually find the youth.
UNILAG has 49,192 students.
LASU has 90,000 students
Yabatech has 15,000 students
Lagos State Polytechnic is also an existing school but number of students cannot be ascertained. Ditto for Lagos City Polytechnic, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Nigerian Institute of Journalism and Federal College of Education Technical, Akoka.
I stated that if these numbers can be mobilized and come together as a critical mass, then we will be on the road to change. I said what is needed to win an election is numbers and that money is a subset of numbers. I rounded off my speech by informing the audience that no Nigerian political party has students wings- even when they claim to have youth leaders who are in their 50s and 60s. ANC was very successful because it had students/youth wings. Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Julius Malema were former leaders of the ANC Youth League. I challenged the group to look at people who were turning 18 and coming of voting age. ‘Who is talking to them?’, I asked before leaving the stage.
Sincere appreciation to the Founder and Convener of the Young Leaders Association of Nigeria, Mr Ezekiel Temitope Oladimeji for inviting me as Guest Speaker at the event.