The Dynamics of Youth Enterprise in Contemporary Nigeria – Saintmoses Eromosele
I would have loved to begin this speech by thanking Thomas Edison, the man who invented the electric bulb, but due to the frequent infrequency and consistent inconsistency in power supply to many parts of Edo State, despite the reportedly huge investments in power by successive administrations in Nigeria, all my thanks go to the unknown one who invented the candle.
By thanking the unknown ‘talakawa’ who invented the candle, I am challenging those concerned with managing our commonwealth to step up and hurry up to meet up with the Millennium Development Goals and bequeath to Nigerians, especially the youths, the most basic of citizens’ demand – Uninterrupted Power Supply – which has the potential to stimulate enterprise and bring Nigeria to her true stature – The Giant of Africa. Without energy, work is impossible, and without work, wealth is only a tall dream.
Without a doubt, the youths are the life-force of any nation, thus this brings me to the topic that have been assigned to me to speak on, “The Dynamics of Youth Enterprise in Contemporary Nigeria”.
When I received this topic, two things immediately crossed my mind; the words of Albert Einstein and a true life story of my childhood acquaintance, Jimoh – a son of the soil.
According to Albert Einstein, one of the world’s greatest scientist and philosopher, he said and I quote;
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.
Jimoh was a naturally gifted but poor orphan who was an illiterate technician, workman and inventor. He manufactured a chopper (Helicopter) with locally sourced materials. He knew neither school arithmetic nor mathematics and he sure had no idea what they teach in school physics or chemistry. All that Jimoh knew was how to put material together and get results – practical results.
Jimoh could fix virtually any technical problem. As a teenager, I recall my admiration for Jimoh. It was rumoured then that his chopper could take off from the ground to the air. But I actually only entered the chopper, which could seat about five adults comfortably. He moved the aircraft with me and another inside within the compound, close to my alma mata, Edokpolo Grammar School, in Benin city.
Jimoh’s feat caught the attention of the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa who promptly offered him full scholarship to study at Word of Faith Schools. Everyone had hoped that Jimoh had arrived by that scholarship grant and that he would end up creating the first locally made automobile engine in Nigeria.
That scholarship looked like a promise of fame and fortune and a banishment of poverty for Jimoh but it was not to be. I will explain, shortly.
Today, Jimoh is popularly known as “Goskolo”, a derogatory term to describe an alcoholic. Jimoh is a shadow of his self and a parable of a sort for “How Not to Waste a Talent”. Why did Jimoh lose it despite the scholarship? Would Jimoh become Goskolo were he to be born in Germany, America or anywhere in the developed world?
The answer is simple and direct. Jimoh lost it because that otherwise good-intentioned scholarship was misplaced, more like sponsoring a Tilapia fish for tree-climbing lessons or sending white monkeys for swimming courses.
It is apparent from this narrative that Jimoh was not cut out for academics but practical sciences. A purely technical college or technical apprenticeship programme at a production centre or factory, say Ajaokuta or Aladja Steel, would have prevented a Jimoh from turning into Goskolo.
Our educational system is seriously faulty. Our education system seeks to train fish to climb and monkeys to swim. That is where we have the tragedy. There is urgent need to reorder our educational objectives and overhaul the whole curriculum at our schools. I would strongly recommend a thorough understudy and eventual application of the German “Ausbildung” system of education.
The German ausbildung is very similar to what we in Nigeria derogatorily term “Learn Work” or, properly called, “Apprenticeship”, which lays emphasis on practical on-the-job training with recognized & prideful certification and with high chance of employment or empowerment at the end of the training which normally is three years.
The difference between German Ausbildung & Nigeria’s Apprenticeships is only that in Germany, the government recognizes, supports, & promotes the practice whereas in Nigeria today, as with many other sectors, the government abdicates its principal duty – to empower her people – and fails to stimulate youth enterprise.
Had Jimoh been in Germany, with his deficiency in academics, he would find a place in Volkswagen and be trained under the Ausbildung system on specific aspects of the automobile production process. Within three years, Jimoh would be issued with a certificate after he has been qualified and, if he has white skin and is sent to Nigeria to work for Siemens, he would be the Supervisor where Nigerian engineers who studied for Masters Degrees in Engineering would be his juniors.
This is the irony of the purposeful purposelessness and functional malfunction of our education system which mainly focuses on encouraging the acquisition of certificates and ignores the acquisition of practical life skills.
My decision to talk about Jimoh who became Goskolo was not hinged on intent to tell old wives fable or the engage in entertaining narration, rather it is intended to bring to fore the challenges that the ordinary man faces in Nigeria which in every way impedes his entrepreneurial engagements and ultimately impedes the growth and development of our national and state economy.
It is imperative on governments at all levels, especially state and local governments to wake up from their self-imposed slumber and begin to articulate policies to engage the youths in gainful employment, empowerment and proper education so as to spend less on Security Votes.
Rather than ‘create employments’, governments at all levels should start to create jobs and promote the creation of jobs for our people, especially the youths. It is no longer tenable to say that ‘it is not the duty of government to create jobs’. It is the duty of government to create jobs or pay social welfare support to the citizens who have no jobs until the government finds jobs for them. This is the practice in Germany, Canada, America, United Kingdom, Australia and all those so-called developed countries. If the practice is possible in those countries, it is very possible in Nigeria. It is only a matter of a courageous leadership with vision and passion to perform.
Governments should also promote the possibility for the citizens, especially the “talakawas”, to get access to credit for their businesses. Banks and financial institutions should be encouraged or pressurized to provide functional loans and credit facilities to the small and media scale entrepreneurs, not the bourgeoisies who eventually stress the bank by never repaying. This would not happen by wishful thinking. It requires concerted effort and courageous leadership.
Governments should stop employing youths for mere services like ‘traffic wardens’ or ‘neighborhood watch’. We have the properly and adequately trained Police and the Civil Defence Corps. What governments should rather focus on is creating jobs in agriculture, manufacturing or ICT and get the youths creatively engaged. This way, government would be committing to the next generation, rather than what we observe today which is more or less committing for the next election.
The time has come for us to look each other in the eye and tell each other the truth. Youths need jobs, not employment. We need life skills & credit facilities for our ideas and businesses, not political appointments. If you want to stop the brain drain, start the brain train and secure the happiness and security of the people.
Having said much, I would like to conclude by analyzing the words of Albert Einstein and identifying the inherent lessons to be learnt from them.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – Albert Einstein.
This is very true. Jimoh is a genius. Even Goskolo is a genius. It is only a matter of where the genius is placed and who supervises the genius.
In physics, it is believed that “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed…but could be converted”. This is true beyond physics. Our youths are full of energies. These energies can neither be created nor destroyed. The energies are their talents, their skills, their intellect, their strength, their zeal, etc.
When government and society identify their positive energies and utilize their energies in the form of employment or empowerment, then the society would be having less need of buying more ammunition or armory for the police to kill the youths. Rather governments would convert the funds to buy more tractors, tools or machinery for our industries which the youth would drive.
Let us not forget that should the government or society not utilize the positive energies of the youths, the youths are left with no option but to convert their energies to the negative. That is when anomalies like kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, rape, corruption and all such vices and crimes would become vogue.
We have a chance to make amends. The task is before all of us. Government is to take the lead. Let us save the youth by encouraging work and reward culture as well as creating jobs at all costs and by all means. A government which fails to create jobs (not mere political appointments) for the youths should be regarded as a total failure.
My hope and wish for Edo State is that affliction should never return a second time and that Edo youths should never again be seen as stupid but they should be seen as the genius that they are and their energies be positively tapped to the glory and peace of Edo State.
– Saintmoses Eromosele
(Being text of a Speech delivered by Saintmoses Eromosele, Guest Speaker at the EPF Leadership Conference & Achievement Award held in Benin City at Best Western Homeville Hotel, 2013)