Nigeria has one of the highest populations of young people between 18-36 in the world. Thus, the single biggest focus of Nigerian leaders should not be how to consolidate themselves in power, but how to convert her huge youth population from a consumer market to a producer market.
We may not be able to achieve that in one generation, but at least we can achieve being a prosumer nation in one generation. A prosumer nation is a nation that consumes what it produces.
I am fascinated by something JayZ says. He said, “I’m a business, man!” Now don’t get him wrong. He is not saying that he is a businessman. He is saying that he, JayZ, is a business.
And that is how we have to think in Nigeria. That is how you have to think in this knowledge worker age that we live in.
The traditional route to success: go to school, get a job, work your way to the top, is defunct. It is dead and it is buried.
A job cannot make you successful in the twenty first century. You must chart a new course to success. Some of Nigeria’s youth have graduated from university, many of them will soon graduate and some of you have just matriculated. Unless we either find jobs for these youths or tech them how to create businesses for themselves, things like 419, drug pushing, kidnapping, militancy and terrorism will continue because the devil find work for idle minds.
The purpose of education is not so youths can get jobs. Education is incomplete if the educated are only suited for a job. As a matter of fact, if you think your education ends the day you graduate then you will never be successful.
Many of us have parents that have one job or the other. Do you know that when your parents die, you cannot inherit their job?
As a matter of fact, as you are burying them, their company will be hiring someone younger than them to do their job.
But if those parents had their own business, whether it is small, medium or big, the fact is that that even if they die, you as their children will inherit the business.
You see, a job saps life from you while a business give you life and keeps on giving life to your children and their children.
What I am saying to Nigerian youths today is that they can be a success right where they are, whether in Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt, Abeokuta or Enugu, in fact anywhere in Nigeria. Your location and your position is not as important in your success story as your disposition.
I want Nigerian youths to take a journey into themselves. Get to know yourself. God gave you gifts, talents and skills at birth not so that you can have hobbies, but so that you can turn them to businesses.
Imagine where the young Nigerian, Anthony Joshua, would have been if he made fighting a hobby instead of a business, or where MI Abaga would have been if he made rapping a past time rather than an enterprise or where Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would be if she wrote in her diaries instead of writing as a career!
As a youth, you do not have hobbies, you have gifts, talents and skills that were given to you by your Creator so you can develop them into something that the world is willing to pay to get.
I am writing today to tell you that irrespective of the recession in Nigeria, irrespective of the economic and political challenges that exist in our daily lives, you must know that tomorrow is full of opportunities. The three Os in tomorrow stand for opportunities!
Let me just tell you some of the opportunities available to you.
As of 2016, Lagos residents consume 3 billion worth of food daily. Most of that food does not come from Lagos. As I drive all around Nigeria I see big, medium and small farms. Big, medium, small and peasant farms.
All over Nigeria, if you plant almost any type of vegetable, it will grow. If you plant almost any type of grain, it will grow. If you plant almost any type of legume, it will grow.
Previous governments have ensured that there is a working train service from Kaduna, Kano, Enugu, Abeokuta and virtually everywhere to Lagos.
Within walking distance from the railway terminus at Iddo, there is a market for all types of food.
I guarantee Nigerian youths that if they can participate in this agricultural value chain between where they live and Lagos, they will earn much more than any job can ever pay them.
Residents of suburban Nigerian states and cities are uniquely equipped to be entrepreneurs because they have what others need but you are not aware of it.
Beginning from right now, Nigerian youths must start to change their perspective. Do not go around complaining that this administration is bad because they do not give you jobs.
The biggest mistake our youths can make is to think that their success is tied to the government. No. It is the government’s success that is tied to them.
Start to develop yourselves. I know there are not a lot of libraries in various Nigerian cities, but most of you have smart phones. Use your phones not only for the pleasure of social media. Use your phones to download books. Many of them are free. Download books and read one book every week.
According to Forbes, one thing that successful people have in common is reading. When you read, it broadens your horizon and opens your eyes. You read about how others converted adversity to prosperity and it equips you with the knowledge you need to replicate their experience in your circumstance.
From their experiences, you learn not to spend money but to invest it. You learn how to delay gratification so that you can multiply your remuneration. You learn not to depend on a single source of income so that you are not at the mercy of occurrences like recession.
But above all, you learn that if they can do it. I can do it too.
However, I think Nigeria’s leaders misunderstand leadership. The aim of leadership is to understand your people not that they understand you.
The better a leader understands his or her people, the higher the likelihood of his success. Leadership is about the people.
Without the people there cannot be a leader, but without the leader, there will still be a people. The Israelites existed before they had Moses!
A leader who does not understand his people is redundant but a people who do not understand their leader are still very relevant!
Nigeria will not find being the Giant of Africa an advantage if we do not fix our foundation. A giant with a weak foundation is easy to defeat!
If I were President Muhammadu Buhari, I would have seen Brexit not just as another international phenomena, but as an opportunity to reach a Big Ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom especially now that she will soon be free of Europe for the purpose of filling the gap in British markets that Brexit will age is causing.
Almost every fruit that Britain imports from the European Union can be grown in the Kwara-Niger-Benue-Nasarawa-Plateau axis of Nigeria’s North central.
Advances in technology has made it possible to fly them cheaply and quickly between Nigeria and the U.K.
The time is far spent but there is still time to do this. But let me state that even if we do not get this BAFTA going, at least let us get going equipping our people to meet the internal demand for food in Nigeria without importing.
I mentioned that 3 billion is spent daily on food in Lagos. Well, almost half of that is spent on imported foods like rice, sugar and fish. Now what is it in rice, sugar and fish that we cannot produce in Nigeria?
We can produce and grow these food items in Nigeria if we mobilise our youth through education, motivation, enlightenment and awareness of the opportunities in meeting these needs.
• Murray-Bruce is the founder of the Silverbird Entertainment Group and the Senator Representing Bayelsa East in the National Assembly