I feel delighted to be invited to speak to you today. I honour invitation from the Youth because I know that the future belongs to them. I still remember way back in the late 1970s and early 80s when we go to peep into Obinkita Hall just to see leaders of Nzuko Aro deliberate on important community issues. Today it is our turn to take those decisions. So the young shall always grow and when you do not care about the youth, you inadvertently mortgage your future as a community. However, todays Aro Youths are facing very challenging times- No jobs after school, no money to start businesses and even when you have a job and you are in business, the challenging economic times (called recession) is making it a lot more difficult to make ends meet.
My intention with this speech is to share some thoughts with you on some tips I consider important in managing yourself in times of economic distress. As a professional economist, I understand what economic recession is all about. We define economic recession as a relatively prolonged period of negative growth (two quarters or more precisely). When an economy is in a negative growth trend, many unwholesome things happen! The economy is not producing and so industries are closing down. When industries close down people are laid off their jobs and their income levels decline. With a decline in income, they are unsure of feeding, paying children’s school fees becomes challenging (for those with children); payment of house rent becomes a nightmare and what is more, those without jobs ( Youths) who are dependent on some family members with jobs and businesses will feel the heat more when the bread winner becomes financially distressed as a result of economic downturn.
Today, the greatest challenge facing Aro youths is lack of job opportunities. However, the way some youths go about solving their unemployment problems leaves much to be desired. Here are some tips to remain focused and optimistic, especially when the economy is in a bad shape as we have it now.
Avoid dependency syndrome
There is always the tendency for the youth to find someone to blame for their problems. And I can tell you there are enough blames to make a career out of if that is want you want. A lazy mind is one who finds joy in blaming someone for his own shortcomings. The moment you fail to take responsibility for your situation, you shut the door to find solutions to your problem. In this room, any single youth who do not have a job, or without any hope of starting a business will always have someone to blame for it. That is what I call developing a dependency syndrome. My uncle who is working in government must find me a job and if he is unable to do so is he deliberately wants me to remain unemployed and to suffer. No one considers whether the uncle in question is in a position to do it or not. My senior brother who is a business man must give me money to start business and if he did not, then he does not want to me to succeed. A dependent mind is a lazy mind and in most cases they prefer to remain lazy and trade blames rather than stand up and do something for themselves. There are jobs for the youth, but those jobs are not meant for the lazy mind. The moment you become independent in thinking about how you survive, opportunities start knocking at your doors.
Think creatively and acquire a new skill
Some youths believe that if they are not employed in a big government agency or big company they will remain unemployed until such an opportunity comes their way. That is a wrong decision to make because when the economy is in recession, people lose their jobs and government retrench workers. The option is to learn a new skill and not depend on your certificate always. A graduate in economics can learn photography or Hair dressing etc. Such a new skill will open up opportunities for you to exploit and succeed at this for time being while awaiting other bigger opportunities in the future.
I have seen many youths who are engaged in what might seem as menial jobs (underemployment) and make more money than those in official government paid jobs. The problem is that while they do not have job satisfaction, they often forget that priority in an economic recession is to survive and be alive to behold a good paid job in the future when things get better. So a youth with a first degree or masters should think creatively of what to do to keep him or her busy. There are opportunities of what one can do as long as one is not finding someone to blame for his or her misfortune. If we do not challenge our thinking ability, we remain forever incapable of finding solutions to our problems. The most important gift from education is not the big certificate you carry about, it is the ability to think analytically and to see in your environment opportunities others have not seen. Identifying that opportunity alone has cut your unemployment problem by half. The drive to be engaged in what you consider an opportunity will open doors for you and before you realize it you are busy and happy.
Money is not the most important thing in starting a business
Anytime you see someone complaining about money, money and money, be suspicious about his ability to do anything. I used to have a boss who will easily dismiss you if he gave you an assignment and the first thing you talk about is “where is the money to do this assignment”. He would normally tell such a person; “I now know you do not know what to do, please get lost!”. Money is important but it is so powerless on its own, especially when you want to start a business. Great Entrepreneurs of this world- people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates never started thinking about money to start their businesses. What preoccupied them first was to develop the idea that money will beg to fund. Banks are there searching for ideas to fund and make profit and empower the owners of such ideas. Therefore, if you think you have the potential for business, think less about money first and focus more on developing your idea. Money contributes only 10 percent to business success and in some cases nothing, because once the idea is right, investment money will flow to it.
Always be willing to volunteer to serve
The moment you attach monetary rewards to everything you do, so much will big opportunities elude you . Always thinking that anything you do must attract immediate monetary rewards is actually a lazy attitude. Let me tell you this short story about myself. When I finished my masters, there was no job anywhere. Every morning, instead of staying idle at home I wake up as if I am going to the office to go join a friend of mine who had a small dry cleaning outfit. I urged him to allow me do the ironing since I know how to iron well. I was enjoying it because it kept me busy. Some days he will offer me lunch and other days he won’t, but he was quite shocked that such an educated man could be willing to do what I was doing without asking for money. Little did he know that I was driven by my passion for cleanliness; I love to do things that keep an environment clean, be it washing my clothes and ironing them or cleaning the house and arranging the seats. One day two University Professors came to pick their clothes, as they were waiting for me to make it ready, they started discussing national issues from economy to politics. I later respectfully and gradually joined the discussion. They were surprised that a “washer man” was this informed and sought to know more about me. To cut a long story short, it was in that dry-cleaning shop that I met the Professor that offered me teaching job in Ebonyi State University. The rest is history.
Do not be overambitious
Ambition is a virtue, but could become a source of failure when it is excessive. Over ambitiousness lead today’s youth to become 419ers and robbers etc, etc. While I agree with Shakespeare that ambition should be made of sterner stuff, making over ambition a life style exposes poverty of the mind. When people care less about the process and focus more on the ends, and goes further to justify the means to such an end, such people end up in hot soup sooner than they ever planned. Therefore, success starts with ensuring that your reward is commensurate with you effort, anything short of this will make you begin to compare yourself with people you have nothing in common with in terms of their success and hard work antecedents.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to sincerely thank the organizers of this event and to urge our youths to rely on hard work, prayers and self- respect as the guiding principle in their search for success. I want to leave you with a popular quote from Martin Luther King Jr; If you are an akara fryer, fry it the way Okocha dribbles football ; if you are a road side tailor, make clothes the way Soyinka speaks English; if you are bar tender, tend bars the way Achebe tells a story. Always be the master of whatever you do.
This lecture was delivered by Dr. Kanu Ohuche at the Arochukwu Federated Youth Association 2016 Conference on Youth Empowerment held on 3rd December 2016 at Abuja, Nigeria