Re: Jonathan’s speech | Let’s talk through why Number 38 is rubbish

Yesterday, former President Goodluck Jonathan chose to reopen old wounds or put critics to shame- depends on who you ask.

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was invited to speak at Britian’s third oldest university union, Oxford University’s Oxford Union Society. Looking sharp in a black suit, and dual tone striped tie, the former president delivered his speech titled: “A conversation to discuss the promotion of youth entrepreneurship”.

The full text of the speech has been provided in numbered paragraphs here.

Paga boss, Tayo Oviosu (and many other people) was not too pleased about this speech, we can tell you that for free. But to be fair to the former president, he did hit some remarkable truth-notes in his speech. Like when he expressed “his firm belief that any Nation that does not spend its wealth and resources to developing the capacity of its youth will eventually be forced to devote its resources to fight insecurity amongst those same youths.” You only have to look at the Niger-delta and the North-east in comparison to places like Lagos and Cross-river to be convinced.

Still it’s one thing to attempt to repair a damaged reputation by stating obvious facts and another thing to propagate largely deceitful rhetoric to score points that won’t stick. Paragraph number 38 in particular:

I once said that I was not elected President of Nigeria to spread poverty, I was elected to generate and spread wealth. My belief in this regard is that getting a job or being a worker cannot completely cure the disease of poverty. It is only your own business that can provide such security and give you the financial freedom you need to prosper.”

This stood out in the speech and we’ve picked it up because for too long, too many people have propagated this lie, deceiving millions of young people in the process. Young, hardworking, Nigerian people, by their scores have been told: “You don’t need a 9-5. That’s boring. This is the generation of startups …those who were at the bottom of the class eventually employ those topped it.” You have probably heard it too.

It has all played out before us. Almost every Nigerian celebrity/success story you ask “left his/her investment banking job to pursue their passion.”

Perhaps the passion theory is even worse and it’s to the ex-president’s credit that he did not mention it.

Too many people have told to follow their passions and break the shackles of working to build another person’s dream. But is it so bad? Service to others? Working hard, acquiring skills that are sough after, gaining a profitable employment in a place where those skills will be put to use for a larger good. This is not such a bad thing. If anything, more Nigerians need to start considering it.

This mad drive towards entrepreneurship is the reason why too many people start businesses that pack up too soon. They begin businesses that would have fared better as projects fueled by passion and with little to no managerial experience. It’s the reason why people start businesses with no idea how to keep proper financial records nor understand the basic rules of professional dealings with clients.

Just follow your passion. Start a business out of it. No one talks about the impact that lack of basic infrastructure like power supply and reliable background checks can have on small start-ups.

No doubt, entrepreneurship is amazing. But this brand of entrepreneurship that is being sold to the Nigerian youth on a platter of short-lived government initiatives is the reason why even the few thriving start-ups rarely ever cater to the specific ills plaguing the country. Very few understand the importance of social enterprises that generate value only by adding value.

Entrepreneurship has also been an effective way of keeping down the unspeakable rate of youth (and general) unemployment in Nigeria but wouldn’t have been nice if the Goodluck Jonathan administration had paid just as much attention to spreading wealth by empowering existing corporations through infrastructural development?

Honestly consider this: for whom then is the wealth being created if the every person chooses to be the wealth creator? There are so many people who have made their wealth by adding value to other people’s businesses through skills they developed and sharpened over time.

Entrepreneurship (self-employment) should go hand in hand with paid employment. One is not the alternative to the other. We need to stop spreading the deceitful narrative that only self-employed people can rise above poverty. It not only does not add up, it has also empowered lazy corrupt governments to hide from the responsibility job creation.

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