In 1988, as an 18 year old studying accountancy in a higher institution (polytechnic) in Nigeria, I was one of the privileged persons who had gone through a sound educational background having attending public schools (a Federal Government College inclusive) and looked at the future of Nigeria as bright despite the fact that we were undergoing the transformation of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) – brought upon us by several years of mismanagement of the economy of our country.
I was one of the people who witnessed the transformation of the banking sector via the liberalization policy of the Ibrahim Babaginda administration which brought about the opportunities that emboldened the likes of Otunba Femi Pedro and his contemporaries to set up Guaranty Trust Bank GTB.
As a student I had envisaged a bright future in new institutions like GTB and eventually, branch out to live my dream of being an entrepreneur. Sad as it may seem, I never had that opportunity because most of the new generation banks had set a rather disingenuous precedence: they would not employ graduates from a polytechnic for reasons best known to them. Consequently, the banking liberalization policy which gave Otunba Pedro and other brilliant young people he mentioned in his article a lifeline, did not translate to opportunity for outstanding young people as some paid dearly for attending polytechnics and second generation universities.
The team had unwittingly given life to a discriminatory practice that was not in existence when they were climbing up the success ladder. It is pertinent to note that the objectives were bold; however bold objectives are not based on age, but are based on the creation of the enabling environment for people to have access to the needed resources to take advantage of opportunities like the persons who set up GTB had. Today, the banking sector has not evolved beyond the trader mentality which was created by the promoters of new generation banks. Otunba Femi Pedro was one of the frontline promoters of that ‘wind of change’.
I admire the fact that as young adults, Otunba Pedro latched on to opportunities that only the bold and visionary could appropriate. However, I believe that it is even of greater importance that when you start to climb up the ladder and/or go up a lift, you should remember to send it back down so that others can have a platform to climb up the same way you did.
What we have today is a sea of heads endlessly waiting for ‘ladders’ which hold a deluge of opportunities. Yes, there’s always the argument of ‘take the initiative and never wait for the ladder”, but never a mention of how much better it would have been if the people who got ‘ladders’ shared with others. This is what I see as the real issue regarding the curious case of the young generation.
Why have we gotten to this point? I feel it is because those young people who got ‘ladders’ from the generation before them either forgot to send them back or refused to.
Arguably, the team set up one of the finest financial institutions Nigeria has ever had, but have you asked yourself this the question. What has this institution and those similar to it done in the last 20 to 25 years to create the opportunities that would lead to more small and medium scale businesses in the various sectors of the economy? Rather what in my opinion has happened is the creation of a handful of businesses – tied directly and/or indirectly to a generation that benefitted from the opportunities created by a system called Nigeria and today has created situations where in the words of Otunba Femi Pedro – “we simply dreamt big and turned this dream into a mere figment of our imagination”
In as much as I have high regards for the young successful entrepreneurs mentioned in this article, it is important to note that the system that gave traction to their dreams were created by their predecessors.
I believe there must be a system that ensures that these opportunities are continually being created. This for me is where these successful entrepreneurs have failed the system and the nation.
I ask and I stand to be corrected, what are their legacies in creating new small and medium scale businesses that have become household names like they did when they got their opportunities? Instead for me they have created conglomerates that revolve around them, purely monopolistic institutions.
As one who likes Nigerian history, though it is rarely written and spoken about today to our young generation, I admire the courage of our founding fathers and some of their great achievements. However it is important to note that when these people took over the reins of governance in our great nation, some of them rather than try and build upon the systems inherited and continually improve on them, they systematically started the degradation and obliteration of these systems which their predecessors had worked hard upon to improve.
One of such examples worth mentioning is the systematic cannibalization of the civil service system which today has become the root of many of the problems associated with our country.
This was gradually adopted by the next generation of great entrepreneurs some as highlighted by Otunba Femi Pedro. These persons have systematically cannibalized the various sectors that provided them huge opportunities as young people all in the name of capitalism.
My only issue with this is that even in the big capitalist economies, there are still policies and systems that help young entrepreneurs achieve their objectives and goals without necessarily threatening the oligarchs.
I would like to commend Otunba Femi Pedro for his time of continually mentoring young Nigerians. However my question to him is quite simple. What policy initiatives and systems did he help create as a member of the ruling and entrepreneurship class to create these opportunities for the young people?
How has he ensured that these systems do no frustrate these young people to the point that their ideas only become a figment of their imagination? Maybe I would need to refresh our memories a bit, GTB came into being when the issuance of a banking license was N50 million for Commercial Banks and N40 Million for Merchant Banks and the CBN requirements were very clear as to create the opportunities, this led to the proliferation of banks and reached an all-time high of over 90 banks in the country.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that with all this proliferation of banks and opportunities, the system witnessed the greatest period of bank frauds and liquidations. So what lessons did these young entrepreneurs teach their young up and coming protégées?
In as much as I agree that nobody did them any favors, neither did the older generation give them a pass and/or nudge in the right direction, nor did they have the level of technology that is available today, the question that still bugs me as an individual with this generation of Otunba Pedro is simple, when you got the opportunities, what systems did you put in place to ensure sustainability?
Rather what I saw and still see today is them creating the same thing that they did many years ago when they got the opportunities, a system of me, myself and I. This has transcended so deep into their manner of thinking and try to justify their opportunities as not be thrust on them on a platter of gold, but them taking advantage of system that had been cannibalized and further cannibalized by them.
I read with sadness this statement by Otunba Femi Pedro. Yes it true that these older industrialist were already established, but one thing I am sure that their generation did not learn from them neither did they learn from our founding fathers is the fact that these industrialist and the founding founders after climbing up the ladder of success remembered that there was a future behind them as such they let the ladder back down.
Unfortunately, Otunba Femi Pedro and his contemporaries climbed up these ladders and rather than let it back down they took it with them and when they created lifts, it was only for them to their pent houses.
As such for almost thirty years, it has taken a lot more effort to climb as there are no ladders and the steps required to reach the pent houses are much steeper than most people anticipated.
I really do agree with Otunba Femi Pedro on this. However the question I will pose to him here is simple, on what basis did Otunba Subomi Balogun give him the opportunity at 27 years to come learn and be tutored? Did he set criteria that automatically disqualified people because of their type of educational qualification or the institutions where they attend?
I am sure if these were some of the criteria, I do not believe he and so many others would have that opportunity at such a young age to get such quality tutelage from such a great entrepreneur.
Yes I agree fully with Otunba Femi Pedro and will advise the young generation not to settle for the status-quo. As such I will join him in voicing out to the young generation that the real change in Nigeria is 2019 and they must take back what is theirs from the youth of yester years and move this country forward in this age of technology.
Though I have been quite critical of some of Otunba Femi Pedro’s comments regarding the young generation, I concur with him that for the young generation to start having a say in their future, they must imbibe all of the things he has stated – bling, fame and fortune – this is because no man has ever had great success without straight forward hard work. This is because any short cuts to success are sure to end in destruction. They can read the history of Al-Capone
In as much as agree with the fact that “power is never served a-la-carte” those in power and the corridors of power must have the political will to create a system where, young people’s ideas can see the light at the end of the tunnel, rather than it be shut down like rubbish only for them to be seen being used wrongly within the same system.
Finally I want to say that the next four years of our country’s history can be told differently if and only if the young generation realize that for them to move forward they must take what rightfully belongs to them from those who have usurped it for the last 50 years and believe that a man of 65 years old is worthy to be called a youth leader.
I also want to thank Otunba Femi Pedro and use the opportunity to let him know that for the young generation to understand the need for them to wake up from their slumber, then, the current older generation must remind us of the history of our great country Nigeria.
This history should not be limited to the discovery of the river Niger by Mongo Park, the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, the civil war between 1967 and 1970, but also about the history of Nigeria in the last 55 years must be fully written and taught in our schools so that the young generation can know the potentials that are in every Nigerian and the possibilities that abound if only they are focused.
Uade Ahimie is an Accountant and Corporate Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) professional. He is an ex banker and currently in the Energy sector as the Head of GRC in one of the leading Energy company. He can be email@example.com