It is my pleasure to be asked to present the keynote address in your graduation ceremony. Let me thank the founder of Peter Akinola Foundation, our dear father in God, mentor and the former Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria, the Most Rev. Dr. Peter Jasper Akinola for the great vision of establishing the Youth Centre for Industrial Training to give youths a sense of responsibility and stability.
My sincere appreciation to the board of trustees, the management and the staff of the training centre for their efforts that have produced the results we are celebrating today. There is nothing as joyful as seeing the success of endeavors. The Lord God would reward your labour of love.
I congratulate the graduands for the feat they have attained today by successfully completing their training in this centre. We all know that it is not an easy task to begin and complete a programme, task or an adventure. At the initial stage of every programme or adventure, people are usually spurred to high levels of commitment because of the charm of novelty.
But after a while when novelty has lost its force, they lose the zeal to carry the programme to a successful end. But you have demonstrated resolve and resilience and today we are singing the song of glory because of you.
The purpose of this training centre as we all know is to empower people with the skills that would make them become successful entrepreneurs in present - day Nigeria bedeviled with high level of unemployment. To be an entrepreneur means to be able to create jobs for yourself and others thereby becoming be self – reliant, self - sufficient and self – supporting.
So, the training you acquired in this center has, I believe, prepared you with the appropriate skills, the development of mental, physical, and social abilities and competencies that would enable you meet up your needs and contribute to the development of the society. This is the goal of true education and training.
From the pristine stage of human development to the age of civilization, education and training, whether traditional or western were designed to fill the need in the society. This is actually the view of the functionalists, according to which the educational system is put in place to inculcate the dominant values of the society thereby shaping a common national mind. And until education serves this purpose, it is worthless.
To ensure that education and training play this all - important role in human society, today, there is emphasis on knowledge economy; that is, what you can do with what you know. But regrettably the kind of education we receive in Nigeria is the one that prevents people from being entrepreneurs.
For instance, majority of the graduates from our universities who have various degrees in management may find it difficult to go into farming, barbing, hairdressing, catering and so on. Hence, we have many PhD holders roaming the streets. They are roaming the streets because there are no jobs. Even those who are employed are painfully employed instead of being gainfully employed with the dire consequence that their “Take - home pay, cannot take them home.” Before the end of the month the salary is long finished. But the universities keep graduating students yearly only to swell up the already teeming population of unemployed and under employed youths.
This has created hardship of all kinds in our country thereby predisposing our youths to all manner of vices, including stealing, hooliganism, kidnapping, armed banditry, prodigality and internet fraud in order to “meet up.” The only way out of these doldrums is skill acquisition and entrepreneurship.
Skill acquisition and Entrepreneurship are the greatest of human endowments. Besides man, animal and plants, every other thing in the world is the product of human creativity and entrepreneurship. The nations of the world that are advancing rapidly are those who are developing their entrepreneurial skills.
This is the case with countries without appreciable amounts of natural endowments like petroleum, gold, or diamond deposits. Countries like Japan, Israel and so on are among the developed economies which have no reasonable quantities of natural resources. They owe their rapid growth and development to skill acquisition and entrepreneurship.
Therefore, the skills you have acquired in this training centre are going to help you become successful entrepreneurs. Can I tell you that if after your graduation today, you go out there looking for someone to employ you, you need to return the fees paid during your training and tender an unreserved apology to your trainers for the abuse of the opportunities given to you.
With the skills you have acquired you would be able to create personal wealth through personal businesses because personal businesses are undoubtedly the gateways to genuine wealth. The world is filled with individuals who rose from rags to riches through the establishment of their own businesses. The late M.K.O. Abiola, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Alhaji Dantata and so on are perfect examples of successful private businessmen in Nigeria who started small and today are household names in the world of business.
Let me upset the apple cart a bit. It is wrong for anyone to pray that God should give him or her money. Money doesn’t fall from the sky. The right prayer is, “God make me a problem solver.” This is because when you solve a problem, you earn income. If you fix somebody’s hair or cloths, he or she pays you for the services. If you fix somebody’s car, you earn income.
Anytime you create values, you earn income for yourself. Anytime you solve a problem, you earn an income. This is the way life operates. Value creates wealth. Money comes from services rendered. Late Mr. Boma Erekosima, a radio presenter in Radio Rivers, Portharcourt says “No work, no pay, no chop. Work, get pay, you chop. That is work chop. This we how we get workshop”.
Also, the training you have acquired in this centre would help you become creative and innovative. By the time you set up your own business and bring in creativity and innovations, you would begin to experience the joy of creativity and innovations. There is the overwhelming joy that comes in seeing something you made by yourself being used by other people. There is the joy that comes in seeing your products satisfying other people’s needs and solving their problems. This is because you have become a co – creator with God.
Being an entrepreneur also creates job security. When you are working for someone else you need to know that you could be laid off at any time. But when you have your own job and you become an employer of labour, your job is secure and your future is sure.
We have records of those who were doing well in their paid employments until they were laid off, maybe because of the company’s downsizing or right sizing policies. Some of them have not recovered from the shock and difficulty because they cannot even feed their families. This is why you cannot toy with starting your own business and being your own boss. If you start your own business, you have secured your future.
But acquiring a skill is not all that is needed to become a successful entrepreneur. There are some principles that an entrepreneur must obey. So let me quickly take you through some of these principles that would help you run a successful business. Like as Ecclesiastes said, “The labour of the foolish wearies every one of them because they do not know how to go to the city” (Eccl. 10:15), so knowledge is important.
Also, Ecclesiastes 10:10 maintains that, “If the iron is blunt and one does not sharpen the edge, then more strength would be required but skill would bring progress.” Yes, it is good to possess technical knowledge, but technical knowledge alone is not enough. You still need knowledge of how to run a successful business.
To run a successful business, first of all, you must start where you are. The reason some people never engage in any productive venture is because they don’t want to start where they are. A lot of them want to start a business with two or three million Naira initial capital or above. But God told us not to despise the days of little beginning (Zech. 4:10).
The widow of the prophet in 2 Kings 4 had some little oil in her house but she thought it was not enough. Moses had a rod in his hand but underrated the power of it. Andrew saw a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish but said, “What is this among the multitude.” Do not undermine what you have now because that is what God is going to use to bless you.
Second, you must be diligent. Diligence means skillful work. And the Bible said, “Do you see a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men” (Prov. 22:29). Whatever your craft is, you must create and present your products so that they can meet the demands of your customers.
If you don’t meet their demands, they would withdraw their patronage and may likely discourage other potential clients from patronizing your business. The implication is that you would be out of business and go back to a dependent life. So do your work well. It is wrong for your clients to always complain about your services. Even though you have graduated from this training centre, you can still learn from others who have been in the business before you or consult with your trainers from time to time.
Third, you must be hard working. Many who are not doing well in business are lazy people. As a business man or woman, you must never give your customer an opportunity to try your competitors because they may not come back. But when you are lazy and are not in your shop when you should, your customers would go somewhere else.
Hard work pays and it is the only substitute for hard life. If you don’t work hard, life would be hard for you. It is not always easy at the beginning but if you persist, you would get to the level where everything begins to fall in place for you.
Fourth, you must prioritize. It is unwise at the beginning of your business to begin to seek pleasure. It is unreasonable at the start of your business to seek to have a high life, buy the latest cloths in the markets and wear the latest shoes and jewelries.
What you need to do at this level is to begin to save. Earn all you can, save all you can, spend all you can and give God all you can. Learn how to postpone gratification and you would have it later. Discipline yourself and you would later have everything you ever needed when your business has stood very strong.
Learn how to manage what you have. In life, you either pay now or pay later. That is, you can choose to sacrifice pleasure now or later. But you must make the sacrifice. It is better to make the sacrifice now. This is why Lamentation said, “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27). It is this time that you need to make every necessary sacrifice for your future. Don’t desire to lie down when you are not sitting yet or you would fall.
Fifth, you must be honest. Do not follow others to do sharp practices. The Bible warns us against following the multitude to do wrong (Exodus 23:2). Sharp or corrupt business practices may enrich someone at the beginning but it would not last. The moment a customer discovers that his or her client is dubious and cannot keep his or her promises, he or she would take to his heels.
So whatever momentary gain from foul and ungodly business practice would be lost with time. But if your customers know that you are genuine over a period of time, they would always come to you. And after a long while, you would begin to enjoy the fruit of your genuine business practice.
Today, there are products with certain brand names that people who want to buy original products go for. This is because the producers have made a good name. The Bible cannot be faulted in the saying that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches… (Prov. 22:1).
Of course, because the good name would bring the riches in the long run. Remember, an inheritance may be gotten speedily at the beginning but the end thereof shall not be blessed (Prov. 20:21). So do your business as a true child of God.
Sixth, you must learn to improvise. Improvisation is the act of substituting for the real thing that is not available. It is the use of substitute equipment where the real one is not available. There is no gainsaying the fact that you may not have all the equipment you need for your job, but your training has armed you with the knowledge you need to improvise from the environment to be able to achieve your goals of productivity and self - reliance.
Improvisation helps in reducing the money spent on procurement of expensive material, creates room for the use of local cheap materials as alternatives, encourages the development of creative skills and so on.
Seventh, do not give up. The business world can be difficult sometimes. If you try and things are not working out, keep trying. The righteous man may fall seven times, but he rises from them all (Prov. 24:16). Do not be discouraged because of the initial hurdles. The saying that when the going gets tough, the tough keep going is true any day and any time.
Keep striving and you would definitely get there someday. Be focused and you would get it. Stay committed to your task in spite of the odds.
Finally, always pray to God. Elihu said, “I said that days should speak and multitude of years should teach wisdom: But there is a spirit in man, the inspiration of the Almighty gives it understanding” (Job 32:7 -8).
When you pray to God, He would teach you things you do not know even in your business. Ask God and He would show you what you do not know. Revelation brings revolution. Haggar and her son, Ishmael were dying of thirst in the wilderness until an angel said to her to look somewhere and when she did, she saw a pool of water.
There are riches everywhere but we do not see them. When we pray, God opens our eyes to the opportunities that lie before us. I pray that when you look, you would see what others did not see.
CONCLUSION: As I bring this address to a close, it is important I remind you graduands that what happened here today is synonymous with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25: 14 – 30. The man who was embarking on a far journey gave talents or gifts to his servants and He said to them, “Occupy till I come.”
Another translation renders it, “Do business till I come.” And after a while he returned and called his servants for account. Recall that every servant was given a talent. In the same way everyone of you has been given a skill. There is nobody here who has not been given a skill. As the man left, some of the servants put their gifts (skill) to use but one buried his own in the ground.
So, the onus is on you to either make use of your skill or to bury it. But you need to know one thing that whatever decision you make has consequences. If you decide to use yours well, it would multiply and you would be able to take care of yourself, your family and support the work of God.
But if you bury yours, even the one you have would be taken away and you would suffer. Then you may end up living a life of borrowing and as the saying goes, “He who goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing.” The Bible paints the picture even clearer that the lazy man will not sow because of the cold and so he will beg in the harvest but will not have (Prov. 20:4). I want you to know that if you decide to live a life of begging, it is not every time you beg that you will receive. Therefore, make good use of your skill.
It would be imperative at this juncture to bring to you the story of late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, who I mentioned earlier as renowned Nigerian businessman. This was a story he told by himself. In 1983 Chief M.K.O. Abiola delivered a lecture on “The art of building an indigenous business from the scratch: A personal experience.” In this lecture he narrated how he joined his father in his cocoa business. The business was doing well until November 1, 1946 when their ten – ton lorry – load of cocoa was declared unfit for export by a produce inspection officer.
This was a huge loss to the family. They had to sell most of their assets to pay back customers money. In that same year, he started his first business venture which was fetching and selling of firewood at the age of nine. According to Abiola, he usually woke up at four o’clock every morning for the business. He continued in this business until he began to supply firewood with trucks in large quantities.
From firewood business he went into entertainment where he entertained people at burials, naming and house warming ceremonies, weddings and all forms of social activities and he made some huge income there. The money he made was used to take care of family expenses and his school fees and those of his siblings. By this time, he was in secondary school.
Between 1956 and 1969, he began to prepare for a greater future. He later worked briefly with Barclays Bank in Ibadan while he did the Institute of Bankers Examination. From 1961 to 1966, he was a student both at the Glasgow University and the Institutes of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.
After his training he gained employment with International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT). From there he went on and on and became the business tycoon of repute in his time.
From this narrative, we saw a dogged young man who was determined to go against the odds in order to succeed in life. In the same way, if you must succeed with the skill you have acquired, what you will need id what I call three Ds and one P of success: Determination, Diligence, dedication, Devotion and Perseverance.
If you are determined to succeed and you are diligent, dedicated, devoted and persevere in your crafts, you will surely be blessed. Let me leave you here with the words of Abiola’s father to him in 1946 when he (Abiola) complained that the family was going broke as a result of business challenge. His father said, “Not if you did your best; and not if your best was blessed.”
My dear brothers and sisters, if you do your best and God blesses your best, you have no cause to bemoan the unemployment level in Nigeria. You would rather become an employer of labour.
Therefore, I pray that the Lord will give you the grace to do your best and may He bless your best in Jesus Christ. name. Amen.
Thank you for listening
Most Rev. Dr. Blessing C. Enyindah, DSSRS, J, AP
Dean, Church of Nigeria, Archbishop of Niger Delta Province & Bishop, Diocese of Ikwerre on the occassion of the graduation of trainees of Peter Akinola Foundation Vocational Training Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.