By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Friday said the fruitful engagement of millions of youths to increase the nation’s productive capacity remains the best way for Nigeria to quickly end the present economic recession in the country.
Saraki expressed this opinion while delivering the keynote address at the 2016 King’s College Founders’ Day Lecture organized by old students of the prestigious post-primary institution in Lagos, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu.
He said that the country urgently needs to unleash the energy and creative capacity of the youth to ensure that we produce goods and services for local consumption and imports.
While saying that creation of jobs for the majority of the nation’s youthful population remains a challenge, he said the 8th Senate has began laying the solid legal foundation upon which the efforts to positively reverse the trend would be predicated.
He said that such foundation would enable the youths not only to find gainful employment but find a conducive legal, economic and socio-political environment to engage in entrepreneurial ventures through which they would generate jobs opportunities for their peers.
Saraki said: “The biggest challenge facing Nigeria, even in the best of times, is how to create jobs for our 60 million young people between the ages of 18-35. What we are working towards is so that when you get out of school and wish to embark on whatever career path you desire; be it entrepreneurship or in the employ of a company or even in public service, that you have an enabling environment to thrive in.
“I am sure like in my time, there are one or two of you that are already testing out the entrepreneurial waters, brokering deals here and there (trade me your cornflakes for my milk); but if you wish to register a business and legitimise yourself, you will hit some hurdles that at your young age would be most daunting.
“It is not uncommon for people as young as 18 or 21 to start businesses in other developed economies—Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook who recently visited Nigeria, launched the site at the age of 20—and I am confident as fellow Kingsmen, you possess the will, creativity and innovation to come up with products and services that can change the way we live in Africa; and the world.
“So, at the Senate, we are working to protect your opportunity to do just that. If it is easy to start, run and grow a business, it is easy for young Kingsmen like yourself, to find or create jobs; and contribute to the King’s College Alumni legacy and traditions of service to one’s community and country,” he said.
According to the Senate President, one of the first tasks the 8th Assembly set out for itself was to look at laws that would improve the ease of doing business in the country.
He said: “With a global ranking of 169 out 189 on the index, we sought to make aggressive changes to laws that impact the private sector and remove bottlenecks to the process of company registration, securing permits and other activities related to starting and growing a business.
“I am confident we have the right capacity to get out of this recession very quickly. For this to happen however, we must be willing to embrace a new way of thinking about the problems and the solutions,” Saraki said.
He added: “A mind-set that is exclusionary and is not open to a different notion of solutions is likely to keep us longer where we are than we should ordinarily be. We must begin to act and speak in a way that inspires confidence and encourage people to want to do business with us and bring investments to our country. An economically strong Nigeria is good for Africa and for the rest of the world.
“So, everyone wants to see Nigeria climb out of this recession as quickly as possible. They are willing to work with us. But we must demonstrate that we truly want them to work with us by giving them confidence and speak the language that they understand, the most important of which is that we are able to show them why Nigeria is still a good place for them to bring their money.
“We must not allow the difficulty of the moment to destroy our hope of a great future. I have no doubt that what we are currently experiencing is a passing phase. I have no doubt that the sun will shine again on our glorious country.
“I have no doubt that a future of greatness awaits the young men in this hall and across our country. However, this is the time, more than ever before, that anyone who has something to contribute must step forward in solidarity.
“I appeal to all Kingsmen here this morning. All of us as old boys must rediscover the spirit that has driven us to succeed in our respective endeavours and bring that spirit to bear now, in helping Nigeria out of this current situation. In any group of Nigerians who have gone to school in Nigeria, who can dig us out of this challenge, I have no doubt that Kingsmen can. Let’s do it,” he said.
The Senate President however told his fellow Kingsmen that the progress of the nation has been unduly arrested by what he termed as a combination of mutually destructive competition for power, pursuit of parochial interests and failure by the elite to devise a vision of development and build a consensus around it.
“Our dear country Nigeria is so hugely blessed. But why have we remained rooted to one spot like a man running on a treadmill?” Saraki said. “Why have we failed to achieve the limits of our potentials, despite our rich endowments in human and natural resources?
“The answer, my dear Kingsmen, cannot be far-fetched. We are where we are today because we have failed to develop a system that ensures that only the best and the most competent of our citizens assume leadership positions.
“While other countries continue to ensure that only the brightest and best of their citizens occupy public positions, whether elective, appointive or even in the bureaucracy, the opposite appear to be the case in our country. While other people continue to hand the destiny of their country to men and women with Ivy-league credentials, we continue to wallow in mediocrity.
“A combination of mutually destructive competition for power; pursuit of parochial interests no matter how defined, and utter failure of the elite to devise a vision of development and build a consensus around it; all these have conspired to ensure that those who have real contributions to make don’t even get to put a leg in the room.
“I am confident that as long as we continue to keep this vision alive, someday soon, in our politics, the choice of who becomes President of Nigeria will be based on capacity as opposed to religion, origin or language,” he said.