Addressing over 1,300 participants at the just ended Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship held in Lagos, Nigeria from October 13-14, 2017, Nigerian Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo praised the chief patron of the forum, Mr. Tony Elumelu for his determination to see African entrepreneurs making headway in the world.
The TEF which was solely organized by the United Bank for Africa (UBA) brought together young African entrepreneurs with the aimed at deliberating on issues affecting the well-being of young African entrepreneurs on how they can boast their entrepreneurial knowledge.
Speaking to hundreds of young African entrepreneurs, Professor Osinbajo urged young African entrepreneurs, noting, “By all predictions, you would be the wealthiest and most successful people in a few short years. I would like to ask that you don’t forget me when the good times come”.
Below is the full text of the Nigerian Vice President speech as was delivered on Saturday, October 14, 2017:
Your Excellency the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari
Your Excellency the Governor of Zamfara state, Abdul Aziz Yari
Your Excellency, the wife of the Governor of Ogun state, Mrs Olufunsho Amosun
The former Prime Minister of Benin Republic, Mr Lionel Zinsou
Honourable Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu
My brother and friend, Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony Elumelu and his wife Dr. Awele Elumelu
President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote
The Amanayabo of the Opobo Kingdom, King Ebitimi Banigo
The Chairman of the BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu
Heads of government agencies and parastatals present
Your Excellency, the former Governor of Ogun state, Olusegun Oshoba
Captains of industry, all the members of the 2017 Tony Elumelu cohort
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
First, let me say to the 2017 cohort of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme that it is a very special pleasure to meet you guys.
By all predictions, you would be the wealthiest and most successful people in a few short years. I would like to ask that you don’t forget me when the good times come.
But seriously, I’ve always considered, I’ve always known that this group of individuals, this group of young people, this generation of young people will do the exceptional.
Earlier this week, I spoke at the Financial Times Africa summit on the theme ‘What makes Africa work’
Here in this room are seated the answers to that question, indeed we have right here with us 1000 reasons why Africa would work and you are those reasons why this country will work.
Across agriculture, ICT, hospitality, fashion, energy, manufacturing, entertainment and many other fields, the breadth and depth of talent and innovation on display in the current and previous Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship cohort have shown that there is indeed hope.
In the 2016 set, we have Osakwe Chukwunonso who is building vehicles that would run on clean energy.
Soji Megbowan is creating educational products that would simplify STEM especially the teaching of STEM subjects.
Sierra Leonean Edward Noni from the 2015 set built a tracking tool which was useful, following the devastating flood in his home country of Sierra Leone.
Frank Mugarura of Rwanda is the proprietor of a branding and marketing agency that is set to conquer the continent.
Nkem Okocha, Mamamoni, as she is called, runs a prolific microcredit enterprise.
These are merely a handful of some of the inspiring stories that have preceded you and we know now that indeed Africa is set for incredible progress in the next few years.
When I considered what to talk to you about, I realized that obviously, you would have learnt practically everything that you need to know for now about entrepreneurship but I thought I should share with you some of my thoughts on a subject that has always fascinated me – the subject of history, especially the tyranny of history.
So, I changed the theme, the tyranny of history or the tyranny of the past. History is defined simply as the past; the past of individuals like you and I and the past of nations and peoples; the power of history to present the past sometimes so compellingly than the present.
History in its best form, in its role especially as time, where time is a healer but it is perhaps the tyranny of history – the way that history seems to want to control us and control the present which always seems to me to be the most interesting and at the same time, the most challenging.
How history can tie us down, compelling us to look back until sometimes we trip; compelling us to look at the present with fear and apprehension; how history, especially past failures individually or collectively can become a barrier to achievement of freedom
Our political history in Africa would appear dominated by wars, by famines, by coups d’etat, by corrupt governments and dictators and failed or failing states.
Our economic history would also largely be of large-scale poverty, infant mortality, maternal mortality, illiteracy disease and misery
So, our history may seek to define our future in Africa especially our expectations of the coming years.
History of this bleak sort has a way of subduing our faith. It has a way of constricting our vision for our nation and for our society and indeed for ourselves.
In the same way, a history of personal failure can cripple our hope, can limit our vision, can frighten us into a small perspective of life.
Our family history, the misery and deprivation of our beginnings, the shame sometimes and the disgrace of the past, the spectacular failure of the past are the tyrannical weapons of history and these weapons whip us in line when we are thinking big, cutting us down to size as our self-esteem rises, our past is sometimes always just yelling at us ‘unworthy! Unworthy! Unworthy!’ as we struggle to do right, to live right and to live with dignity.
But history, we must remember is not only merely a record of the past but it is the past, it is gone.
Our future is not determined by history or the past unless we allow it.
The history of Africa does not determine its future, the days you live in are much greater and better than the past.
30 years ago, mobile phones didn’t exist to speak to people in another country.
You queued up for hours in a public telephone exchange waiting for your turn if it ever came.
Today we can’t imagine life without our smartphones and Facetime and skype. So today we can collaborate across continents in seconds from anywhere in the world.
Research that took us months, and I can tell you this because I’m a professor, I spent many years researching, and researches that took months to do are only a Google search away within seconds today
Education that required us to leave towns and villages to schools faraway and abroad now are available online.
So, when you leave here, you can continue whatever conversations you are having on WhatsApp, Instagram or imessenger or whatever other form you choose without a break.
We are today nearer defeating hunger and famine than ever before in human history
With improved inputs and seedlings and new farming practices, farmers can produce multiples on what they produced on the same acreage years ago.
We are closer than ever before in discovering cures and palliative to practically any disease.
We can, with a bit more diligence in Africa, diligence in immunization, eradicate most of the causes of infant mortality.
Already, we are living longer and more healthily than anytime in human history.
All the IQ tests, which you do a progression over the years show that current generations are smarter than the past and so you guys are much smarter than us.
And so, as President Obama said, we must always be suspicious of those who are always talking about the good old days.
Today, the great days have come
As for our personal failures and shortcomings of the past, you are in good company.
Everyone that has ever succeeded most has their own story of failure, their own personal failings and their shortcomings.
Indeed, success is only success because you can compare it with failure
Permit me as I close to rework the thinking of Fulgham and make a few in some cases controversial statements, and I would like you to remember them, if only to humour me and in a few years if you find that they are not true.
The first is that dreams pursued with singlemindedness are more powerful than facts
I want to repeat that – that dreams pursued with singlemindedness are more powerful than even facts.
Two, that current and persistence can triumph even over experience, no matter whose experience.
The third is that hope and imagination are more potent that history – that hope and imagination are more potent that history because your history is not necessarily your destiny, indeed your history must not be your destiny
And so let me wish that the years ahead proves your vision and bring you, your nations and our continent, prosperity.
Thank you very much.