By Tayo Ogunbiyi
FEW weeks back, famous co- founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, visited Nigeria. The visit was completely devoid of the traditional fanfare often associated with such high profile visits. For most part of his stay, Zuckerberg was in the company of ordinary Nigerian folks. Seeing him in the company of regular Nigerian youths, kept one wondering if this is, indeed, the genius who created the globally acclaimed billion dollars brand that has effectively integrated the world into a truly global village. It is instructive that despite being a leading global entrepreneur, Zuckerberg’s lifestyle doesn’t in any way reflect his stupendously wealthy pedigree.
Let me, however, state that the essence of this piece is not to celebrate Zuckerberg’s simplicity. Rather, it is to call attention to what, in my opinion, has turned Zuckerberg into a captivating global phenomenon. And this is the power of ideas. Famous Nigerian success coach and motivational speaker, Rev. Sam Adeyemi, once affirmed, and rightly so, that ideas rule the world. The quality of ideas available in a given society determines the quality of life and opportunities available in such society.
Many people seem not to understand that the quality of our lives as human beings is substantially a reflection of the quality of ideas we generate. Many still seem not to comprehend that the ideas which we conceive, like kola in Igbo culture, is life in itself. It is the kind of ideas that we give to our space that it gives back to us. No more, no less. Zuckerberg invented Facebook in his twenties and as a university undergraduate.
Thanks to the strength and depth of his idea, today, he ranks among the world top billionaires. The source of his kind of wealth is quite instructive for the average Nigerian youth. His wealth was founded and driven on the power of ideas.
Presently, our nation is passing through a painful economic route. Oil, which has been our major source of revenue for decades, no longer commands huge financial status in the international market. Even if it still does, Niger-Delta militants’ activities remain a major worry. So, we are stuck; wallowing in self pity and indulging in destructive blame game that leads to nowhere. But the Zuckerberg model has shown us clearly that having fertile and bright minds is better than possession of billions of oil wells. The utility of the latter is tied to the earlier. Without the required human resource, whatever prosperity that any nation possesses will eventually amounts to nothing. This, sadly, is the story of Nigeria.
Without bright ideas, there cannot be innovations. And it is innovations that bring development. Innovation is the natural by -product of idea. Innovation is the prime basis for socio-economic progression in any society. We must be under no illusion. Societies that fail to harness the power of innovation will eventually become the customers of those that do. There is no magic about it.
Our economy is presently at comatose because we have relegated innovation to the background for a long time. Rather, we celebrate overnight billionaires with no visible entrepreneurial and cerebral pedigree while we sentence our younger folks with bright ideas to a life of misery and frustration.
A failure to frame and harness innovation might consign future generations of Nigerians to material dependency on those nations that had seized the mantle when they had the opportunity. We must be able to create an environment in which young entrepreneurs can come up with the most innovative products and services. Innovation is a journey. But it is an endless one. For us to be relevant in the emerging world order, we must ensure that our youth keep thinking, developing and working.
To integrate innovation into our daily living, we must take on a leading role in promoting science, technology and modernism as core policy areas that not only hold the key to the future, but could also make our nation one of the continent’s innovation leaders.
It is only in successfully doing this that we could effectively harness the untapped potentials of our youth, thereby unleasting our numerous but hidden Mark Zuckerbergs. In Zuckerberg’s own words: “This trip has really blown me away by the talents of young entrepreneurs and developers in this country, and making a difference and making a change. It reminds me of when I wanted to start Facebook. I wasn’t starting a company at the time but wanted to build something to see if it would work.
And that is what I see people here do, pushing through challenges, building things that you want to see in the world. You are not just going to change Nigeria and the whole of Africa but the whole world.”
The future belongs to ideas and ideas naturally feel right with the youth. It is in realization of this that Zuckerberg, perhaps, shunned older key players in the nation’s telecommunication and media industry and chose to rather associate with the youth as he understands that the future can only be driven by young talents.
If we are to ensure that the next generation of our compatriots is not a wasted one, we need to change our values system as a people. This is the time to raise and nurture young folks with innovative mindsets. As previously asserted, idea is the engine that transforms the way we live and think. The advanced economies of the world were founded and being sustained on great socio-political and economic ideas.
50 years ago, controversial American physicist, historian and philosopher, Thomas Samuel Kuhn, coined the term ‘paradigm shift’. What he was referring to then is the moment when our worldview essentially alters as a result of a new idea. For our nation to truly experience a feasible ‘paradigm shift’ from adversity to prosperity, this is time to invest in new ideas that could positively shape our future.
Ogunbiyi writes from Ikeja, Lagos