INNOVATIVE INCLUSION ACROSS GENERATIONS
SPEECH BY THE SENATE PRESIDENT, DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI ON THE COMMEMORATION OF RISE NETWORK’S INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY CONFERENCE HELD INSIDE THE MULTI-PURPOSE HALL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS, AKOKA, ON AUGUST 31, 2015.
Due to prior international commitments at a legislative summit in New York, the Senate President asked that I represent him at this event. I am sure that given his track-record, specifically with his penchant for frequent engagement with young people on both social media and in-person, we all agree that the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, would have loved to be here.
1. Let me start this speech by thanking the organizers of this important event – The Rise Networks – for bringing us all together today to celebrate the young people of our Nation. Over the years, Rise Networks, under the astute leadership of its Founder and CEO, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, has worked to ensure that the young people of our nation always have a voice and that they are part of national conversations on issues shaping our country.
3. I want to mention specifically and particularly that the Rise Networks daily dialogue published in The Guardian Newspapers, one of the most widely circulated daily publications in Nigeria today, has helped to give young Nigerians a platform to air their views on current events and issues of their concern, proffering solutions to the older folk – like myself, thereby serving as an alternative platform for generating ideas.
4. I am a firm believer in that what the world celebrate mainly about Nigeria today are the works of young people. Apart from rare instances like having a Professor. Wole Soyinka and the Nobel laurel, other recent global achievements recorded by Nigeria are the works of a Chimamanda Adichie, the Nollywood acts, the Blessing Okagbare exploits in athletics, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses and other young world renowned footballers. There are other Nigerians who excel in universities abroad. All these are people who fall in the age category that we are celebrating today. one can then safely and arguably say that young Nigerians are the heroes and heroines of present Nigeria.
5. I always tell anyone that will listen, anytime this particular topic on the role of youth in our society comes up that to many in my generation, the perfect summation of our situation is that: “The older generation in our society are the ‘investors’, while the younger generation (your generation) are the ‘primary stakeholders” of this Nigerian society.
6. It is perhaps for this reason that many “non-Youths” like myself, have come to believe that we are the investors, because the God-given gift of time and age has allowed us to contribute to what Nigeria has become today. While you guys, our youths are stakeholders right now because it is the prior contribution of those of us that have come before you that still make impact on your lives and shape how your see or react to events, situations and developments today.
7. This line of reasoning or thought may appear a little flawed, because of the sharp dichotomy it seems to pretend. Rather than a division based on age, more than ever, what Nigeria needs today to solve many of her pressing problems is a bridge between the investors and the primary stakeholders.
8. We need to respectfully bridge the gaps and blur the lines that limit the contribution of the younger generation to simple advocacy, and start putting more younger people in leadership roles. This is necessary to enable the younger ones to start advancing ‘New School Ideas’ in our relatively ‘Old School Country.’
9. You see: If we are to truly get out of the problems of our past, and forge ahead progressively under this new political dispensation, we need to think out of the box… But not in the simple way that we have been taught to “Think outside the box in the past…” we need realistic progressive ideas and ideals.
10. One of the most innovative ways of thinking that has re-shaped the way the global business community addresses problems, is the application of ‘The Medici Effect’ – a new way of thinking that was discovered by Frans Johansson, a Harvard Business School-trained consultant.
11. The Medici Effect – named after the 14th Century Medici Dynasty that inspired the Renaissance, posits that the Renaissance period, one of history’s most productive and pioneering periods, was brought about by the intersection of painters with poets, poets with sculptors, sculptors with musicians, musicians with inventors etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… Basically, everyone was rubbing minds with everyone else, and new fields of study, and new approaches to solving the problems of the time were invented. This involve integration of ideas, synergy of efforts and collaborative thinking.
12. In a nutshell, the Medici Effect teaches us that “innovation comes from the intersection of diverse industries, cultures, and disciplines…”
13. Today, I’m willing to push the idea of the Medici Effect a step further to argue that the innovative ideas that we need to solve many of the problems that Nigeria is facing, will come from the intersection of generations. The past, the present, and the future generation must meet at a crossroads of ideas, solutions, and implementation plans if we are truly to achieve effective and sustainable growth in developing our country, and our economy…
14. There needs to be a constant positive collusion of the ideas of younger people and older people in our government offices, corporate organizations, and social institutions, so that just as the past brings their wisdom to the table, the present and the future can bring their own avant-garde approaches to unraveling our collective complex challenges..
15. Moving forward, with the help of my colleagues in the National Assembly, I am going to propose a plan that will ensure that there is a legislative framework in place that addresses ways that young people can contribute to the enactment of our new laws, and the review, reform and overhaul of old legislations.
16. It is clear that when the younger generation succeeds, we all succeed as a country. And when we invest in the younger generation, we will be fully contributing to the translation of our collective vision as a country to reality. Who knows how far we can go? Who knows where we will finally see Nigeria in five, ten or 20 years down the line?
17. Ladies and Gentlemen: The time has come for us to buckle our sandals, roll up our sleeves, and tighten our belts so that we can get down to rebuilding our nation.
18. No generation can do this alone. Not yours, not mine, not the generation that will come before ours. Not the generation that will come after… We all need to do this together…
19. So, before I end this speech, I would like to leave you with a challenge, which originates from the motto of one of my favorite youth groups. From my understanding, this motto was coined out of the restless aspirations of young people like yourselves to be a part of the system. This motto was coined because these young men and women – many of whom are in our midst today – decided to set aside their fear of the unknown, and work towards a new future for themselves, and their country…
20. “Take part, to take charge.” In order to “Take part,” all of you, all of us, must begin to “Take charge” in our own little spheres of engagement.
21. It is only when we do this, it is only when we are all involved in the process of nation building, that truly, we can say: “Nigeria belongs to all of us…”
22. Thank you for your time.
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki (CON)
President of the Senate
Federal Republic of Nigeria