Every generation is gifted by God with a unique set of circumstances that give them an opportunity to distinguish themselves, to make history, to do something never done before, to positively alter the trajectory of the story of mankind. That opportunity usually comes disguised as a challenge, a drawback or even a tragedy. It hardly ever looks like the next great leap of mankind that it really is.
The generation that should take advantage may sometimes even miss the opportunity, because, as human beings, our inclination is to look back rather than ahead. We seek comfort in the familiar things, the known course of events. We want progress but we still want things to be the way they were.
But worse, we miss the moment because the opportunities no longer knock. They sound more like a whisper, barely audible because there is so much noise all around us.
Any opportunity must be seized if you are to benefit from it. You must never take your place in history for granted. There is always a divine reason for it.
So, what should you do as a game changer? I think one of the critical things to recognize is that you cannot stand on the queue anymore.
Historically, circumstances have moved you ahead. No one has been here before. None of your parents or mine can tell you, how life would be in or after a global pandemic. We know some but not nearly all of the challenges and all of the opportunities that will come with it. If you tell me that you would have to wait before you start to answer those questions, then you are missing the opportunity that history is offering you.
Your very young age is a profound advantage in a time of uncertainty and opportunity. There is no qualifying age to be a problem solver, an entrepreneur, a great poet, an inventor, or an author. Age doesn’t matter.
You must from now begin to examine the solutions to the problems that we face and will face now and in the coming years. Meeting virtually was made possible by the inventors of Zoom, a virtual meeting application. Many more such applications, even better ones are waiting to be developed. You don’t have to be a technology geek to be an innovator. You can identify the problem, write up the solution and someone else develops the app. Some of the greatest and most useful inventions were made by young men and women before they even left high school.
At 15, Bill Gates had gone into partnership with his friend Allen, to develop Traf-O-Data, a computer program that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle, Washington State in the US. George Westinghouse invented the Rotary Steam engine at 19, the television was first conceived by Philo Fansworth, he was 14.
Timilehin Daomi, before he was 16 living in Ikorodu, there in Lagos State, had made prototypes of a vacuum cleaner, a pumping machine, a digital microscope and last year or about two years ago, a prototype of hydraulic-powered collapsible 4th Mainland Bridge for Lagos State.
Aghogho Ajiyen, a young man in Oghara, in Delta State and Ayoola Olaolu in Ikorodu, have been making prototypes of airplanes, drones and flying cars. Emeka Nelson in Anambra State developed a water-powered generator.
Sooner or later, these innovators will define enterprise, our economy, digital technology, in our country and perhaps around the world.
But those gifted in the arts and humanities must also take advantage of these times. Pablo Picasso, the legendary artist, had painted the La premiere communion’ when he was 15.
Amanda Gorman is the first youth poet laureate in the US. She took the hopelessness of the pandemic and the black-lives-matter protest to write a poetic masterpiece titled ‘Fury and Faith’. She wrote these words that must now be etched in our hearts as we face these uncertain times, and I quote the words that she wrote in that poem: “…whether we prevail in these times is not determined by all the challenges present but by the change that is possible…”
Arinze Ifeakandu was shortlisted for The Caine Prize for his book ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’. At 22, he is the Caine Prize’s second youngest ever person to be shortlisted. And the list of these young achievers goes on.
You have all that it takes to create a new narrative in the arts, in entertainment, in science, in innovation, in medicine, in business or the digital economy.
Never be foolish enough to imagine that anything happens without the Almighty God, all good and perfect gifts come from Him. Some of the smartest people that you will come across in the best universities in the world, will tell you that there is no God. Remember the words of scripture, “the fool says in his heart that there is no God.”
Some will say but life itself is about luck, chance, they might even refer you to the scripture that says, in Ecclesiastes 9:11, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.” But the question that you must always ask is, who controls time and chance? They are controlled by the Almighty God.
So, I pray for you, that you will excel in all you, do, that you will be a source of pride and joy to your families and nation, and that God will help you always.
By Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, San,
Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.