‘I Did Menial Jobs to Survive’


Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who delivered UNILAG’s 2016 Convocation Lecture, apart from charging the students to take their studies seriously, revealed that he did menial jobs to survive. Peace Obi who covered the event, reports

Despite the precious and appealing look of gold, it went through some refining processes to emerge with its irresistible look. This was one of the nuggets of wisdom the 49 convocation lecturer has left his listeners to digest. And bringing to the consciousness of the graduating students that for most successful people, there is always a little beginning. And for those who rode on the back of hard work to stardom, their success stories are never complete without reference to some of the decisions, steps and things they did in extraordinary way. And that such experiences when shared, especially among the youths, prepare and equip them for the challenges ahead.

Delivering the 49th Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) recently in Lagos, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, challenged the students to take their studies seriously while urging the graduating students to embrace the new phase in their lives with the determination to give their best to their world. Speaking on a theme, ‘Building a Successor-Generation: Reflections on Values and Knowledge in Nation Building’, the minister challenged the students to creatively explore opportunities around them. Stressing that students’ ability to see beyond the restrictive boundaries of their academic disciplines and socio-cultural background would be a sure path to greatness.

Sharing his experience, values and advice – a common practice in convocation lecture, the minister presented the students with realities of life, dislodging in the mind if his listeners the assumption that successful people possibly never had it tough or rough in life. Preparing graduands’ minds for the journey ahead, Fayemi told the audience that life may not always go as planned, he, however advised them to prepare to bend backwards and do what they might consider to be beneath them because of the bigger picture.

Revealing that he had in the past done some menial jobs including security guard, driving of taxi, among others to survive even as a graduate and post-graduate student in the United Kingdom, the minister said, “When you consider my resume today, you might see the prestigious organisations I have been privileged to work with. What you need to know however, is that as a UNILAG graduate and a post-graduate student in the United Kingdom, I have also driven taxis and worked as a security guard, amongst several other menial jobs I did in the past to survive.”

Challenging the graduating students on national development, the minister hinted that successful leaders start with identifying their purpose and passion and are committed to pursuing and fulfilling it. Encouraging them to learn to take advantage of opportunities and shun the fear of unknown, Fayemi disclosed that failure is overrated. “It is time to explore your mind, discover yourself, and give the best that is in you to your to your world. You have to learn the art of seizing the moment and trying new things. Never be afraid to put your passion to work and start something new. Trust me, failure is overrated. If you haven’t failed at something, that means you are not doing anything. Besides, if you don’t fail when your are young, when do you want to fail? When you are old and grey?”

Stressing the need for Nigerian youths to be given opportunity so as to express themselves, make their mistakes in a secured environment and learn from their mistakes, he however noted that the youths do not optimally take advantage of the opportunities where they exit. “One of the failings of our country is that we don’t give young people enough room to explore their creative abilities and make mistakes early. Equally as bad is the fact that young people don’t optimally take advantage of these opportunities where they exist. Universities as a microcosm of the larger society ought to be grounds for students to explore and make mistakes in a protected environment.”

According to Fayemi, for Nigeria to improve on the quality of its manpower and invariably its potential leaders, adequate attention must be paid to the universities, the breeding grounds for society’s elites and sites for knowledge production. “If we are to improve the quality of our country’s human capital and invariably have better national development outcomes, we have to pay attention to the factory that produces the most important segment of our work force that we expect to drive development in every sector, and which is the crop from which our future leaders would arise.

“It is therefore not misplaced for society to look to our universities to produce successive generations of elites that can fix our country, and help us achieve our strategic national development priorities.”

And calling on Nigerian youths to come off the entitlement mentality and take responsibility for their future, he implored, “Don’t think you are entitled to a job because of your parents’ influence or what they have. Don’t think things would be all rosy because you graduated from UNILAG with good grades.

“Be prepared for surprises and disappointments because life is bound to hand you a couple. The only guarantee you have in this life is what you do for yourself with the grace God bestowed on us all. The earlier you realise that no one owes us anything, the better for us, and the more prepared we would be to face life’s challenges. You owe it to the world to leave a lasting legacy – the world owes you nothing.”

The chairman of the convocation proceedings, retired Major-General Ike Nwachukwu in his earlier remarks said that it was high time the younger generation are given the opportunity to lead and serve the country. Identifying fear of unknown to be responsible for the tenacious grip to power by the older generation, he hinted, “little wonder we keep making the same mistakes, thus making our country go round in circles. The implication of not doing this is that we will be denying our society of fresh brilliant, innovative, modern, articulate ideas in academic, in public and corporate governance.”

Speaking further, Nwachukwu said that the younger generation must be willing to be mentored for effective leadership. “The time is now to make that transition from tenaciously holding unto power to identifying, mentoring, instilling well-trained, focused, motivated and capable young Nigerians to take Nigeria out the present tendency towards ethnic, religious intolerance, towards building a modern nation that we all should be proud of. The younger generation stepping up to take the mantle of must be prepared to be mentored.”

The Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Professor Rahmon Ade Bello, in his speech had noted that Nigeria is a great country with very high potential to be a world power, if the country can get its act right.