AHMED SULE: The Marginalised Nigerian Youth and the Curious Case of Femi Pedro

“Those that do not hear (the plights of the suffering masses) will one day feel (the wrath of the masses)”. #BeWise

AHMED SULE: The Marginalised Nigerian Youth and the Curious Case of Femi Pedro

By Ahmed Sule via BellaNaija



A couple of days ago, while talking to my sister, she asked me whether I had read an article written by Femi Pedro which was trending on social media. I hadn’t, but as we were speaking over the phone, I did a Google search and came across your article titled, “Buhari and the Curious Case of the Young Generation” on BellaNaija. After reading the article I decided to pen a response to you.
In the aftermath of the publication of your article, there has been a lot of debate about the contents of your letter with a number of people, especially those of the middle-class variety agreeing with your point of view. Since you are an influential Nigerian whose words carry a lot of weight and because your article is addressed to a very important but vulnerable segment of the Nigerian populace, it is important that the contents of the paper are critically examined. Since your article was addressed to young Nigerians via the public domain, I will also respond to your article via the public domain. In my opinion, your article is flawed not only logically, but it is also flawed morally and economically and in the next couple of pages, I will explain why. I trust that you will read what I have to say with an open mind.

In your epistle, which was written in response to the complaints by our youths about the lack of opportunities available to them, you suggest that youths have always played an important role in Nigeria. You argue that the same circumstances faced by the present crop of young Nigerians was faced by previous generations of young Nigerians, the only difference being that the present crop of Nigerian youths are arrogant, lazy, vain and lacking in ambition. To justify your argument, you cite your ability to OWN a bank along with some of your friends when you were all in your thirties. You also develop a “Hall of Fame” of past and current generation of Nigerians who achieved political, economic, industrial and artistic or creative success in their youth. You also advice young Nigerians to humble themselves, know their worth and eliminate distractions, which hinder them from seeing the big picture.

With all due respect Sir, your analysis is simplistic at best and vicious and dangerous at worst. It is written from a privileged narrative and the condescending tone of the article is nothing more than “youth-slamming.”

To support your assertion about the indolence of our youths, you appeal to your authority as a Nigerian elite who achieved wealth, fame and influence at an early age. By devoting the first three paragraphs of your article to the story behind the formation of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), you are telling the Nigerian youths that, “If I could OWN a bank, in my youth, why can’t you?” The fact that you OWNED a bank in your thirties is not a sufficient and necessary condition to conclude that young Nigerians are lazy and lacking in ambition.

You have developed a syllogism along the following lines:

Premise 1: I was successful at a young age.

Premise 2: Young Nigerians have not achieved what I achieved when I was their age.

Conclusion: Therefore, Nigerian youths are lazy and should work harder so that they can seize the moment.

Another flaw in your argument is you result to cherry picking to support your argument. In short your paper suffers from selection bias. You conveniently develop a “Hall of Fame” of Nigerians who excelled at young ages and use this as a basis to suggest that young Nigerians are lethargic. Names such as Fola Adeola, Linda Ikeji, Awolowo et al resonates with most Nigerians and informing your readers that they were all young when they achieved fame will bias your reader to your point of view. According to the 2006 census, there are around 50 million youths (within the 15-34 year age bracket). A sizeable number of these youths are near or below the breadline. It is therefore illogical to select a sample of successful youths and reach a conclusion about the whole population of young Nigerians especially when the sample is not representative of the total population.

Another omission in your analysis is the circumstances of Nigeria during the period before our independence in 1960. You state, “Since pre-independence, the Nigerian youth have played a pivotal role in nation-building and economic development.”- So far so good. But what you fail to point out is when the colonialists were in power, they occupied the top positions in the country. Post independence, when the colonialists left the country, the top layer was vacant and the younger generation of Nigerians who were educated at the time were in prime position to take over. Contrast that with today where there is an ever-increasing number of youths at the bottom of the ladder who are unable to climb up because the top is occupied by the older generation. This is the reason for the youth’s grievance. You may then argue, “But in my time, there was an older generation of people at the top, yet we broke through the glass ceiling.” This is true, but you need to bear in mind that the circumstance of 20 and 30 years ago is also different from today. In  1980 and 1990, Nigeria’s population was 73.6 million and 95.6 million respectively, however as at today the total population is around 173 million. If you extrapolate the youth population in these different eras, you will then begin to appreciate that the conditions of yesterday are not the same as today.

Mr. Pedro, you also fail to acknowledge the responsibility of the older generation in creating the mess that our youths face today. Nigeria is in its present state due to the corruption and greed of the past generation who mortgaged the future of the young generation in order to line their pockets. Without going into names, if you search your “Hall of Fame,” you will notice that some of the people on that list are responsible for ruining the lives of the very young Nigerians you are advising.

In your analysis, you completely ignore the impact of social exclusion on our youths. You note, “Most of us who made an impact in our early thirties came from modest means. We were not rich, and we did not have any noteworthy inheritance. Nobody did us any favours.” Really? Lets go back to the genesis of the formation of the bank that you OWNED. It is possible that most of your co-investors were not born with silver spoons, but it is obvious that at the time when the bank was formed, you were all accomplished middle class gentlemen. For instance, prior to that historic meeting at “Fola’s crib”, you all had proven track records. Bode Agusto had worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Citibank; you had worked for Central Bank of Nigeria and First City Merchant Bank; Fola Adeola had cut his teeth with D.O. Dafinone and Deloitte. Moreover, you are a scion of the renowned Pedro family and have a surname, which is recognisable throughout Lagos. Your double barrel foreign qualification (achieved at a time when few Nigerians could boast of a foreign degree) in addition to your closeness to Otunba Subomi Balogun put you in good social standing to enable you wine and dine at the table with like-minded people to formulate a remarkable idea like OWNING a bank. Would you have been able to wine and dine with your co-investors if you came from a poor family, had to delay working in a first tier corporate entity after your graduation because you had to take care of your five siblings while living in a one bedroom flat only to find yourself unemployed at the age of 33?

So Sir, in summary, your article is logically flawed as it is based on cherry picking, sweeping generalisations, syllogism, red herrings and false dilemma.

Your thinking is also flawed on moral grounds. By singling out the Nigerian youth, you are assaulting acerbically a vulnerable segment of Nigerian society that is defenceless against your assault. You fail to synthesis your top-down elitist approach with a more humane bottom-up analysis and as a result, your pen or should I say keystrokes has left young Nigerians dehumanised and bloodied on the Jericho road of life. Admittedly, you are a man of integrity, however, I find it strange that you have not used your position of influence to publicly speak truth to power. Admittedly, I am not privy to your conversations with people in the corridors of power and there is a possibility that you sometimes tell them some home truths, but wouldn’t it be more beneficial to society if you speak truth to the “classes” publicly with the same zeal that you have spoken “truth” to the masses publicly? You have also failed to speak truth publicly to your friends in the financial sector. If you carry out an in-depth analysis of the working practices of the many banks that dot the country, you will come to the realisation that some of these institutions are committing crimes against humanity. Some young Nigerians who work in the financial sectors have battle scars to show. Some are given unrealistic, unreasonable and unattainable deposit targets to meet, failure of which will result in termination of appointments; some are encouraged to engage in corporate prostitution by selling their bodies for deposits; some are stripped of all form of their humanity by narcissistic executives; married and pregnant women are often discriminated against; some have been subjected to novel forms of sackings such as “e-sacking”, “exam sacking’” and “verbal sacking.” Perhaps you should channel your energy to speak to your friends and ex-colleagues to make banks more humane for the younger generation.

Earlier on, I mentioned that your article was simplistic at best and vicious and dangerous at worst. The reason why I described it as dangerous is partly because of your mentoring involvement. You say, “I have spent a lot of time mentoring, observing and interacting with young Nigerians.” My concern is that if your 1,844-word essay is a reflection of your views about poor Nigerians in general and the marginalised young Nigerians in particular then such Darwinian elitist thinking is probably being passed down to the next generation of Nigerian leaders being mentored. Is Nigeria at risk of breeding a new generation of elites that have contempt for what Cardinal Mahony calls the last, the least, the littlest?

Your analysis of the Nigerian youth bears all the hallmarks of the bootstrap philosophy, which suggests that for people to succeed in life, they have to do it by their own effort i.e. lift themselves up by their own bootstrap. In short, the unfortunate is to be blamed for his misfortune. It is the same sentiment expressed by Auma Obama, sister to President Obama who once said, “Poverty is not an excuse for failure. Do something.” The problem with this line of thinking is that it fails to factor the structural causes preventing individuals from realising their true potential. Martin Luther King eloquently denounced this Darwinian philosophy when he said, “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Nigerian politicians and oligarchs have taken the spoils of the land leaving little or nothing for our helpless youths thereby rendering them bootless.

In the past couple of pages, I addressed the logical and moral flaws of your article. In this section, I will discuss the economic flaws of your analysis of young Nigerians. Otunba, I know that you are an economist par excellence. You have a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from University of Wisconsin–Superior and a Master’s degree in Economics from Wichita State University; you worked as an economist at the Central Bank and you are a member of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Bankers, London. But with all due respect Sir, based on the contents of your paper, your thinking is out of tune with current economic thinking. You analyse the plight of the Nigerian youth from the narrow prism of Nigeria, even though the problem is a global phenomenon. While economists and policy makers around the world are banging their heads to understand and find solutions to global youth unemployment, you are simplifying Nigeria’s youth unemployment challenges to discussions about Don Jazzy, Facebook and six young men who OWNED a bank.

I strongly recommend you read the 2015 baseline report prepared by the World Bank and the International Labor Organization titled, “Toward Solutions for Youth Employment.” According to the report, we are witnessing the largest concentration of youths in human history with about 1.8 billon young people around the world. Of this number, 85% live in emerging economies like Nigeria. Almost a third of young people around the world are either not in employment, education or training. The younger generation who you debase, account for approximately 40% of the global unemployment and are four times more likely to be unemployed than the older generation. At the moment, the situation shows no sign of improving as nearly a billion additional young people are expected to join the global workforce in the next decade even though only 40% are expected to join jobs that currently exists. Moving back to Nigeria, our youths suffer from the same plight as their global counterparts. According to McKinsey, youth unemployment in Nigeria is around 50% while the Central Bank Of Nigeria suggests the rate to be 80%. Sir, I hope you can see from these grim statistics that the current situation of youths in Nigeria and youths around the world is tragic.

You fail to consider the interplay between technology and youth unemployment. Automation has eradicated jobs that were available when you began your banking career. As a consequence, there are fewer jobs available in an era of increasing young people. I am sure you were taught in Economics 101 that a limited supply of a good, combined with a high demand for that good, results in a mismatch between the desired supply and demand equilibrium. If you can appreciate this most basic of economic principles, why can’t you appreciate the plight of young Nigerians who have to compete for jobs in an era of fewer jobs as evidenced by the sixteen people who died in stampedes around the country as 6.5 million young Nigerians were seeking employment for the 4,000 vacant positions in the Nigeria Immigration Service? You might want to rebut, “The government and private sector can’t create all these jobs, and so it is up to the youths to set up their own businesses.” The flaw with this thinking is that not every youth in Nigeria is destined to be an entrepreneur just like every Nigerian can’t be a lawyer, doctor, banker or blogger.

You fail to properly stratify the constituents of the younger generation. Most of the people you mentioned in your article achieved their success between their mid- twenties and mid thirties. Labour economics tell us that adults within the age bracket of 25 to 34 display the highest level of entrepreneurship globally. That is partly because at that age one is not too inexperienced or one is not too old to take risks. In Nigeria, the 25-34 year age bracket constitutes 15.4% of the total population compared to 15- 24year age bracket, which is 20.17% of the total population. You also fail to discuss the difficulty entrepreneurial youths have in obtaining credit facilities from financial institutions. Some of them do not have sufficient collateral to obtain loans while others are not well connected to solicit the help of guarantors with deep pockets.

You fail to appreciate the impact of unemployment on the younger generation. Could this be because you never had an unemployment gap on your CV? I understand that you did your undergraduate studies between 1976 and 1978 and started your postgraduate degree in 1979. Within a year of graduating from Wichita State University in 1981, you joined the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1982 where you worked till 1988. 1988 was a critical year for you as you left the CBN for First City Merchant Bank and in the same year you linked up with five other gentlemen at “Fola’s residence” to birth GTB. Perhaps, if your circumstances were similar to the average Nigerian youth today, you would appreciate that unemployment at a young age can negatively affect future earnings; Perhaps, if your circumstances were similar to the average Nigerian youth today, you would appreciate that unemployment at a young age can lead to social exclusion; Perhaps, if your circumstances were similar to the average Nigerian youth today, you would appreciate that unemployment at a young age can lead to further joblessness; Perhaps, if your circumstances were similar to the average Nigerian youth today, you would appreciate that unemployment at a young age can affect your ability to have your own family; Perhaps, if your circumstances were similar to the average Nigerian youth today, you would appreciate that unemployment at a young age can lead to physical and mental health challenges.

Sir, you need to realise that everybody cannot be a Gbolly Osibodu, Fola Adeola or Femi Pedro. For every Gbolly Osibodu, there are millions of young Nigerians wallowing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; For every Fola Adeola, there are millions of young Nigerians who have nothing to live for; For every Femi Pedro experiencing the Nigerian dream, there are millions of young Nigerians experiencing the Nigerian nightmare.

Your direct crusade against young Nigerians is also an indirect crusade against young women. How? Majority of young Nigerians are women who make up 31.3% of the total population compared to young men that make up 27.8% of the population. All the statistics that I referenced earlier are average figures for the youth population. If we are to break the numbers into gender components, you will see that young women are hardest hit by the problems confronting the youths. For instance, relative to their male counterparts, women are more likely not to be in education, employment or training, they are more likely to be socially excluded, more likely to be working in vulnerable employment and more likely to be discriminated against at work.

I would like to address your comments regarding youth distraction. You write, “Young Nigerians have to eliminate distractions. Do not get carried away by the allure of good living, bling, fame and fortune…. By all accounts, social media is obviously the biggest distraction. It is a powerful tool, but can also derail you from focusing on the bigger picture.” Otunba, using social media and focusing on the bigger picture are not mutually exclusive. It shouldn’t be either/or; it is both/and. Permit me to ask you a question. Who is more dangerous to Nigeria? – A young Nigerian logging on to Twitter to express her opinion or an old Nigerian who siphons $6 billion to her pocket? A young Nigerian who logs on to Facebook to keep in touch with friends or an old Nigerian bank CEO who embezzles $1.2 billion of depositors money? A young Nigerian who shares her pictures with her friends on Instagram or an old Nigerian who makes a false declaration of his assets? Sir, you are preaching to the wrong generation.

Before I conclude, I would like to advice you to come off you high horse and see things from the perspective of the younger generation. I must admit that you are not alone in your thinking as your sentiments are supported by a cross section of the so-called Nigerian middle class. It is in the interest of the so-called Nigerian middle class to be worried about the marginalisation of the Nigerian youth. A friend of mine often says, “Those that do not hear will one day feel,” while Martin Luther King wrote from a Birmingham jail, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.” Nigeria has developed a two tier parallel system comprising of two kinds of people – the “haves” and the “have nots.” The “haves” live in their gated communities protected from the “have-nots” who are confined to the ghettos. Oppression has become the name of the game with the 1% oppressing the 99%. The boss oppresses the subordinate; the clergy oppresses the laity; the landlord oppresses the tenant; the lender oppresses the borrower; the musician oppresses the fans, the governor oppresses the governed and the richer older generation oppresses the poorer younger generation. The so-called Nigerian middle class may think they are immune from the sufferings of the “Nigerian underclass” especially when looking through the safe confine of their gated communities. But how long can this last before the underclass begin to leave the ghettos and slums to knock on the doors of these gated communities demanding their share of the national cake? After all, revolutions are usually started by the younger generation.

Finally, in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the protagonist Benjamin Button played by Brad Pitt suffers from a condition in which he ages backwards. At birth, he has the appearance of an old man, but as the days and years go by, he becomes younger. When he is 50 years old, he looks like a twenty year old. It might be time for the older generation of Nigerians (of which I am a part of) to age backwards and live as a young person in today’s Nigeria. I am confident that by the time they see themselves sitting for an entrance exam with 80,000 other candidate vying for ten vacancies; by the time they submit thousands of CVs only to receive an email reading, “We regret to inform you that your application was unsuccessful; by the time they apply for a bank loan and are told to produce their mothers birth certificate; by the time they are told to sleep with one Chief in order to generate deposits for their employer; by the time they hear rich old Nigerians tell them that they are lazy; by the time they see that they have no money in their pockets to pay for the medical expenses of their dying mother; by the time they see themselves socially excluded; by the time they see themselves sleeping in a cockroach infested room – then they will understand that it is simplistic, heartless and immoral to call the young generation indolent, arrogant and vain.
Photo Credit: © Kadettmann | Dreamstime.com

About Ahmed Sule
The author is a middle-aged Nigerian who was once a youth. He can be reached via the Twitter Handle: @Alatenumo

FEMI PEDRO: Buhari and the Curious Case of the Young Generation

“These times are HARD. It is either we go hard or we go home ( wherever that is)” – Anonymous. #BeWise

Hello readers, this piece was published on the 10th of October, 2015 and it went viral on social media.

A rejoinder was published yesterday. I promise to also publish the rejoinder tomorrow morning.

I want us to learn from the two authors’ point of view.

“It isn’t about who is wrong but what is wrong”. #BeWise


Femi Pedro: Buhari and the Curious Case of the Young Generation

By Femi Pedro via BellaNaija


Sometime in 1988, I received a call from a good friend about an interesting investment opportunity with a few colleagues. After a series of meetings, it became very clear to me that we were about to embark on an audacious but incredibly special journey, and I was excited about the prospect of being a part of such a project. For almost 2 years, I worked alongside the likes of Akin Akintoye, Fola Adeola, Tayo Aderinokun (of blessed memory), Gbolly Osibodu, Bode Agusto and a few others on this investment project. As of 1988 when we began the journey, Fola was 34, Tayo was 33, Gbolly was 33, Bode was 33, Akin was 35 and I was 33. The objective: To own a BANK.

It was a bold objective considering our respective ages at the time, but certainly not an impossible task in our eyes. So we began to hold countless meetings at Fola’s residence in 1988, until we eventually shifted base to Tayo’s First Marina Trust office in Victoria Island. By late 1989, we were ready to put in our bank application at CBN, along with the required minimum capital. This effort was spearheaded by Fola and Tayo (the two brains behind the entire operation), and supported by about 40 persons (including myself), most of whom were in their early 30s and working for different organizations at the time. The end product? We formed arguably one of the finest financial institutions Nigeria has ever seen- Guaranty Trust Bank (known as GT Bank today). The bank was licensed on the 1st of August, 1990 and we commenced banking operations later that year. A group of young boys in their early/mid 30s OWNED a bank! We simply dreamt big, and turned this dream into reality.

I am taking the liberty to reflect on this chapter of my personal history against the backdrop of some of the criticism about the ages of some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees. The argument being brandished about is that by nominating the likes of Chief Audu Ogbeh and Alhaji Ibrahim, Usman Jubril as ministers, our President is somehow blocking the destinies of younger Nigerians by preventing them from occupying such positions. People are quick to reference Yakubu Gowon and Murtala Mohammed as being relatively young when they ascended to power, and they argue that the same opportunities that young people had in the past are no longer available today. They also argue that around the same time we were forming GT Bank in the late eighties, there were also a number successful young entrepreneurs who distinguished themselves as well – Bola Tinubu (Treasurer at Mobil Oil), Gbade Ojora (ED Mobil Oil), Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank), Erastus Akingbola (Intercontinental), Dele Momodu (Publishing), Tony Elumelu (Standard Trust), Liyel Imoke (Politics), O’tega Emerhor (Standard Alliance Insurance), Aig Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe (Access) and Atedo Peterside (IBTC) are some of the noteworthy youngsters who made an impact in various fields in Nigeria at the time.

Perhaps, at play is the venting of some on-going frustrations by the younger generation today, but it is important to put things into proper perspective. Since pre-independence, the Nigerian youth have played a pivotal role in nation-building and economic development. The vast majority of the founding fathers that led the struggle for our independence were relatively young. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was 37, Akintola was 36, Ahmadu Bello was 36, Balewa was 34 and Enahoro was 27 when they led the struggle for independence after the death of Sir Herbert Macaulay. Only Nnamdi Azikiwe was over 40 (he was about 42 at the time). Indeed, even the post-independence military hierarchy was fueled by the active participation of young persons in nation-building at critical periods of our nation’s history. The first coup in 1966 was led by a 29 year-old Nzeogwu and countered by the likes of T.Y. Danjuma, Shehu Musa Yar’adua and a few others, all in their 20s. The subsequent coup brought a 32 year-old Yakubu Gowon into power. Many of the military administrators who governed the states under successive military governments (including our current president, Muhammadu Buhari) were in their 30s. Similarly, the major beneficiaries of Nigerian indigenization policies in the early 70s were young private sector entrepreneurs. The likes of Subomi Balogun, Oladele Olasore, Sam Asabia blazed the trails in banking at relatively young ages, while super civil servants such as Allison Ayida, Phillips Asiodu, Ahmed Joda, Ime Ebong, Ibrahim Damcida etc held forth in public administration in their early 30s. This trend of young people playing active roles in nation building and economic activities continued well into my own generation in the 1980s and 90s, so it is not difficult to understand how we were able to muster the courage and determination to forming a bank at the time.

I have spent a lot of time mentoring, observing and interacting with young Nigerians. Today’s youth are no different from those of my generation about 30 years ago. They are faced with the same pressures, frustrations, uncertainties and life vicissitudes that we faced in our late twenties and early thirties. However, the marked difference is how young Nigerians apply themselves today. Most of us who made an impact in our early thirties came from modest means. We were not rich, and we did not have any noteworthy inheritance. Nobody did us any favours, and the older generation did not give us a pass or a nudge in the right direction. In fact, the military administrations at the time made it extremely difficult for us to participate optimally in business, governance and politics. We did not have social media, and there was no technology to aide our goals. We were simply big dreamers determined to make a difference. We were highly enlightened and career-oriented, so we were able to force our way through the door by working extremely hard. What some of the proponents of the argument against the older ministerial nominees, (and perhaps the older generation currently dominating the political and economic landscape) also fail to realize or remember is that even in my early thirties, we also had very established and older industrialists like MKO Abiola, Sam Asabia, Gamaliel Onosode etc, who all operated during our time. We respected them, but neither felt overwhelmed by their success, nor daunted by the prospects of climbing up the ladder. We simply forged ahead with our plans and damned the consequences. The point is nobody cleared the way for us back then, so young Nigerians today should not expect that anyone would clear the way for them either.

So what exactly needs to change amongst young Nigerians today? First, young Nigerians have to humble themselves. You have to be willing to learn the ropes and hone your craft. Around the age of 27, I left the relative comfort of a steady career at CBN to learn under the tutelage of Otunba Subomi Balogun, the visionary and pioneer behind FCMB. Working as Otunba Subomi Balogun’s executive assistant was an experience of a lifetime. He was (and still is) a well-organized and thorough individual. He strongly promoted excellence and perfection, and did not condone indolence, laziness or poor quality work. He was also an impeccable dresser, always elegantly attired in all-white traditional wear or perfectly tailored quality suits. I picked up these virtues and adopted his style of leadership and management in my future endeavors. I was opportune to travel with him to attend corporate and other board meetings. I gained valuable and practical experiences in corporate board management and boardroom politics, which became useful tools later in my career.

Secondly, you must know your worth. Do not settle for less, and do not allow yourselves to be used by selfish political interests. Challenge the status-quo. Challenge the establishment. The youth make up a sizeable portion of the Nigerian populace. By extension, they have the loudest voices and the biggest potential. Alan Moore, a prominent British author opined that “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people”. This is especially true with regards to young Nigerians. You are more powerful than you give yourselves credit for. Our current president was victorious in large part due to the votes cast by young Nigerians, and you must continue to remind yourselves of this fact, because 2019 is already fast approaching.

Thirdly, and crucially, young Nigerians have to eliminate distractions. Do not get carried away by the allure of good living, bling, fame and fortune. Stay on the straight-and-narrow path. Distractions are the proverbial pot-holes; they slow you down from reaching your destination and damage your wheels in the process. By all accounts, social media is obviously the biggest distraction. It is a powerful tool, but can also derail you from focusing on the bigger picture. The most discerning amongst you will know how to navigate social media without hindering your ability to make significant inroads in the economic and political fabric of Nigeria. I have been impressed with what the likes of Linda Ikeji, BellaNaija, Don Jazzy, TY Bello, Jimi Mohammed, Banke Meshida-Lawal and other young Nigerians have been able to accomplish at such a young age, and it should serve as an inspiration to other young Nigerians in various fields as well.

Finally, take advantage of opportunities, no matter how small or inconsequential they may be at the time. Expect no helping hands. And when these opportunities present themselves, grab what you can. During our cabinet meetings, my boss and mentor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu always quipped that “Power is never served a-la-carte”. This is indeed true in the context of where young Nigerians currently are, and where they need to be.

Our nation is at a critical crossroads. The age bracket between 18-35 years constitutes the majority of our working population group, and naturally, they should be the most productive and active segment of our country’s economic activity and nation-building efforts. Unfortunately, the youth of today are indolent, unemployed and generally incapacitated. Some are unable to make ends meet, and have not shown any sustained interest in holding leadership position. They abstain from holding governance positions at the local, state and national levels. Ironically and confusingly, they allow themselves to be used as street (and very recently, internet/online) thugs, miscreants and protesters to pursue the selfish agendas of older politicians.
Despite all of this, I have a lot of faith in the youth of today, but young Nigerians need to start having faith in themselves as well. You need to wake up from your slumber, and pilot the much-needed change process urgently. You must be willing to side-step all the pit-fall distractions and refocus your collective mindsets. You have to be guided by a desire to excel, and you must continue to push yourselves to grow in a tough, competitive and cut-throat environment that still exists today. Who knows? With a bit of conviction, commitment and guile, you may be able to produce a young, vibrant and dynamic Nigerian as our President much sooner than you think!

Otunba Femi Pedro is a Banker and an Economist. He is a former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, and the former Managing Director of First Atlantic Bank (FinBank) Plc. He can be reached via the Twitter Handle: @femipedro




My son, do not be over eager …

To be a man, to grow old …

With it comes hardship untold …

With age, worries get bigger …

Because as you conquer a decade …

Another will rise to take its place …

As you leave a demon’s place …

Seven will rise to make a blockade …

So my son, be patient …

Learn to learn what you can …

It is no small task to be a man …

It is better not to sin than to repent …

So be wise …

Learn, prepare and be ready …

Engage in meaningful enterprise …

For with those beards come great responsibility …

For with those grey hair come greater responsibility …

For with those children come the greatest responsibility. #BeWise



We all know what happens …

When a woman is torn by force …

She will become the talk of the town …

The caution every woman must take .

We all know what happens …

When a woman is being doubled …

Out of wedlock …

She’s called ‘ashewo’ …

A disgrace by those who know her and those who don’t …

She will become …

The caution every woman must take .

But what will become of her …

Who was forced open …

Who was then doubled …

But refused to bury her maternal cry …

And becomes a mother …

What will people say of her?

What caution would every woman take?

What life will she live in life?

Even her tears cannot mend her tear!



Your yesterday is a story …

That can only be told with heavy words ..

Your present is a path less travelled by ..

Living distractedly …

Schizophrenia, your birthright …

Your future is a dance of cycles …

Of blurry uncertainties …

Your creativity, your doom …

Your boom …

Give me your loneliness …

Let me acquaint you with stars …

To show your heroic propensity …

But your race is yours to run …

I will only be on the sidelines …

Prodding you on.




Now the semester is done and exams knock ..
I dread the size of your course work ..
But I will bank on your good luck ..

RESPONSE: “I swear to God, I haven’t read!”

But you were there in every class ..
And all your tests, you aced en masse ..
You never had a meagre pass ..

RESPONSE: “I freestyled all. I did not read!”

You spend days locked in “Big LT” ..
And hold night rounds at “Small LT” ..
You rarely leave the school library ..
What were you doing there?

RESPONSE: “I went to sleep, I could not read!”

Your books rival Senate building in height ..
And your handouts make others gasp in fright ..
Your jottings nearly blur one’s sight ..

RESPONSE: “They are all untouched sheets, I’m yet to read!”

You “pammed” A’s in MTS 315 ..
And made light work of MTS 415 ..
The other ones you devoured raw ..

RESPONSE: “Must be sheer luck. I did not read!”

My friend, one day I pray you’ll tell ..
How you don’t read and pass so well ..

RESPONSE: “I know it sounds like I mislead. I can’t explain. I do not read!”

You do not read? How then do you pass?

*The average FUTA student will claim they haven’t read anything, no matter how hard or how long they have.




The sudden malaria I feel from within ..
Is innocent of a female anopheles ..
For when school pressure volunteers to be the mosquito ..
Stress wilfully becomes the disease ..
That brings this kind of bodily fever.

Anxiety is the internal volcano ..
That has chosen this moment to erupt ..
Why else do I feel an internal combustion ..
That betrays my inner calm ..
How words printed on white paper ..
Besiege my memory ..
Threatening my “igi iwe” ..
To bring forth “eso odo” .

This is the moment and place ..
Where recollection reigns supreme ..
And knowledge is only titular ..
Where futures may or may not depend ..
On retrieved memories ..
But success will surely come up short ..
In the absence of recollection ..
It has not begun and I am tired already .
The next few hours feel like a marathon
That should explain why my nose is running!


Time sits still for a while ..
And suddenly becomes insufficient ..
If the pen was truly mightier than the sword ..
My inner Genghis Khan should do this writing ..
Memory should bear his armour ..
And recollection should give him counsel ..
In this war that is fought mainly on papers ..
Where mighty ones often falter ..
And various GPs meet their maker.

Get or be gotten ..
Let exam sheets recite the Lord’s Prayer ..
Hallowed be my scores ..
My will be done on these sheets ..
These questions lead me to temptation
But I lead them back ..
To their cremation ..
Deliver me from E-portal ..
For if ink is blood ..
I have formed an alliance with my pen(cil) ..
I am guilty of bloodshed.

Exam is labour period ..
Memory is a midwife ..
The fifth alphabet (E) is closest to a stillbirth ..
An “F” is the ultimate miscarriage ..
That screams fervently in my face ..
That if I still want something out of this .
I will have to do it again!



All thanks, glory and adoration be to GOD Almighty.


It is on this note that I appreciate everyone, who had communicated to me through phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts/comments, Whatsapp messages, Twitter mentions, Instagram likes/comments, BBM messages, Skype calls, etc, and above all, the seen and unseen prayers, for emerging as the winner of the MTN FOOTBALL SCHOLAR MVP Award, Akure edition, may GOD reward you all abundantly.

Sunday, August 2, 2015, will forever remain an indelible memory that will go with me to my grave. It started like every other day. Well, to be honest, it didn’t start like every other day. It started like the most important day of my football career till date. I remember the final of the Amuwo Odofin Housing Estate under-17 championship, it still remains my most tensed up football date. I ended up scoring a hat-trick for my zone, B-Zone, to lift the trophy. It was a memorable day for a young lad like me. On the 2nd of August, 2015, I kept on using the words of the legendary Italian maestro, Andrea Pirlo, to warm my heart. He said:

“I spent the morning of July 6, 2006 (the day Italy lifted the world cup in Germany) busy playing my Play Station game. In the evening, I went out to win the World Cup in Berlin. I don’t allow pressure get to me.”
That’s coolness personified!

Days before the #FUTAfc vs #MTNFootballScholarStars match, I kept on repeating Pirlo’s words to myself. On the day of the match, I was pumped up for the game. It turned out to be the easiest of games for me. The day preceeding the match, I, with some of my team mates, watched the MTN Stars training session right there at the FUTA Sports Complex. I must confess, a lot of my team mates were intimidated by the MTN Stars. They were well kit with scintillating footwork being displayed, well fed with bulging 6-packs.That made my job as the captain of my team more difficult. Raising the belief level of my team mates was more difficult than the match itself!

As a team, we had lost 2 consecutive home games in less than 6 weeks, having gone 6 years without losing a single match at home! Our home (the FUTA Sports Complex), which was a fortress, where we hunted teams with regular ruthlessness was fast becoming our own hunting ground, where we got slaughtered at will. That was unacceptable. The next opponent had to pay the price. Unfortunately for us, the next opponent turned out to be the MTN Stars. A team that was formed through excellent scouting network all over Nigeria. The best young talented footballers were selected. They were given an opportunity to combine football with academics, hence the appellation “MTN Football Scholar”. They were flown abroad for intensive training sessions. Upon their return to Nigeria, MTN set them out on a tour of the country to showcase what they’ve acquired after going through the MTN Football Scholar initiative. These were young lads who dream, eat, breathe and play football. It was on this basis, that a lot of apprehension and fear where entrenched in the hearts of some teammates and a lot of our fans alike. It was simply a mission impossible!

About 2 weeks before the match, I became “boot-less”. My soccer boot got messed up beyond repair. I was stark broke. Acquiring a boot was a herculean task for me. For the first time in 7 years, I became a footballer without a soccer boot! With all sense of humility and gratitude to GOD, I transformed from a chap who gave people soccer kits, to a chap without a soccer boot!

I rallied round, raised funds, sent it to a very close friend of mine in Lagos to help me buy a boot, as I couldn’t afford the boots available in Akure. I pleaded with this good friend of mine, I explained the reason I had to send the last dime on me to him and how important the match against the MTN Stars could be. That turned out to be the worst decision I took this year. Both the soccer boot and my money went into thin air. Till today, I have neither gotten my boot nor my money! I called him severally, he refused to pick my calls. I sent him text messages, no response. I buzzed him via BBM, he would read and won’t reply.  That was a chap I called my “friend”. The Friday before the match, I sent him a short sms, telling him how he “betrayed” my friendship. I had to play the biggest match of my career in borrowed boot! Since I won the MVP, he has been too ashamed to congratulate me. I won laurels. I lost a bad friend. Good deal if you ask me.

Three days before the match, I was summoned to my department, my long running travails with both the school management and my department has been well documented, I thought I was in for some reprimanding. Nothing scares me any more, especially when it comes to the relationship between Salami Ismail Oyewale, Academics and Activism.

The departmental secretary said:

“Salami o ti finali graduate – Salami, you’ve finally graduated”.

I wasn’t surprised. I was only grateful to GOD. I’ve been through a lot just to graduate. I was relieved. This story is surely for another day. Keep a date with me folks.

A summary of my life goes thus:

“At 7am on Friday, July 31, 2015, we held a protest in Akure against heavy duty vehicles (tankers, trucks etc) plying major routes between 7am – 6pm, as the increasing rate of death of Nigerian students and youths caused by accidents involving heavy duty vehicles was becoming alarming.

By 3pm same day, I was summoned by the department. I thought it was because of the protest. Only to find out it was to be informed “I have finally graduated”.

On, Sunday, August 2, 2015, I was playing the biggest football match of my career! ”

That’s how I roll!


The match turned out to be peanuts. The MTN chaps were poor. I will attribute that to jet lag and fatigue for they had played two matches in three days in different parts of Nigeria (Abuja and Enugu). Travelling down to Akure for their third match in five days was too much to ask of the young bodies of the MTN Stars. All the travelling was by road, the Nigerian road. I knew we had a chance. We started the match on the front foot. Bouyed by the large turnout of our fans, our tempo was higher, we played the hungrier football, aggressive in tackling, slick in passing, first to all loose balls. Inside the first 10 minutes of the game, we were a goal ahead, albeit via the penalty spot. I received a pass from our winger. Wiggled past a defender, spotted the run of a charging MTN Stars defender from behind, I paused and invited his challenge from behind, he clumsily clattered into me from behind. I needed no second invitation, I went to the ground in the box. The lineman and the referee did the rest. I unselfishly left the penalty kick to a team mate. He dispatched it into the bottom corner, sending the MTN goalkeeper the wrong way. The FUTA Sports Complex erupted into loud cheers like a volcano. Our fans were ecstatic. Wild celebrations and jubilation filled the air.

At the restart, we continued our high tempo pressing. Forced them into many basic errors. We got very close to scoring our second. After a neat interplay of passes. I sprayed the ball wide to our right winger. He cut in unto his left foot, struck the ball low and powerful. The MTN goalkeeper, despite being at full stretch, was well beaten. The ball struck the upright post and fell kindly to our left winger right there in the six-yard box. How he miscued  his shot still beats my imagination. He slammed the ball into the ground, thus missing the target with the goal post at his mercy. I almost broke down in tears. We all couldn’t believe it!

As the game wore on, the MTN Stars settled in, and they started dictating proceedings. We were left playing on the back foot. Chances came both sides. With half time beckoning, the pace of the game slowed down considerably. Upon resumption of hostilities in the second half, the MTN Stars picked up momentum. They were in charge for large spells. The FUTA FC team was contended with containing them. The fans were baying for more blood but our feet were giving in. Tiredness was visible on all our faces. With about two minutes to go, our defence was breached. A mix up by the goalkeeper allowed their striker a free sight at goal. He grabbed it with both hands. The score was level. FUTA FC 1 – MTN STARS 1. The final whistle was blown to much fanfare.
We were happy we didn’t lose at home. The MTN STARS were happy they got a draw. It was a win-win scenario for both sides.

While we were waiting for the presentation of the #MVP award, IYANYA thrilled us all with his musical prowess. To be honest, I already had my choice for the MVP. To my utmost surprise, my name was reeled out as the winner. I was happy and relieved. The team was in a joyous mood. The celebration was akin to us winning a trophy!

Thank you MTN Nigeria for the “MTN FOOTBALL SCHOLAR” initiative. We appreciate you for rewarding talented and gifted young Nigerian students.

Special thanks to the FUTA University Management for providing the necessary facilities and equipments for the display of our talents.

I will be ungrateful if I don’t commend the efforts of the Director, FUTA Sports Unit, Coach Ajibua Micheal Alayode and the entire coaches and staff of the FUTA Sports Unit, in making the FUTA team a viable one.

My unreserved appreciation goes out to the entire FUTA FC players. You all are my real MVP’s.

Europe is our next stop folks!  INSHA ALLAH



Today’s piece is a refresher of what life was back in the 90’s …

I’m lucky I was fortunate to belong to thise cadre of kids who had such childhood memories …

Importantly, if you don’t know and/or use any of the following items, then I was there at your naming ceremony and I ate your naming ceremony meal with ease. And you shouldn’t be discussing nigerian politics, yet … LOL

Well, I was intentionally messing around with the “new age/technology” kids. Those that grew up watching sound city/Afmag/Super sports etc …

I used them all and I’m still alive.
God, thanks a lot for the sustenance …


Have you seen this combination before?

Or better still did you use it back then when NITEL was fully operational? 


Imagine the return of NITEL?

At a tender age, I didn’t know what this card was used for but older folks told me it was for the phone booth. Always saw people call at the booths but was too young and ignorant to observe …

Those phone booths back then were more like a “no-go area” for the kids. I usually wondered how my dad contacted his relatives in Ibadan and Ilorin back then. I was a little chap then …

As the years went bye, I discovered it was a credit card (recharge card) used for making calls back then at telephone booth provided by NITEL in 1990s …

My dad and uncles had it, me? Who do I want to call with it?

Well the call card was sacred at that time. We could only look but never touch …

I know NITEL but then we didn’t have a telephone at home, for the home phone (landlines), call card wasn’t required, there’s a way you subscribe to NITEL, you pay monthly, it operates more like NEPA (I mean PHCN) billing system.

The call card is not for landlines at home, it’s actually used at NITEL phone booth state. Can you believe that? Not all states in Nigeria had the NITEL Phone booths. LOL!!!

Those days ehn, it was only on Sundays we do visit the phone booth to make call!! The queue there beats the BVN queue hands down!

I was so young then but I remember following the family (it’s more like a family outing then. lol) to Lagos Island (eko) where the booth was, we were staying at Jakande estate, Mile 2! All they did then was ‘Oya, talk to your aunty’ and before I said “hello” they’ll collect it and say “e yen na ti to. O ti ma n so’ro ju ” (that’s enough. You talk too much)! …

Lolzzzz… Those good old days when NITEL had total and absolute monopoly of the telecommunications industry …

You either buy this or you use NIPOST to send letters, which could take months to deliver …

Then, the child became a boy. I got admitted to the prestigious Federal Government College, Ogbomoso. NITEL phone booth was in place, only one booth, situated close to the security post at the gate. My FEGCO goons will remember this vividly. The nunber one item on my provision list was “NITEL Call Card”. I remember getting to school only to realise that the phone booth at school was dysfunctional! *tears

Well, the faulty phone booth was later fixed and I could make use of my NITEL Call card without the supervision of my elder ones. I thought I had arrived, only to find out that the “seniors” in the hostel were devil-reincarnate!  That’s a story for another day …

Use the NITEL card to call international number at your own peril …

1000 units, call rate was #5/unit (probably equivalent to #5,000 worth of today’s call card) for international call could get exhausted in less than 20 minutes. Damn!!! the card reads at Usain Bolt’s pace! …

I used it and I’m not that old, or am I? …

Hear what some older folks had to say:

EMEKA: “I used it my first two years in UNIBEN. I used to buy my own card from Lagos then and wait on the line at the Faculty of Agriculture to make a call”.

LADI: “As a UNILORIN student back then, we’ll take a cab to Post office area to make use of the phobe booth and card. We’ll wait on the line for nothing less than 30 minutes just to make a call of about 1:30 minutes!” Nostalgic.

ZAINAB: “So old. Alhaji bought me one in JS 2. He wanted to know where we were, per time, outside of the school gates. The crime rate in Lagos back then was off the charts. Riots, civil liberties protests against the military government, people lynched and burned robbery suspects right on the streets. Gory stuff.” …

WALE: “Kept mine in the fridge to replenish the units. When your unit goes below 5, just wrap your card in nylon and freeze it (in the freezer/fridge) a little, you’ll have more than 10units next time you insert it. Naija people don dey outsmart network providers since independence” …

NNAMDI: “ahhh great those phone booths. Wondered how my dad contacted his brother in PH then. Was little then. My uncle had a CELLULAR, the antena na die.” …

WARIS: “That was how we roll then,showing swag with the card, phone booth things. Technology is good,imagine queueing to make a silly call then.” …

OKAFOR: “NITEL!!! Their cables at our backyard served as our lines to spread cloth. Lol. E get some cheats sef. That freezer chilling of the card cheat then was dope.”


* Black and White TV sets
* Brick Game
* Cassette Player and Cassettes



The “NTA 7” Newscaster got me! ROTFLMAO!!! …

I remember the Black and White television set of yesteryears, we had something like that made by Sanyo.

It was a very “stubborn telly”, if purchased brand new, you’ll marvel at its operations …

If purchased “second-hand” (fairly used), my people, you’re in for it. If you want to increase the volume, you slap the telly by the side! If you want a clear screen vision/picture, you knock/hit the top of the telly. Funny and very frustrating indeed! Every body in my house was a “telly technician/expert”. The meanest punishment our parents could give us then was to lock the telly (the tv was constructed inside a cupboard-like frame) and take the keys with them to work. No watching of TV till they come back home! Time really flies!!! …

Trying to repack a loose cassette was the toughest task one could think of. I usually end up ruining the entire tape.

Brick game was 5 times bigger than Play Station! If you don’t have one, you’re gone! My immediate elder brother was a guru in it. I could wait 5 hours to play my turn, which wouldn’t last 10 minutes. The guy just keeps breaking down the blocks!

The biggest sporting event while I was growing up as a Nigerian was our giant strides in football … Tunisia ’94, USA ’94 and Atlanta ’96 …


Gosh I used to love Okin biscuits like cra’y, especially the “rectangular one”. I can still remember the taste now! … My God!

Tales had it that the Indian manager at the company producing Okin buscuits had a misunderstanding with the CEO. He left angrily with his magic and that led to the downfall of the company till date …

There’s stove then, it always had blue flames, not the nonsense we see today that always blackens our pots with red flames! …

Our blue band margarine/butter was in a tin container then. It had a unique taste not this one in the market now …

The Bournvita Beverage was also classic …

That coal iron burnt my elder sisters pinafore (I’ve got lots of elder sisters, about 9), so I know what I’m saying. I wasn’t left out too, my wears then in the boarding house didn’t escape the wrath of the coal iron. oh! Good old days. Many people are still using the iron till this day …

I used to have a catapult. It was the only thing that made visiting the village fun. The birds saw hell in my hands! …

There’s this lyrics we chorus to those exercise books: “Ede times Ede, Remi ko ni iya, Segun elere bolu, Odabo odabo Kayode” …

If you know and had a taste of Sprint bubble gum, Trebor, Goody Goody, Ajinomoto (we pronounce it Ajilomoto), Tandi Gurana, 3-Orange men, Limca, Gold Spot, Sports billy, Birdman, Ovides videos, Telematch, etc, my dear, *your head is there and you’re fully carried*

Good old days when life was sweet and peaceful …
Oh, the good old days. Where are thou?


Please, feel free to add your classic childhood memories in the comment section. #Bless



Each time I see what “Bayo Omoboriowo” does with photography, even as a 4.26 graduate of chemistry, I marvel.

I ask my self what is the essence of Education? If doing what you like pays the bill and makes you shine like Buhari’s shoe and keeps your head high like Jonathan’s Fedora hat…

…then that is the true essence of schooling…to polish your skills and give you opportunity to think wide…

Think like Wizkid, Dare Art alade, Runtown, Flavour, 2face etc to write rhymes and flows that would change your life for good…

…if writing your way to the top like “Japheth Omojuwa” would save your ass from GNLD Job invites…then keep the ball rolling…

…if only we know what the future holds for us, may be we would be more tactical and change our views about life and what true Education is all about…

Who buys all the Buggati, Ferrari, Benz 4matics, Fords of this world? … Business men and people with skills and great dexterity and not civil servants! Well except civil servants looting the treasury…

Who travels around the world and see places? … Definitely not 8am – 6pm workers…

Who builds all the mansions we all see on the front covers of magazines? … Definitely not paid workers but innovators…

Possibly when we start thinking out of the box, of how to at least to put food on our table, may be we would stop distributing CV’s to all our enemies…

Every job interview is another story for another day, the agony and level of HR’s constant show of remorse and ineptitude is so down casting… Until we are able to tell them, that we are better than that piece of paper called certificate, then we shall trample on vices that has always been stopping us from progressing…

Job Applicants, let’s think, follow our subconsciousness, let’s listen to our inner minds, work on our ideas, ideas are mind virus that replicates with time. Ideas rules the world, it can take us to places, it gives us the only secured job we all have been looking for… After all, what we are looking for is survival, conviniency and satisfaction…

If that hobby we overlook is giving us stipends, then it’s safe to say we can get much more from it, if we devout more time and become more passionate about it…

We can make it as a standup comedian, if “I-go-die” can do it…

We can make it as an On Air Personality (OAP), if we start a little as functions/programmes MC…

We can create better Apps than “Whatsapp”, better blogs than “Linda Ikeji”, better forum than even “Nairaland”…

We can do well as a fashion designer, if Wasiu Taiwo (Wessy Fashions) who used to be M.K.O’s tailor can today build a continental suites…

Today we see how all this small artistes, buying flashy cars and mansions all around, yet most didn’t even do up to one-quarter of what we went through in the university…

Let’s look around our environment, what problem can we solve that can fetch us something, no matter how small it is? … Definitely we won’t be where we are yesterday even though we may not in any way be near where we want to be…

Let’s keep an open mind and do something behind while we keep sending our CV’s (if we still feel the need)… Indeed, opportunities abound if only we can comb and scan our environments…

After all,
Paid Jobs = Money
Service Provision & Talents = Money
Business = Money


Still on the street sha … Every man must live his own path … Every “Odenigbo”, “Adisa” and “Garba” would one day find his level…

Then, we shall say we have ARRIVED…

God bless all the “never-say-never” dudes and chics still on the street…
Shout out to those “street dons” giving us the “can do” spirit and the “going inspiration”… if “Small Doctor” is making it at the moment, who says you can’t? …


Just thinking … Echoes from the voice of the wriggling Nigeria youths on the street…

It shall be well with us…