The chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, Ibukun Awosika, has said that Nigeria can turn its teeming population into an asset that will generate revenue in foreign exchange for the nation.
Mrs. Awosika made this assertion on Wednesday while delivering a speech as Guest Speaker at ‘The Platform’, a flagship programme by the Covenant Christian Centre.
In her speech which earned her a rousing ovation, she said Nigeria can build a policy around migration which will see to adequate foreign exchange payments.
She argued that the goal of turning the population to Nigeria’s advantage begins with a deliberate investment of resources towards nurturing future generations.
“How can we turn our population into an asset? We have bright minds, which is why Nigerians proffer solutions in other environments where they are nurtured.
“All we need to do is decide our population is going to be an asset. And from now, based on the goals we have identified for ourselves, we are deliberate about investing in nurturing that Youthful population to deploy what is required for that vision to be actualised,” Awosika said.
“Nigerians are migrating, good! We are many, as we say, there are many nations that need people; so we can turn migration into policy, we can turn our population into income-earning assets,” she added.
Awosika urged leaders and resource persons in Nigeria to study other nations of the world as to identify their needs and train young Nigerians to be solutions to those needs.
“We can be deliberate about identifying the parts of the world that needs specific skills, and because we have a lot of young minds, we can retrain them, prepare them for those skills,” she added.
“We can have government-to-government negotiations, or private sector led to work, repatriating income to several parts of Nigeria. Our people can be a source of foreign exchange for us as a nation.
“There are countries who work on models that are not different from that. When you have a lot of people and you do not have the abilities, people are not accidentally getting up to go to Canada, to go anywhere, no!
“Let’s say our people are sought after; but to make them sought after for other nations, what must they know? What must they have? What must they do?
“How do we prepare processes that allow them to be trained? I know an African nation that is looking for 6,000 teachers.
“Nothing stops someone in that sector from building programmes or investing in finding 6,000 unemployed graduates, preparing them with teaching methodology.
“Teaching them about living in that country, telling them about how to be great ambassadors of Nigeria, wherever they go, and going to make a deal with that nation, to say we can provide you with these teachers on contract; Five years, 10 years, three years, they move.
“If you go to Dubai, most of the hotels have Kenya in the industry. Why? They were deliberate about setting up hospitality schools, to train people to be exported into countries that need manpower for hospitality.
“We know how to greet people, we know how to be hospitable, we know how to embrace people, we have the natural culture to be right in hospitality if our people are trained as assets for that industry.
“Our population can be a liability if we do not have specific deliberate agenda for developing them.”
Awosika also challenged Nigerians to find and execute innovative ideas that will make the country work, rather than just sit back and criticise the government.
“We should criticise ourselves but we should criticise to build. We should see a problem and be angry about it and innovate and seek to find the solution to the problem because we know why we want to do it. Because we know that this country must work for every single one of us from the weakest to the strongest of us to prosper.
“For us to be able to provide for those that are weak; men, women, children, every community in the village and city. For every fatherless and motherless child to still be able to have hope in the system of our country.”
She further posed some challenging questions to Nigerians, with the motive that it will help stir well-meaning citizens to take some proactive measures.
“Who do we want for our nation? What is our common goal as a people? How do we get away from the things that easily destroy us that have no reason to? How do we rise above our past into our future? How do we draw the line on the things that have happened?
“How can we decide to get to where we want to get to if we haven’t first decided where we are going?
“We have to agree that we are going somewhere and we want to get there, but we must define where we are going.
“I didn’t ask the questions to get the answers today; I just want you not to be able to sleep because of those questions.”