By Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, DBA
I have always pondered at the word “opportunity” and how it affects our lives. The oxforddictionaries.com defines the noun “opportunity” as “a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something” To have a greater understanding of the word “opportunity”, I decided to check the synonyms, and this took me to thesaurus.com where fifty words were listed as similar meanings or as we will call them, synonyms. Let me list some of the synonyms here, “event, hope, moment, time, break, connection, good fortune, good luck, probability, occasion” I will not ponder further for today’s purpose on why these words should be synonyms to the word opportunity, let us allow such research for another time. I will also allow you the freedom to check the full lists of synonyms, so you can work your mind to understand the word opportunity.
In Greek mythology, Caerus (the same as kairos) was the personification of opportunity, luck and favorable moments. He was shown with only one lock of hair. His Roman equivalent was Occasio or Tempus. Caerus was the youngest child of Zeus. Caerus and Fortuna became lovers after Caerus neglected to overthrow his father as everyone thought he would.
Caerus is the due measure that achieves the aim. This god brings about what is convenient, fit, and comes in the right moment. Sometimes it could be the critical or dangerous moment, but more often Caerus represents the advantageous, or favorable occasion. Hence, what is opportune, or “Opportunity.” In the Hellenistic age (as P. Chantraine informs us), the term was also used as “time” or “season” (the good time, or good season).
In my pursuit of having a greater understanding of the word opportunity, I attempted to translate it to my own language Yoruba believing that this will make a better meaning to me than if I were to think in English, and I will ask you also to do this same exercise, try to translate the word “opportunity” to your language and let’s see what you think. The Yoruba word for opportunity is ánfánì, ánfánì literally means a circumstance or an event that occurs which one is not ordinarily entitled. Glosbe.com, however, states that opportunity in Yoruba is alábàpàdé, which to my mind means a chance occurrence, while wordhippo.com states that ánfánì means privilege. In describing opportunity in Yoruba, permit me to rely on both words, and like the lists above, we work with these two Yoruba words to also allow us to understand the meaning of that word “opportunity” which I have made this morning’s exercise.
While this is not a sermon but let me allow you to accuse me of being academic and not a pastor in this exercise as I take my research to religion. Growing up as I did in Ísálé Ékò, in Lagos taught me that if you are seeking wisdom as a Christian, the first place to so do is your bible, and if you are a Muslim, you will head for the Koran. Let me say my journey in this regard, indicated over 40 verses of the bible where issues relating to opportunity were discussed or cited. This indicates the importance of that very important word in our everyday life. Permit me for time to mention just Colossians 4:5 which says “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Ephesians 5:16 says “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” For my Muslim brothers and sisters, I will like you to also assist me in identifying verses of the Koran that discusses “opportunity”, this will help us to have a better understanding of that word.
Perhaps the linkages between the above-listed synonyms to mind was as a result of my experience of what the term opportunity readily means. Let me say, to me, “opportunity” is an ánfánì, or an alábàpàdé, a set of circumstances or an occurrence, or event, which must be recognized as being what it is, and if taken advantage of, may lead to a different set of circumstances which will lead to value addition and good fortune.
I am sure as we reflect on this morning’s lecture, we must all be looking at what the word opportunity means to each and every one of us. Opportunity is not limited to anyone, think back, I am sure you would have had times in your lives when you believe you were lucky, or good fortune smiled upon you, or you made use of an opportunity that came your way. Sometimes too, no matter how hard we try to catch a bus at the bus stop, we get to the bus stop only to see the bus leaving. We then say to ourselves that “wow, we just missed the bus” we missed the opportunity of boarding that particular bus, which will never turn back to pick us, it is gone, gone forever.
You may be wondering what a unicorn has to do with this discussion and why the title has a Unicorn in it. What is a Unicorn? The unicorn is a legendary creature that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a single large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. As my Children grew up under the watchful eyes of my dear wife (and I have four lovely ones like you here), My wife would always tell them that opportunity is like the Unicorn. In this light, my originality ends in my wife’s analogy of the term and her explanation to make her children know the importance of identifying opportunity when it comes and taking advantage of such occurrences by not letting go.
You recall that we agreed that the unicorn has a single horn, well, legend also has it that you hardly see the unicorn when it passes by as it is so fast and challenging to capture, and you can only do so by grabbing that single horn. So, my wife will tell her children that opportunity is like the unicorn when it passes, you must quickly grab it by the horn, less it will pass you by, and it will never come back that way. Of course, as we all grow up and live our lives, there will be many occasions or events in our lives that can be termed as opportunities, it is for us to be able to understand such moments and take advantage of the opportunities that come our way.
That brings me to why we are here, the #BEST1000, it may take a further lecture to explain the concept behind this program of seeking out youths who are eager to learn and better their circumstances by upskilling themselves in order to be able to create and share added value in a society where everyone is complaining of unemployment. And I intend to give 1000 of people like you such opportunity.
Let us share a few figures, in 1960, when Nigeria became independent; the population was 45,211,614 for a total land area of 910,770 Km2 (351,650 sq. miles). Today, in 2019, the population has risen to about 198, 650,000 equivalents to 2.6% of the World population. Growing at between 2.04% and 2.6%, the population is expected to be about 333,172,092 in 2040 and 410,637,868 in 2050 (check worldometers.info). For the intelligent mind of which I believe you are one, the implication of our population growth rate indicates the fierce competition that will arise nay that is arising for the resources in the country.
The economics of a growing population such as ours is a different lecture entirely which will take our time. But let us all agree that this phenomenon could be a double-edged sword if not handled with adequate planning to take care of our basic needs and those yet unborn. We have no choice but to have in place policies that will create economic activities that will create value and jobs, and educate, house, feed, cloth, treat, and ensure security for that number of people. But then talking about it is not enough, we as individuals, as responsible leaders must create the opportunities to enable our wise youths to develop templates not only to make them employable but also to make it possible for them to be entrepreneurs in their own right. And that is the spirit in which we conceptualized the #Best1000 program.
Let me say kudos to the Director of the #BEST1000 program, Mrs. Victoria Dare and her team who worked with me over the past few months in designing this program to ensure we get buy-in from our partners ACCI, GIZ, Techspecialists, and Don Barber Photography. Now we have delivered our promise to you, and from the feedback, none of you has complained about the quality of this program or the logistics we have put in place to make this program and the BEST Centre a wow learning experience. Though you do not pay for this excellent program, to you it is free, but nothing like this is free, someone somewhere is bearing the cost, some people are taxed from their income to bear this cost, and some people are working hard to make sure this opportunity made available to you is realized.
For me, your show of gratitude should be not be by those eloquent words I have heard some of you use on the program, but by meeting up with your part of this contract between us, for you to take advantage of this opportunity made available to you and for you to receive knowledge and the eventual utilization of such knowledge in creating value, that should be your show of gratitude. This is all the thank you I need from you. Don’t forget, that the 154 of you here today were selected from a list of over 4,000 applicants. This is why I say you are lucky, this is why I call this an opportunity for you, and this is why I ask you to identify it as such. You should not let this unicorn go without seizing it by the horn. For those who may decide that they do not wish to take advantage of the opportunity of this moment, I plead with you not to disturb those who wish to do so, you should take the next keke Maruwa by the Chamber gate bus stop, leave now, and do not disturb those of us who will stand firm and take the unicorn by its horn to better our lot and contribute to the development of our country.
Delivered by Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, DBA, to the #BEST1000 Trainees at the Business Entrepreneurship Skills and Technology (BEST) Centre, Abuja on the 17th of January 17, 2019