Today, Apple Inc became the first private company in the world to be worth in excess of $1 trillion. To put things in perspective, let us note that this amount is more than the combined Gross Domestic Products of Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.
Becoming a trillion-dollar company is a landmark achievement because, by this feat, Apple has proved that a knowledge-driven company has much more potential than a mineral or a commodity-based industry.
Whereas in the past, oil companies, such as Mobil, BP and Chevron, dominated global markets, today, the most successful and world-changing businesses are knowledge-driven ventures originated, promoted and stabilised by men with ideas rather than men with connections to governments.
Companies like Apple, Alphabet Inc (parent company of Google) and Microsoft are today worth more than Royal Dutch Shell, Kellogg and De Beers. The reverse was the case just decades ago.
What does this mean for the world? Even more importantly, what does it mean for Nigeria?
For almost twenty years, I have invested heavily in education because Nigeria needs jobs and businesses. You might ask what the connection is between education and business growth, and my response would be that nations can only create jobs and businesses by exploiting what is between the ears of their citizens rather than by what is beneath the grounds of their landmass.
At the American University of Nigeria in Yola and other schools that I founded, we teach Nigerian youths that education is not a tool that simply empowers you to find a job. The average graduate from our institutions is brought up with the mindset that he or she has what it takes to create the job or business of their dreams.
That is how Apple Inc came into being. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple on April Fools’ Day of 1976 and proved that when you have and utilise your education, you are nobody’s fool.
Today, as we celebrate Apple becoming a trillion-dollar company, we also celebrate the vindication of the words of the renowned educator, Peter Drucker, who said, “The most valuable assets of a 20th-century company were its production equipment. The most valuable assets of a 21st-century institution, whether business or nonbusiness, will be its knowledge, workers, and their productivity.”
To be able to compete in the twenty-first century, Nigeria must equip her population with knowledge. The more a people learn, the more those people earn. The aim of the Nigerian education system must be to churn out graduates armed not just with certificates, but with knowledge. We must build a knowledge-based economy.
As John Dewey said, ‘Education is not preparation for life; Education is life itself.’ The reason why the quality of life in Nigeria has deteriorated over the years is not that the value of crude oil has dipped, as the current wielders of power would want us to believe. No. It is actually because the quality of our public education system has gone down.
As a nation, we must be conscious of the principle that investment in education yields the highest interest possible.
I have spent the last 40 years of my life creating jobs and I have 50,000 direct employees and indirect employees numbering in the hundreds of thousands and I can attest to the truism of the principle immediately above and first propounded by Benjamin Franklin, himself a great educator and inventor.
If we want Nigeria to be a nation that matters, we must improve our education sector and make it up to date. In fact, we must go even one step higher and make it up to tomorrow because, in this modern era, knowledge becomes outdated in as little as a year’s time. So if you aim to be up to date, the knowledge may become obsolete by the time your graduates are preparing to enter the workforce.
Every year, Nigerians troop to foreign embassies to try to get visas to a better life in The West, but if we can give our people the best education money can buy, they would already have in their possession the only visa to the best life possible they would ever need.
In 1993, Chief MKO Abiola, my friend and political partner, wanted Nigerians to bid farewell to poverty. I shared in that vision and I still believe in it today. The only way we can permanently bid farewell to poverty is through quality education.
That is why I pledge that if I am chosen by my party, the Peoples Democratic Party, to be its presidential standard-bearer, and if I am subsequently elected president by Nigerians, I will go above and beyond the United Nations recommendations and ensure that a minimum of 21% of the federal budget is devoted to education.
Beyond that, I will reserve 10% of that amount to further and continuous education for our public school teachers. Nigeria’s education sector must progress from creating jobseekers. We must train our teachers to train our children to be job creators as well.
Every year, at least 600,000 Nigerian youths enter the labour market. They will be joining the 7.9 million Nigerians that became jobless in the 21 months just before December 2017, as published by the National Bureau of Statistics last year. We already have an unemployment crisis on our hands. Unless we do something radical, Nigeria is going to move from crisis to catastrophe.
If we can teach these youths how to use their ideas and knowledge to create value, we will incubate the enabling environment that allowed Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to create Apple almost out of nothing.
I believe in Nigeria. I believe in education. I believe in job creation. I have demonstrated my belief by investing my time and money in each of these three beliefs of mine. If you give me the opportunity, I can do the same for Nigeria.
The causative factor of almost all of Nigeria’s challenges, from terrorism to corruption, to unemployment and poor infrastructure, is inadequate investment in education by the government.
I can make the difference in this area. I am not talking about what I can do. I am talking about what I have done.
• Abubakar is a former Vice President of Nigeria.