AT 80, Chief Dr. Rasa k Akanni Okoya has so much to be proud of, having lived an exemplary life, and being a source of inspiration to thousands of people . He is the Chairman of Eleganza Industries Limited, and several other businesses. Here, he speaks of his journey so far, and gives basic advise to Nigerian youths who seek success;
How I feel being 80 years?
I feel great in the name of God, I believe that I have been able to fulfill my mission of being an industrialist. At this stage of my life, I feel joy that I have been able to make a lot of people feel happy. I also feel great happiness in my life, because I have given a lot of people source of livelihood. It gives me great joy, that at eighty, I am fulfilled.
My formative years to success
My father was a tailor.
He sewed clothes, made zips, buttons and student materials. He used to send me
to Dosumu to buy materials for those products, and it was from there I learnt
my first skill. Whenever I went to Dosumu, I saw those merchants looking big, I
learned of how they travelled all over the world to do business. Then, in
school, I observed that my class teacher never looked good, and his clothes
were usually torn at the back, this built my resolve to choose a better life
for myself, I chose to become a big and influential person. Then, I spent much
time in my father’s workshop where I learnt so much, and had the opportunity to
travel to Europe, Spain and other parts of the world, where I saw things and
lifestyle that motivated me more, so it strengthened my resolve to be
among the wealthy class. Thenceforth, I got the inclination to begin my own
business. I started my own production of slippers, shoes, bags and other
materials, which I later expanded.
I never saw challenges, only opportunities
My friend, I never saw challenges, I only saw opportunities. Everything that looked like obstacles turned out to be the ladder which I climbed to get to this stage of my life. You see, the problem with today’s youth is that they want it the easy way; they want to make it just at once. Success is a process, and being consistent in what you do, you are sure to excel. When you begin little and you are hardworking, people will patronize you, and that is where success begins. Young people should change their mentality, and imbibe the habit of working hard. They should be honest and straightforward. The growth to success is simpler than you think, it only takes determination. Committing crime to make success and using the fast lane is futile; you will lose everything in a short time.
What gives me pride in life?
I am very skillful at my age. I can do several things, I can sew clothes, I know bricklaying, carpentry, and other things, and it makes me proud about myself. I have received several awards and honours for my contribution to humanity, including a special honour by former president Olusegun Obasanjo for my creative contribution to the National and improvement on the employment level in Nigeria.
The Legacies I have built?
I have a 35 hectare land factory at Ibeju , Ibeji Eleko Local Government that employ above 1,000 people at the moment, turning out range of products such as plastic chairs and tables, Baby diapers and Sanitary pads, soaps, Luggage, cool Boxes and lots more. I have ELEGANZA, a legacy that will live forever. Also, I have sponsored the education of many students through my scholarship.
My Success model
No matter your educational qualification, every young person should learn a skill. If you do that, you are okay. A Yoruba adage says; you can not learn a handwork and be hungry’ it becomes better for someone who is educated and still have a skill; you are bound to be a success.
What today’s youth must know?
Everything is possible with determination and hard work and honesty. In fact, today young people have better opportunities. For instance, the fashion industry has grown big that it can accommodate much people, and advancement in technology has made it easier for people to put out their works for sales. With diligence and time, you can grow big from buying one tailoring machine, to two, and before you know it, you are made. Also, un like in my time, military uniforms and other kits were imported from abroad, but, today, the government gives Nigerian tailors the job to do. This is a big ground for many young people to play on. It is so in all other industries today, so many opportunities are there for everyone to take part in, and in fact, I wish that I can be young again. Every young person should learn a skill today, going to school is not enough to succeed. Having a degree is not enough. If you have four degrees, you can still be unemployed, but, when you learn a skill you must always have something to eat. You will always be occupies, and would never think of crime. Young people should go into shoe making, furniture, tailoring and all that, and use the new technologies in place now to upgrade their skills.
Solutions to youth unemployment
The major setback is electricity. If the government can make power stable, then 50 per cent of Nigeria’s problem is resolved. If industries and organizations have light to produce, there would be little spending in purchasing diesel, which the money would be invested in other meaningful things. Also, even the tailor, welder, carpenter mechanics, electricians need light to be effective and make money. In my factory today, we still use generators, and spend so much in purchasing diesel; it wears out within two to three years because of excess usage. Electricity is paramount, and once that is fixed. Our major problems are solved. Also, we need more technical schools where young people will learn skills that will keep them self-reliant all through their lives.