It would be obvious to state that Nigeria is blessed with innovative people. The issue is that the nation is also besieged with myriad of problems and challenges. With huge population dominated by vibrant young people, the situation can sometimes become aggravated. Many youths are often frustrated with the situation and feel it’s better to leave the country. That is, if they do not turn into vice. However, our guest interview features Naomi Ikhureigbe, a social entrepreneur who thinks Nigeria’s peculiar challenges should excite the youth instead of leaving them frustrated. Excerpts
Let’s meet you. What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Naomi Ikhureigbe and I run Patti Ripoblique Limited, an event company. I’m also a public speaker. I run an organisation called Making A Difference Positively (otherwise known as MAD+). We are all about inspiring and motivating people toward a mind-shift,which causes them to take action and become positive change agents.
That means you’re a social entrepreneur. What does that mean?
A social entrepreneur is someone who as an entrepreneur recognises a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organise, create and manage problems identified. For us at Patti Ripoblique, we discovered a mindset problem because the mind really is where it all starts. If you cannot see it, usually they say you cannot seize it. So, MAD+ was born out of concern for people having a mind-shift toward achieving great things.
That’s innovative. It is said that all entrepreneurs are innovators. The question is: why did you choose this way?
Well, three things drive me: love for my God, love for my family and love for my country. For everything I’m involved with, there is an understanding that there is purpose around my life. I was born for a reason. Dr Myles Munroe who I consider a mentor always say that the richest place in the world is the graveyard where you have the “would have” “could have” “should have” been. They died, not releasing all that was in them to make this world a better place. So, purpose drives me. Purpose to die empty – everything that is inside of me must come out. Anyhow I can do it to make this world a better place. I want to die and know that I lived making a difference in people’s lives.
What is your suggestion to the frustrated graduated with no job and focus in life?
Thank you for that question. Another mentor of mine, Dr Mike Murdock said: “There’s no such thing as a money problem. If you solve a problem, money would come.” The fact that there are issues and problems in this country should get every young person excited because that means there’s money to be made. The point now is to be able to sit down and clearly push aside your frustration, clearly push aside your bitterness. People are not just broke; they are not just jobless, they are angry. And in that state of mind you cannot see things. I could have stayed angry and be complaining. Like every other Nigerian, I go through the irritations – power supply, poor aviation services-air travel and travelling on bad roads. But I chose to look on the other side. These are problems that need to be fixed and if we are all complaining who will fix the problems? So my advise to young people out there is to get involved. There is something you can do, you just need to sitpeople by yourself, shut the doors if you have to and find it. Begin to provide that solution and there is no way money will not come.
How does that person start, since the school system does not prepare you for the reality of life?
It starts from looking inside. Everybody is born with a gift. It might not be something you went to read in school. I’m a human physiologist, but today I’m an event planner and a public speaker. And I couldn’t be more excited about all the work I’m doing. It’s not what I went to school to read but it took a lot of soul searching to find out that first of all I have a way with people, and I like to talk. These were keys that shaped things I decided to get involved with.
When I started my company there was really no capital but I had passion. I believed in what I was about to get into and I started gradually. As an event planner I knew how then how I approach people. I did a cheap card. I approached people and when they give me the job, I look for people who are already doing decoration and providing one service or the other that I need. I would go to them and they would give me a reduced price because I brought the job to them. At the end of the day, my profit is made on the discount they gave to me.
Today, five years running, I’ve handled diplomatic events with the African Union. I’ve even been privileged to travel outside Nigerian for an event. If I was waiting for capital, where would I be today? Most people believe they have to wait for the capital. No. let your passion consume you, and doors will open. The moment people see that they cannot shut you up – every waking moment you have, you’re talking about something – I’m telling you the provision will show up. For every vision there’s provision. The only way people miss it is they don’t know what their vision is. So, my advice is: sit down with yourself and find out that thing which only you can do to make this world a better place and the provision will come.
What has been your experience with Making A Difference Positively?
MAD-Positive for me has been very rewarding and fulfilling. But top on the list of challenges is the funding because for a lot to work – people we want to reach out there, requires logistics and movement – money is needed. Money is a tool. And I can imagine the frustration if you don’t have it. But I’m grateful to God that that has not stopped us. Because with passion, we’ve been able to knock on doors and get people to notice us.
The support may not have come in a big way but I’m proud to say that we are making progress. It’s a gradual thing. Most people just want to be CEOs today and the next thing they’re flying a private jet. It cannot happen. There’s a process. The reason a lot of young people are frustrated is because many of them don’t want to go through the process. That is not anybody’s problem. It’s your fault, because the process must happen. Time will come when you will explode. Praise God. But truth is: until then, you need to learn how to live within your means and keep pushing because if you don’t stop it would give. Something has to give, but that means you also didn’t stopped. You’re pushing for a long time until it gives. When that happens, it would be the big break everybody’s waiting. A place of no going back, where you never remember your poverty, pain and sorrow and every thing would look like a dream.
How does it feel seeing the result of your impact on the lives of people?
You see, that’s the beautiful thing about purpose. I would say being an event planner is my job but being a social entrepreneur is my work. The difference is: work gives satisfaction. Your job may be rewarding, but nothing satisfies like your work. Just looking at people light up when I inspire them is profound. Hearing them say: “I’ve been praying that someone like you to come.” I mean, I’m an answer to people’s prayers! That’s rewarding and one of the most joyful things that can happen to anyone. I’m an answer to people’s prayers.
Where is your project taking you in the next few years?
So far in six months of running MAD-Positive. Just like the holy book says: “Your gift would bring you to kings and not mean men.” I’ve been privileged to dine with governors. I’ve met with ambassadors – the US ambassador to Nigeria and Nigerian ambassador to The Gambia. I’ve met a lot of governors and I’m so excited that in just six months, this is where I find myself. In the next few years I see MAD-Positive as a virus. We’re all about sharing the gifts and changing the world. If every Nigerian should agree to make a difference – whether in their society, workplace or homes, every one of us can make a difference. I sum it up with the words of Mother Theresa: “We can do no great thing, only small things with great love.” So I see myself in the next few years as I continue to challenge people to get involved and begin to do small things with great love. I see Nigeria becoming one of the most desirable countries to live in.