I got invited to the Young Emerging Leaders Symposium at Ikogosi, Ekiti State which held from the 5th to 7th of April, 2013. I was excited about being able to put faces to names of young and emerging leaders I had read about who pleasantly surprised me like @Chude @zebbook, @dolusegun, @gbengasesan, @tomisinajiboye, @chxta, @subomiplumptre, @omojuwa, @olorisupagal @abangmercy @KathleenNdogomo, @KolaOyeneyin, @Otto_Orondaam, @ebuka, @denrele_edun etc. So I packed my bags and joined the boat. It was seriousness, fun, networking and all. I was also impressed by the facilities at Ikogosi. The pool, gym, hot and cold spring were fabulous. Although the resort has not been officially commissioned, it is definitely worth a visit.
Nigeria is the largest oil producing country in Africa and it is one of the poorest in the world. For a country dubbed the giant of Africa, the level of corruption is unspeakable. While i concede that Nigeria is not the only corrupt country in the world, I bet we can all agree that the degree and the way it is blatantly displayed is disheartening. I used to be an eternal optimist until i fell off the wagon. I remember posting a comment on Atilola's blog on how the helplessness I feel is killing my 'care' one cell at a time because Nigeria keeps breaking my heart but who exactly is Nigeria? She's you and I and my neighbour, my boss, my friends and foes alike. She is a reflection of every one of us. We live in a country blessed daily with drama-worthy events. If it's not the President not giving a "damn", it is Boko haram bombing innocents and making no apologies or presidency pardoning criminals, or a seemingly untouchable thug declaring that if the president doesn't get a 2nd term, there would be war or if he is arrested, we can all say goodbye to Nigeria. How are we supposed to have confidence in a system that keeps rubbing it in our faces that they can do whatever and they will get away with it because our elasticity for endurance is magical?
Yes we complain about the ills of Nigeria and how "corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society". We know too well all the problems with Nigeria from deplorable roads, erratic electricity, poverty, poor educational and healthcare systems, unemployment, poor infrastructural development, over dependence on imported goods, ethnic and religious squabbles, poor maintenance culture, disregard for human life and property. We've perfected the art of waxing lyrical about our politicians who continue to embezzle and feed fat from the nation's coffers without a modicum of accountability. We like to read the news and verbally wrestle with each other on social media almost to fisticuffs, endlessly criticizing everything without offering help to that boy down the street who needs to cross the road or lifting a finger to make anything better. However, there is something to be said for the spirit of the Nigerian when s/he is determined. That anger, determination and zeal needs proper mentoring so we can channel the positive energy into nation building.
I was impressed by the crop of young people who were present at the event. The symposium was a true eye-opening experience for me. Our voice is gradually being acknowledged as it should be considering that the youth are 43% of the population. We are a majority. The “let the government worry about everything” syndrome is gradually receding. We should all be enlightened about our rights to demand accountability. You can't be living in a country and you'll be passive citizens then complain that nothing works. We need to hold our government accountable but while doing this, we need to contribute out quota of support. I think everyone should be socially responsible. Constant small and gradual improvement, one step, one seemingly insignificant act, can make the much needed difference. We should be less greedy and selfish. Until we realise that it is possible to sow seeds we are not likely to reap, Nigeria won't improve. We should support each other and share the same commitment to making things possible in Nigeria. There is not going to be a miraculous change, quick fixes or short cuts. It's a long road but we can get there.
We should equip ourselves with accurate and relevant information. It is a debt we owe Nigeria. Learn about the history and journey of Nigeria; what she has been through, where she's been and where she's currently at. Even if the president doesn't "give a damn", you need to care about your people, your future and the future of your kids. Talking is good but acting is even better. If talking is the only way you can help, that's fine. Spread the word and if you can "do", perfect but don't leave it to chance. I used to avoid news as a coping mechanism so I don't go sad from watching 10minutes of Nigerian news but it is imperative that we keep abreast. Not watching just leaves me in denial.
Don't delude yourself that you are safe just because you aren't in the North and your family isn't getting bombed. Your estates and high-to-the-sky walls are just facades. When push comes to shove, you would be in trouble just like everyone else. All you've laboured for will be in danger except of course you want to run out of Nigeria but even if you run, how about your family? So while we're here, let's do something to help her. You don't even have to reside in Nigeria to help. You can continue to lend your support in whatever way you can. We need to vote for credible people who have integrity and are competent devoid of ethnic sentiments or nepotism. Lagos has people of other states holding political offices and no, i'm not saying Lagos is the ideal but we can agree that it is better than most states.
Do you always expect something extra for doing your job? Do you give or take bribes? Then start that change with you. Resolve to be better, do better, expect better, act better. In whatever way you can contribute, do it. Be involved, vote and be active. See what happened when we supported each other with Occupy Nigeria? We can. If we all sit back and do nothing, expecting someone else to do something, it is not going to happen. And no, you don't have to join partisan politics to effect change. Only if you're interested, although you should be interested. Do you know who your governor is? Deputy? Senator? Ward councilors? Who are you going to hold accountable if you don't know who is representing you? We should all be interested. If we pitch our tent with people of like minds and spread the word thereby getting the multiplier effect then we are on the right track. Yes, we will get tired, discouraged and even weary but the relentless attitude that is almost innate in every Nigerian is what we will continue to channel. Change starts from you and your immediate environment. Be a mentor to those who look up to you. You are not too young and the future is not far away. The future is here and now. Are you ready to take the reins?
Yakubu Gowon is Nigeria's youngest Head of State at the age of 32 and he was 33 when he led the country in the Civil war. Anthony Enahoro became the editor of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, the Southern Nigerian Defenderat the age of 21. Patrick Utomi was already a senior Special Adviser to President Shehu Shagari at 26. Achebe was 28 when he published Things Fall Apart. Chude Jideonwo, the co-founder and Managing Partner of Red Media/The Future Project is 28. Otto Orandaam, the slum2school Executive Director is 25 and they both have numerous awards to their credit. Still think you are too young? There are amazing platforms that you can be a part of. Check out Enough Is Enough Nigeria, Slum2School, 20Million Youths for 2015and follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook.
As John Quincy Adams aptly put it, if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. We must get involved, join the conversation and keep it going. Let's do this. God bless Nigeria.
P.S: I read a lucid piece by Subomi Plumptre also on thoughts from the symposium. You can check it out here.
P.P.S: I love Pink's Give Me a Reason. Here's the video