Thursday, April 12, 2007

Free and fairy:
The drums of elections are heard again,
Muscles are flexed to display eligibility.
Boards of campaign feel every corner,
To portray portraits of eligibility.
Pictures of different colours and shapes,
Promises of different aroma of better life.
Qualified citizens trudge out in millions,
One by one they stagger on
To cast their votes into a leaking box?
Democracy has come to stay!
As April’s poll in Nigeria draws closer, I cannot help but reflect on the political campaigns that have stormed our media and street these past months. I must compliment all the politicians for their fancy sloganeering, attractive manifestos and remarkable speeches.
The ball is set rolling and obviously in a few days, we Nigerians will be carrying out one of our constitutional rights and have the privilege of choosing our leaders.
Should we cast our votes based on trust? That is, choosing to vote for leaders we believe are sincere, honest and who will not try to harm or deceive us after they have been elected.
Should we cast our votes based on the mouth watering manifesto that excites us the most? Or the name of the political party that thrill us the most? Or bitterly cast our votes against the politician we just don’t like?
The success of April's election does not only lie in the hands of God, INEC or the political parties and constituencies, but also on us all as individuals. Be optimistic, watchful and prayerful all through this period. Most importantly, let us think well before we cast our vote and hopefully, it is the vote we all cast that will be counted!

Have you noticed the alarming rate at which youth-led Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are growing? It seems every youth these days are excited about starting up one activism group or the other. Well, is there anything wrong if young people are inspired to roll up their sleeves and take action to solve the numerous problems arising everyday in our beloved society? There are other unprintable things these youths can channel their exuberance, if starting up an NGO is a way for them to express themselves positively, why should they be discouraged? Well like the saying goes, there are two sides to every coin.
Just the other day, I read an interesting article written by a young Nigerian who thinks most youths have taken to running NGOs of all sorts as a way of making quick money. He also raised the issue of these NGOs run by unskilled CEOs sending appalling emails to international organizations to literarily beg for money to save humanity. No longer are these NGOs to actually motivated by compassion but aggressive ambition.
This aggressive ambition has led most of those NGOs to actually compromise themselves to “chop and clean mouth” activities that includes getting grants and funds and then channeling half of it, if not more, into private purse after which they write up fake reports of activities they never had. The CEOs attend all sorts of conferences and workshop but never make any effort to use the skills and ideas they gained during these programmes for the benefit of the community they claim to serve.
Maybe if the existing adult-led NGOs start working and leading by example, youth-led ones will follow suit. Organizations that train young people should direct its efforts towards equipping these youths to go into the field and take action instead of encouraging them to start up NGOs. I also recommend that networks of Non-Governmental Organizations and concerned government organizations should pay attention to this issue and set up a regulatory framework to separate the wolves from the sheep.
If young people really want to take action, they should be encouraged to join/volunteer in existing NGOs- collaboration not competition should be encouraged because it is through combined strengths that they can affect significant change.
I stumbled on a new teens magazine called “CURIOUS” published by a teenager, aside the fact that it needs a few professional touch here and there, I think it is a good idea for a change which I hope have come to stay. I trust other youths take a cue from this to discover their passion and start building up their entrepreneurial skills instead of starting up a chop and clean mouth NGO!

I cannot really figure out what exactly motivated me to sign up to facilitate the One World Youth Project in Nigeria but since the programme kicked off in 2006, it has been a very exciting initiative. Aside the first hand pen-pal writing experience with our sister-group in Vermont, this programme have so far given young people the opportunity to project the image of Nigeria in the way that some international media is failing to do.
Few weeks ago, I was making a one-minute video with the Creative participants at Yeshua High school, who intrigued me with their impeccable presentation skills. These are kids between the ages of 8-12 years. I can’t remember exhibiting such skill that age! With such bundle of talent in one generation, it is inevitable that Nigeria will bloom in days to come.
Basically, One World Youth Project is a unique programme set up to link groups/students in US/Canada with groups from all around the world together in a learning partnership for the purpose of community service towards the achievement of the UN Millennium development goals. The intent is that through this process of cultural exchange and collaborative action, youths will build up their practical leadership skills, vision to use one’s own passion for positive action and become more knowledgeable, compassionate and understanding.
We are building a culture of people living positively to affect the world, as we don’t want this generation to end up as tired and detached politicians, activists and economists. By 2015, these kids will obviously become youths taking up responsibilities in their individual field of interest and passing on the knowledge that one’s action or inaction can either have a positive or negative effect on the world.
There is nothing wrong with our environment, climate or position of Nigeria on the world map that makes our land a place where dreams cannot be fulfilled. With right tools and mentoring, an average Nigerian youth can be a first class active global citizens making positive impact!
Like we say it on One World Youth Project: Youths are Interested when you treat them with Respect, Engaged if you make things Interesting, Excited if you are passionate, Helpful if you give Responsibilities and if they feel needed, Impacting if given the Forum and the Trust, Leaders if given the time and space to Practice leadership.
(First Published without the picture in Dis Generation Column in The Nation Newspaper (sunday), Nigeria)