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Youth Development: Governor Ambode’s symbolic move

Wednesday, 3 May 2017
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos State


February 7, 2017 is a red-letter day in the history of youth development in Lagos State. That day, for the first time in the Nigeria’s centre of excellence, a lofty and laudable leadership development initiative - IBILE Youth Academy (IYA) - was launched by the Ministry of Youth and Social Development with the full endorsement of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the historic Governor of Lagos State. The well-thought-out youth development programme was a clear departure from what we used to have in the past when youth events were one-off and impact on attendees is likely to wear off quickly.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf during the launch, stated that the academy was “designed to inculcate in the youth the virtues of citizenship, leadership and volunteerism for the development of their personality, society and state and the nation by extension.” Citizenship, altruism, patriotism, and volunteerism are critical values that are hard to come these days, especially among young people. And who would blame them for this? Many of these youths grew up seeing and hearing of bad examples of how some so-called leaders fail to deliver good governance and the most painful part is how they leave their constituents worse than they met them. Thankfully, we have a handful of visionary and high performing leaders that are exceptions. The likes of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, who has proved his mettle as a leader, have shown us that there is hope in the horizon.

From March 6 – 10, 2017, one week leadership training held in different centres across the five administrative divisions of Lagos: Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos Island and Epe (IBILE). Going by the word “academy”, a place of study or training in a special field, participants were schooled in the dynamics of leadership and lectured on topics such asself discovery; entrepreneurship; volunteerism; goal setting; creative thinking; team building; effective communication and public speaking; environmental responsibilities; sex, sexuality and relationships; employability skills; finance and investment. This is arguably the first time that youths from across the State enjoyed equal access to a loaded leadership and personal effectiveness programme of this kind, coordinated from the centre.

Out of the initial five hundred that participated inthe first leg of IBILE Youth Academy (IYA), fifty outstanding candidates were selected based on merit. The fifty then attended a leadership training camp where they were learnt practical team building and leadership skills whileengaging in several outdoor activities from April 2 – 7, 2017.  As one of the guest speakers, I enjoyed every bit of the time I spent at the IBILE Leadership Training Camp. The response from these young and dynamic Lagosians was fantastic – there is no better word to describe the enthusiasm with which they asked intelligent questions. IYA has produced the first Lagos Youth Ambassador, Lana Promise Elijah, and four other divisional youth ambassadors, namely; Shonibare Zainab(Lagos Island); Agbaje Maruf (Ikorodu); Sarah Anakwe (Badagry); Badmus Oladipupo (Epe) and Oparacha Winifred (Ikeja).

A sage once said “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. Contrary to popular thinking, leadership, not corruption, is the real problem we are faced with as a nation. The dearth of leaders is the death of progress in any organization whether in the public or private sector. It is this realization that must have inspired the birth of the well-thought-out IBILE Youth Academy. Without the right kind of leadership, we cannot maximize our potential. As endowed as we are as a nation, we are still battling with poverty and it is not just the poverty of the purse; it is the poverty of the mind and paucity of values. I am particularly glad that the IYA is designed to be an annual programme. If thesense of urgency and priority given to the subject matter of leadership here in Lagos is applied across the federation, then a fresh generation of young patriotic leaders will be raised. There is no better time to catch them young than now; prepare them to meet future challenges and help them unleashtheir potential.

In ourfast-changing globe where more than fifty percent of the population is belowthirty, a nation that neglects its youth is playing with fire. It is very important that we prepare the youths for leadership otherwise we will continue to have cases of accidental leaders. Result-oriented leadership is required across the different sectors of the economy. IYA’s pay-off line, “incubating for greatness”, captures the whole essence of the initiative. Speaking about the state government’s motivation, the Youth and Social Development Commissioner, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf pointed out that “the underlying philosophy behind the leadership training in the youth sector by the present administration in the state under the able leadership of our dear Governor, His Excellency Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is based on a firm belief that dividends from such investment can never be quantified. This is because young people are the resources that must be groomed and harnessed for the overall development of our beloved Lagos State and the Country Nigeria at large".

Given the urgent need to breed new leaders, the government needs a lot of support from nongovernmental organizations and business concerns.I want to appeal to corporate organizations to consider making social responsibility investment in the youth development initiatives, especially in leadership development. Over the years, this writer has been supporting the youth development events in Lagos State via public speaking, blogging, inspirational writing, mentoring and donation of books. All hands must be on deck to help our youths become assets and agents of development, not just in their communities but in the world at large. This writer only imagined the positive ripple effects the IBILE youth leadership training would have on youths across the State as the participants return to their respective communities to instigate social change, start small businesses and provide sterlingleadership. In fact, Lana Promise Elijah, the Lagos State Youth Ambassador,and the other divisional Ambassadors have been mandated to team up to come up with creative ideas and solutions to problems that might be affecting the youths of the State.

Doubtlessly, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is setting the stage for younger leaders to learn the ropes, take on the reins of leadership and participate in decision-making. His administration thought it necessary to set up the Lagos State Youth Parliament to elevate the voice of the youth. This posture perfectly aligns with the United Nations’ Not-Too-Young-To-Run campaign advocating against age discrimination and challenging young people to run for public offices. To reduce the unemployment level, raise and support young business leaders, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund was established by this administration. Governor Ambode certainly deserves to be commended for his concerted efforts to elevate youth development.

This writer is not surprised at the avalanche of encomiums being showered on Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who has silenced his critics and justified his mandate with visionary governance. The State is strewn with infrastructural totems of his stellar performance: Abule Egba and Ajah overhead bridges (construction ongoing); Ayobo bridge/link road; Berger Bus stop at Ojodu, on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; completion of over 114 internal roads; The TBS Bus Terminus and a good number of landmark achievements has been recorded in health, environment, security, education, agriculture, infrastructureand other sectors. It is gratifyingto know that our dear Governor is “positively restless” about improving the standard of living of his constituents. The physically challenged have been considered, N500 million naira has been earmarked for their education, welfare and general wellbeing.This piece is not to present a perfect Akinwunmi Ambode or to list out the salient achievementsof his administration but to celebratea helmsman who has shown tangible commitment to providing compassionate and transformational leadership.

It is worth mentioning that Ambode’sgovernment is putting its money where its mouth is. It is not just paying lip service to its policy of inclusion. The governor’s speeches almost always carry the refrain that “Every Lagosian counts. We are a government of inclusion.” Whether you are on the Island or on the Mainland, you are valued as a Lagosian. The wind of development, not just youth development, is blowing across the entire state, from Epe to Abule Egba. I am particularly happy that this benevolent wind has arrived in my axis; Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government, where I have lived for over three decades. The engineeringmarvelat Abule Egba is a beauty to behold and a harbinger of fortune –a sign of good things to come. I couldn’t agree more with Mobolaji Sanusi’s article titled “Ambode: Itesiwaju continues” published in The Guardian, on Monday April 24, 2017. I am yet to come across any right-thinking Lagosian who would not want visionary governance to continue. For my money, the title of Mobolaji Sanusi’s article – Ambode: Itesiwaju continues – should be the refrain of our dear Governor’s re-election campaign.

Idowu Omisore, an inspirational writer and public speaker, writes from Lagos.

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