I am a believer in the reformation of the Nigerian Society through self-motivation, self-leadership, human capital development,purposeful and innovative leadership among others.
Change….true development will not happen in isolation of these.
In an age of development cooperation where the notions of partnership, networking and collaboration are the acceptable methodologies of getting things done, Nigeria and indeed Africa still grapple with major aspects of social, economic and political development. These range from how to combat extreme hunger and poverty, infant/maternal mortality rate, the high incidence of malaria and other deadly diseases, including TB, Polio and HIV/AIDS, sustainable access to safe drinking water, infrastructure development, how to encourage and increase primary school enrolment rate (particularly of girls) and ensure completion of same, on to other education, economic, gender and democratic issues.
In truth, government after government come up with development programmes as the vehicle to eradicating poverty and a wonderful balm for healing or at best soothing the peoples’ scars. In many cases, the people are seduced by the language of such programmes and take their ‘pro-poor’ and ‘people-centred’ claims at face-value. Unfortunately, the reality for the common man especially as it relates to gender reveals that such programmes bear little relation to the process of socio-economic transformation.
Without question, the dilemma facing the implementation of social reforms in sub-Saharan Africa is essentially that of leadership. In the quest for a clearer understanding of the role of leadership in instituting a people-centred philosophy of governance, I seek for us to go beyond incumbent rulers to include those waiting in the wings as well as those who, even if not aspiring to rule, are sufficiently concerned about the future of the polity to articulate ideas on the form this future should take. As one of those on whom the burden of leadership will fall in the near future, the bulk of my time and effort is directed toward positioning myself to acquire the strategies, skills and knowledge (the means) to achieve these ends.
My ultimate ambition is to become a sustainable development expert. I look at my career like a race. The finish line is retirement (although I doubt I will ever retire). I want the race to be exciting and challenging. Having worked with young people, particularly the girl-child, in the NGO sector for over a decade, I have the ability to interact and work well with people. I have good leadership, organizational and analytical skills. I also have excellent communication ability. I am passionate about sustainable development and social justice concerns in Africa. Against the back-drop of the time-old saying that the youth of today are the future of tomorrow, it saddens my heart each day I wake to the reality that most African youths and potential leaders have focused primarily on single issues, lacking time nor the motivation to look at wider critical, regional and world challenges. Against the annihilating weight of poverty and the need to win the struggle for survival, time for comprehensive study and reflection, for sharing experiences with persons inside, let alone outside our country, region and field of concentration is very limited. Opportunities for such detached discussions and contemplation are even rarer.
In Nigeria, the level of unemployment especially among graduates is alarming. School dropouts are helpless and hopeless. Teenage pregnancy and teenage prostitution are on the increase. The vast population of our prison inmates are youths. How can we prevent them from ending up in prison in the first place? Ethnic crises continue unabated. In the Niger Delta region where I come from and the present upsurge of violence in Northern Nigeria, the recent dimensions to the prevailing crises has thrown up the many unresolved problems of these region which principally bother on poverty. Our educational system is in shambles. Some of our graduates are not only half-baked but are educational illiterates. Education’s human outputs have not been harnessed for effective citizenship as well as socio-economic and technological progress. Nothing extensive is taught about life goals, lifetime financial planning and investment. Most graduates are found to be lacking in basic skills that have to do with hands-on experience. Our secondary school curriculum for instance, is yet to explicitly reflect certain principles of national development that keep arising out of challenges posed by environmental degradation, pervasive poverty and socio-political unrest. In a broader perspective, the emphasis is on academics (paper qualification) and not on content as it reflects on individual development. The implication of this on socio-economic life is a misplacement of values resulting in the neglect and degradation of natural endowments, historical landmarks and the amenity base. We are still lacking much when it comes to utilizing local resources, appreciating and enhancing indigenous knowledge.
We keep asking ourselves “what can we do?” Often, these questions bring helplessness and anxiety. We find answers, sometimes we do not. With the material symbolism of wealth surrounding us but still mostly out of reach, most people are tempted to take what they can and destroy what they cannot. Others who are still searching for answers amidst uncertain times, find a sense of belonging in criminal groups. Parents are ashamed of their inability to control their children and do not seek help. Those who do, find that there are a few people or places to which they can turn. What can we do?
My concern goes beyond the present to that time in history when today’s youth shall come face to face with the challenges of which we speak today. That time when mere rhetoric will have to pave way for concrete action. What legacies await us? Are we ready? Are we consciously working towards it? Have we enough young people equipped with the pre-requisites for advocating and instituting the desired social policies that will engender sustainable development? What are these social policies? Are they workable? How can we create a system that can effectively and gainfully harness our human and natural resources? How can our young girls assume informed control over their lives? How can we enhance our health and life options? What success stories have been recorded in other parts of the world? Can we achieve same in our community, country and continent? HOW?
In truth, we cannot correct the past. It is history, gone and we only need to know it to instruct our present and plan for the future – the future of which my generation represents. We cannot arrive at that future and enjoy it if we do not survive the present. I am convinced that there is hope for our country and continent.
As Ghandi says “You must be the change you wish to see”
The Change we wish to see can only occur when there is mutual encouragement at all levels, development of skills for self-sufficiency and on-going personal development.
This process can be difficult to start and implement effectively, but many success stories abound.
Growing up as a little girl, a teenager and now an adult, I arm myself only with the tools that would add value and broaden my opportunities to be versatile, self-sufficient and successful. I am continuously hunting down those tools that will afford me a much desired opportunity to
- Re-affirm my belief in myself.
- Acquire an international outlook on issues raised.
- Develop my analytical and management skills through exploring the wider issues of social change and an appreciation of cultural factors in development.
- Draw from existing case studies/best practices and identify how more social entrepreneurial initiatives can be brought to scale.
- Be exposed to the strategies of utilizing global market forces to promote growth and sustainable development beneficial to all the people and not only the few fortunate national elite.
- Strengthen my professional competence in planning, managing and monitoring activities that have implications for livelihood sustainability
When I cross the finish line, I fully expect to look back and not want to change a thing.
Author & Change Agent – Picture Showcase