An international organisation, MacArthur Foundation, on Friday advised Nigerian youth to mobilise their energy and commitment towards the success of 2023 general elections as they did during the #EndSARS protest.
The Country Director of MF, Dr. Kole Shettima stated this in his keynote address delivered during the opening of a two-day Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association of Nigeria LEAD ON conference 2022 in Abuja, with the theme, ‘Leading through adversity.’
According to him, the End-SARS was a reflection of the energy, creativity, and passion which young people have for the county, which could be channel not just as protest but developmental courses.
Shettima said, “I think they were able to mobilize a lot of resources in terms of networks, resources in terms of people who came out and demonstrated, and they have shown that they can actually organize themselves.
“I think the challenge now is what we should do beyond the End-SARS protest. How do we engage in civic, public service way and those energies that were brought in, whether in terms of the money that we raised, the network that were established?
“How do we use those networks in order to channel it towards public service, towards civil engagement? And what difference can that actually have on the country and other things?
“That is, for me, is the most important story about END-SARS itself. About its own potential to be a change agent for our country.”
Shettima who said that the foundation since 1989 had invested not less than $200m dollars in Nigeria, added that the foundation was committed to working in partnership with the country towards the success of 2023 general elections.
He listed some of the areas the foundation was working on to achieve that to include working with the Independent National Electoral Commission to make the elections credible, engaging young people to register, collect their Permanent Voter Cards and come out and vote on the day of election.
He said that MF would be working towards ensuring that the views of youths were included in political parties’ agenda, appointments and other programmes that could improve their quality of lives in the country.
Shettima advised government, philanthropists and developmental organisations to invest more in education and healthcare system.
He said that the measures were important to make Nigerian youth, who constituted over 70 per cent of the country’s population a demographic dividend, and not a burden or disaster.
The MF Country Director said, “We are youthful country in the sense that I about 70 per cent our population, the median age is 18.1. So, this is a youthful country.
“This youthful age, can be a dividend, which means it can be of benefit and profitable for people or it can be a disaster for itself.
“The line between benefit and disaster is in terms of do you invest in their education? Do you invest in their health? Do you slow down population growth and do you give them economic opportunities?
“If you don’t do those four things, that potential benefit then can becomes a disaster.”
Shettima said it had been seen in many parts of the country where youth opportunities have been wasted and they were not able to contribute to the country.
“That is because we have not done the right thing as a people as a country, in trying to ensure that we give them, what will equip them, what will it make them to become useful to the society itself”, he said.
Shettima said that while everyone including the government and philanthropists and group need to invest in those areas that would impact of the youth, government needed to take the lead role.
“Those are the things that we need to do as people, otherwise these are youthful population then becomes a disaster and everyone is going to suffer for it,” he said.
He commended the rate at which Nigerian youth across the world were making impact and progress in the area of sports, entertainment technology development, innovations, civil and public space and services
Shettima, however, advised Nigeria youth to develop passion for something developmental, get soft skills, get prepared for opportunities, take the risk, and get involved in what would have positive impact on others peoples lives.
He said these factors were critical for them to continue to make impacts on the country and the globe.
The President of the MWFAAN, Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, said that the Mandela Washington Fellowship established by former President Barrack Obama in 2014
has the potential to impact on the unity and development of Nigeria.
Adetola-Kazeem said that the fellowship provides outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. higher education institution with support for professional development after they return home.
He said, “The Institutes focus on leadership and skills development in one of three tracks: Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management.
“Over 500 Nigerian Fellows, who have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries have passed through this Fellowship.”
Adetola-Kazeem said the theme was carefully chosen, to discuss the challenges of the pandemic and global recession and strategies young vibrant leaders needed to adopt to rise above these challenges.
A fellow of the Fellowship, Esther Mark-Nathaniel, said being a fellow of the Mandela Washington Fellowship had helped her to improve her life, networking, her life, impacting more on people and the society.
He urged young Nigerians to take advantage of the fellowship saying “if you think you are a committed person, compassionate, coexistence, deliberate person, please do apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program.
“It is one opportunity that has the tremendous capacity of blowing you up. Functioning as the Communications and Marketing Secretary of the association, I can tell you that the fellowship itself comes with tremendous benefits.”