By Victor Gotevbe
Ifeanyi, a Nigerian born residing in New York is flying the Nigerian flag against all odds. At 26, he leads a viable network of young leaders that is causing a wave of change both in Nigeria and in the city of New York USA. He had a chat with Saturday Vanguard over the weekend. Excerpt
What was your childhood like?
I was born and raised in Sapele Local Government,Delta State, Nigeria. I have five elder sisters and one younger brother. My nursery and primary education was at Tender Kiddies Foundation School, Sapele. As a child I was fond of crying a lot and would prefer to go to my neighbour’s school.
My parents decided to enroll me in a private school to stop me from always crying. The intention was to withdraw me at Primary one after the pre K classes when the tuition fees would have gone up. But as God would have it, their plans were overturned for my good.
At the conclusion of the term and during the graduation ceremony, I was awarded the best student in Arithmetic, English language, Social studies, sciences and I was the neatest student. Thanks to my sisters who ensured I had after school classes at home, with all of them taking turns to teach me.
The awards propelled the Chairperson of the graduation ceremony – the Magistrate of the Sapele local court- Justice Mrs. Loremeke of blessed memory to award me the biggest prize of the day; a scholarship from primary 1-6. The scholarship was the best thing that happened to me and my family because not only was my school fees paid for 6 years but also I had free ride to and from school as well as a well packaged lunch for my lunch breaks, all courtesy of Justice Loremeke who interestingly lived on the same street with me at that time.
After graduation from primary school, I went on to attend Merit mixed Secondary School. Secondary school was tough for me but was worth it, I learnt multi-tasking at this time because there were times when I spent over a week away from school, just because I had to be in the farm some 30 miles away working with my family to grow our own food, like cassava, maize, melons, vegetables and yams to feed our large family since we couldn’t afford to buy them all. I successfully graduated and went on to attend the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, majoring in Economics.
What inspired you to move to the US?
In the summer of 2008, I moved to the United States where I am a resident of New York City. Educational opportunities fueled my move to the US, but quickly I came to understand not just the disparity of where I am coming from and where I am at the time, but also the best of both worlds and how their differences and similarities are inter-twined to sharpen my understanding and everyday struggles of life.
Today, I presently work for Accinblock, a finance and business Management Company based in New York, and I also serve as the special adviser on African affairs and Executive board member of the International youth Council, a civil society think tank to the United Nations on the Millennium development goals and I am the founder of LEAD Nigeria.
What do you do at LEAD Nigeria?
Lead Nigeria is a non-governmental and non profit organization which I founded in 2005. The word LEAD, is an acronym for Leadership, Empowerment, Attitude, and Development. LEAD Nigeria’s mission is to mobilize the collective talents of young people between the ages of 13-35 through innovative projects, programmes and commitments that will help in implementing real growth and sustainable development within the context of their local environment and communities.
At LEAD Nigeria, we provide a comprehensive leadership programme that challenges the understanding of basic issues involving youths and young people as well as their leadership competencies with much training and emphasis on real life scenarios and world cases.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In the next five years, I want to be in a comfortable and much better position from where I am now, a position that allows me the opportunity to provide better innovative and creative opportunities, ideas and knowledge to help inspire young people to re-invent themselves and take charge of their talents in defining who they are.
Also, I see myself doing what I love doing best, traveling and working with young people in different cultural contexts, providing them information on issues threatening their survival and development and most importantly building LEAD Nigeria with a direct focus on ideas, actions and results to impact lives meaningfully with a result oriented approach. Also, I want to continue to widen out, reach out to more people, build my networks and always be open to learning new things.
What advice do you have for other young people?
My advice to young people is always be yourself. It takes you to know what you want, so you have to model yourself towards the future you want and not the things you see around you. My life has been all about opportunities, and opportunity they say comes but once, so you just have to make good use of every moment that comes your way.
Life is all about persistence, it’s better to try than not to try at all because there is no harm in trying, giving every situation your best shot and seeing every challenge as a solution to the first piece of the puzzle is a worthy approach towards desired results.
What are you currently working on?
Presently, for the third consecutive year, LEAD Nigeria will be hosting the 3rd Annual Nigerian Leadership Summit 2012 at the LaGuardia Plaza Airport hotel, New York, NY from August 10-11, 2012. The Nigerian Leadership Summit is an annual event designed to bring together Nigerian Professionals, Academicians and Entrepreneurs from all across the Diaspora, especially youths and young people to discuss about Nigeria’s present leadership issues, and familiarize participants with the leadership styles and strategies needed in the partnership required to deliver results that will trickle down to Nigerians at home and how Diaspora Nigerians can add their own quota at this moment, partnering with Nigerians at home and the government for the economic growth of the country.
Also, LEAD Nigeria and some partners are working together in developing and organizing one of the biggest youth conferences Nigeria will ever know. This conference will focus on empowering the Nigerian youth on the critical need for innovation and entrepreneurship in 21st century Nigeria, bringing over 1000 Nigerian youths from across Nigeria and the Diaspora to Abuja in January of 2013.
YOUNG NIGERIANS MAKING THE DIFFERENCE
OGUN EBENEZER SEMASA AJEGUNLE
Ogun, Ebenezer Semasa, popularly called OGUNS, is a dynamic Public Speaker, Compere, a Social Worker and a Child Rights Activist. He is a Certified First Aider and a Youth Leader with the Nigerian Red Cross Society with an Occupational Safety & Health Certificate from OSH Academy, USA.
He was born on the 26th day of October, 1984, to a family of 7. Due to financial issues, that he had to drop out of school at a time, but he remained determined, resilient, focused and positive about his future. However, presently, he is a 400level Economics Education student at the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, where he serves as the President of his Department (Language, Arts and Social Science Students’ Association) and the General Secretary of his Faculty (Nigerian Universities Education Students’ Association).
Ogun’s major challenge while growing up in Ajegunle was on issues relating to child abuse, this resulted in the birth of the Child Rights Foundation, a Child Advocacy Outfit, enthusiastic about making children realize and discover their rights as well as the discovery of their purpose, so as to help them be better citizens in the future
He goes with the quote that “there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future”. This connotes that everyone could be better-of.