By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
Come the 17th of July 2010, Nigerian youths will be gathering in their thousands at Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos to deliberate on their future and also take a decisive stand on how they will contribute to the success of the 2011 election.
Here, convener of the gathering which is actually the fourth of its kind in the last four years, 26 year old Miss Toyosi Akerele, Chief Executive Officer of Rise Networks, speaks with Vista Woman on the forth coming Annual National Youth Interactive Forum with the theme â€˜Corporation for Operationâ€™ which she reveals will be holding in 10 states across the country this time as opposed to its holding in 6 states last year. She also bares her mind on pressing national issues such as the erratic power situation.Â Her words:
This year’s youth forum
Nigeria is fifty this year, so, weâ€™re also using the year 2010 youth forum to host our own â€˜Nigeria @ 50â€™. This we shall mark with cultural display and debate sessions. The idea of the debate is for young people and even established older people to tell us how we can move Nigeria forward.
In this fourth edition of the youth forum, instead of simply having motivational talks, weâ€™ll haveÂ seasoned Nigerians and young people debate against each other to discuss certain issues and seek ways ofÂ salvaging Nigeria,Â especially in terms of the forthcoming election.
Influenced of the theme
The theme for the year is â€˜Corporation for Operationâ€™ . This theme is tantamount to the fact that we cannot operate as a nation if we do not cooperate. If we do not cooperate as a generation, we cannot leave a legacy for the upcoming generation.
What inspired the theme was the fact that when we looked at trends, we realized that the older people are in a cluster; they are just a caucus of people ruling Nigeria and turning things around either for negative motives or for their own personal interests. So, as young people, we decided to spearhead an idea that should inspire every young person in Nigeria to begin to question him or herself, asking, â€œWhat is my own role?
What can I do to change this country? What will be my role in the forthcoming election? Am I going to vote? Am I going to work towards preventing rigging?Â Â Am I going to vote for the right person or Am I going to take a bag of rice and shut up? Am I going to be given a blackberry and sell my destiny?â€
Speakers at the event
Just as weâ€™ve always had seasoned and high-profiled speakers like Lamido Sanusi the CBN Governor, Prof.Dora Akunyili the Information Minister and Mrs.Ibikun Awosika the MD/CEO of Sokoa Chair Centre Limited, to mention but a few who were at the year 2009 edition of the youth forum, this year, a good number of high-profiled speakers like Dr.Donald Duke the immediate Past Governor of Cross-River State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Mrs.Adesua Oyenokwe the Founder of Todayâ€™s Woman on NTA and Publisher of TW Magazine, Frank Iweke Junior the former Minster of Youths, Dr.Cosmas Maduka the Chairman of Coscharis Group, Dr.John Momoh of Channels Television and Princess Sarah Sosan, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State.
We are going to hold this yearâ€™s national forum and the â€˜Nigeria at fiftyâ€™ session in ten(10)states across the country; Lagos, Ibadan, Akure, Ilorin, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Owerri, Asaba, Port-Harcourt and Calabar.
As a country, a lot of people may say we donâ€™t have so much to celebrate @ fifty, but at Rise,Â we have a reason to celebrate in that weâ€™re drawing strength from the hope that several young people of this generation are beginning to create.
I know a lot of young Nigerians below twenty-five who are running amazingly successful businesses and I know a lot of young people who are moving from just being citizens, to people who are beginning to get interested in the call of Nigeria.
Never before in this country have we seen the level of re-awakening and awareness that we have now.
I donâ€™t believe in dwelling in the past but looking into the future; so, even ifÂ people say the older generation has failed us, Iâ€™m saying that my generation will deliver the future. This gives me a lot of joy .
Advice to President Goodluck Jonathan
In as much as Nigeria has to celebrate its golden jubilee anniversary, I think it is recklessÂ to want spend billions of naira on it.
With all due respect, I think President.Goodluck Jonathan should sit down and set out his priorities.
Iâ€™ve never met him, but I was pleased when for the very first time a young Nigerian like him was sworn-in as the President of this country. Aside being young, there is also the fact that he is educated and is from the Niger Delta where there has been a clamour for leadership. I donâ€™t believe he has become President by chance.Â I believe that God has put him in that position to bring Nigeria as a whole out of the shackles of penury that we are.
Crippling power situation
Instead of celebrating in 2010 with billions of naira, he should cut that money into two and address the power situation! For how long will NigeriaÂ keep telling young people to go get jobs when we know the jobs are not there, and for how long will we keep telling them to go set up businesses when we know the facilities are outrageously exorbitant?
I have a printing press along side other businesses and training programmes I run, and I know how much I spend on diesel and petrol in a month and thatâ€™s because I can afford it! Now, what happens to the ones who are just starting business? How are they going to survive?
I think President Jonathan has to address the power situation.
Even if thatâ€™s the only thing he is able to give us between now and the next election. If he is able to do that, his contesting for theÂ Presidency will be a sure win because Nigerians will come out and voteÂ en mass for him. Same thing with Governor Fashola in Lagos State. Fashola practically doesnâ€™t have to campaign in the forthcoming elections; Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s going to win because he has got the power of the people!Â He seems to understand the real issues that bedevil the average Lagosian and the average Lagos youth.
I think President Jonathan has a chance to become a legend, and I think that it will be catastrophic if he wastes that chance. He has just one year to prove a point, so I think he should stay focused and try to prove every enemy wrong.â€™
To be continued next week…