By Emmanuel Asuquo
Johnson Abbaly is a youth advocate who has dedicated a bout a decade into youth inspiring-work across the world. As a conceptual theorist, his work on “Strategic Time Windows” has enhanced the understanding of young people about time shifts and seasons, and to help clear a path for the next generation. His book, “Unleashed” has sparked up renewed hope for young people. Abbaly is a much sought after conference speaker and consultant who routinely trains corporate organisations’ staff on how to unlock the organisation’s brain-power and maximise their human resource potentials. In this interview, the CEO of Lightfield House speaks on his latest youth projects: The Successors Generation Community, youth empowerment and other issues. Excerpts:
What is the Successor Generation Community (SGC) about?
The Successor Generation Community is a Smart community which will provide a platform for gifted, intelligent and smart young people in Ikorodu—and in due course all over Nigeria—to explore opportunities.
There have been youth intervention programmes in the country.Do you think SGC will fare better?
The SGC is a community not a programme. The community working closely with the Lightfield House, a talent profiling firm will help members set goals for personal development and career path progress for community members.
Could you share the vision of SGC ?
The basic vision of SGC is to raise the true successors; the leaders of tomorrow. The SGC is aimed at harnessing the hidden potentials of thousands and make them realize their real capabilities. We aim at exposing young people to the real world and keep updating them with modern trends and spurring them to the zenith. We believe that a successor is not just someone who takes over from a predecessor.
We believe that a true successor is one who is trained to take over from a predecessor. The true successors that the community shall produce will be able to handle all their duties and obligations as they take over from their forerunners—in the no distant future, solve all the problems the previous leaders couldn’t solve and set new standards for national development. We have the vision of growth-inducing interactions, Inspirational mentorship that could lead young people to lasting success, positive change, development and reorientation of the mindsets of Nigerian youths, and this has a various positive impact on members of the SGC.
How would you describe an average Nigerian youth?
The average Nigerian youth is basically a ‘hustler’. We young people try to organize our lives and gather things together amidst lack. We try to strive for a well-paying job in an atmosphere of gross unemployment. The average Nigerian youth has little or no hope in the prospects of Nigeria.
He will jet out of this country to other countries— even to neighbouring countries like Niger and Benin —either to study or work. The average Nigerian youth seeks a political office not because he wants to foster change but because he wants his share of the ‘National Cake’.
The average Nigerian only thinks about the present, he is scared of thinking about the future because since the present doesn’t hold much hope for him, he has the proclivity to view the future as even bleaker.
Do you think the Government has done enough to empower the youth?
Unfortunately No! We believe successive governments have not done enough to position youth related concerns on the front burner. There is still so much left to be accomplished . From all indications it has been and is still lucid that there have been a few attempts at job creation by the Government which were ephemeral and didn’t go far enough in improving the conditions of the youth in the country.
Our education sector is on a regression course. The few industries we have are packing up due to the unfavourable business climate in the country, and the problems of corruption and absence of rule of law. Young entrepreneurs are worst hit and there’s no true policy support to stir any real hope.
Almost all political positions, public offices, and government parastatals are held by older people so the youth have no input on how the country is run. Above all, the Government has not given the youth platforms to realize their potentials, explore opportunities or develop themselves, so the youth cannot become a driving force for national development except we do things radically differently.
The Nigeria National youth policy, in relation to implementation is just another fine document; what’s your take ?
I wholeheartedly agree with that notion. The fact remains that our Government is great at making policies but poor at implementing them. All the beautiful plans for youth development in that policy are hardly put to practice. One of the major clauses of the policy says that there will be grassroot consultation for youth development. Sadly, however, I don’t think that this has ever been done.
The youth at the grassroots who are bubbling with eruptive potential are still neglected. However, in recent time the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Youth Development has engaged a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the sector to come up with more actionable policy. We hope this effort will help drive the needed change.
Is SGC a one-off event?
No. Although the inauguration ceremony of the SGC on May 29, is a one-day thing, it will only be the dawn of a new age for the young people of Ikorodu and Nigeria at large.
As I stated earlier, the SGC is not a programme or an event, it is a community. Once we have the initial members of the community registered in the official inauguration day we will begin our community activities. There will be rigid meeting times, mentorships, trainings, seminars and different avenues of outings for our members. And we aim, ultimately, for the construction of our planned world-class Successor Youth Centre, which will be the haven for all members of the SGC.
We plan to equip the Youth Centre with state-of-the-art equipment with the latest technology from around the world, tailored to our needs. The centre shall possess e-libraries, mind rooms, music studios, conference halls, indoor games rooms, sports facilities, and even incubators for young, small-business owners to grow their businesses. We also intend to spread the SGC from Ikorodu to other key areas of Lagos State and finally, other states of the federation. The SGC is not a one-day project at all.
What, in your view is the future of young people in this country
Well, based on the current setup we have for the youth in Nigeria, the future doesn’t seem really promising. However, with a change of mindset, support from the Government, more opportunities for employment and sole proprietorship, and the springing up of many more privately-funded, youth-development initiatives like the SGC, the future of Nigerian youths will definitely take a positive turn.
I believe strongly in the abilities of the Nigerian youth, I believe that we can rise above the status quo and do great things with our lives. We are a breed of the most intelligent minds on the planet and with a nudge in the right direction and fundamental support we shall get to the zenith. This is why I’m a part of the SGC because I know that the SGC is that community that will help Nigerian youths become the very best that they can be.
Do you have any word for the incoming Government as regards the youth sector?
My major advice to the incoming Government is that they should give the Nigerian youths a place at the table. They should show some faith in the next generation and invest in them. They need a pedestal, opportunities and all the support that they can get. They have to change their attitudes towards the youth. They are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today and the custodians of tomorrow. They determine the future of Nigeria and therefore they should be considered as the most important factor in moving the nation forward.
The Government doesn’t need to consult clairvoyants to know the future of Nigeria, they only need to look around them and study the youth in their environment, the status of the average youth around them is a glaring reflection of the status of Nigeria in the future. I urge the incoming Government to pay attention to the education sector of Nigeria and improve it so that our educational institutions will not churn out half-baked graduates, and our youths will be able to relate and compete favourably with their counterparts from other countries.
The Government should also help the young entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. They should provide incubators, single digit credit lines and small business friendly legislation so that they can metamorphose from small business owners to medium business owners and in the process provide jobs for fellow young people.
The incoming administration should also ensure that the younger generation are more actively involved in the running of the country; young people should be allowed to hold public offices and engage in politics without fear. Importantly, the incoming government should focus on job creation. Jobs should be created for youths so they won’t have to resort to crimes and social vices to survive.
If the incoming Government works assiduously to develop the youths in the country, the kind of change that will occur in all sectors of our economy will be revolutionary. They will literally break barriers and become a part of the ‘Big leagues’. De facto, don’t the youth constitute 85% of the proletariats?