Nigeria is haunted by many challenges that threaten its nationhood. In this interview with Udeme Akpan, the trustee and convener of Organisation for Youth Advancement and Impact Network, Mr. Rotimi Idowu, stresses the need for every citizen to make positive impact.
In your opinion, how is President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration committed to providing good governance, selfless leadership and corruption-free society?
The Impact Group Network is not a political organization and does not have any political affiliations. However, the President has at various times stressed his commitment to making a great nation through good governance and selfless leadership. He has also expressed the determination of his government to fight corruption. We believe that building a vibrant and corruption-free nation is a collective responsibility which every Nigerian must be committed to, at all levels.
What should be the role of the private sector?
The private sector needs to work hand in hand with government in the arduous task of nation building. There are opportunities for the organized private sector to partner with the government through various initiatives and institutional changes canvassed by the government to re-orientate the citizenry, and be committed to building the viable nation that we all want. The government cannot do it alone. There must be commitment by the private sector, entrepreneurs, and the citizenry in general. The building of a great nation starts from a positive mindset that it is achievable, followed by a determination to work hard to see the dreams come to life. Corporate organisations, politicians, students, religious bodies, and everybody must work towards these ideals, if Nigeria must change, and take its rightful place in the comity of nations.
How committed is the Organisation for Youth Advancement and Impact Network?
Organisation for Youth Advancement and Impact Network is a non-governmental organisation registered under Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990. Impact Network is a creation of a burden borne out of the need to urgently address issues relating to critical dearth of governance, absence of true leadership qualities and the prevalence of corruption in virtually every facet of life in Nigeria, and Africa in general. Rather than join millions of other people across the world to complain about the failure of governance and total erosion of critical developmental values in the Nigerian and African systems, I felt it was necessary to adopt a more pragmatic and result oriented approach towards addressing these overwhelming societal ills.
The approach is to reach out to the budding youths in Nigeria, as a starting point, and create a platform for them to be exposed to critical values that will help promote transparency, integrity and an understanding of what service truly means. I mean, service that is selfless, and not driven by filthy lucre or corruption. It is our belief that true change starts from the mind-set and when the mentality of youths is transformed, the problems of corruption, nepotism, greed, etc. that have be-devilled our national life in Nigeria, and the continent of Africa in general, will begin to fade into oblivion. Our mandate is to gather youths, teach them, inspire them, mentor them and empower them to actualize their full potentials and impact the continent at large, through the demonstration of true leadership qualities. This, we believe, is where the transformation that we need in Africa, starts from.
Do you have any practical ways to achieve these objectives?
The objectives are achievable, and there are practical and methodical ways through which they can be achieved. The transformation that we seek will definitely not happen overnight, but with dedication and hard work, it will happen. Some of the practical things that we do include organizing seminars which are focused on youth development (career, leadership) and mentorship, and bringing faculties who believe in the ideals of the organization to teach and mentor these young people along these lines. This sort of physical interaction is a direct and practical step in engaging the youth population and sharing these values with them. We also provide opportunity for the faculties and members of trustees to mentor these young people by sharing with them their life experiences, and the values that contributed to their success. Through these interactions, several youths have been impacted and inspired to be different. In this regard, I will like to acknowledge the devotion and selflessness of other trustees namely, Ayotokunbo Ehiribe and Hammed Shittu. Without them, we would not have done as much as we have today.
How many of these seminars have you had and what impact have they made?
We have had about six seminars from inception till the end of 2017. The response has been encouraging. We have had quite a lot of people attending our seminars and providing feedback that have clearly shown how much they have been impacted. This is just the beginning. With time, I believe the reach will be wider, and we can begin to organize similar events outside Lagos.
How do you get the money you use to run these programs?
All our programs are self-funded. The members of the board of trustees provide the funds to rent space, provide logistics, refreshments, publicity, and other things which gulp money. That said, this is something which we are happy to do given that every member of the board of trustees is gainfully employed, and are committed to the vision of seeing transformation in Nigeria. For us, it is a huge sacrifice, but we appreciate that it is a way of giving back to the society, and helping to build the Nigeria of our dreams.
How do you manage to run the affairs of the organisation if you are employed?
Well, we have a bunch of fantastic men and woman who are committed to the vision and are vision helpers. They use their time, talents and energies to help run the organisation free of charge. These are people who have understood the meaning of selfless service, and have the same drive toward national rebirth. These people are members of the management team and are: Mathew Olasupo, John Ikhatalor, Seyi Okewale, Ayoola Peters, and Opeyemi Salami.
Do you look forward to seeking foreign funding some day?
For now, external funding is not our focus. Our focus is to reach as many youths as possible with the message of transformation, and true leadership, and begin to see transformation in our national life. The trustees will continue to fund the organisation, and if we see any other person or organisation who believes in what we are doing, and is ready to partner with us, we will not say no. Partnering with us means sharing our vision, and being committed to it as well.