If you’ve been keeping up with events within the capital, you would have noticed an increase in the number of events, forums and seminars aimed at sensitising Nigerian youths in the diaspora to take part in the change that the country urgently needs.
From Gentalks on the future entrepreneurship in Nigeria to the launch of the Nigeria Youth Congress in Westminster, there have been no shortage of inspiration for the next generation of leaders who will one day, hopefully contribute to the development of the country which is urgently in need of visionary leadership.
One of such events was the Nigeria Dialogue on the Next Generation of Leadership in Nigeria which took place on the 12th of July at the University College London.
The aim of the event was to bring together Nigerians in the UK to discuss the challenges facing the young generation in Nigeria and the diaspora with a view to preferring solutions that would be presented to the present crop of leaders in the country.
The brain child of Bankole Eniola, Nigeria Dialogue is an annual event which brings together expert panelists who bring use experience of living in Nigeria to inspire and challenge Nigerians in the diaspora to be part of the development back at home.
This year’s panel included veteran broadcaster and activist Funmi Iyanda, Youth empowerment mentor and founder of Red Media Chude Judeonwo and Media personality Ikenna Azuike took questions from the audience about their views on current affairs in the country.
Education seemed to be one of the main concerns which kept popping up on the day with stark statistics showing that children born in Nigeria had a bleaker future than anywhere else in the world.
The abysmal percentage of the budget allocated to education was also strongly condemned in comparison to the population of the country.
Nigeria was also said to have the most number of children out of education in the world with up to 6.6million children out of school. The world’s unluckiest children will be born in Nigeria.
According to the Economist, Nigeria will become the fourth largest country in the world by 2015 but 39% of Nigerians can neither read nor write. Conflicts have also destroyed 28% of schools, particularly in Northern Nigeria where the Boko Haram insurgency is prevalent.
BBC Correspondent on foreign affairs Humphrey Hawksley pointed out that Nigerians are generally very adept at pointing out faults in the system without necessarily preferring alternative ways of doing things.
He suggested that Nigerians come together to set benchmarks for what they feel are acceptable standards for education, healthcare and any other factors of concern and then work towards achieving that, while accepting nothing less.
Funmi Iyanda who gave a rousing review of Chude’s book ‘Are we The Turning Point Generation‘, a book which has received raving reviews from critics, warned the youths in the gathering against comparing Nigeria’s problems with those of the UK or anywhere else in the world.
‘Its going to come from some sort of citizen advocacy,’ she said. No one wants a revolution but these things happen. This generation has various options of engaging everyone, especially with social media- including the area boys and yahoo boys in a language that they understand.’
‘We have to form cell groups of engagement and keep pushing and pressuring until we get the change we desire.’
‘People have been marginalised and Nigerians must become more engaged and organised in the affairs of Nigeria in a way that is non negotiable,’ she said.
The dialogue showed just how passionate Nigerians in London are about what they perceived to be the lack of visionary leadership and direction on the part of the Jonathan administration with people of all ages in the audience, questioning the corruption of government officials, poor healthcare and lack of power in the country.
Some members blamed the breakdown in the fabric of the home as a unit for some of the problems facing not only Nigeria, but the society in general with increased pressure on parents meaning that children are often left to their own devices without proper guidance and direction.
The general consensus was that the current Nigerians had to first tackle the institutionalised problems of corruption and bad leadership before any hope can be restored for the country’s future.