Before I turn 18: Identifying leadership skills in teens towards national development

Facilitator, Femi Aladesanmi, Lead Pastor at Global Harvest Church, Ibadan, taking a session at the Before I turn 18 event, at the University of Ibadan.

The role of Nigeria’s youth has gone beyond being ‘leaders of tomorrow.’ They now set the agenda for issues of today. This is clear going by the recent ruckus pervading the national space emanating from statements made by certain Northern youths. This statement infamously termed ‘Igbo quit notice’ has set the pace for numerous arguments, meetings and consultations across the length and breadth of the country, including the Presidency.

However, in a move that will ensure the energies of the youth are channeled at an early stage to constructive purposes instead of becoming the epicentre for divisiveness, a certain non-governmental organisation known as Sozo Network has put together the third in its of ‘Safe Projects’ series tagged ‘Before I turn 18,’ a career and leadership development programme for teenagers.

Held on June 10 at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, the programme according to the organiser, Dr Segun Fatudimu, was built to “create formidable leagues of teenagers across Africa, who would rise to become ethical and exceptional leaders in diverse fields. We seek to discover and identify leadership skills in these teenagers and begin to channel it towards national development.”

Hundreds of teenagers drawn from public and private secondary schools converged in batches on the venue.

Facilitators included Modupe Akinsiun, HR Partner at Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals who spoke on ‘Career and Leadership’; Adebayo Adeyinka, Regional Manager, Fidelity Bank, dealt with ‘Handling money, investment and business’; Adepeju Jaiyeoba, White House Emerging Global Entrepreneur who spoke on ‘Civic engagement and social engagement’; Femi Aladesanmi, Lead Pastor at Global Harvest Church, Ibadan, handled the topic, ‘Relationship with God and people: Etiquette, emotions and morals’.

In her speech, Mrs Akinsiun challenged the teenagers to “take charge of your life and take responsibility for your career.” She said, “You are not in school to get a job but to learn how to make a difference. Time is not just money, time is life. As the seconds are ticking away so is life. Ask yourself if what you are doing is leading you to your dream.”

When Mr Adeyinka began to speak on his topic, he said, “The fastest way to make money is to solve a problem. Identify problems around you and solve them.”

With the glamorisation of internet fraud especially by music artists, the banker had this to tell the young people in attendance, “Money making is a process; don’t be in a rush to make money.” He encouraged the audience to start to imbibe the culture of saving, even as he encouraged them to be readers as part of the route to financial freedom. He recommended two books among others: ‘The Richest Man in Babylon,’ and ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’.

The event was not an all youth affair, as an elderly and well respected high chief of Ibadan graced the occasion. He was Chief Lekan Balogun, the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland. Chief Balogun expressed joy over the ability of young people to channel their energies for productive uses such as the one he had come to witness.

Dr Fatudimu was quick to add that “I must state that the SAFE Project is way more than this programme! We are starting free computer training, leadership and academic support for selected 150 of the participants.

“Sozo Network is an NGO that focuses on providing leadership to teenagers in underserved communities and extending impacts by providing them with grassroot mentorship, educational and career supports and leadership development.

“SAFE (Sensitization and awareness for future empowerment) Projects is their flagship programme that serves thousands of teenagers from over 20 communities across Oyo and Enugu states in Nigeria. It guides teenagers towards obtaining a quality education, purposeful career pursuit, and leadership development, through grassroots mentorship, computer training, educational support, conferences and other highly inclusive and innovative programmes.”

Speaking on the motivation for the activities of his NGO, Dr Fatudimu said, “Growing up, my parents were not properly educated because their parents were unable to sponsor their education, and were also unable to provide the necessary educational environment and support for me as their earning from 14 hours per day job was not enough for our survival.”

“I was fortunate to have an intervention. Someone who mentored me towards an excellent educational pursuit, which earned me a scholarship at the university. This fortunate access to formal tertiary education, career opportunities and leadership exposure triggered in me a passion to help disadvantaged children have equal opportunities and access to education, hence I established Sozo Networks.

“We have been able to impact 1,020 students, train 80 young leaders and 70 parents too. We have sponsored 24 students for WAEC examinations who achieved excellent results and 308 JAMB candidates. We hope to have impacted seven million youths empowered over 10,000 young leaders by 2030.”


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