It was an atmosphere of inspiration as the passing generation shared experiences with the coming generation at the Nigerian commemoration of the United Nations International Youth Day 2014, organised by Rise networks.
The event, which sought to develop the capacity of youths for the challenges of the present and the future, was attended by dignitaries from various paths of life such as governor of Cross River state, Liyel Imoke; former member of the federal house of representatives, Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon (representing the executive governor of Edo state); billionaire fashion designer and executive director of Famfa Oil, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija; award-winning actress and aspirant of the federal house of representatives, Kate Hensaw; chairman of JayKay Pharmacy Limited and aspirant for the office of the governor of Lagos state, Mr. Jimi Agbaje (OON); and executive director, Campaign for Democracy (CD), Dr. Joe Okei Odumakin.
Governor Liyel Imoke opened the event, speaking extensively on mental health and the challenges he dealt with as a youth, relative to what today’s youths face. Comparing both generations, he lamented the absence of the Internet and many contemporary electronic opportunities during his time.
“I didn’t have the Internet when I grew up,” he said.
“When I was in the university, I saw a computer; it was as big as this table, and there was something called computer language, and it was so difficult for me. In those days, we did not know what software design, software development was all about.”
He went on to charge youths to take power by themselves and not expect anyone to hand it over to them.
Although he was only 3o when he became a senator, Imoke said he was no different from the average youth of today: he had nothing extraordinary, especially as he graduated from university with “a 2-2”.
While speaking, Obahiagbon urged government to create jobs by providing training centres for youths across the nation.
He challenged youths also to defend what truly belongs to them, making them repeat after him: “The air is ours, and the skies, and the seas, and the Nigerian land; we shall defend them”.
Kate Hensaw mounted the podium to provoke youths to take leadership now, saying: “It is a worn-out expression that children and indeed the youths are the leaders of tomorrow; tomorrow never comes, tomorrow is today”.
She also joined others in lauding the exemplary life of Toyosi Akerele, the founder of Rise networks.
Dr. Joe Odumakin, who was awarded by Michelle Obama at the international women of courage awards, recalled the sad kidnap of the chibok girls.
“On April 14, more than 200 girls were taken hostage. Till now, they are still in captivity,” she lamented.
She promoted her #RescueOurGirlsNow campaign, and advised youths to keep up with the RSVP protocol ahead of the 2015 elections.
Agbaje compared Nigeria and Indonesia, showing the youths the former’s similarity to the latter. He also lamented the state of the nation, noting that “in Nigeria, wrong has become right”.
He charged the youths to take control of their destinies.
“Taking charge is thinking Nigeria first; taking charge is saying no to mediocrity; the new world has no room for the mediocre,” he said.
Speaking on entrepreneurship, Alakija, one of the world’s richest women, praised the God for all of her achievements.
“If I have an idea, before I’ll do anything, I’ll take it to the Lord in prayer,” she said although she was blunt enough to acknowledge that “faith without action is stupid”.
The 63-year-old billionaire, who never attended a university, added that she gave her life to Christ in 1991 and ever since, the Lord has been good to her.
A satirical stage play by Crown Troupe of Africa held before the question-and-answer session moderated by human rights activist, Festus Keyamo Esq. and emcee Babatunde Benson.
The crescendo was the art exhibition and presentation of art portraits by the convener, Toyosi Akerele.