‘ Youths require fresh ideas to move Nigeria forward’



Young men and women will on November 6 on 7, gather at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, Nigerian capital to brainstorm on how to find answers to a lot of contemporary social issues affecting them.

The two-day conference, which is the brainchild of Guardians of the Nation International, (GOTNI) has as its theme, “Rethinking Nigeria: Leadership for Possibilities” while at least 22 speakers drawn from both within Nigeria and outside the country are also expected.

The President of GOTNI, Linus Okorie, an Inspirational Speaker, Leadership Coach and Adviser, Governance Expert told Mohammed Abubakar in an interview in Abuja at the weekend that the latest initiative is aimed at equipping Nigerian youth with  necessary skills  to make their  contributions to the nation’s building.

WHAT is the Emerging Leaders’ Conference all about?

The conference is a gathering of young achievers from all over the country; youths from all sectors of the economy. It is a gathering of three major sets of people, first is a gathering of entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs under 45 years of age that own businesses that are running their own organisations, young people that are inspiring their peers, who are trail blazers in whatever ideas that they are pursuing that they are running as a business, owners of those kinds of businesses in the entertainment industry, in the creative enterprise industry, in every industrial sector, will be participating in this conference. Then we have another segment of the conference, which is the intrapreneurship, this is having young people who are working within organisations but have enterprise skills, people who want to improve on their enterprise capacities to be effective and become change creators within the organisations, thinkers, young people that help the organisations succeed, a gathering of those kinds of young people. So you are expecting corporate entities, institutions and agencies of government; the banks should be able to look inward and say where are some of our best, the young champions who are doing well and sponsor them to be part of the conference because when these young people come to the conference they will share ideas with their colleagues from the other parts of the country and them we have the social change makers, the young people who are change agents, who are in politics, governance, they are young people under 45 who are currently occupying public positions in the country or young people who are aspiring to become members of the political class or members of the social change groups, they run non-profit organisations, they run social change organisations and these are the kinds of people we are talking about that we are gathering, the best of the best all over the country.

It is a two-day conference that is facilitated by Guardians of the Nation International  (GOTNI) and the whole idea is that we will usually put this conference and bring our international speaker people like Prof. Tim Howard from Cambridge, United States would be coming as a Keynote Speaker, and we have local speakers in the country like such as John Momoh, founder of Channels Television, Mary Akpobome of Heritage Bank and Prof. Pat Utomi, quite a number of distinguished Nigerians across the board who would be coming in to drive their messages of rethinking Nigeria leadership for possibilities whereby we will have a new set of people thinking differently, it is like a mindset transformation conference, an attitudinal change transformation conference, a paradigm shift conference you would begin to focus on the ruling young people in the process of developing our country. So this conference is for any one, who is a young people under 45 who is living in this country or outside this country, who aspires to improve his leadership capital skills, you have a full blown arsenal of speakers from all sectors of the economy that will engage with these young people. So it is something that is most needed at this time in our national life.

How is this conference different from similar talk shops in the past?

The beautiful thing is our conferences are usually not talkshop in the sense that they are leadership inspirational conferences that will bring critical missing links in terms of the knowledge gap to the people. Most of the conferences that you see happening in this country are technical conferences, conferences that have to do with people coming together to talk about technical processes that can improve their institutions or organisations, but I have not seen a lot of pure driven leadership conferences that are well thought out over a period of time because GOTNI, the mother of this conference was founded by me at the age of 19, which means it has been 21 years of working on ideas and executing and impacting lives and we have seen over 60,000 young people pass through our different programmes across the country. We have currently set up Leadership Centre where leadership can become institutional in nature. So what we are talking about is something that is tested and proven. We are talking about something that when young people attend, they don’t just disappear after the conference, you still have a way of evaluating their progress, they are within our networks we continue to invest in them through our Leadership Centre as the case maybe.

So it is not just any kind of conference, it is a conference that is geared towards the mindset transformation and if you want to change a country the most important thing that you do is to focus on re-orienting the mindset of the people that are responsible for creating the country and these are the things that Singapore did. Countries like Singapore took their people and invested heavily in their minds, taught them this kind of thing we are teaching our young people today, set up leadership conferences, leadership institutional growth process of the young people and then they grew up knowing that they can do big things, knowing that they can service for the common good,knowing that they can be courageous to run with their big ideas and at the end of the day see what their country has become, and so that is what is different about this conference because the impact of it people will take home things that will help them become transformational leaders in their space of influence.

Why limiting participation to a particular age bracket, what happens to the ideas of those above the age bracket, but who want to contribute?

Well our target is 45, however, in our past conferences, we have seen people who were over 60 years, who come into the conferences and said they want to participate, we are not going to stop them, we want exceptional people like that, who would say even though I’m above 45, but I have the vision I can interact with young people, I can grow my own skills because we are in a learning environment, we are in a learning system, and the world that we have today is a dynamic one, is a changing world, where3 it is a knowledge-based economy and a lot of people are interested in doing things for themselves, so it doesn’t matter the age where you find yourself in you can still participate. However, we say this is our target audience, but at the end of the day, anybody who is above the age and who hungers for leadership development and would want to come be part of this conference will not be stopped, we will ensure that at the end of the day, those who are hungry for change, those who are hungry for learning, those who are hungry for knowledge will have an opportunity to sit and dine with people who will be dishing out this leadership capital knowledge and at the end of the day I tell you the truth, it will transform the way people are thinking.

How do you think the present administration with its change agenda can fit into your leadership vision?

What the President said during the October 1st speech was that what the country needs is total attitudinal change and I agree with him, and we are saying if that is to achieved and not just by wish, it going to be by deliberate government policies to begin to look for institutions like ours that have been committed, trusted, proven in the business of developing leadership capital to partner with, to see how we can help in ensuring and driving a new way of thinking across Nigeria, because if you shout change on air, the only way you can change the country is not by slogan, it is by changing and investing in the attitudinal transformation of these people, and that is why I think that the government at the centre and the various state governments should see this conference as an opportunity to say key in and use it as a vehicle to fashion out their policy directions on the youth.

We have invited the President officially to be at the conference, and we look forward to their accepting the invitation and all the state governors we also extended invitations to nominate the young people and every members of the legislature has an invitation from us to look forward young promising people inn their respective constituencies and in their work place to participate in the conference, if they do that, then it means that, they really mean well, when they talk about attitudinal transformation because if you don’t invest in young people, there is no way this can happen. So you cannot build a new nation until you build new men and you start building new men and women at this very early stages in their lives because that is the way to go if this country must grow, therefore, government must connect with conferences like this and make their presence felt in every ramifications.

In summary, what are the people taking away from this conference?

The critical thing is that, when we were thinking about setting up this emerging leaders’ conference, what we had in had in mind was that, there are a lot of young people who are in different parts of the country that are doing great things on their own and a lot of them think that they have arrived, but by the time they come into the conference, in just networking alone with their colleagues, they will realize that a young man from Ife for instance, who has two or three hectares of land that is doing farming is making a difference there and they just have one hectare, in order words, there will be peer review mechanism that alone is a learning process so young people are coming to network amongst their colleagues is national integration, people will be taking away business friendships, business relationships, political networks and relationships from the conference, which is very key. Secondly, people are going to be taking away leadership capital knowledge, new skills, new ideas, new thoughts about how they become better leaders and great thinkers as the case may be. So the critical knowledge that is fresh in this new world, in this dynamic world, young people will leave the conference with new ideas and knowledge that will help them to succeed. Away from that young people will also leave the conference with a love for Nigeria like never before, a love and commitment to say we exist first because we are individuals, but we are Nigerians.

Therefore, all these tribal differences will have to give way for a new generation of young people are emerging, who say we don’t want to celebrate mediocrity any more, we want to celebrate excellence, as young people, we should be thinking about our country, love for the nation, nation first. These are the kinds of ideals that will facilitate such a growth in our country that will enable our country unite that it has never been before, because you have young

people that have been groomed and natured. For me these are very key areas that I think when the young people leave the conference they are going back to their places of endeavour and bring new values and new ideas because they have been impacted heavily at the conference.

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