HOW IT HAPPENED: On Saturday August 9th, 2014, Nigerians from all walks of life converged at the Step Out center, New York for the 5th annual Nigerian Leadership Summit 2014.
he 2014 summit was guided by the theme: “Education and Security: A driving force for Nigeria’s socio-economic development”. For LEAD Nigeria, this theme was extremely important especially with recent events happening in Nigeria.
In opening the Nigerian Leadership Summit 2014 program, Ifeanyi Obinali (Founder and Executive Director-LEAD Nigeria) said “Although, we have recorded so many achievements as a nation this year, especially being the largest economy in Africa, the complex issues still threatening our nation’s survival and overall development continues to escalate no matter government’s intervention. As Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, region, religion and political affiliation, we must now focus on how security challenges, broad knowledge, high level skills and educational innovation will make or break Nigeria’s global presence in the world, highlighting critically the important role of intelligence gathering and the fight against corruption as active tools to addressing terrorism and the Boko Haram insurgency”.
Ifeanyi Said “With the just concluded US-African Leaders summit in Washington DC and President Obama’s vision to empower young African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative, it is obvious that the United States, China and the European Union are looking for better ways to engage the African Continent, and if we must stay relevant in Africa and indeed the world, Nigeria must take urgent steps to put its house in order especially as Ghana, Angola, South Africa and Congo continue to become a regional force in the continent”.
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The Keynote address for the 2014 summit was delivered by Rt. Hon. Bashir Zubairu Usman (Honorable Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Kaduna State). Speaking on the theme: “The State of Insecurity and Education in Nigeria- The role of all stakeholders”, Hon. Usman said “The Nigerian government is resolute in ensuring national security to all citizens and truly understands its primary responsibility to secure and maintain the survival of the Nigerian State, but the unabated violence by BOKO Haram, the feelings of marginalization in some quarters, high level unemployment and poverty continues to threaten our nation’s survival and development”. He emphasized the need to support the Center for democracy and development (CDD) recommendations in a communique signed earlier in February 2014 for government at all levels to actively engage their communities and strengthen education and de-radicalization strategies, review the rules of engagement of the Nigerian military in the management of internal security with the principles of humanitarian law and ensuring that the private sector become more civically responsible in investing and contributing to peace building initiatives within their host communities.
Using Kaduna State as an example, he said “the Kaduna State Government sensitization programs on conflict resolution, vocational skills building program for poverty eradication and the state’s intervention funds for empowerment programs continue to motivate Kaduna youths to embrace peace, innovate and think about new ideas for national development which can be emulated by states across the nation and the federal government”.
The opening panel: “Education in Nigeria- Smart policies, changing mindset, the role of all stakeholders” was moderated by a young Diaspora Nigerian Professional Nekpen Osuan. Nekpen is an associate education officer at the New York City Department of Education and an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University.
Panelists on this panel included Dr. Austin Obasohan, Superintendent of the Duplin County Schools board in rural, southeastern North Carolina, selected as one of the US 16 “Leaders to Learn From” by Education Week in 2013 and Dr. Augustine Okereke, Vice President of academic affairs and provost of Medger Evers College, Brooklyn New York.
Dr. Obasohan emphasized during the panel that it is the job of young people to dream their dreams and the job of educators to make their dreams become reality. He said, teacher training programs and workshops, refresher courses, annual certification, revised curriculum and good pay for our children’s educators should be top priority in providing them the tools and skills they need to compete with other kids from around the globe. He called on educators at all level in Nigeria to know that all children can learn and succeed, saying “the best way to teach a child is to understand and accept the child unconditionally."
On his part, Dr. Augustine Okereke emphasized the need for all stakeholders to see education as the key to building a better Nigeria, a Nigeria that can compete globally in science and technology. He lamented the sad state of innovation in the nation, saying government and private sector inabilities to motivate and inspire civil society groups, non-profit organizations and other institutions with funding to invest in grassroots educational development remains a threat to education in Nigeria.
Dr. Okereke called for more funding for the national library of Nigeria, national education and research development center and the national teachers institute, saying these centers if properly funded and staffed with passionate educational personnel will help provide Nigerian youths the opportunity to embrace education. He said as Vice President of academic affairs and provost at Medgar Evers College, he is working on designing exchange program opportunities that will include resources for African youths to study at the college for either a semester or a full academic year, which he believes will expose and empower them to build skills needed for national development.
The Second Panel titled: “Insecurity and Extremism in Nigeria - Preventing terrorism and enhancing security” was truly fascinating as participants had various views of the Nigerian government with regards to its current inability to bring back our girls and in dealing effectively with the Boko Haram insurgency threatening the North east in particular and the nation in general.
Mr. Victor Gotevbe, the Admin/HR Manager of Vanguard media limited Lagos moderated the panel with Hon. Bashir Zubairu, the honorable commissioner of youths and sports, Kaduna state, and Mr. Wemimo Abbey, founder of clean water for everyone as panelists.
In discussing this subject, Hon. Bashir Zubairu stated clearly the inability of the Nigerian military to engage Boko Haram who has due to porous borders imported weaponry, tanks, bombs and explosives to kill and maim in the interest of promoting their radical ideology, weaponry which sadly the Nigerian military lacks. He said “the federal government has to do more than declaring state of emergency in the north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, by increasing its security budget, invest in intelligence gathering that includes wire tapping’s of people perceived to be hobnobbing with the terrorists , and finally expose and criminally charge Boko Haram sponsors and funders.
In directly challenging the Nigerian Diaspora, he said “We at home will always rely on the opportunities of advanced technology, education and economic means in your chosen countries of abode to be channeled to better develop Nigeria for both social and behavioral change”.
Wemimo Abbey, the founder of clean water for everyone, while speaking on the panel says action from all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion, and region is needed to create a peaceful and sustainable environment. He said everyone should be vigilantes in policing their neighborhood, making sure to raise alarm when they see something out of the ordinary.
He referred to education as a critical piece to the puzzle of addressing the security challenges of the nation, criticizing the administration’s handling of the recent Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) strikes that kept Nigerian students at home while their counterparts around the world were busing learning. He said “Leaving this summit, our commitment to action should be to focus on ways to address our national security challenges especially Boko Haram by working as stakeholders in our nation’s collaboration with coalition partners to ensure the safe return of our girls and ensure peace and security across Nigeria”
Mr. Gotevbe in closing the panel said “Nigeria belong to Nigerians, we cannot just rely on the international community to bail us out of our current situation, citizens at home and abroad must rise up and face this challenge of our time, by standing up and speaking out in one voice both in our words and actions”.
The Nigerian Leadership Summit 2014 concluded with the “Night of Excellence Dinner” celebrating the “Nigerian Excellence Awards”. The “Nigerian Excellence Awards” is designed to honor and celebrate distinguished Nigerians from all walks of life both at home and abroad who have continued to excel in their various professions and careers and are actively involved and engaged in promoting programs, projects and policies to better equip and empower youths and young people, providing opportunities for national development.
The Nigerian Excellence Awards 2014 HONOREES were;
- H.E Alhaji Dr. Muktar Ramalan Yero - The Executive Governor of Kaduna State “Outstanding Personality in Government Award”
- H.E Mairo Tanko Almakura -Wife of the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State “Outstanding Personality in Development Award”
- Mr. Victor Gotevbe - Administrative / HR Manager- Vanguard Media Limited “Outstanding Personality in Media Award”
- Mr. Matthew Ombugaku - Chairman/ CEO MA”AKU NIG Ltd “Outstanding Personality in Business Awards
- Dr. Austin Obasohan - Superintendent North Carolina Duplin County Schools “Outstanding Personality in Education”
- Apostle Psalm Okpe - Peace Builder Award