2018 Curator Inaugural Address

12 Feb 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, Abuja Global Shapers, with a deep sense of responsibility, I am profoundly honoured today to serve as the 7th curator of the Abuja Hub. This inauguration is also happening on the 7th day of the 7th month, so I have a trinity of numbers aligning in perfection.

The reality however is that we are living in a less than perfect world, and our beloved country, Nigeria, and even our beloved city Abuja, are not only far from perfect, but grossly underperforming in terms of delivering the quality of life, and the kind of livelihoods that their citizens deserve. I mean, it is not for nothing we are tagged “third world,” yet we did not make Nigeria so. We were just born into a place others call “third world.” Still news of despair from every corner of Nigeria can make you want to shrink into your own cocoon—incessant herdsmen violence, mass murders in communities wiping out entire generations, fatal infrastructure and road safety failures, gross police brutality, extortionist public servants, unethical private sector, and even civilian-on-civilian violence. The list goes on.

In the last two months, I personally have had to contend with two separate accounts of young people being killed in cold blood in the Federal Capital Territory where we live. These two people, both under 30, were my friends. One was shot in the head exactly two weeks after we had spoken on the phone; the other was found on a school premises, tied up and her throat slit. I share these incidences to illustrate that when I speak, I speak from being intimately acquainted with grief and pain that so many Nigerians are feeling today. The gross anomaly of mothers burying their children, and of destinies senselessly being cut down whether because of direct violence or indirect violence—when I speak of indirect violence, I’m referring to pocketed public resources that should have gone to the purchase of medicines or paying teachers salaries or some other public good—must cease. Did you know that social mobility has been cut off for an entire generation of young Nigerians? A two-bedroom flat in the outskirts of Abuja now costs 20 million Naira. How many young people today can dream of owning a home with such prohibitive pricing? Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot watch while our city or our country descends into the abyss of some “third world” quagmire!

In all of this despair, I bring you good news. The good news is that although we may find ourselves in the so-called third world, we are not third world, and therefore, we will not adopt a third world mindset. With deep humility, we will recognise the gravity of the challenges that confront us, but we will systematically attack these problems with first-rate thinking, strategy, and resources. However daunting the path to a better future is, we understand that because we are the youth, we are the ones to design a future that we will be a part of. That’s why we are the Abuja Global Shapers. We are here to shape, to mould, and to fashion the city, and the country that we want to see.

Yes, the problems facing us are innumerable but the saying holds true that if you fail in the day of adversity then your strength is small. There is no challenge that we cannot overcome if we have capacity. We fail today because we lack the capacity to understand the root causes of the problems that we face and to garner the strategies, including political will, to solve them. Maybe it’s our fear that we will become poor if we do social good, or pride at our own achievements, or perhaps even our greed or lust for financial and material acquisitions that blinds us to our true lack of capacity to create a better world for us to live in. We are satisfied with our shiny job titles, our influence on social media or on the airwaves, or even with our own popularity. Truth is that insecurity anywhere is really a threat to security everywhere.

With the current state of affairs in our country, we must admit that there is still knowledge and wisdom that as young people we need to gain, including from those who have gone before us, faced similar challenges, and from those who have gone from third world to first world. We need to learn from these people and these institutions, and then apply that knowledge and experience to solve our own problems. That is the whole point of an education in the first place—to solve problems—not to brandish a certificate for our daily bread.

So, this year, our vision in the Abuja Hub is to build our capacity to solve the problems that confront us as individuals, as a community, in our city, in our nation Nigeria, and to be role models for the rest of the world. It has only been 7 days since Chukwuma and I received the mantle of Curatorship, and 3 months since we’ve been elected, but in those 3 months, we have been deliberate about laying the foundation for the Hub to increase in capacity. I mean, we cannot accuse Nigerian leaders of doing what we have been doing: trying to create change without plans or directions.

So, since our elections 3 months ago, for the first time in the history of our Hub, we have developed detailed job descriptions for critical operational roles in the Hub including for project directors and project managers. We have done our homework and our research, interviewed former curators and deputy curators, conducted online surveys with operational role leads on the reality of serving in the Hub. We have taken the time and effort to articulate our expectations of these roles, so that there is clarity and definition about what we expect of each other. No room for confusion — just excellence in communication.

Second, for each of our operational teams (including fundraising and communications), we have set performance metrics and targets so that there is clarity about where exactly we are going. Our desire is to model 360 degree leadership that distinguishes us as transparent, trustworthy, and authentic. Ours is a new DNA of Nigerian leadership, and dare I say, of African leadership. So that when next people will hear of African leaders, because of us, it will not be of corrupt strongmen, or aged and self-interested leaders. But it would be of transparent, trustworthy, and excellent women and men.

Third, in our attempt to properly plan our human and financial resources, we have developed a zero draft of our annual calendar that will be reviewed and finalised by the entire Hub, so that we have a basis for fiscal responsibility and can improve upon our planning in the coming year. We want to reduce the tendency to adopt a fire-brigade approach to executing impact projects and events this year. Indeed, elevating our operational systems to become ever more investor-ready is our vision. We are investing our intellectual capacity into building structures now, because we know that for the dreams we hold dear to our heart, we will need even greater financial capacity than we currently have at our disposal. So, if you are listening today and want to invest in us: we are ready for you.

There is more work that Chukwuma and I have been doing in the background, such as developing evaluation criteria for our existing projects, and even mapping out the fun and relaxing activities we can do together as a Hub—because ‘body no be firewood.’ We also have even more that is planned to raise the standard that we create for youth-led organisation like ours, and for young leaders making change. We are currently in talks with a leading institute to organise leadership training for the Hub this year.

Our ambition as you can imagine is limitless, but this year, we will achieve focus. In light of the forthcoming 2019 elections, we are in consultations to add an elections project to our legacy of projects in education, youth employment, citizen security, and health. My desire is that young Nigerians truly understand just how potent they are. Today, young people are so powerful yet so powerless. But through voter awareness, voter card registration drives, debates, and much more, (being mindful of not duplicating the efforts of those that already have thriving platforms in these areas) we want to help young people unleash their potential, and truly wield their political power.

I am also under no illusion that planning guarantees success. What I do know is that careful, strategic planning and focus holds you accountable for results and helps you to notice where you need to adjust to be able to deliver transformational impact. This year we are going to take calculated risks to help young people make their votes counts, help young people get jobs, and inspire students to leadership. Sometimes we will not get it right, we will miss the mark, but Abuja Hub, whatever you do, don’t let failure clip your wings.

Like an eagle getting ready to soar, we will need to go through a renewal process that may be sometimes painful. We will need to struggle and break away from old traditions and habits. Like the eagle sharpening its beak on the high mountain tops, we will need develop a capacity to endure, to work hard and play hard, and to do it over and over again, and do it consistently. Because, as eagles, we are going for gold, we are going for the Cup. Abuja Shapers, this year, together: we will soar with wings like eagles, we will run and not be weary, we will walk and not faint.

God bless you, God bless the Abuja Hub, and God bless Nigeria. Thank you.

Delivered by Olajumoke Adekeye,
Curator, Abuja Hub, Global Shapers Community at her July 7, 2018 Inauguration (and that of the Deputy Curator, Chukwuma Okoroafor)