As Mindshift rally Nigeria’s youth

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Agbo Agbo

We are living in really extraordinary times. The COVID-19 virus has indeed humbled the world. With a practical global shutdown, one “commodity” that will be appreciated more than any other is hope; the hope that this situation be brought under control as soon as possible. Nonetheless, some are keeping hope alive despite the palpable fear and apprehension.

Prior to the government directive on social distancing, the Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative assembled young people in Lagos in furtherance of creating the Nigeria of our dreams. It was a super-charged atmosphere throughout the 3 – 4 hours of deliberations. The advocacy is creating various platforms that would aid in actualising her goal of growing a generation of informed and socially active young people different from the docile disposition that characterises a huge segment of Nigeria’s population today. The two platforms that were created for this project are “Target 100 Nigeria,” and the “FutureSpeek Conference.”

According to Adebo Onabowale, a board member of Mindshift, “Target 100 Nigeria” is a platform that will envision what Nigeria should aim to be, by her 100 years of Independence in 2060. Since young people are major stakeholders in this future, it makes sense that they be the major contributors to influence and point direction for this future vision. She also explained that the Target 100 plan would be in four quadrants of 10 years each and consistently reviewed accordingly to ensure that every line of action flows in tandem with the Nigeria every patriotic citizen desires in future.

The second platform, “FurureSpeek,” according to Joko Okupe is the Ideation sub-platform which will generate ideas for Target 100 Nigeria. “It will be the engine room of Target 100 Nigeria, where young thought leaders would share ideas, express their opinions, speak and brainstorm about the future of Nigeria…The maiden edition of that brainstorm and ideation is scheduled for May 2020, COVID 19 saga permitting. Thought leaders amongst the Nigerian youths will gather to make a statement, take hold of their future and Nigeria will listen.” Okupe explained.

Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative wants to use the milestone of Nigeria’s 60th Independence to set an agenda for young people in Nigeria so that every young person, especially those between 18 and 35 years of age can actively influence or be part of the policy makers shaping the future of Nigeria.

The organisers rightly reasoned that since the future belongs to the younger generation, the event was meant to probe into the mind of participants with a view to finding out what should be the focus of deliberations for the May 2020 conference. To set the ball rolling, a highly passionate Joko Okupe provided the background that will illuminate the minds of all participants for a fruitful discussion.

He carefully introduced the concept of Mindshift, as well as rationalised the need for a shift in mindset to inspire the virtues that will propel Nigerian forward.

Okupe explained that “the bane of Nigeria and by extension Africa’s problems is the mindset of Africans as individuals, communities and nations. The wrong mindset of Nigerians and Africans in general which influences the way we do things, has created problems such as lack of visionary and purposeful leadership, bad governance, erosion and loss of good value systems, corruption, poor understanding of global issues and how it impacts their lives; unprecedented poverty levels, over dependence on international aids, endless conflicts, inadequate education, etc.”

To this end, the initiative was incorporated as a non-partisan movement that all Nigerians can effectively identify with, and get involved to tackle this menace that has kept Nigeria and the entire African continent down for so long. Using his strength in brand awareness and strong capacity in storytelling, Okupe kept the audience at the edge of their seats with analyses on nation branding and economic growth. He equally explained that the gathering was to identify and brainstorm on the key topics and issues that would be relevant for discussions at the coming FutureSpeek 2020 Conference, as well as rally young minds and other stakeholders towards setting the pace and agenda for the mega conference.

He also added that the initial presentations on the desired big picture was to sensitise all participants before various breakout sessions that will bring out recommendations for the May conference and other programmes like Target 100 Nigeria.

Adebo Onabowale, a BOT member simplified and dissected the chain linking morals, values, ethics and beliefs and how these factors can mold young people to reflect, rethink and do things differently.  She equally explained the workings of the new Mindshift platforms and the different perspectives and issues that will be tackled from various platforms.

As a prelude before attendees split into different groups for the break-away sessions, some participants spoke on their views about Nigeria. A cross section of participants who shared their thoughts revealed that some aspects of our culture are negative as they extensively inhibit development. Others also said that our complexities and diversity as a nation, without proper orientation on how to manage it, will continue to draw Nigeria backwards, especially since we are not approaching our national problems such as poor educational system, lack of electricity, lack of data among many others holistically with the seriousness they deserve.

After a detailed discussion by the four different groups created for the break-away sessions, participants identified three major areas they feel should be the focus of the May conference. These are: Good Governance, Quality Education and Value Re-orientation.

Many participants felt that, if the issues of development in Nigeria are not approached with a progressive mindset, the country will not make meaningful progress. Many held the view that things have to change. Besides, others saw corruption as a major impediment to achieving meaningful progress in all areas of our national life. These groups felt dissecting and nurturing youth interest and involvement to institute good governance in the system at all level is very vital and should form a vital area of discussion at the May conference.

Some others held the view that our educational system should be reviewed and made productive and development oriented in nature so discussions on instituting quality and vertical education for young people should equally be discussed at the conference.

Another group of participants felt Nigerians need to begin to re-orientate themselves towards building positive values that will enable us regain our past glory, so deeper discussions on value-reorientation is fundamental for the coming FutureSpeek conference

At the end, virtually all the participant agreed that to hold a mega conference that Nigerian youth can speak with one voice is really urgent and necessary. All attendees responded with excitement and enthusiasm towards the platforms created to aggregate and project a progressive minded nation where young people will be at the forefront. Even as participants broke out to network and discuss before going home, the central theme was taking Mindshift Initiative to the next level and getting Nigerians to rethink and do things differently.

Just like a professionally crafted advertising, any successful social cause must arrest attention and linger in the memory over a period of time. This is the best way it can get people to see, think, and focus on those social, political, or environmental issues it wants to project. With this, the advocate can propel the desired audience into a mind shift and or a change of action.

Mindshift initiative was formally unveiled to the media and a select audience in Abuja in October 2019. This was followed by the unveiling of her blue print to young people in Lagos last December.

The goal is to get Nigerians to think and act differently so as to generate a mindset geared toward genuine and consistent development. The youth focused event was meticulously organised by the Mindshift team. From the online mode of recruitment of the 70 young people that cut across virtually all segments of the youth population, the location, event flow and the fact that the event trended within two hours in Lagos demonstrate the acceptability of the Mindshift movement and her message to the youth audience. It was clear that the Mindshift core vision and idea were well though-out by the founder and his supporters.