By Francis Nwankwor
It started with a phone call. I filed a (free) form and I was handed an all expense paid ticket to participate in a seven (7) day Youth Impact program organized by Rotary International.
The program, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards is annual event meant to equip youths leaders from around the country with leadership and entrepreneurial skills. This year's edition was hosted by Rotary District 9125, Abuja. With about 450 youths coming together from different parts of Nigeria, I knew I was set for an eventful experience.
Each year Rotary selects a notable individual who would stand as a model of leadership, charity and integrity for the participants. This year, the choice was High Chief Obiora Okonkwo, Ph. D (Dikeora Idemmili). As part of his support to the event Dikeora sponsored about 70 youths from Anambra State to participate in the program, of which I was lucky to be among the selected. Now let me tell you how about my 7 days of life changing encounters.
At our arrival at Abuja from Anambra, there was no food for us. But who cares about food by almost 10:30pm that we arrived. We were all too tired to eat! Besides we had taken beta lunch and breakfast courtesy of Dikeora, our sponsor.
Each day started with dream piercing whistles from the para-military men attached to us. We had brief body work-outs and were taught basic self-defence skills. The best moments of each day were usually the seminar sessions moderated by international experts in various fields.
Halima Abubakar, a behavioral changes expert led us through a therapy session which was designed to help the participants to walk through their pasts in other to pin-point and heal themselves of toxic experiences. It was quite emotional and powerful. There were tears.
Sam Obafemi told us a thrilling but unusual story of how he left his 6year job to pursue a life dream, only to beg for chop money few days later. Then he narrated how he was able to work himself to the top such that today, he charges nothing less than a million to facilitate seminars and conferences.
There were even more educating lectures on TEAM BUILDING, TIME & ANGER MANAGEMENT, FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE, DIGITAL MARKETING, and so many on. Each was just as loaded as the other. But it was not all just theory, there were skill acquisition training sessions on Satellite installation, bead & Wig making, Barbing, Waste-to-craft etc. It was a case of learn as much as you can! And what happens at night after all the trainings and sessions? Each night was a blast of fun and dope entertainment. There were nights of pageantry, talent hunt, culture exhibition and the grandfather of them all - the bon fire night! But two nights stood out tall amongst others.
Firstly, the cultural exhibition night. In the midst of all the festivity, I was able to observe that Nigerian youths are actually passionate about their cultural identity. We were actually forced to go take our supper that night as everyone was caught up in the sounds of solid traditional music of all tribes coming out from the deck of the baddest D-jay. Each tribe gave the best performance they could muster, even when they were just one or two representatives.
Then the second night of importance was the night with High Chief Obiora Okonkwo. An Igbo proverbs says that “Okenye taa aki, a hu ichere ya”. (When an elder chews palm nuts, he leaves a tall heap of husks behind). HE TOLD US HIS LIFE STORY. From serving at his uncle's tailor shop as a kid to managing his father's wholesale shops as a JSS3 student. From working as a messenger at a Liason officer to becoming a Manager just within a month. From being just a student on Scholarship at Russia to opening one of the first private enterprise in the capitalist Russia. Coming from a very strict family background he had no option than to adopt a high level of discipline and efficiency that had helped him throughout his academic and financial carrer.
Talking about a strict father he told a story from his childhood. On a particular night, his father wanted to help him with an assignment when he saw a metre rule belonging to another person in his bag! Papa Obiora threatened to kill him that night and meant it! Obiora tried to explain that he just borrowed it but the father wouldn't listen to that. At the end the only way to pacify his father was that he had to go back to his empty class that night to return the metre rule. That was the summery of the upbringing of a man who later made his first million before the age of 25, went ahead to become an international business mogul and academician. He heads the board of several top businesses including Solicom Enginnering, N-Glory development, Limited, the owners and operators of The Dome Entertainment and event center in Abuja, CarrerNation New York and so on. He is also founder and Nigerian-Belgium business Forum amongst other organizations.
In his ussual humanitarian spirit, he gave out Scholarship to 10 indigent participants in any Nigerian university of their choice, Employment to 10 smart participants, Training and empowerment of 10 active participants, Business sponsorship for selected members of his NGO, Pro-value Humanity Foundation. And so many others…
At the end of the session, one of the participants asked Dikeora why people like him are not in positions of power in the country. Dikeora smiled and replied 'GO back to your places and look for somebody that you think possesses the character you admire in me and join in the process of making that person your leader… you can also join your voice…to tell Anambra people, that “this man is a good man!”
High Chief Obiora could have given us money, t-shirts, promise of political appointment and turned us into his political e-rats, but he chose to impact and invest in our lives so we can become leaders ourselves. Participation in the conference would have cost me and the several other participants more than N25 000, if not for his magnanimity. I join my voice to that of my fellow Anambra youths to admit that High Chief Obiora Okonkow is a good man!
Connect with Dikeora through his foundation Pro-value Humanity Foundation (PHF) contact 08033212714, 09011626870