Yes, scores of youthful students stormed British High CommissionĂ˘s residency in Kaduna. They invaded the gigantic building located along Independence Way in the heart of the town; chanting, chatting, clasping, hobnobbing and all that. They were there for hours under the night shower.
In fact, the energetic crowd invaded the residency and took hold of the British High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr. Bob Dewar for hours before they set him free. However, surprisingly, you would say, this rather hot news was not in the papers and if indeed it were, it was not given screaming headlines by the editors who are always anxiously waiting for such scoops. However, it has actually happened.
Hold your breath! The cream of students was at the British High CommissionĂ˘s residency for the good reason. It was not another case of kidnapping of expatriates, which Kaduna recently midwifed for the northern part of the country. They were at the residency on Monday May 4, 2009 to share in the cake of tolerance, understanding, mutual coexistence and peace as the unifying code for the country and, indeed, the prerequisite for meaningful development.
Like cultic initiation, it was, for want of a better word, a sort of solemn gathering where a team of young, ambitious and equal minded young people with shared mission, yearning and aspiration for better Nigeria were brought together. The young men, and women, were drawn from various higher institutions of learning from across the country with some dominance of the north. They traveled from as far as Edo, Sokoto, Ibadan and Maiduguri to rob minds on a common subject; peace Ă˘ an indispensably inevitable condition for human existence.
The occasion was meant to serve as an interactive dinner with young students from diverse religious and ethnic background. The students interacted freely, friendly and happily with one another for about three hours the event lasted and the session the subsequent morning. To many students that Monday night, it was an exciting lifetime experience Ă˘ to be in the midst of such hybrid gathering this thus invoke an innate emotion within each and every participant as it manifested the following morning when moderated group discussion was held.
It was gently raining out there so all of us, the participants, were tamed indoors and got clutched in the lounges and parlour of the residency as against the outdoor event that it should be. The session, at the end, turned to a sort of cocktail party everyone was standing throughout the hours. Midway to the eating and drinking comes the blaring voice of Malam Mahdi Shehu, over the mic.
Like young people around a performer in the ancient village square, we all gathered around him and a few other personalities, among them the British High Commissioner, Bob Dewar.
According to Mahdi Shehu who delivered what you can call a welcome address, the mission behind the event is to sensitise a group of young Nigerians on the task waiting them out there Ă˘ the task of taking this country to the next level with peace as the stepping stone. He confirmed that the gathering was in no way coincidental, it was deliberately planned to achieve this purpose and serve as a foundation for intensive advocacy and sustained effort at the grassroots level especially among youth population.
Mahdi ShehuĂ˘s wity welcome remark was followed by an impromptu speech by the High Commissioner who espoused on the British High CommissionĂ˘s aim of boosting peace through grassroots engagements and sensitization of the relevant stakeholders.
This, according to him, has been going on for some years now through a collaboration with Kaduna-based, Bridge Builders Association of Nigeria. He said, the commission and indeed the UK government realized the position of peace for national development hence the intervention in the area.
The British High Commission in Nigeria and the Bridge Builders Association of Nigeria share that common goal which in turn gave birth to the joint initiatives. The main preoccupation for the duo is to have more informed society that appreciates the essence of diversity, multiethnicity and socio-religious differences. Agreed that Nigerians are exceptionally religious but I wonder if the fanatic killing in the name of religion is the byword for religiousity.
Bridge Builders Association, like its other counterparts especially in Kaduna state, is a child of circumstance that emanate after series of ethno-religious crises. When I battled to kill you and you retaliate in equal measure and one succeeds over the other but later realized that there are still remnants of his/her enemies, that the enemyĂ˘s children and kinsmen are not eliminated in toto then one should think twice. No matter how we yearn to extinct the Ă˘oppositeĂ˘ group, we have little chance of inching towards Ă˘successĂ˘.
Would anybody claim that no Bosnian Muslim remained after the Serbian onslaught or that all the Serbs have gone? Did the Hutus think no Tutsi breath as at now after the 1990s ethnic cleansing? Far from it! Fratricide or ethnic cleansing, or any other euphemism you use to call it is an exercise in futility that will make the two sides tired and, after all the fatigue, forced to accept the reality.
It is akin to a Hausa folkloric narration of a fight between two men who after fighting for a long time with nobody to mediate between them, became exhausted that they resolved to stop the fighting but the climax of it is when it comes to taking off each otherĂ˘s hand from the collar of his partner. Ă˘Take your hand offĂ˘ said the first person, Ă˘but if I release you I will fell down,Ă˘ replied the second person thus they embrace realizing that no one could stand without the other.
Back to Kaduna, the next morning after the high commissionĂ˘s dinner, it was another mind robbing exercise. That morning, Mahdi Shehu again led the group in another mind robbing exercise where everybodyĂ˘s personal passion and qualities were explored. The discussion was centered on mission and vision especially its importance for young people who, to borrow that clichĂÂŠd axiom, are the leaders of tomorrow.
In exceptionally brilliant inspirational talk, Mahdi took the bemused students into an intellectual voyage on what it takes to have mission and vision in life and how beneficial it is to both the visionary person and his/her society. But he threw caution to the air when he explained conditions and steps necessary for informed vision. Mahdi was critical of the young people for their gullibility as he was of the society for feeding them up with information and training that can be best described as garbage.
He hit the nail on the head when he challenged the youth of acute credulity and lack of creativity and critical reasoning. He fenced this point by asserting that most young people these days could be liken to the proverbial description in Hausa of a camel which despite its huge physique follows he who drags it by a small robe wherever he wants to take it. Ă˘Check your sent items, all the messages you sent out, you will find out that 40 per cent of them are messages sent to you by others and you forwarded them uneditedĂ˘ he challenged.
The implication of this, according to philosophically sounded Mahdi, is that if one lacks adequate and reliable information to make a decision then he stands the possibility of crashing into mistakes and wrong decisions. To get good product as the output, equally good raw materials should be pumped into the system. He cited numerous examples of visionary individuals and institutions who, like chameleon feces, stamped their indelible presence on the page of history in gold ink.
The like of this interactive session is a good avenue that will make the youth to be conscious of the task ahead of them and the challenges be put across to them. It is high time that young people be considered as the real engine growth of the nation and be included in all gainful initiatives to mot only prepare them but also let them participate to get first hand practical experience.
I have heard it times and again young people expressing their disgust over such pejorative phrase as Ă˘leaders of tomorrowĂ˘, if the youths are not prepared (practically) now, what sort of leaders will they be tomorrow? A young people once hissed as he complaint to me, Ă˘when will the tomorrow come?Ă˘ I say, the tomorrow is now. It is in this light that the British High Commission and Bride BuildersĂ˘ initiative deserved commendation. Youthful population is useful for meaningful development.
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