IOLED Essay Competition and the Call to Action

Winners of the IOLED Essay Competition pose for a group photograph with the ALERT Nigeria Director - Mr. Iboro Otu

After the September encounter where I was transported once again to my childhood, the recent post by ALERT Nigeria drew my attention to a project I had left in the hands of some professionals at Hubitz. I scrolled past Okonubin’s shared post from the organization’s Facebook page. On the page was the announcement of the winners of the IOLED program. Another post indicated some chaps were successful in the competition and were dimmed to become Ambassadors of the organization. Certainly, this young man has done something to our ecosystem. Inbox.

The invitation was rapt and I redesigned my itinerary for the next day. I needed to see Iboro even if I had to cancel some appointments. Not only that his program was successful and I needed to congratulate him for this great feat but his organization seems to have this connection with the grass root people where I rightly belong, so “I must be there,” I declared. We rarely chat politics and his interest in the development of our communities amaze me. “Imagine if as at the point we are now, we do not do anything to change the situation to be positive, in the next 50 years the society will be nothing to write home about.” He had once related with the media.

The Technical Working Committee – TWC, is a body of professionals from the academic world, entrepreneurs, media, etc. It is an ecosystem of its own. Before the closing ceremony, the TWC met in the conference room where I believe were briefed on the activities so far and how the successful competitors were to be honoured. I sat in the open hall writing a story on the need to revisit a program the state government had modeled towards the Goodluck Jonathan’s YouWin program. Much is needed to be done in the state government sponsored program so I excused myself from the TWC meeting.

Members of the Technical Working Committee – TWC, met briefly before the closing ceremony

At 2pm the winners in the competition gathered, decked on white T-Shirts designed with the ALERT Nigeria logo. Everyone went upstairs, the greatest meeting that was to launch 24 Ambassadors into the task of community development commenced. I sat close to an old man, maybe the guardian of one of the benefactors. I positioned myself where I can feel the event from the front, and also understand the feelings from those far behind.

After the usual introductions with Edjo Okonubin on the mic, the Chairman of the TWC, Prof. Enoidem Usoro welcomed everyone. She reminded everyone that it was really a long way. The ALERT Nigeria Director, Mr. Iboro Otu was invited to the stage. Then the touching story was unraveled.

The young man in his approximately late thirties or early forties started by saying “today is a big day for us.”  He then narrated how the journey to the  event started about a year ago. “We are here as a result of our dissatisfaction of the status quo and our dissatisfaction with what is happening with our young people especially here in Akwa Ibom State. We felt we could do much better with the pool of young people we have here.  We know that everywhere in the world, young people rule, not in the sense of politics, but in terms of ideas and making things happen.  Young people run the economies, young people run the communities that make things work in tech, in business and in every sense of the word.” He expressed.

“Hello Sir, please pass it down.” Came a voice by my side and I looked up to see a young man stretching a bottle of distilled water urging me to pass it down to the next person. I quickly attended to the young man and redirected my attention once again to the ALERT Nigeria director who now seemed broken in the spirit.

“But it seems here our young people seems not to be doing enough, so we decided to do something about it and that’s the theme of my speech today – doing something.  We felt we should do something to help our young people become better and together with the TWC we put together several strategies that will help you have a voice and carry out certain projects that will help you, help your community and help your people.  Finally, here you are. One of the projects is the essay competition that we are celebrating today.” The director continued as everyone paid rapt attention to a dream that will revolutionize our communities.

“It is about doing something,” the young smart director continued. “If something is not done to move us beyond where we are, in the next 10 years we might not be sitting like this.  The world bank has said it will no longer fund oil related contracts from 2019.  So, if the oil money we are expecting does not come, what will happen to us?” he queried a seeming terrified audience. “When money is not there, trouble start coming, so what we are trying to help you do is see how you can help yourself and help the community. How you can look inward and forget about the jobs the State Government or Federal Government could offer you.” He stated.

“Money is in your brain.” He said touching his almost greyed head.   “Money is the project you wrote about. Money is the reason you won.  If you carry out half of what you wrote about, you can improve your life, the life of the people in your community and you can expose yourself to people, organisations and things you never imagined.  So here we are to do and do we will.” He concluded.

Members of the TWC pose for a group photograph

After few more admonitions for the winners to stay focus even if the world around them seems to be collapsing, Mr. Otu handed over the mic to Mr. Edjo Okunubin to present the winners to the elated audience. His whole speech had been a call for the youths to rise up and do something. The Ambassadors at the commissioning are to be the torch bearers for their respective communities powered by ALERT Nigeria.

In recent times, young Akwa Ibom entrepreneurs has shown interest in reviving the latent entrepreneurial spirit within our youths.  Mark Essien of Hotels.NG recently organized an internship program for young people in the State where 50 interns came out successful and were given automatic employment into various private establishments. With the ALERT Nigeria/IOLED Ambassadors recently commissioned, we believe entrepreneurship is about sweeping the landscape of the once civil service state.

Techforest can assure you that there are a thousand and one ideas, skills and talents lying suppressed due to financial constraints in the Akwa Ibom ecosystem.  A guardian of one of the benefactors of the IOLED Essay Competition pleaded with Mr. Otu to help these startups by organizing such programs significant to the just concluded Essay Competition, which will see ALERT Nigeria financing startups to get registered as a company and any other assistance the organization can offer to help these startups stand out. Techforest later interacted with Mr. Otu who promised young startups will be considered sooner than expected in the Leadership and Entrepreneurial Discourse Program.


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