Mfonobong Inyang: On Ooni Ife’s forward-thinking approach to youth engagement

It was with great enthusiasm that I learned that one of my clients, Dolapo Agbede was recognized for her work as a diversity and inclusion consultant in the Nigerian public and private sectors and was nominated for the Royal African Awards, an annual event where 100 young Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in their various fields of work are honored and inducted as members of the Royal Court of the Kingdom of Ife, organized by the Royal African Young Leadership Forum (RAYLF). Summoned by the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty – Arole Oodua Olofin Adimula, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, OJAJA II. This year’s theme was “Africa of the Future: Unlocking the Continent’s Hidden Treasures”.

I was so excited not only for another opportunity to be the guest of the Ooni, but also for its foresight to include award winners from the Disabled People’s Community (PWD) who were doing great things – of which Dolapo was. an active member. I have always supported people with disabilities, but having one of them as a client raised the bar for me in terms of commitment to their advocacy and engagement. I just locked May 29, 2021 on my calendar because all roads would lead to the greatest of the greatest, Ife.

It’s hospitality for me
Due to the fact that we had to create a bespoke playbook and ensure a well-choreographed experience for Dolapo, the entire team chosen to travel the Thursday before the event was warmly welcomed at Ife Grand Resorts & Leisure where we were. hosted for the next four days by Dr Ayobami Oyedare – Mass leader at the Ooni of Ife Global Outreach, my good friend Pamilerin Adegoke – extraordinary influencer, Aderinsola Fagbure – legal authority and Tomisin Olawale – Special personal assistant to His Imperial Majesty Ooni Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwsi OJAJA II.

It was fascinating to see the whole process led by young people, some of whom were winners of the class of 2020. From food to logistics to all the ducks in a row, everyone understood the mission. . It was reminiscent of Ooni’s speech where he addressed stakeholders on inclusive governance and representative development – essentially saying that pontificating would not reduce some challenges because you cannot shave a man’s hair in his absence.

Bring back the wreaths
The RAYLF is more than an awards ceremony, it is a system that brings together young leaders who drive significant change in technology, social enterprise, lifestyle, media, business, law, etc. For two consecutive evenings, we were greeted by His Imperial Majesty in the sprawling (all white, cannot stain) edifice that is the Ooni Palace – where the main players converged for the cross-pollination of ideas. The fairness in the play was palpable; young performers like Abiodun Animashaun, Country Manager for Chipper Cash which attracted investments of Jeff Bezos To Francesca Claire Musa Akande who, among other things, heads a non-governmental organization providing humanitarian aid to ex-combatants and their families.

The Ooni, quite a connoisseur of African history, also gave us a masterclass on ‘spirituality and vibes’ – the organized culture, brilliant storytelling and captivating tales of our roots were breathtaking. He spoke into the wee hours of the night about our role in building a great country. I felt really good to be in a room where your ethnicity, your religion, your language, your socio-political affiliations didn’t matter. Uncomfortable is the head that wears the crown, but handling diversity with such finesse is up there – you can’t touch it.

Royal roses
When it comes to giving flowers to young people, the Ooni is the administrator of the group. The importance of recognizing and nurturing young high achievers cannot be overemphasized. Included in the class of 2021 is Bayo omoboriowo – Chief official photographer for President Buhari, Hon. Stella Okotete – Executive Director of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Orondaam Otto – social entrepreneur and founder of Slum2School, Bukunmi Oluwasina – talented playwright, model and brand influencer, Dotun Popoola – the strange metal sculptor whose works adorn the most prestigious places in the world, Ayo Mairo-Ese – award-winning broadcaster and ingenious event organizer, Bamidele “Kingpexxie” Olamilekan – Managing partner at Lekan Bamidele et Cie. The end Tolulope Arotile – The very first female Nigerian Air Force combat helicopter pilot received a posthumous award.

This is not surprising because from the jump, His Imperial Majesty dedicated the Royal Throne to the young people of the African continent. He says nothing gives him more joy than being among the young because his greatest joy is seeing young people doing great things. He always insists that we are not too young to lead and he is always ready to support us as a father and as a friend.

In Ooni’s own words: “The idealism and philosophy of Africa of the Future is to embark on a new adventure of creating and establishing the Africa that we have all been seeking. A continent of homogeneity, harnessing the strength of its diverse languages, its beautiful culture, its vast arable land for the mechanism of modern agriculture, young resilient entrepreneurs and innovators who daily shape our worldviews and its ever-busy capitals with all its possibilities, potentials and challenges. As leaders across Africa, we must face and meet our challenges, engage in structural reforms and human patriotism, re-establish the ecosystem of viable and practical engagements with our younger generations in order to bequeath a noble legacy and a rich legacy in education, health, innovation, good governance and incorruptible leadership rests on our unborn children. “

Food for thought
“Young people are at the forefront of the struggle to build a better future for all. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for the kind of transformational change they seek – and young people must be full partners in this effort. “- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

On August 12 of each year, International Youth Day is celebrated. Since 1999, the United Nations has decided to commemorate the day when governments and peoples around the world come together around themes that are generally youth-centered, but also in the context of society at large. This becomes very informative when placed in the context of Nigeria ranked 161st on the Global Youth Development Index 2020 which measures the status of young people in 181 countries around the world – a very appalling position to occupy.

The theme for International Youth Day 2020 was “Youth Engagement for Global Action”. I wrote an essay on “having conversations about the role and extent of technology in future elections”. I argued that it “evokes the apathy of this demographic (of young people) when you ask them to participate in a process that is cumbersome.” Simply put, if we are honest about promoting youth participation in governance, then further strengthening the use of technology in our electoral process is the way forward.

This year’s theme is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Global Health”. It is a call to action on the need for ‘inclusive support mechanisms that ensure that young people continue to amplify collective and individual efforts to restore the planet and protect life while integrating biodiversity into transforming systems. food ”.

If we all take a leaf from Ooni’s book, a lot can be accomplished in terms of leadership with a human face. Long live his Imperial Majesty – Arole Oodua Olofin Adimula, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, OJAJA II. Happy International Youth Day 2021!

Photo credit: Shola Animashaun



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