Defying The Odds: From Hopelessness To Hopefulness!
My name is Hon. (Amb.) Velshik Kirme Philip, a native of Langung Village in Belning Ward of Pankshin LGA, Plateau State. By the special grace of God, I am the member representing Plateau Central Senatorial District in the prestigious Nigerian Youth Parliament and also preside as Chairman of North Central Caucus. Presently, I am in Accra, Ghana for President Barrack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) West Africa Regional Leadership Centre’s (RLC), Accra Emerging Leaders Programme at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), August 2017 Cohort 7. I was selected along with about 124 young African leaders from across 9 West African countries by YALI West Africa RLC, a project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to pursue a 13-week leadership development programme designed to train the next generation of African leaders who are empowered to shape the future of Africa. After reviewing over 5,000 applications, through a very competitive selection and interview process, YALI believes that I would be a valuable participant at the Accra RLC and become a leader who makes a difference in Africa. Together with my diverse group of peers from across West Africa, I will be immersed in a unique educational opportunity that embraces experiential learning, scholarship, mentorship and collaboration. I have also been shortlisted recently as an Ambassador for Motivating Africa, to bear the torch of change and leave footprints on the soil of Africa. 50 youths from across the African continent have made the shortlist including 12 Nigerians.
Interestingly, I am the 1st Plateau indigenous youth to qualify for the YALI West Africa RLC in Accra Ghana, and also the 1st to emerge as an Ambassador for Motivating Africa. YALI is an integral part of Nelson Mandela Fellowship for Young African Leaders launched in July 2014 by former President Barrack Obama as a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Notwithstanding the fact that an indigenous youth from Plateau State had once received the Mandela Washington Fellowship at the inception of the programme in 2014.
My passion for leadership started as a dream when I was a young boy growing up. Years back, I would always see myself in a dream together with a council of prominent leaders in Nigeria discussing issues of national importance. I had no idea what that dream was all about, but I remember that at different levels of my journey in life, I have always been saddled with one leadership responsibility or the other, and I possess a daring leadership charisma that makes people to always have confidence in my ability to deliver. To put the records straight, I became exposed to handling responsibilities so early in life. I was made Games Captain at LGEA Primary School Lakushi- Shendam in 1992 and later became House Captain of Langtang House at GSS Pankshin in 1998. At the same time, I was a member of the school’s Press Club. While at the Plateau State Polytechnic Barkin Ladi for further studies in 1999, the quest for leadership kept beckoning, I contested election and emerged first, as Financial Secretary of Public Admin Students Association during my OND in 2002. I later became Deputy Speaker of Student Union Government Representative Council, Chairman/Editor-In-Chief, Public Admin Students Association, Chairman/Editor-In-Chief, National Association of Ngas Students (NANGS) Pla-Poly Chapter and Consultant Editor, National Union of Berom Students (NUBES) National Body, all during my HND in 2006. I had earlier contested as President of Public Admin Students Association but lost narrowly to my opponent. I worked hard day and night and made sure all magazines of these student bodies were edited and published. In all of these circumstances, I never compromised or lost focus on my academic pursuit, thus graduating top of my class at both OND and HND levels with Upper Credit. The interesting one was during my HND when I was the only student that graduated with Upper Credit in Public Administration in 2006 academic session. While in Zamfara State for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps, I contested election and emerged as Cadet Registrar of NYSC-Road Safety Club, Kaura Namoda Unit Command. I had a stint with the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc from 2008 to 2012 before joining the services of Grand Cereals Limited, a subsidiary of UAC nigeria Plc as HR Supervisor in 2014.
I started seeing the manifestation of my old dream when I was inaugurated as honourable member of the Youth Parliament, Federal Republic of Nigeria on 16th December, 2014 in the House of Representatives New Wing, National Assembly, Abuja, having been nominated along with two others to represent the three Senatorial Districts of Plateau State in the Youth Parliament. It is an experience I will never forget in a hurry throughout my life. The Nigerian Youth Parliament is a replica of the Senate with 109 members representing the Senatorial Districts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and is gender balanced. As a Youth Parliamentarian and Chairman of North Central Caucus, there are only few prominent Nigerians whom I am yet to sit together to discuss issues of national importance at present. Otherwise, I have traversed the country and I have seen it all! Today, I sit in one of the Conference Halls of the Senate New Wing of the National Assembly to deliberate on motions and pass resolutions on issues bordering and affecting the vast majority of Nigerian youths. That I will one day have the privilege to sit in that facility and give my inputs into the law making process in Nigeria is something I never imagined, but now is a reality! I have made meaningful contributions to many motions on the floor of the Youth Parliament and we have passed many resolutions that served as inputs in the ongoing Constitutional amendment in the National Assembly. The Youth Parliament is currently articulating issues that will form critical components of Bills to be forwarded to the National Assembly for deliberation. The robust activities that we have packaged to commemorate this years’ International Youth Day celebration will go a long way in defining our impact on the lives of the ordinary Nigerian youth.
Paradoxically, I came from a poor background and a polygamous family. I am the 6th out of 9 children from my mother and I am the 1st to become a graduate. I sat under the tree to receive instruction in my primary school which was several kilometers away from my house in the village. My father only attended primary school and my mother never went to school. I lost my dad a few weeks after completing my primary education and life became hell! I struggled to finish secondary school through the help of my late elder brother who was the first child of my father. While I was in my National Diploma (ND I) at the Polytechnic, he simply walked up to me one day and told me he was no longer going to pay my school fees! I felt the whole world crashing on me and he never gave me the opportunity to ask why. It was like a dream but that was how I started doing menial jobs around town to pay my school fees up till the time I completed my Higher National Diploma. I have worked under the scorching sun on construction sites, block industries and companies as casual labourer, I walked long distances, squatted with friends and other relations to survive the harsh economic challenges which reared its ugly head each new day. I would complete a whole semester with one trouser and two shirts, the rest I would borrow from friends. I felt like dropping out of school at some point, but I would never forgive myself if I had done that. I defied the odds and my story changed from hopelessness to hopefulness! I now proudly hold a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, an Associate Membership Certificate of the Institute of Public Administration of Nigeria (IPAN), Graduate Member, Nigerian Institute of Management Chartered, Professional Member, Centre for Crisis Prevention and Peace Advocacy Nigeria (CCPPA) and a Final Professional Level student at the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM). I belong to the school of thoughts which say that ‘It is in your hands to make the world a better place’, ‘you’re today where your thoughts have brought you, you’ll be tomorrow where your thoughts will take you’, ‘the joys and sorrows of today, decisions of our yesterday’ ‘where you’re coming from is not as important as where you’re going’, ‘what you become is measured by the quality of input you poured into your life’ etc.
As part of my contributions to development in society, I played leading role in the initiation and subsequent execution of the 1st Nigerian Youth Parliament North Central National Economic Youth Dialogue held in Ilorin, Kwara State in August 2016 with the theme ”youth for sustainable agricultural empowerment: our future our care” as part of efforts to contribute our quota to the economic diversification policy of the present government in Nigeria. I also developed a youth-driven initiative towards sustainable peace and development in Plateau State, and a radio programme called the youth dialogue radio show which will soon go on air. These initiatives are all geared towards peace-building and capacity development for young people. By the grace of God, I have had the privilege of touching the lives of many young men and women that have come my way. I am passionate about building a new generation of leaders for Nigeria and Africa, and I hope that one day, I will live to witness a new breed of youths who are passionate about ethical leadership and good governance in our society. Our problem in Africa today and perhaps in Nigeria is that we are yet to get the kind of leadership that will take us out of our present predicament. Why should elected or appointed government officials rather choose to celebrate their election or appointment into public offices in a country where the vast majority of its citizens still die as a result of common diseases, instead of sit back an appreciate the enormity of the challenges on ground and the desire for change which the people are yearning for.
The past generation has failed Africa and we must never allow ourselves to be part of what we have criticized today. Africa is in dire need of a leadership mindset that values, understands and possesses the right attitude to work the talk and change the narratives about Africa, a leadership mindset that is proactive rather than reactive. I urge our youths to stand up and be counted among the living waters in an incredibly thirsty African soil. We must rise up now and see ourselves as the chosen generation that will turn the table around! That is the generation I belong.
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