Amujae Leader Dr. Adaeze Oreh delivered an empowering speech at this year’s Maktoub Youth Forum, entitled ‘Rediscovering the Humanity in Us,’ where she encouraged Nigerian youth to become agents of change. The forum, run each year by Maktoub Magazine editor, Mariam Mohammed, aims to positively transform the mindset of young Nigerians and make them aware of their individual strengths.
Themes at this year’s forum included ‘building self-esteem,’ ‘pandemic positives,’ and ‘managing social media pressure.’ A dynamic array of keynote speakers led lively and engaging discussions on the problems that directly affect today’s youth. They highlighted the crucial role that youth can play in Nigeria if they raise their voice and lobby for the future they want.
During her speech to attendees, Dr. Oreh called on youth to turn inward, and make use of the positive power they have in themselves in order to begin to drive change in Nigeria.
Read Dr. Oreh’s full address below.
“When the Maktoub Boss informed me that the forum wanted me to speak on Rediscovering the Humanity in Us today, the first thought that popped into my head was “High jump!” Where to start? And so, I have decided to start where many wise and smart speakers would start, just so that maybe you will think me wise and smart as well.
I will start by quoting Mahatma Gandhi –
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
You see, when I think about our humanity as a Nigerian people, I believe that what we truly need is to have our senses be re-tuned. And I will tell you some reasons why.
Today, it has been just about 5 days since what would have been Sylvester Oromoni Jr’s 12th birthday. Unfortunately, he isn’t here to mark this new age because he was brutally killed. And guess what, his life was not taken by unknown gunmen, bandits or assailants, but by his very well-known peers, his classmates and his contemporaries. He was not brutalised in some dark alley, bush, or uncompleted building somewhere, but in school. A place where as a boarder was supposed to be his home away from home.
And I asked myself, how on earth did we get here? And you know what? This question is really not that hard to answer.
We got here by taking slow, steady, certain, and deliberate steps, and yet we arrived here unknowingly.
We got here by being swift to attack each other for holding different mindsets and different beliefs.
We reached here by treating those who work for us as though they are not human.
By treating our poor with disdain, derision and disrespect.
By treating our disabled with condescension, contempt, and even scorn.
By trolling each other on the Internet.
And by not hesitating to cancel each other for our differences.
We got here by building and enabling systems where the weak are constantly crushed by the strong, the unconnected are steadily subjugated by the networked, and the poor invariably vanquished by the rich.
In our relationships, our interactions, our policies, how we lead, and how we govern, we got here by propping up systems where the protection of those less able and enabled is an alien word.
So in one way or another, many of us too have been bullies, for we have built a nation that favours the bully.
Now, the interesting thing is, that bullies thrive on the pain of others, because at some primal level they think that that pleasure will ease the pain they feel – pain from the hollow echo of emptiness, the condemnation of worthlessness, the mocking sense of low self-esteem, and even the trembling consciousness of fear.
And so what they do to overcome all these is to put ‘self’ above ‘else.’
Enmeshed in our selfishness and entitlement.
And so even though the one held down underneath our feet is brother, sister, friend, or peer, and is crying out in pain beneath us, we continue to strike, to hit, to beat, even step on…because you know what? We can’t hear them. We cannot hear their pleas, see their anguish, or feel their pain. Because we have numbed and deadened our ability to consider another as we do ourselves.
Or is it the young girl who is struck down in her prime because of five minutes of “pleasure,” and not even the consideration to remove the used condom which festered within her, and took her life in severe, and overwhelming Infection. Her loved ones cry out, but we cannot hear, because the voice of our own need is louder. And so, again, we cannot hear.
Because nearly every day, we demonstrate that we see each other but do not acknowledge the humanness, the humanity in ourselves.
Now, don’t get me wrong, living in Nigeria is hard, surviving in Nigeria is hard, thriving in Nigeria is even harder.
And so I call on us all today, that despite the daily difficulties of surviving and thriving in Nigeria, that we commit to see, to listen, to hear, to feel each other.
Because regardless of our tribe, our creed, our calling, we are mirrors of ourselves, mirrors of one other. If one of us is ugly, then we all are.
To leave you with some final thoughts, I will share an excerpt from Kent M. Keith’s book ‘The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council.’
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centred. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
“If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak.”
And so this afternoon, I’m here to say to you all, that only through returning to our senses, as individuals, as organisations, and as governments to see, to hear, to feel each other will we regain not only our humanity, but our nationhood. This process starts with me, with each of us.”