Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Interview With Kingsley Bangwell

Kingsley Bangwell is one of the leading youth activists in Nigeria, the Executive Director of Yougstars Foundation Jos (www.youngstarfoundation.org). in view of his effort in youth development, he was interviewed by Maxwell Ogaga (team leader, Dare 2 Dream Youth Initiative), he hosted the 1st ever Nigerian Youth Stakeholders forum in Abuja.read and learn.

Maxwell: May we meet you Sir?
My name is Kingsley N.T. Bangwell, Team Leader of Youngstars Development Initiative a.k.a Youngstars Foundation started since 1996. I also just recently became the resident pastor of Power City Intl Churches Jos Branch and also recently admitted into ASHOKA fellowship in June 2008.

Maxwell: What project are you currently involved in now?
Ha ha, there are projects in my mind and there are projects ongoing, lets talk about projects ongoing. DESPLAY which is our annually youth democracy and good governance training program which has been elevated by our funders to an African project. Youth Works Top 12 Awards which was a program that trained over 200 Nigeria youths in about 15 states within the last 12 months, and about 47 of the youths have done 220 activities reaching about 6,000 youths in Nigeria. Next year we shall organize an award for the best 12, its being funded by British Council. There is Youth Lens, a new project that is educating youths in 3 communities on the need to help government by monitoring the quality of work done by contractors in their localities. A website is on that will report monthly what is going on and we would send periodic reports to government. Then there is Shine Plateau Youth Tv show which we piloted in April for a quarter and its going back on air in January, every quarter a youth will win $1,000 after a contest of who has a good idea to implement under the 10 point Agenda of Gov. Jang, the winner gets the fund to implement a six months project. Then there is the Kingsley Bangwell Leadership Prize for Teenagers Starting Early which is my own personal way of giving back to the society. We worked in 8 schools with 100 kids teaching them leadership over a 5 weeks course, among them they were encouraged to do projects, and about 40 projects were recorded, from which I am giving 3 of them educational scholarship of $500, and $300 respectively (by the way you can donate towards it, abi?). Guess when the event will hold…..? January 20th 2009, to mark dr. marthin lurther kings day and swearing in of sen barrack obama first African American president of the United States of America! In future I will share with you projects still being incubated in my mind!

Maxwell: You just returned from a trip, visiting Greece what can you tell us?
Yes I was invited to speak during the 13th International Anti-Corruption Conference organized every 2 years by Transparency International. It was such a great privilege for me as a young person. I spoke on how corruption fosters violent conflicts, especially youth restiveness. Although I raised my concern that such an event of about 1500 participants and they were talking about developing the future, there was just a handful of youths there. I got lots of commendation, infact, someone from the audience said I would become the Ghandi of Africa. I also met with Mrs Waziri, the Chairman of EFCC, I also met with Peter Aigen Founder of Transparency International. It was a 4 day event, and I headed back home immediately after it.

Maxwell: You have been in youth development for some time, what have been your experience?
Hmmmmm, my experience is being captured in a book I am putting together that will also share my perspective about working with funders, donors and the larger society. But working with youths is for me the essence of life. That’s my purpose, that’s my calling and my fulfillment. It has been most challenging at start because I ran my NGO for 7years without grant, office or partnerships. Many people told me to stop and do something else with my life, but I knew it was not just about what I was doing but about following my calling. Today the same people celebrate me every time we meet!

Maxwell: What are your convictions about the Nigerian nation?
Nigeria remains one the best countries of the world. Rich in all nameable resources, strategic in location, weather, peoples, culture and highly spiritual. Most of all, Nigeria is what has given me a name, an origin, a history, a nationality and the opportunity to grow and become the best I can be, (na inside Nigeria I recently found and married my sweet and dear princess!)…what will you say about such a nation? God Bless Nigeria. Yes, we may have challenges and difficulties, all of that offers opportunity for human productivity and creativity. If you don’t like Nigeria, please relocate to Rwanda or Somalia and be sure of one thing, I will take your place before you return!

Maxwell: What is your advice to young men who are in a hurry to travel abroad?
Here is my analysis, except you already have admission or a job waiting for you…I recommend you stay here and work out your destiny! It will cost you nearly N350,000 to travel to say America, believe me, if you are creative and focused, and start a business with that amount of money, in 5 years, you will be able to go to America on vacation and enjoy life! No body picks money on the street in those countries, US, UK Dubai, Greece, etc, I have visited all those countries and I tell you the truth, most of what you think about opportunities in those countries are not true! Even if you are in music, by the time you arrive South Africa or UK, you will join millions of young people with their demos also pursuing destiny. And they have an advantage over you because they already know that system, you have to start from the scratch…by the way, how many Nigerian musicians have made it abroad? Most time they make it here and then go there to maximize their opportunities! Have you been reading the news lately, with the global financial crisis many folks abroad are loosing their jobs, it also means that immigration laws shall become more stiff especially on job opportunities. Abeg stay here and succeed and then arrive the USA and someone will be at the airport with your name on a placard waiting for you and drive you to a good hotel and you have your respect, that’s what I enjoy!

Maxwell: What was your motivation to start Youngstars Foundation?
I grew up not accepting the standards of our society. I was not satisfied with the school system, I was not satisfied with the system of governance, I was further shocked to discover that here was a society that didn’t reckon, plan or see its youths as the bridge to the future and its continuity. And I said, I would start an organization that will help young people discover themselves and get involved in nation building so we can recreate the Nigeria of our dream. Every day I wake up, what I see in society further propels me to continue this work. This is one country that is yet to come to terms with the truth that the youths is her only point of reference in the future. It beats my imagination why the adult society thinks that way. Well, we are gradually changing it, as some of us are beginning to show and lead in unusuall leadership processes, they are forced to reckon with us….and so we must not stop being the best we can as young people!

Maxwell: Your comment and feelings about Barack Obama’s victory?
Oh…you mean my Uncle, President Obama…you know in Africa…family ties are still strong! Ha ha. Barack Obama wrote a book called the audacity of hope. I would say the audacious faith! That suicidal courage that he could be president, and that suicidal believe that all things are possible and that absolute trust that with God on your side…nothing can stop you gave birth to the Obama legacy. I tell people, it was more difficult to win over Hillary Clinton than to win Mc Cain! And I said it will take a miracle for Mc Cain to win but it will take supernatural miraclessssssss for Obama to win the presidency. Obama has extinguished all our excuses. Obama has shocked all our sentiments. Obama has trivialized all our experiences and circumstances. Obama has mocked all our disabilities. Obama means, if you can think it, you can make it happen. But you know the center of all of this…….? As a man thinks……..! watch out for every young person that is thinking! The world has changed! We have moved forward by a century. One man truly can make a difference. I love and pray for Obama everyday, because I see myself in him. I actually think we knew each other before we were born. To me, nothing is impossible as long as you have thought about it!

Maxwell: Who are your mentors and role models?
Jesus comes first in the list, at the age of 12 he was having intelligent conversation with professors and scholars! Can you beat that? I love Joseph too much, at 30 he became leader in a foreign land and by his wisdom saved the world! David, was a God chaser. Back to this present time, Dr. Martin Luther King remains my number one! Dr. Mandela for me is the African to watch! In Nigeria……..? I am still thinking sha!

Maxwell: Last words of advice to the Nigerian youth?
Sell your phone and buy a dream! With a reckless abandon, pursue your dream. Irrespective of your personal sentiments, ego, experiences, societal perspective of you and your background, don’t be distracted, just follow your dream. As a matter of fact, it is for all your excuses that you must succeed. Believe in your ability to be, act on your believe to become and stay there in the place of your ability until your dream come true, because Obama has shown us that dreams come true irrespective of the entire world!

© Interview by Ogaga E. Maxwell (ogagamaxwell@yahoo.com)...Dec 2008

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