Programs and Events
Ambassador McCulley's Election Message Sets Agenda for Youth Forum in Kafanchan
Under a huge mango tree that offered enough shade from the blistering sun in the remote hamlet of Kafanchan in Kaduna State, U.S. Counselor for Public Affairs Peter Claussen, presented Ambassador Terence McCulley's message on good governance and the "golden opportunity" the coming April elections offers to Nigeria, to a group of young adults on March 26. The Grassroots Youth Forum was assembled by Bako Kantiok, a youth leader and a participant of President Obama's Forum for Young African Leaders (PFYA), in collaboration with the Fantsuam Foundation. In August last year, Mr. Kantiok and two other young Nigerians joined President Obama and more than 100 other young adults from 45 African countries in Washington, D.C. to discuss the challenges facing Africa as a continent.
In addition to presenting Ambassador McCulley's prepared remarks, Mr. Claussen encouraged the rural youth to seek solutions to their own problems, as they knew best what worked in Kafanchan. They were no longer youth, Claussen said, with the right and the responsibility to shape their futures and guide their nation. "Democracy is more than a formal counting of votes," and good governance is also the duty of citizens as well as government officials. Claussen also responded to questions on a range of social and community issues - positive youth involvement in the elections, better education, accountability and transparency, the impacts of global warming on local harvests and the problems of inadequate water.
The Kafanchan Grassroots Youth Forum included break-out sessions in leadership training—where participants drawn from different Youth Organizations within Kaduna State—were tasked with identifying and communicating problems and solutions to specific challenges plaguing their communities. Claussen encouraged the participants to see their break-out session exercise as the starting point for youth involvement in local community affairs in Nigeria. Participants were both surprised and amused when Claussen likened the three groups formed during the break-out session to the formation of political parties, with defined manifestos and operative goals.
"What do you want Nigeria to be in the next ten years from now? The solution and the answers are right within you and in your hands," he told the youths, advising them to apply what they have learned to the challenges they encounter in their local communities.
Other participants at the Grassroots Youth Forum included Elisha Sabo, a director from the National Orientation Agency, who spoke on "Why Elections Still Matter," and the Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Fantsuam Foundation, Professor John Dada.