My name is Godswill Uchenna Agbagwa. I am a Priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. I was born in a small community in Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State. As a child, I had a comfortable life, thanks to my hardworking parents. Things took a bad turn in 1990 when my father passed away leaving my mother to fend for seven children. Poverty quickly set in and for many years we managed to feed, obtain medical care and pay tuition.
It was then that I started dreaming of a better Nigeria where all can find support and encouragement to work hard, live in dignity and feel proud to belong. My dream was deceptively kept alive by a corrupt military junta that kept assuring us of an imminent coming of a better Nigeria where there would be free education, sufficient food, reliable electric power supply and clean drinking water. Every night, I dreamt of this kind of Nigeria. Morning came followed by night but we remained poor, hungry and helpless. I still had to trek several miles to fetch drinking water, burn nightly candles to study for my exams, and prayed that I did not fall sick because there was no good health care facility.
By the time I became a Priest in 2003, my dreams of a better Nigeria had faded away. But in 2008, barely two years after I arrived Michigan for graduate school, the dream came back. As I toured Europe and North America on vacation, I wondered why amenities such as constant electricity supply, paved roads, good healthcare, clean water that are regarded as necessity in those regions of the world are considered luxury in my native land. I wondered why I was treated with contempt at the airports and nearly cried out my eyes at Toronto international airport in 2008 when a female immigration officer scornfully asked me how much I paid in bribe for my green passport.
It was then that my dream of a better Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa turned into a burning desire.
For several years, I struggled, day and night, to unravel the root causes of poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria. I engaged anyone that cared to listen. I read Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. I studied Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. I then took a trip back home to reassess the situation of things. Nigeria was still a sorry sight.
After prayerful reflections, I became convinced that the problem with Nigeria and the rest of Africa is a combination of failure of leadership, loss of social and moral sense, as well as lack of entrepreneurial spirit. I then reasoned that if we can revive the African social and moral sense, re-awaken the African spirit of entrepreneurship and nurture leaders with the capacities, competencies and character to effect positive social changes, poverty and underdevelopment will soon be history in Africa.
Consequently, I decided to establish a Center for the purpose of working towards this dream. The Center commenced activities in 2013 with primary focus on helping youths build the capacities, competencies and character to achieve sterling successes and bring positive change to Africa.
We focus on youths because we want to nurture a new generation of African leaders and workforce that will effect positive socioeconomic change in Africa. We relentlessly invest our money, time and talents in these young men and women because we believe in their potentials.
In 2013, we launched ELP (Emerging African Leaders Program) to respond to Africa’s failure of leadership. ELP is a three-year structured nurturing program aimed at raising ethical and innovative future African leaders. Every year since 2013, we select 25 freshmen with leadership potentials through a rigorous merit-based process that involves written applications, oral interviews and background checks. Through a combination of Foundation conferences, mid-year summits, inspirational book reading and film viewing, one-on-one mentoring, community services, leadership-building experiences and ethical reorientation, mentees imbibe the skills and habits of highly effective leaders.
Today ELP is in over 20 Universities in Nigeria. In addition to shaping their morals, supporting their education and shinning bright lights on their future, we have also inspired them to think democratically through community development projects. From novel farming ideas to recycling ventures. From encouraging dropouts to remaining in school and promoting ethics on campus, these future leaders are building a better Africa. We are proud to say that we have over 20 ongoing community development projects across Nigeria led by the future leaders in our program. ELP is also uniting Nigeria. ELP mentees comprise of Christians and Muslims; Hausas, Yorubas and Igbos. As these young people work their ways to influential positions, CSAAEINC is working with them each step of the way to bring the positive social change we all have long desired change.
In 2014, we launched CBEP (Career Building and Entrepreneurship Program) to respond to Africa’s lack of entrepreneurial spirit. The aim is to pave new ways for employment and enterprise in Africa. CBEP is an integrated career-building program designed to help African youths launch lucrative careers and contribute to African socioeconomic development. CBEP trains youths from across Africa on how to become successful entrepreneurs; secure dream jobs; secure educational and training opportunities home and abroad; create, manage, save and grow money; get involved in civic activities; fight for their rights as citizens; as well as how to become ethical and inspirational leaders.
In 2017, we launched SEACON (Students Ethics and Anti-corruption Network) to respond to Africa’s loss of moral sense. SEACON seeks to build a network of college students from all higher institutions in Nigeria to begin identifying and exploring innovative ways to promote ethics while combating the canker worm of corruption hindering development in Africa. Through a combination of nationwide, regional, state and campus ethics seminars; national ethics contests; online, radio and TV ethics programs that reward ethics feats while exposing corrupt practices; and student-led ethics advocacy, SEACON will help college students build the capacities, competencies and character to promote ethics and combat corruption.
In the years ahead, our Center will take our programs beyond Africa to help Africans in diaspora looking homewards tap into the immense genuine opportunities back home.
This is my dream!
I thank those who share in this dream especially my childhood friend and CSAAEINC VP, Fr. Vincent Arisukwu who helped in the establishment of CSAAEINC in Nigeria; my classmate and CSAAEINC IT director who designed CSAAEINC logo and first website; the board members, mentors, resource persons, staff, donors, friends and well-wishers.