The only question we ask youths applying for our Emerging (African) Leaders Program (ELP) is to write a less-than 500-word essay on “What I can do for my country.” From the applicant’s response, we are able to detect early signs of passion for common good.
Upon induction into ELP, every emerging leader is required to start working on what she can do for her country. We call this “Community Development Project (CDP).” CDP is anything that adds social, economic or moral value to the community. The emphasis is usually on tackling just one problem that the emerging leader would love to see resolved in her community.
Choosing from many and often big issues that these young change agents want to change is often a difficult process. Their proposals go through a lot of scrutinies before approval by mentors. Eventually, each is able to settle with just one thing that she can put his talent, time, energy and even money into for the good of her community.
The CDPs have helped to inspire in the future leaders a sense of community badly need in Nigeria today. It is our own way of reviving the African social sense. In a country where very few are committed to common good, the CDPs provide our future leaders the opportunity to experience the fulfilment in working for common good rather than pursuing selfish interests.
The CDPs have also helped to keep these young people busy. While some of their peers waste their precious time sleeping, hanging around, complaining about everything and ‘sexting’ on any conceivable social media, our future leaders are busy working to bring change to the nation.
Also, the CDPs challenge the innovative spirit of our future leaders. Mentors push them to the wall and they bounce back with amazing ideas and capabilities they never thought they had. This has led to remarkable strengthening of their creative thinking and problem solving skills evident in the amazing progress that many of them are making in their CDPs.
Some of the CDPs have grown into projects that have potentials to provide jobs both for the future leaders and many in the community. For example, at Owerri, a mushroom project conceived as CDP is growing into a project that can provide employment and food to many. At Aba, a sanitation project conceived as CDP is now actually keeping Aba clean. At Edo and Ebonyi, projects conceived as CDPs are now bringing back primary school drop-outs to the classroom, etc.
These projects are growing very fast and touching lives in more ways than we imagined. This is how change happens. It happens when citizens not only ask for their rights and benefits, but also for what they can do for their country. But, there is no one who commits to common good that goes home poor, because common good is the good of each and everyone of us, including the good of the one who works for common good. What, then, are you doing for your country?