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‘Cultism can be wiped out on campuses through massive enlightenment campaign’

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Cultism among the youths is a serious concern to stakeholders in security sector, parents and school authorities. There is hardly a day that one opens the newspapers or tunes in to the news on television or radio without the ugly headlines on activities of cultists on campuses and neighbourhoods. Sometimes, lives and property worth millions are lost.
In the past three weeks, over 500 youths, whose ages ranged from 16 to 30, have been arrested by the Lagos State Police Command for drugs possesion and cult-related crimes.

Despite the alarming trend, a polytechnic lecturer and executive director of the Advocacy Peace Centre for the Young People Skills Development and Productivity (TAPCYPSD), Mr. TUNJI AJIBOLA, said there was still hope for the youth, urging government to embark on massive reorientation and redirection. In this interview with ODITA SUNDAY, he called on parents and the government to invest in the youths.

How did your investment in youths began?
When I was an undergraduate, I discovered that the youths needed more information outside from the usual education. If youths are guided aright, they would have self-esteem and won’t engage in cultism and gangsterism.

What do you think government can do to divert their attention from crime?
The youth need life skills, information, self-development and other necessary elements that are required to become responsible in the society. I discovered that the schools only taught curriculum-based instructions, whereas, in the larger society, young people are expected to do more than what they are taught in school. The youth actually need information that is required to solve real-life challenges. For instances, while in school, students would not be taught how to be successful in life. They won’t be taught relationship-building or conflict resolution skills. In my interactions with youths as a lecturer, I discovered that they need these forms of information consistently. It is so important that we can no longer continue to refer to them curricular activities, because they are core information that people need. That was what led me to this platform, where we invite experienced facilitators from across the world to come and inspire the youths with knowledge and to proffer solutions to the challenges confronting youths. Every last Friday of the month, we gather the youth at Ronik Polytechnic, Ejigbo, Lagos, where we teach them many things that will help them in life. However, every year, we do the Young People’s Conference, where we invite eggheads to come and guide the youths aright. This year’s annual conference, with the theme “Help our youths the truth to know,” will hold from Monday, July I6, to Friday, July 20, from 10am to 5pm. In this gathering, we will have serious topics such as “Equipping young talents for careers in public and corporate governance.” “People, society and communication,” “Peace, conflict prevention and resolution,” “Employment, wealth creation and fulfilment,” “Entertainment, education and the contemporary capacity building platform.”

Where are you drawing your speakers from?
We have great inspirational speakers billed to grace the event as well as economists, stakeholders in security, including the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, the director-general of the NYSC, Brig-Gen. Sule Kazaure, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and many others. They would talk to the youths on what they need to know about life’s challenges. We will not leave them alone after talking, we are going to follow up on them, till they get it right; and admission to this annual conference is free and open to senior senior secondary students, fresh school leavers, undergraduates and young people between 10 and 40 years.
Stakeholders in youth development and parents are also invited, as they would learn a lot about how to make their children useful in life.

How effective are your teachings at these events?
Our teaching is effective. Really, there is no youth that would come to our meetings or conference that his or her life would remain the same. They are bound to learn self-esteem and respect to human dignity, aside from talent and capacity building. We have been able to produce young people that are now affecting the society positively. We have produced a lot of young people that have been using their talents positively. We have been able to address and change so many youths who would have taken to crime. We have been able to guide the youth in choosing careers in their area of endowment, talents or competence. We believe so much in preventive measures, so we organise talks on the implications of crime and vices such as cultism, drugs, advance fee fraud (419) and other issues.

Is there hope for today’s youth?
There is really hope for the youths, what we need to do is to catch them young. Parents should not be afraid to speak to their children because, if they miss it when they are young, it would be difficult to bring them out of crime later. All hands must be on deck to help youths by telling them the truth. Government should assist in providing the enabling environment for youths to grow in love. Religious organisations and traditional institutions have a role to play in the upbringing of children and monitoring the activities of youths in their areas. We would appreciate it if parents would permit their children to come for the annual conference, as they have a lot to gain by listening to the speakers and personalities in attendance and by asking questions on issues that bother them.


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