Celebrating The Glory Of African Royal Youths
About 4 years ago when the Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (Ojaja II), conceived the idea of creating an award to celebrate the African spirit, he envisioned an Africa where Africans would get the recognition that they deserved.
For years, countries outside the shores of the continent celebrated Africans through awards such as the MBE, and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders for their societal contribution. But in Africa, awards of this magnitude are largely lacking.
Enter the Royal African Youths Leadership Forum (RAYLF) – an event that celebrates the African spirit.
The African spirit is like a leopard, says Dr Ayobami Oyedare, one of the primary organisers and the head of Ooni of Ife Global Outreach, US and UK.
“Leopards are one of the best animals in the jungle. The leopard is very brave, super-intelligent, can persuade and manoeuvre, and very down to earth, resilient with power and energy,” Dr Oyedare says.
With its ability to dominate any industry while being as wise as a serpent and dogged in battle, the African spirit is in a league of its own.
It is also this spirit that awardees chosen by the Ooni possess.
The Ooni himself is not a stranger to being successful as a youth. He was already an entrepreneur with about 20 employees at age 21, a father at 19 and now he is the revered king in Yoruba land. He notes that each RAYLF event is an epic shift in its movement into a new future for Africa. “And who better does it if not the Royal Father who believes that his forbearers created the word ‘greatness’?” Dr Oyedare questions.
To ensure that the awards are all-inclusive, awardees are nominated on the five pillars upon which RAYLF is built: governance and leadership, entrepreneurship and empowerment, creative culture, technology and innovation and academic excellence.
In order to arrive at the credibility it has successfully achieved in its three years, institutions in different industries are involved in its selection. One notable instance is its partnership with the University of Ibadan.
Recalling the Ooni’s proactive decision to choose people of upright standing, Dr Oyedare says Ooni called the vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan and informed him of his decision to award 15-20 students who had exhibited academic excellence.
The university got into action. It sent a letter to all the universities requesting that they select the best students from their schools. “UI helped to create the criteria to ensure impartiality and after receiving the nominations did all the assessment to create the best in the list and send to him,” he adds.
Another feature of the process of selection is the collaboration with government agencies. “If the person says I’m a billionaire, how do we know he is not involved in illegal businesses and activities? We have to do our due diligence to ensure that the person is legit. We do a lot of background work,” Dr Oyedare says.
The Ooni describes this process as a “professional head-hunt.” It is noteworthy to add that each name is vetted personally by the Ooni.
Another feature that separates this award is its inclusion of the physically challenged. Smiling as he recounts a memorable incident, the Ooni says, “One visually impaired lady – Dolapo -gave me a beautiful gift and she couldn’t see what she gave to me, but she could feel it. It really touched my heart. It (the gift) is a part of my art collection.”
Now in its third year, Dr Oyedare says awardees’ benefits from the initiative are beyond awards.
“An award is just an element and not the event itself. It is just a way of the Majesty saying I pay tribute to your work, resilience, patriotism and your identity despite the complexity of Nigeria. What that does is that it sends a medium of inspiration to others out there who believe that in 2 to 5 years they’d be there and that is the idea of the Majesty.”
According to the Ooni, each awardee enjoys the benefit of a relationship to further spread the gospel of the African spirit.
“Every time I see them, I feel energised. They are my oxygen. I celebrate them and put them in an ecosystem. At the Royal African Youth Forum, we are having multibillion naira transactions and we are impacting and networking among ourselves. It is beyond the awards you just get. It is a relationship award. So for every awardee, it is a relationship for me.”
Some of the past winners have become business partners, overseeing some of his business affairs.
Some awardees have also had the privilege of visiting the leaders of countries and captains of industries. Besides this, awardees have the opportunity to be mentored by previous awardees.
The Ooni, noting that it is “one of the greatest things he has done on the throne,” says that “this ecosystem still has its pioneers and other awardees deliberately working on building this formidable platform.”
Africa The Future
Given its success in Nigeria in its first three years, come 2023, this award will be extended to other parts of Africa to reflect its name.
Plans have also been set to introduce the Royal African Campus Society, which can be used as a benchmark to support students.
“What the Majesty is showing is that these (Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi of Paystack, and Hanu Agbodje of Patricia) are all products of our university institutions. Unfortunately, our lecturers don’t see it. They don’t realise that they are sitting with billions of dollars and talking with them. Imagine if an institution conceived the vision of investing $5000 in these individuals’ companies and got a percentage in return. You know, our institutions need to start thinking of making money and not the traditional armchair method of waiting for the government to fund them. Look at MIT, for instance. This is the Majesty’s way of saying ‘wake up, I want to work with you,’” Dr Oyedare says.
In addition to this, there will be a Kings Fellowship – a highly competitive fellowship where one emerges as a king’s fellow after going through the rigorous process of writing on a chosen topic for societal development.
Choosing 100 people can be daunting. Although there is the fear of an awardee later becoming a bad ambassador of the initiative, Dr Oyedare argues that although you can’t change the world because of the peculiarities of people, you can, however, hope that they can learn from the others through their positive influence.
Confident about the future of the awardees, the Ooni says that they will be a force to reckon with in the coming years. “The youth are powerful machines; machines based on their efficiency level. They turn around things for you; they are outstanding out of this world. I am looking forward to meeting those great minds this year.”