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Stanbic IBTC youth leadership series: Inspiring youths against the odds


Cobhams Asuquo (left), Member Fesse and Kechi Okwuchi at Stanbic IBTC Leadership Series in Lagos

Beyond it’s core role as a financial institution, Stanbic IBTC seems to have perfected other creative means of engaging the public, particularly the youths.Few years after it conceived Fine Arts And Acts, a combination of visual art and performing art, to show its commitment to the creative industry, Stanbic IBTC has once again introduced it’s Youth Leadership Series, which aims at empowering young people to reach for greater heights.

Indeed, the maiden edition of leadership series tagged Against The Odds, was a very powerful platform for the financial institution to show young Nigerians the indomitable spirit and resilience of humans in a way to energize them and ensure they remain focused, disciplined, committed, industrious, and kind as they journey through life, while exploiting their talents creatively, life’s obstacles notwithstanding.

The underlying message of the youth series is to show that the individual is the only obstacle to his/her greatness. Thus, the Stanbic IBTC Youth Leadership Series was expected to serve as a platform of engagement for the youth where knowledge and experiences are shared, mentorship and guidance provided because the youth can easily “get distracted or discouraged by the different challenges we face in our lives,” the Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, Mr. Yinka Sanni, said.

Kechi Okwuchi, Member Feese and Cobhams Asuquo, a renowned music producer and singer, who was born blind, were inspired picks by Stanbic IBTC to underscore their determination to motivate the youth for economic growth and development. The three speakers truly typify the tough human spirit. Okwuchi and Feese had incredulous brushes with death and are alive today to talk about them and how those experiences helped to define their lives. Their stories simply defy logic.

Okwuchi was headed back home in Port Harcourt from school in Abuja in 2005 when the plane she was in, a Sosoliso flight, crash-landed and exploded at the Port Harcourt Airport. Of the 109 passengers on board, only Okwuchi and one other passenger survived. She has undergone over a 100 surgeries, including skin grafts, since the crash. But through the anguish, loneliness and trauma of the live changing experience, she would not be bowed. She was determined to pull through it all.

In 2015, exactly 10 years after the crash and despite a five-year absence from schooling for treatments following the crash, Okwuchi bagged a first class honours degree in Economics from the University of St Thomas, United States and is currently studying for her MBA also in Economics.

“Finding the strength to do this thing is a surprise because I didn’t know I had it within me,” she said. “Another huge part of my recovery was my support system,” she adds.

Okwuchi told her audience she lives by a simple maxim now: “live more, love more, give more, and pray more.” The maxim encapsulates the aspirational spirit of the human being for success and greatness and it has helped push Okwuchi to achieve successes even when the odds are stacked against her. Just last year, she participated in and was a finalist at the popular US music talent hunt show, America’s Got Talent.

In August 2011, Feese was unfortunate to be in the United Nations building in Abuja where she had gone to gather information for her Master’s degree dissertation, when a vehicle laden with bombs, was rammed into the building by Boko Haram insurgents. The bomb claimed 21 lives and close to a hundred critically injured. Feese was among the critically injured. She lost a leg to the blast and was in a coma for about four months.

“The earliest I remember is on the 28th of December, 2011, when I regained full consciousness,” Feese said.She required a team of 20 specialist doctors working on her for months to save her life. Less than two years after the bomb, Member completed her dissertation and graduated from the Institute of Developmental Studies (IDS) in the United Kingdom. Today, she devotes part of her time to advocacy for a better healthcare sector in the country.

On his part, Cobhams Asuquo is a world acclaimed songwriter, music producer, music composer and musician. He was born blind but has never allowed the circumstances of his birth to determine the size of his dream or limit his accomplishments.

In 2012, at the TEDxEuston, Cobhams discussed the lessons he learnt from blindness and called blindness a “gift” because it allows for single-minded focus on a task without distractions.Indeed, Cobhams, like renowned blind musicians Steve Wonders, George Sharing, and Ray Charles, has accomplished so much in music that it is sometimes hard to believe he has such handicap.

A common thread with these three is their ability to find that inner strength so often missing in many, especially when faced with a challenge. Focus, hard work, learning, trust, and a strong desire to be relevant are key attributes that define the trio. These are attributes, as well as integrity, partnerships, and humanity, cherished by Stanbic IBTC and which the financial institution hopes to instill in the youth through the youth leadership series.

Stanbic IBTC has over the years supported the youth segment through exposure, sponsorships and financial support. For instance, the Stanbic IBTC Business Leadership series (SBLS), after which the Youth Leadership Series is patterned, has consistently featured young people, such as rocket scientist, motivational speaker and innovator Siyabulela Xusa, who was 25 years in 2015 when he headlined the SBLS, and Vusi Thembekwayo, a South African entrepreneur and business speaker, at 28 when he featured on SBLS. The bank was also a sponsor of TechCabal Battlefield, a showcase of technology startups promoted by young budding entrepreneurs, among many other youth-centric initiatives.

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