By Abdulrasaq Shola Sidiq
By the time you are reading this, the third edition of the Countryside Emerging Leaders Fellowship (CELF) would have ended with, yet again, a lasting implication on the life and future of 32 carefully selected teenagers across Kwara State.
However, beyond the core objectives of the Fellowship, there is a hidden impact that greatly portends good omen for the oneness of our community and contributes greatly to the unity and harmony Kwara State is known for. I do not know how many facilitators and visitors to the CELF camp noticed this, but the diverse and mixed nature of speakers and guests who attended the Fellowship pointed at the often unspoken aspect of CELF, one that brings together everyone, especially the youth, drives our collectivity as a people and foster the spirit of comradeship, especially in this election season.
By making critical decisions that concern the CELF project strictly on the basis of facts without any sort of personal bias, the chief volunteer, Mallam Lawal Olohungbebe is able to simultaneously use CELF as a wholly independent apolitical and non-partisan platform to project the best of our youth, while at the same time delivering the objective of grooming determined change makers from across rural communities in Kwara.
It should be a thing worthy of applause to note that the CELF presented a platform which hosted individuals across party lines and divides. The same podium that hosted PDP’s Ibrahim Yinka Otukoko is the same that welcomed the feet of Bioye Mumin of SDP, just as it hosted APC’s Rafiu Ajakaye. Such a dynamic mix of Individuals is a pointer to the effectiveness with which Olohungbebe has built a platform that not only trains teenagers to be better individuals, but one that is now also serving the good purpose of projecting the best of our youth and promoting unity in their midst.
No doubt, Lawal Olohungbebe, with his dexterous ability and his reputation for transparency, has, within three short years, built CELF into an attractive platform that everyone considers fair and neutral. With no political colouration and without pandering to any political group or side; Olohungbebe has succeeded in making the Countryside Emerging Leaders Fellowship into a forum that considers no one as favourites and no one as enemy — everyone with value is always sought and welcomed.
Indeed, as they say, everyone is a political animal and all men have opinions about the political issues of their time. Lawal Olohungbebe is definitely no exception. But if there is anything he has been able to do as far as CELF is concerned, it is the fact that he has not allowed such personal considerations to affect his projects, especially ones he holds dear to his heart like this particular gap-year project for rural teenagers.
Therefore, after all is said and done, CELF is more than just an educational and capacity development programme for teenagers. Its impacts definitely transcend that narrow prisms, and all leaders and opinion shapers in Kwara need to take note of Olohungbebe’s innovative contribution that is promoting the cohesiveness of our extremely volatile youth population and projecting our best and brightest.