“When some Nigerians were executed in Indonesia yesterday, and I started reading about their ordeal, I stumbled on the picture of one of those who were killed last year.
“I was shocked to discover I had met him before in Mali during one of my efforts to cross into Europe in 1994.
“His name is Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise although we knew him back then as SON.
“He was a footballer, working in an Indian shop and playing for an unregistered football club at Mopti.
“I am not saying he was innocent because I do not know the fact of his case but I am just very sad to see him among those who were executed.
“My fear is that, going by what I witnessed in those places, some of those killed might actually be innocent of the offence for which they were charged, especially knowing those people hardly provide interpreter in the course of their interrogation.
“Once you are arrested, you are deemed guilty and only God can help you.
“I feel very sad and since there are still several Nigerians on death row in many of these countries, going by the report, if there is anything in your power to help get the authorities to assist them, please do it, Sir.”
I got the foregoing mail about three weeks ago from my younger brother who I spoke about in my Platform Nigeria lecture on 1st October last year titled “If we stay here we die”.
It is one of those tragedies of our country where many young men and women believe the only way to make it in life is to travel outside the country.
Incidentally, following the feedback I received after that presentation and the interest shown by many Nigerians in the story, I encouraged my brother to write on his experience.
He sent me the draft about four months ago and not only do I find the story gripping, I believe the authorities will have to do something to discourage the dangerous mindset that is pushing many of our young men and women into suicide missions on the erroneous belief that the grass is greener on the other side.
I know things are hard in our country today but if we must be honest, this particular problem predates the current challenge we face as a nation and it will take concerted efforts to address.
Ever since I can remember, I have always encountered young men and women who, when asked what their ambition was, would say “I want to travel out”.
There is no career prospect or profession in mind, the ambition is just to cross to Europe, America or Asia on the assumption that once they did, their problems would be solved.
That is the mindset that is driving many to their death on the Mediterranean Sea or becoming prostitutes in Europe.
However, the challenge that we face in our country today, especially regarding our young people is beyond what government alone can handle.
It would take each one of us helping to sensitise them that there is no shortcut to success and that they must take responsibility for their future.
It is also important to inspire in them the hope that no matter how tough the situation may seem, they can still reach their goals.
That was the essence of the Teens Career Conference held last Saturday in my church for which we had:
– the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele;
– the former Chairperson, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and current chair of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru;
– the Director General of PenCom, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu; ace comedian,
– Mr. Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere (aka Ali Baba) and,
– Pastor Eva Azodoh, a medical doctor (consultant urologist) and retired colonel of the Nigerian Army.
In his statement read by Mrs Sarah Alade, CBN Deputy Governor who represented him, Emefiele counseled the teenagers on the virtue of hard work and dedication to their studies.
“When I look back at some of my peers in school who focused on other things besides hard work and dedication to excellence, I see a different turn in their life cycle relative to mine.
For this and many other reasons, I remain eternally grateful to God and my parents for the principles they imparted in me”, said Emefiele.
Interested readers will find Emefiele’s speech on my web portal, olusegunadeniyi.com along with seven new offerings from the past.
Meanwhile, in the course of fielding questions last Saturday, Mrs Alade challenged the teenagers to always go the extra mile.