Sunday, January 13, 2008

Everyday Nigerian Heroes 1: Ilasamaja Youth Forum

The Ilasamaja Youth Forum was started a few months ago, here in the words of the president of the organization, Abu Olawale Raymond:

“What happened was that we went to the internet,” Raymond said, in a chat with Saturday Sun, “and we saw stories about young people in different parts of the world, coming together to do things for their communities, and working with other organizations like the UN. We decided to come together and think of programmes that we could do that would benefit our community, as others have done. Since then, we have held seminars on HIV/AIDS, liberating the youths from poverty and we celebrated International World Youth Day on August 12, this year. On environmental sanitation days, we visit areas in our community that we feel need cleaning and do what we can to clean up these areas.”

For once a good story about Nigerian youth and the internet. The collapse of the pedestrian bridge and their voluntary work in helping pedestrians cross the road to avoid casualties is what makes them heroes:

The incident that forced them to become heroes was the collapse, a couple of months ago, of part of the pedestrian bridge that goes across the Apapa-Oshodi
Expressway at Ilasamaja bus-stop.

....... casualties followed as people were forced to dash across the highway, trying to dodge cars coming at breakneck speed, driven by motorists who didn’t know the situation of the collapsed bridge and just thought the pedestrians were breaking the law. Many died, especially among the elderly and young children, who didn’t stand a chance against on-coming vehicles

It was this state of affairs that led the Ilasamaja Youth Forum, led by its president, Abu Olawale Raymond, to decide that too many members of their community had been lost and something had to be done before more would perish. So they printed the name of their organization on lemon reflective jackets, picked up a few sticks and headed for the highway directly under the collapsed bridge, where they have remained everyday for weeks, trying to slow down traffic so pedestrians can cross safely.

Again a sad reflection on our society that the police and LASTMA only started to "assist" only after IYF got involved.

Their work eventually brought the situation to the attention of the police, who sent a number of their officers to assist. Sometimes, LASTMA officials also pitch in. Some other youth organizations, including the Action Congress, youth wing of Ward F2, also joined forces with them, for what is essentially a full day’s work, everyday.

Its not easy, but its heartening that in a country where millions have to struggle to make ends meet, young people are going out of their way to do things like this.

Raymond says they have to juggle the time they have to be able to work there, since most of their members are students and workers. He himself is a student at Lagos State University who also works.
“We resume everyday at 7 am, which is a very busy period because people are going to work and students are going to school, and then we work till 9 am. Then another group, that is the AC Youth Forum, continue from then on. We ask some of our members who have to go to work in the morning to write letters to their companies to let them come to work a bit late so they can take part in the work. The students who don’t have lectures in the early morning also take part at that time. Those who can’t take part during the week help out at weekends. The others, who can stay the whole day, do so. We have about 19 members who do this work everyday.”

Praise is also due to the Action Congress youth forum and all other youth groups carrying out such voluntary acts of community service under dangerous conditions all around Nigeria. I implore anyone who can do anything to assist or encourage such groups acts to please do what they can. The financial assistance offered by Oceanic bank for the purchase of caution signs is a fine example of the type of support which can be offered.

We decided that we needed to erect some caution signs to slow motorists down to make our work easier. So we approached Oceanic Bank, that has a branch nearby and asked them to help us pay for these signs to be erected. They gladly agreed to do that and complied as promised.”

One can lament till tomorrow about the government not doing its job, and they would be perfectly justified. However, doing one's on bit, while clamouring for greater accountability and effectiveness of the government through peaceful but persistent means is, in my opinion, the only way forward for Nigeria. These youth deserve praise for doing their bit.

Read the full story here:

*This is the first of what I hope will become a regular series of posts, about ordinary Nigerians, both young and old, giving back to their community and to the country that has given them so little. *


TheAfroBeat said...

Thanks for showcasing these everyday heroes. Very rarely do we hear about the average Joe (or Musa) serving his community for no monetary gain.

Marin said...

To everyone whose comment has been removed: I have only just seen your comments today. It sounds like the man in question is a scammer, so I hope you are being careful, and I wish you the best. However, this is my private blog, and not a forum, so you see why I had to delete your comments.

BLOG WATCH!!!! Don't forget to give credit if you borrow anything from this blog.