On Tuesday, young people from around the state ignored the national holiday and gathered to participate in a peace conference aimed at establishing a common platform for conflict resolution.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was physically there, listened intently as the youths led discussion on how to properly communicate their grievances to the authorities.
The event which was organised by the Ministry of Youth and Social Development titled “Rebuilding for Greatness: Peaceful Conflict Resolution,” which took place at the LTV Blue Roof and was facilitated by Saheed Akanbi, the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Youth Matters.
A seven-man debate panel hosted by Mazi Sam Uche Anyamele, a filmmaker set the tone for the Governor’s response to numerous suggestions and ideas presented by youths at the event.
Sanwo-Olu proclaimed, dressed in a Boy Scouts’ venturing green shirt and light-brown trousers with a yellow tie to match “the moment for true reconciliation has begun.”
With the youth’s dedication to peace, the Governor reckons that Lagos can now fully recover from last year’s premeditated attacks on its assets, which resulted in the loss of lives and livelihoods.
He said: “Today is a day of reconciliation and it is about our teeming youths. This is the moment to create a common ground and take ownership of our future. We have indeed assessed what we have passed through as a people; it’s now the moment to come together and build our lives together.
“This event is about aggregating all the conversations of the millions of youths that have been represented here. All of us have agreed that, when we work together, we can build a resilient society we will truly be proud of. We will continue to build, engage and work with our young people. I certainly will not give up on you as partners in progress and your ability to bring about positive changes.”
Sanwo-Olu agreed with the youths that inter-generational discussion was necessary to proactively address issues that could lead to conflict, assuring the participants that his administration was ready to support causes that would benefit young people.
The Governor stated that the youths should not only be given stakeholder status in the State’s project, but also be given priority seating at decision-making tables. He said that his administration had set an example by appointing a large number of young persons under the age of 40 to the State Executive Council, political aides, and administrative executives.
He said: “I thank all the youths who participate in this forum for the valuable suggestions offered and the ideas shared. I’m taking full responsibility and ownership of all the feedback recommended for me here. All the points have been taken and I will continue to rely on them in the course of governance.”
According to Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Hon. Segun Dawodu, the State government recognizes the youth as stakeholders in peace building and violence prevention, adding that the Governor’s physical presence at the event demonstrated Sanwo- Olu’s commitment to turn listening ears to issues faced by the youth.
The Commissioner, who was represented by Dr. Oluwagbemiga Aina, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, stated that the consequence of unfavorable disputes would never be good to any society or its people.
He said: “Rebuilding Lagos for greatness is a multifaceted task that involves constructing a formidable identity using the power of the State to unify people of common interests for a common goal. Together we will rebuild, recover and Lagos will emerge stronger. The aftermath of the past crisis will not determine the destiny of the State.
“We can find solution to our conflict in our unique education and value system, in our creativity and innovation, in our hard work and resilience. As we foster relationships with our youths, it is a charge on all of us to take responsibility for our today and uphold human dignity, equity, social justice, human rights and inclusiveness.”
Also Prof. Wahab Ellias, the keynote speaker and Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU), stated the event’s title connoted a resilient city, emphasizing that violence was still endemic and part of society’s makeup.
According to the sociology professor, conflict is inherently present in any culture where ongoing battles between social classes are common.
He did, however, emphasize the importance of constructive involvement and nonviolent discourse in resolving all issues, regardless of their nature.
“Clashes of ideas among the social classes and cultural differences are part of the reasons why conflicts arise. There is nothing bad in conflict, but a conflict that is not progressive in nature is bad and inimical to the peace in the society,” he said.
The professor also urged the government to follow through on its vow to increase investment in human capital, which he said was still a critical component in preventing violence. According to Ellias, youths are the most crucial resource for the government to harness.
Some of the attendees were also given the opportunity to express themselves.
Miss Halimat Akanni-Shelle one of the attendees, appreciated the governor for listening to the youth and allowing them to rub minds with decision-makers.
Miss Mary Makinde, a transformational leadership trainee, also described the governor as a progressive leader, describing progressive leadership as selfless action directed toward a common goal, vision, and motivation.
She said: “Despite the ugly circumstances that befell Lagos in the past year, the Governor has remained focused on the situation and focused on things that matter. This is progressive leadership.”
Comrade Rasheed Ogunsanya, the leader of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in Lagos, while speaking described the youth as the “engine room” of the city’s resilience, thanking the governor for identifying with them.
Also the Lagos State Chairman of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Billiaminu Oba, provided the Governor with a 14-page suggestion and resolution on the way forward in terms of youth involvement.