In Nigeria of today, where youths and millennials are more interested in Instagram likes and Twitter followers than anything else, some Nigerian youths are taking different paths.
Ayomide Atitebi is one of those Nigerian youths - a 23-year old environmentalist and youth empowerment advocate. Atitebi has worked with various environmental and humanitarian organisations including the United Nations Environment Programme and the Green State Youth Alliance.
Pulse Entrepreneurship recently caught up with Ayomide to talk to him about his involvement in environmental advocacy as a Nigerian youth. Excerpts below:
Pulse: Hi Ayomide, please give our readers a brief introduction into who you are and what you do.
: I'm Ayo Atitebi, an environmental leadership advocate and a public speaker passionately involved in youth empowerment for sustainable development.
Pulse: Is it something you've always wanted to do?
: I have always had a peculiar interest in leadership. I grew up constructively discontented, the type you would appropriately consider "abnormal" as I had already begun exhibiting signs of interest in my world beyond that which was usual.
At the age of 7, I had begun volunteering for not less than three organisations including UNICEF and CleanUpTheWorld.
At 13, I founded my first organisation - Movement For the Protection of the Rights of the African Child, and at 18, I founded my first youth-led nonprofit with the mission of empowering young Africans who have dreams of changing Africa to a desirable continent. So, yes, I have always wanted to do this.
Pulse: Has the journey so far been challenge-free?
: The journey has been amazing; absolutely inspiring, to say the least! Leading and influencing change in Africa as a young person is a great delight as much as it is also a great challenge. Being heard as a young person in this part of the world is a major challenge that requires a great deal of confidence in oneself and the ideals one holds very dearly.
There is also the challenge of society allowing young people to participate and be meaningfully involved in major decision-making processes that would eventually affect us and the future we are deliberate about.
Pulse: What kind of impact do you think your work is having?
: The impacts are multidimensional. The natural world is having a stronger voice and is occupying a more significant position in human affairs.
More people, especially teenagers and youth, are being influenced and massively converted to passionate earth advocates and activists who in turn influence their networks to also becoming environmentally responsible.
Together, we are driving measured and sustainable solutions to environmental challenges not only for the benefits of the present but also future generations.
Pulse: What stage do you get to and say "I have done enough"?
: My work is a lifelong commitment to raising a generation of people who are truly environmentally responsible, and ensuring that humanity does not continue to break the environment if it cannot fix it. So, there's no "I have done enough" for me.
Pulse: What are you working on at the moment? Do you have specific plans for the immediate future?
: A couple of things. At the moment, I am establishing chapters of the international environmental organisation that I lead in Nigeria (IDEAS For Us) on campuses and in communities across Nigeria to drive solutions and implement sustainability programmes.
Also, my initiative - #MyGreenStory, which currently enjoys the reputation of the world's first online inspirational environmental chat, is metamorphosing to a live event which will have some of the most inspiring environmental champions in this part of the world to share their unique stories for the purpose of inspiring a new generation of exceptional environmental leaders.
For the immediate future, my specific plans will be known as they unfold.
Pulse: Do you have any advice for other youths who want to follow your steps?
: Get a clear picture of what you want to contribute to life, exactly why you want it, and go confidently in the direction of your vision with a mind open to learn and improve. The universe is arranged to respond to those who have the guts to pursue the vision they keep in the eyes!
Pulse: How can more Nigerians be encouraged to be conscious of their environment?
: Actions must be entrenched in specific, rewarding and continuous environmental awareness programmes.
Pulse: If you could do it all again, would you go down this same path?
Pulse: What is the most important piece of advice you can give to any youth out there?
: Do not let the pressure to measure up finish you! There is nothing more miserable than desperately struggling to be the shadow of another person. Find peace in the uniqueness of your race and let God be your guide.