The Consul General of the United States of America’s Consulate in Lagos, Mr. Will Stevens, on Thursday called on African leaders to embrace a new paradigm shift that would ensure that the continent’s solutions were answers to global challenges.
Stevens made this call during the Second Walter Carrington Annual Symposium with the theme, “Rethinking Youth Engagement for National Development,” which was held in Lagos.
Carrington was appointed the ambassador of the United States of America to Nigeria in 1993, where he opposed some policies of Nigeria’s former Military Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
Stevens said: “We used to talk about ‘African solutions to African problems.’ No! We should be talking about African solutions to global problems.”
The consul general said transitioning to African solutions for global problems would be in line with President Joe Biden’s African strategy, which recognises that the challenges facing mankind were too big for any country, or a section of the world, to go it all alone.
“And that is what President Biden’s African strategy is all about, recognising that the challenges facing us are too big for us to go alone. They are too big: the challenges of democracy, climate change, insecurity etc. are global problems that we have to work together to solve,” he said.
Stevens said solutions that could be applied in Lagos should also be applied in Port Harcourt, “and they going to be applied in Baltimore or Houston, because you are dealing with the same challenges people around the world are dealing with.”
He also tasked members of the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative (CYFI) to see themselves as the “they” that would bring those solutions to the problems and challenges plaguing their communities or organisations that they are part of.
“I am responsible for the things happening around me,” he said, adding that, “I will encourage you to think of yourselves as the ‘they.’ And I hope that each of our CYFI’s fellows already knows this. That if you can see problem, there are solutions there also. Just find them. And that is really how we build better society by taking responsibility of the problem right in front of you and figuring out how can I help to fix it?”
He said it was their responsibility as citizens of a democratic society to hold their leaders accountable.
“Democracy means that you can impact change and can hold your leaders accountable when they are not fixing the things that need to be fixed. In a democracy the leaders represent you,” he said.
In her welcome address, a Member, Board of Trustee, Carrington Fellowship Network, Dr. Arese Carrington, said the symposium was meant to celebrate late, “Ambassador Carrington’s life and legacies and discuss issues that are critical to Nigeria, a country which he regarded as his second home and believed in.”
She said the theme of this year’s symposium was extremely important as Nigeria prepares for an election because, “Ambassador Carrington believed in the youth and the significant role they should play.”
Arese, who is the spouse of Late Ambassador Carrington, urged the youths to, “believe in yourselves, believe that you matter and the youth matter. Believe in your future and the values my late husband, Ambassador Carrington, cherished: service to humanity, democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law. Strive to serve humanity and promote peace, unity and harmony.
“Youth engagement is important in nation building. Social justice, environmental justice and a better future for the youth are issues you should engage in. Elections are about the future.
“Defend the future of the country by casting your vote and becoming a participant and not a bystander. You have strength, you have character. Believe the best is yet to come.
“You should be involved in decisions that affect your future because the future belongs to you. Carrington Fellows have been promoting the importance of women and youth participation in the voting process through their program called “PVC for Her.”
The President of CYFI, Mr. Olusola Owonikoko, said it was important that the symposium would be dwelling on the theme as Nigeria prepared its citizens for election.
He said young people needed to participate more in the country’s political process.
“We are doing a lot. There is a lot more to do. But we also need to have conversations with ourselves. The goal really is that we synergise and make sure that we can achieve maximum impact and drive our country to a kind of vision we will want to see,” he said.