â€œKeep quiet! What do young men know beyond music and girls?â€ That was the response an innocent young man got when he sought to air his views during an early IT Policy meeting in Lagos. But he wouldnâ€™t be held down. He expressed himself and got some amazing support on the need to involve youth in policy processes to ensure sustainability and efficacy of planned efforts.
That was then â€“ back in the days. The story is very much different now, in Nigeria and other countries. Almost every stakeholder has now come to see the need to include young people in processes that must endure the test of time and energy. Young people do not only ensure sustainability, they energize processes and are the major drivers of technology â€“ extending the perimeters of innovation.
The year was 2000; and the place, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The event was a small meeting of young men and women meeting under the banner of the Electronic Club, and the topic of the day was centred on how young people can latch on to emerging technologies and ride on the wings of such to participate actively in the New Economy. Mr. Kanmi Adewara spoke extensively on the topic, and introduced participants to Philip Emeagwali â€“ someone he described as a phenomenon.
Ripples of the discussions went on to drive that yearâ€™s annual departmental week of the Electronic and Electrical Engineering Studentsâ€™ Society at the Obafemi Awolowo University, with then controversial theme, â€œThe Future of Nigeriaâ€. Justice was done to the theme by Dr. Chris Uwaje, who had been introduced to the leader of the group by none other than Philip Emeagwali â€“ after he was contacted by the young chairman of the Electronic Club.
Following these strings of opportunities, a group of young people moved online to float a mailing list then known as â€œBlack Pioneersâ€, and enjoyed dynamic Internet opportunities that were available on campus. During the holidays, young men and women would stay back on campus in holy romance with their new-found love â€“ the Internet! It was a series of innocent efforts and expressions, but the events of that year â€“ along with many other parallel efforts from various quarters (and some even dating back to earlier times) â€“ gave birth to a dynamic youth movement around ICT issues in Nigeria.