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  • Thursday , Feb 1 , 2018

BLACKSON OLASENI BAYEWUMI :ENGENDERING NIGERIA SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH VOX POPULI ARBITRAGE Featured

March 16, 2020 14 comments

Blackson Olaseni Bayewumi is bridging the gap between the Nigerian Populace and their Leaders.

I got a call from one of the least expected persons on my birthday of “October 21st 2019. The call was from Mr. Chinedu Onyekuru, my Coordinator of the powerhouse chapter of UCTAA (University of Calabar Theatre Arts Alumni Association). Chinedu is a jolly good fellow, an amiable gentleman and after the exchange of pleasantries, he announced; Happy Birthday Herbert, am taking you out tonight….! Ooh no, I muttered…and my attempt to turn it down fell on deaf ears as he had made up his mind about it. It turned out to be an outing in a quiet, hidden but neatly furnished restaurant in zone 5.

 Chinedu told me in the cause of our discussion that a friend of his was in town doing a project and we must have to pick him up from the Entrepreneur’s hub at The Discovery Mall, off Adetokunbo Ademola in Wuse II. While on the way, we bought Suya and ate together in the car, we got talking and the personality turned out to be Blackson Olaseni Bayewumi, the country Director of the Royal Common Wealth Society of Nigeria.

He was working in entrepreneurs hub, preparing for the 2019 edition of the Nigerian Conversation, and so he handed an invitation to me.

Blackson Olaseni Bayewumi is the chairman of Nigeria Conversation and country Director, the Royal Common wealth Society of Nigeria.

He holds a BSc. Economics from the University of Maiduguri and an MSc Economics from the University of Lagos.

The 2019 edition of the Nigeria Conversation held in Asokoro District of Abuja, the Federal Capital territory of Nigeria at the main Auditorium, ECOWAS Commission’s headquarters, 101 Yakubu Gowon Street.

The annual event drew participants from government functionaries, Nigeria Citizens, Civil Society, Security agencies, women groups, Youth groups, traditional rulers etc.

The auditorium was filled to capacity as different speakers dialogued on the theme “Towards a Peaceful, United, Secured and Prosperous Nation; 200 million people: better days ahead”

The Nigeria Conversation is “a citizenship mainstreaming initiative which positively and productively engages Nigerians both at home and in Diaspora on Nation building process and National Development. The conversation is a global platform created to promote citizenship engagement and participation in the nation’s affairs and promote constructive and periodic interactions between Nigerian citizen across the world and the government”.

Blackson believes in the biblical maxim “as far as your eyes can see”, “what informs our thinking, our orientation, our actions and our behavior is our exposure and our background”.

Blackson represented the Royal Commonwealth Society in Nigeria for many years before being appointed as country director.

The common wealth turned 60 in 2009. It was a landmark year and offered the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and consider what the future holds for the association. In line with this, “the royal common wealth society, London in conjunction with UK foreign and common wealth office organized the common wealth conversation on behalf of 2 billion people and 53 member countries of the common wealth”.

“The common wealth conversation is public consultation by all the nations of common wealth origin, to look at what should be the new focus of the common wealth after 60 years”.

“The conversation stimulated debate on the future of the commonwealth using online and offline methods. The event took place in several countries of the common wealth and the report of the conversation was presented to the head of governments during the 2009 common wealth Heads of government meeting in port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and later, the report of the common wealth eminent persons group submitted to 2011 common wealth Heads of government meeting in Australia.

Blackson was engaged in Nigeria by the common wealth community to organize the common wealth conversation.

The event took place on the 12th October, 2009 at the British council in Abuja. The report was submitted to London and in the 2009 meeting in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Nigeria was going to be 50 years in the year 2010 and it presented an opportunity as Blackson and a few others told the common wealth meeting that they want to use the same model for Nigeria at 50. The common wealth conversation was for the common wealth at 60, they said “can we now use the conversation for Nigeria at 50?” and it was graciously granted.

Blackson and his team went to work. The wealth of experience he already gathered from the common wealth conversation, how it was used to gather opinion of the people and send recommendations to the common wealth was what inspired Blackson to start the Nigeria conversation.

The Nigeria Conversation has been on since the past ten years and is a model of the common wealth conversation.

Established with the purpose of engendering engagement, Blackson believes that either as friends or as family, as couples, community, institutions, there is need for engagement. Most times, what brings confusion, disunity and problems in the family is breakdown of communication because sometimes, friends say the same things but in their thinking, they are hearing different things, they said the same things, mean the same things, But they are hearing different things. “even in the nation too, especially in this age of fake news, there is need for constructive engagement, dialogue, to actually sit-down and discuss how to move the nation forward.

Proper communication is a prerequisite for any nation to move forward especially among the diverse entities and other nationalities within the country.

“Nigeria is a multi - ethnic, pluralistic society of different backgrounds, but through proper communication and interaction, we can live together and understand ourselves better”.

“Interaction and discussion periodically will help to close the gap between the government and the citizens whereby government can trust the citizens and the citizens can trust government and breed a healthy exchange of ideas. There is need for partnership because government is not operating in isolation”.

“Regime comes and goes but the people remains. The people that are in the government and the regime today will after a while be out of there”.

 When the conversation was domesticated in Nigeria on 27th July 2010, the enthusiasm that greeted the event was overwhelming. The hall was filled to capacity, people want to talk, Nigerians want to come and discuss. The reason according to Blackson is that “Jaw to Jaw” is better than “war to war” it is better to talk than to be fighting one another.

The reception by Nigerians has been so encouraging because they know that the event is not hosted by the Government.

“The program is not pro-Government and its not anti-Government, its pro-Development, pro-Progress, anti-Poverty, anti-Underdevelopment, anti-crisis, anti-Disunity, pro-Peace”. 

“People ask me” says Blackson “what if the recommendations are not considered, “I tell them the recommendations are not our own” if we recommend 10 issues to government and they are able to implement 2 or 3 out of them, another government will come and the people that recommended will still demand again because its theirs and not mine, it’s their initiative, their thoughts, not mine, it’s like the days of the demand for minimum wage under President Jonathan.

Blackson believes that he is not Government neither is he the President or Minister or Governor. He can therefore not implement, the only thing he can do is to aggregate, bring together, the opinions of the generality of the people and eventually send the report to the appropriate quarters.

“These things the people are saying are not new; what we are doing is to echo them more. To keep leaders accountable, there is need to keep reminding them of their responsibilities to the people”.

Blackson says that when sending the report, they always include  the pictures of the event in the package to convince the government officials that it is not their own fabrication, but rather the opinion of the generality of Nigerians being echoed and re-echoed on the platform so that government can hear.

“The Nigerian conversation presents a common platform whereby all the things that people have been saying individually can be collectively harnessed together in a well package form to the Government”.

Blackson is anesthetic to challenges, “when you have passion for what you are doing, challenges become opportunities, when you don’t have passion for what you are doing, everything becomes challenges”.

For example on the day of the Nigerian conversation 2019, he ate for the first time that day by 6.pm in the evening. “I didn’t even remember food and it’s a challenge”.

Almost 100% of the expenditure for the event came from his personal finances. “We wrote people for support and they didn’t but we can’t stop, we must continue, we must achieve the vision, what would have been a challenge, passion overrides it”. Blackson says that he is not after money, “if it comes, fine, if it doesn’t come, well, we are still going on so long as we are able to do what our passion is after, which is the vision”.

Blackson’s word for the Nigerian leaders is that they should be representative enough because they got the mandate from the people and they should be accountable to the same people and not represent themselves. They should not get to the office and forget the promises they made to the people during their electioneering campaigns and start according themselves priority by buying expensive houses, Cars and Juicy contracts etc. Rather, they should give priority to the wishes, aspirations and expectations of the people.  

“Government should be responsible, Government should be accountable, and Government should be transparent”.

On the other hand, “the citizens also should be responsible; they should not abandon everything to the government to do”.

“In a locality for instance, there is a small pothole on the road and people are indifferent to it saying it’s the responsibility of Government and doesn’t concern them, the pot hole expands as they wait for Government and it will keep on inconveniencing and wasting the time of motorists. The road is for the benefit of the community and even as we wait for government, we should do what we can do”.

The Nigerian conversation as a Platform is saying “we should learn to do what we can for Nigeria. We should contribute our own quota, we shouldn’t wait for Government. We should try and do what we can to support the development of Nigeria”.     

 

 

 

 

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