Abuja — Tony Olutomiwa writes that the ACTDF is committed to creating opportunities for the youths
"Men make history and not the other way around. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better" - Harry Truman, former U.S. President
For many years now, the salient elements of these remarkable lines from President Truman certainly fit into his quest to change society. Be it in his commitment to humanity, through the African Children Talent Discovery Foundation (ACTDF), contributing to contemporary national issues affecting the larger society or teaching ethics and leadership at civic fora, his creativity and skillful interpretation of the issues have come to define him and his values.
Welcome to the world of Mr Noah Dallaji, a trailblazer, humanist and bridge builder whose inspiring institutional development programmes have steadily created opportunities especially for talented youths to fulfill their God-given potential.
Although he once made serious efforts to change society by running for office as a senator in his native Bauchi State, his enduring impact on humanity has been the incredible work of the ACTDF, bringing hope to the hopeless and reimagining what society could be if there's a concerted effort to remake our values in tandem with some sensible commitment to be our brother's keeper.
Dallaji, who recently turned 45, obviously feels so concerned about the prevailing circumstances in the country and his views on issues of development remain vivid as ever, with particular emphasis on leadership as a winning factor. He also believes a strategic economic empowerment of the people will help considerably in reducing poverty and crime in society even as he says the ACDF would be undergoing some restructuring soon to expand the scope of its activities so that many more talented youths can benefit from its empowerment programmes.
Speaking with reporters in Lagos recently, he exudes confidence and optimism that in spite of the challenges facing the country, Nigeria is still a great nation and that the years of "potential" were now over and as such patriots irrespective of political parties or socio-cultural affiliations should come together to develop the country.
Dallaji buttressed the need for patriotism as a missing link which, he says, was capable of changing our narrative as a collective in Nigeria. "Talking about patriotism, I think is all about making sacrifices in the interest of your country. Some even die in order to defend their country. Look at the case of the Maverick, Senator John McCain, now of blessed memory in the United States. He was not just a prisoner of war for years; he almost lost his life because he chose to defend his country. That's how far true patriots could go to fight for their country. Patriotism could also be evaluated in an individual's national service without waiting for compensation. It's all about selflessness.
" Likewise, a national duty or engagement which could also help society grow and positively affecting the fabric of the people, initiated and executed by perhaps an NGO or an individual aimed at solving some basic problems. So that's the kind of thing one would like to see in Nigeria. Irrespective of political leaning, I think it's now time for our leaders to come together and solve some basic issues of development."
On the political plane, Dallaji was categorical in a sarcastic sense that those in leadership positions still need to convince the people that democracy is the best form of government through their effective leadership, development and empowerment of the people.
Although he says he subscribes to the tenets of democracy, he was quick to fault the process and outcome in our clime, which in his view had led to controversies and endless litigations because the winners of many elections were not convincing to the people who actually voted. "That's the crux of the matter", he says, asking that going forward there may be an urgent need to plug all loopholes in our democratic practices that often take the constitution to task on the issues of justice and fair play. All these, I think, will help us in our burning quest for national unity and development."
On the work of ACTDF and the question of what next for the organization in the years ahead, he affirmed that new developments are in the offing. He went down memory lane to talk about how the NGO was born and impact till date. According to him, having met different people and at different levels, especially in the local environment and condition where he grew up, he came to the conclusion that doing something important that focuses on the challenges of the youths particularly those who are talented but lack opportunities to realize their God-given talent was a good thing he could do to make a difference. "So the understanding was clear to me that we cannot all be in government or do the usual thing of going into banking, finance or even engineering which I could have chosen, anyway. I believe we can serve in different ways and enhancing humanity. So I was propelled to do the NGO thing as a matter of interest and the inherent passion to be useful not only to my immediate community in Bauchi State but also across the country. And looking at our history, I think we have succeeded largely in this regard and we hope to do more", he stated.
Dallaji said he was conscious of the "talent question" from the beginning and it has since been at the forefront of activities. The concern, he said, was how ACTDF can help young people with talent to realize their potential in life and be able to move up the ladder of progress.
ACTDF had observed that so many young people have natural abilities but hindered to discover themselves or those who were aware of their natural gifts but do not have the opportunity to express themselves and make the necessary impact in society. Therefore, the challenge was to find a way to discover these talents and develop them to fulfill their manifest destiny.
This is achieved by organizing competition across the geopolitical zones leading to a grand finale where cash prizes are given to categories of winners and the very best are eventually showcased to the world through various development programmes. Such competitions by the ACTDF have produced many footballers now plying their trade in Europe and discovered talents who are now famous in the entertainment industry. Yet some are pursuing their opportune goals through scholarships abroad.
Meanwhile, interrelated concerns like poverty alleviation and empowerment, health as well as scholarship programmes are central in the overall work of the ACTDF which have cumulatively earned the body a grade C ECOSOC member of the United Nations- a barge of honour and responsibility. "I have the conviction that when many more of the youths can get jobs, there would be a remarkable reduction in crime and other social vices", he said.
On the future of the ACTDF, Dallaji opined that most of the organisation's activities will undergo a restructuring for expansion and that the management was looking at a way to improve the scholarship scheme to benefit more young people who are indigent but very brilliant- a development, he says, would lead to having a "Scholarship Board" composed of eminent Nigerians and foreigners with a new set of values and possibilities.
Olutomiwa wrote from Abuja