By Dasola Ayoola

A Nigerian lawyer and a fellow of the Mandela Washington fellowship, Ikechukwu Agbo, shares
insights on how Nigeria can tackle some of her problems using his experience in the United States.

Mr Ikechukwu who is the Executive Director of Responsibility Initiative, shares these in an exclusive interview with ALL TIMES CONVERSATION.

The legal practitioner with over 12 years of experience in law and consulting currently serves at the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

His work focuses on drafting bills and motions, providing legal advice, and liaising with government agencies and constituents on behalf of legislators.

Mr Ikechukwu holds a master’s degree in International Environmental Law and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Nigeria.

The Mandela Washington Fellow, who was conferred with the prestigious Honorary Citizenship of Lubbock City, Texas USA, however stated how he is working to transform Nigeria’s public space through increased transparency, credibility, and good governance practices.

Read the excerpts below

Conversation: What led to your establishing the Responsibility Initiative?

We have complained too much as a people, I think it is time to do things differently as a people. The idea of convoking the Responsibility Initiative is to empower the people to take responsibilities for the change they aspire for in their communities. I have thought of how to contribute in shaping a new system that promotes responsiblity among the citizens but it at the Mandela Washington Fellowship programme, that I realized the need to institutionalize my passion. So when I came back, I decided to create a system for sustainable impact by incorporating the Responsibility Initiative. We are currently inviting people to join us by taking the responsibility to create the change they want see in their communities.

Conversation: How would your Mandela Washington Fellowship programme experience help in driving this Initiative?

We would apply most of the strategies we learnt from the Fellowship and we would work with some collaborators which includes some United States Professionals, and some African Fellows in driving the initiative so as to reproduce the results we experienced in the United States. During the course of the six weeks multidisciplinary leadership training, I had the opportunity of learning that it is possible to build a functional society. With this knowledge and experience, we are stridently committed to ensuring that our people’s actions count in effecting social changes in society.

Conversation: What Responsibility Initiative’s strategies are for the actualisation of this vision?

First, we will provide training and mentorship programmes for the youth and community leaders, and will also provide them with necessary support through community development projects. We will also engage with them to provide facilities and solutions for community problems. We would as well engage corporate institutions with the strategies to provide sustainable corporate social responsibilities.
We are starting the Responsibility Challenge soon, and it is designed to encouraged the people to do something that would contribute to the development of their communities and share the story on our platform, as a means to celebrate them and also to encourage other Nigerians to do so. We are also working on starting the Responsibility Award very soon. The award is designed to honour and showcase people who are taking responsibility for their communities.

Conversation: While attending the Mandela Washington Fellowship programme, you were conferred with the prestigious Honorary Citizenship of Lubbock City, Texas USA, how do you feel about it and what was the Fellowship experience like?

I was excited to be found worthy of such honour. It was more of a humbling experience that I took with a great sense of responsibility knowing the demands it has placed on me.

During the programme, we visited the Lubbock County Detention Center. It’s a world class prison facility that not only houses prisoners but also reforms them. The prison cells, beddings, toilets and other facilities were extra clean and top notch. As a policy, 10% of the cell rooms must always be unoccupied, so overcrowding is not possible. It was a very emotional moment when we mingled and interacted with the inmates currently undergoing rehabilitation; the transformation was palpable. If we can provide the right environment, there’s still hope for those caught up in crimes.
I also became a Volunteer Police Officer on a ‘ride-along’ with the Lubbock Police. We pulled over traffic offenders and passed them through lawful procedures. We picked 911 calls and attended to real time crime scenes and complaints by citizens. I worked with the most professional police officers I’ve ever encountered in my career as a lawyer. They are well trained, properly equipped, empowered and motivated to deliver on their mandate. Response time to calls is quite rapid, less than ten minutes in most cases. The training was intensive both in disciplinary and all inclusive. The course work, the practicals and the field activities were topnotch and very impactful, in fact, it was a life changing experience. It was at the end of engagement and in recognition of our impact in Africa that I was honoured with the honorary citizenship. I hold the honour with respect as it demands higher responsibility from me.

Ikechukwu Agbo

Conversation: Do you think we can achieve such high level of efficiency in Nigeria?

Yes, we can and in fact we must. With adequate effort, commitment, cooperation and responsible leadership, we can adopt these models and get our security and law enforcement agencies and systems working in Africa. We have a security situation that seems insurmountable today but with the right leadership that works to impact their communities, we can achieve it.

Conversation: How can we solve Nigeria’s division challenge?

It was Martin Luther king Jr., who once held that “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” If we find ourselves anywhere close to the darkness of corruption and nepotism, let’s be the light that will drive them out. If we perceive or experience hatred and injustice, let’s deflate and drive them out with love. As we do these, we’ll have a new Nigeria driven by light, love, unity, equity, justice, progress and prosperity.

Conversation: What do you think about Nigerian politics and political leadership?

Like I said in one of my speaking engagements, “it is a crime against posterity to allow the worst of us to lead the best of us while the rest of us keep complaining. Responsible young Nigerians must get involved in our political processes, we cannot all run away, we will no longer leave it for them, we must get involved and take responsibility for this country.

Conversation: what is your life philosophy:

No one is made for himself, we are made for others, so we live to give and once we stop giving, we start dying. To be truly alive we need to keep giving and keep serving.