Three words define him: Disciplined, Dynamic and Different. Blessed with conservative good looks, Benedict or Chibuike, as he is fondly called by family members, is a focused, amiable and diligent young man, a devout Catholic and graduate of Micro Biology. He is a competent youth leader and fine organizer.
In a country where unemployment is making mockery of many otherwise gifted and responsible youths, the 26-year-old Lagosian has held his own. He has refused to settle for less, in a nation that pays lip service to youth development. Benedict is unlike many in his age, bereft of even basic good manners and believing that government owes them everything. He is self motivated, always-on the go and driven by a determination not only for self survival but also to make an impact in society by touching the lives of others like himself. Knowledgeable and well spoken, Benedict truly stands out among the youth and he is gradually positioning himself in a way that he cannot easily be ignored.
Face2Face caught up with the young man at a recent seminar, organized by the ‘Youth friends of the Pastoral Centre,’ (YFPC) and chaired by him. A former vice president of the Catholic Youth Organisation (CYON) and volunteer with several NGOs, Benedict spoke about the seminar and his involvement with the pastoral centre.
“The Pastoral centre is not a parish; it’s a retreat centre. Most of us go there to make private retreats and on Sundays for mass because we want to intensify our spiritual life. About two years ago, it was discovered that a lot of youth come there because their families live within the vicinity. It was deemed fit to organize a retreat, seminar or workshop that can focus on the youth,” he explained.
“Under Fr Benedict Agunmanu, we organized a seminar last year discussing youth issues. I was the moderator but chairman this year. The programme was designed to help the youth rediscover themselves – potentials, differentiate between society and themselves, as well as know how they can impact society positively despite the problems.”
He said the seminar attracted about 90 young persons and declared it a success.
“We looked at critical issues involving the youth such as youth and reproductive health challenges, youth and faith and, finally, we had a highly motivational talk on how to realize and maximize your potential. After the seminar, we went for charity work. We visited the Federal Medical Centre, distributed cash and toiletries to indigent patients. We discovered through that visit that lots of people are in need – some have been discharged but have no one to help pay the bill.”
A compassionate young man, Benedict’s work with the youth began earnestly during his NYSC. He taught at a school in Kogi State and organized different activities for young people.
“From there, I developed interest in the youth. I organized several activities, including free tutorials to prepare people for exams. I was chairman of an anti – HIV club which was part of my CDS. I worked with a lot of young people, from then I developed a keen interest in youth affairs. Coming back here, I had to intensify my effort to develop young people and help them better themselves. I worked with an NGO dealing with young people and HIV-AIDS and also did a number of related projects.”
The resourceful Youth Corper finished his NYSC with honours, plus a cash reward from the United Nations.
“At the end of my service, my little contribution to the nation earned me three awards – I won a state commendation award for my project, world Bank entrepreneurial award and the local Gov award as the most dedicated corper,” he explained, adding, however, that Boko Haram terrorists halted their passing out parade.
The IMSU graduate is currently pursuing his post graduate degree, in preparation of his dream job.
“I am about writing an exam. I have interest in education. My dream job is lecturing. Right now, I assist the professor I work with. The exam am taking now is the post graduate diploma in education – an NUC requirement,” said the man also studying for a post graduate degree in Environmental Micro Biology.
While relentlessly pursing his dream, young Benedict, a Marian devotee, is also working on his spirituality.
“It is a devotion to Jesus Christ through Mary. It inspires one to capture the Marian life as a Marian devotee. It implores you to come to Jesus through Mary. We practice giving all to Jesus through Mary, knowing that the blessed Mother will help us know her son better,” he said.
Asked if his consecration could lead to priesthood, he chuckled and responded:
“Most times I feel called. I feel I should go, try my vocation. It’s like a fire burning in me – you need to join this people. Sometimes, I feel I can still get into the married life and sometimes the voice says, ‘young man, ‘you need to try your vocation’. But whatever I decide, let the will of God be done,” he concluded.
Benedict was born and bred in Lagos and speaks fluent Yoruba. He came back to the East for his university degree, when efforts to secure admission to the University of Ibadan to study medicine failed. But he’s still a Lagosian all the way.
“Lagos is a good place to grow up because in Lagos we have variety. It’s cosmopolitan – a blend of everything- Some of the experiences will make or mar you,” he added.
Benedicts Lagos experiences did not mar him, however. Instead, they made him strong, resilient and diligent.
“I attended a government school, where you see the good, bad and ugly. There is a limit to discipline. There were lots of “loose” practices at school,” he noted, recalling the violence, smoking, fighting, drugs, and illicit sex.
Yet the ambitious youngster distinguished himself and became a perfect and cricket player who also represented his school in music.
Benedict salutes his mother for his achievements.
“We were not getting the best of education. For you to survive, you need extra home work. I was lucky my mum is a teacher and made sure you account for how you spend your day. My mother had time for me and gave me extra lessons which enabled me to make five credits,” he said.
“There is a saying in physics that the initial force at which an object is propelled determines how far the object will travel. Most African children have good foundations. If the foundation is good, the building will stand. In my own case, I had a good foundation at home and in the Catholic faith.”
According to Benedict, the major problem of the youth is lack of self esteem.
“Many youth do not discover their potential and don’t know their worth. As a young person, you must be rational, sit down and think. Don’t sit down and wait; make yourself employable, develop your skills and learn to market yourself. Know your selling point. It is when you have something that people will come to you,” he said wisely.
Every youth must take a leaf from Benedict and don’t let their potentials end up in the grave yard. It is possible to realize your potential even in today’s Nigeria.