Memoir: The A-Z of my ALP Experience

Prologue

On December 12, 2021, exactly one week ago, I ended the year on a great note, as I was privileged to be decorated as a Leadership Ambassador of the Nigerian Prize for Leadership (NPL). Alongside 53 emerging Nigerian leaders from 27 states in the six geo-political zones across the federation. Big stuff and worthy of celebration, one would agree. But, of course, this is not where the story starts. So, I thought to take you on a journey to the very beginning — the Ambassadors Leadership Programme (ALP002). And tell you how it all started with an intensive, rigorous and value-packed one-month residential leadership training at the Public Service Institute of Nigeria, in the heart of Abuja.

I daresay, right from when I summoned courage to send an application in good faith, to receiving the selection email, to traveling 381.4km to the FCT and to participating in the program, it was indeed a rollercoaster of excitement, hope, uncertainties, expectations, surprises, and lots of intrigues.

In the end, it happened that my experience in the ALP camp is way beyond what words can even describe in full (I could write a book for this memoir). But to reminisce about the beautiful memories and incredible opportunities I had, I have settled to use the 26 English alphabets to recount the highlights that will linger with me forever and I probably won’t recover from.

I hope you have an absorbing read ahead as you enjoy these enthralling highlights and their attendant stories. 🤭

A — Ambassadors!

“People make places. We carry a world with us everywhere we go, and we bring a world with us anytime we come.”

This above saying aptly captures what the extremely good, amazing and passionate ALP young people I was opportune to meet represent. Each of us brought a world of unique differences, inspiring possibilities, impactful stories, enriching experiences and daring aspirations to the fold. All laden with burning passion, crazy motivation and genuine interests for the Nigerian dream. And with renewed energy and faith, we were happy to start the ever-promising journey to being Ambassadors charged with the responsibility of promoting credible leadership, good governance, civic participation and youth inclusion in our beloved country. We are indeed the ones we have been waiting for.

B — Big Name

One popular lingo during ALP was “Big Name.” We say this whenever we want to acknowledge and celebrate one another’s good works. You should remember this lyrical line in Patoranking’s hit song, Celebrate Me: “Arthur Eze, you be big name.” It may interest you to know that we also had one Eze who was a big name to the extent of getting nominated for and bagging the prestigious United Nations Volunteer Award for Community Engagement while still in the ALP camp. Legendary stuff.

See, make I yearn you fact, na everybodi wey dey NPL be big name. You can't even get over just a sneak peak into these names. From the Governing Board (Nigerian elder statesmen and influential women you would only see on TV or newspapers), to the expert faculty (curated from some of Africa’s finest training institutions) to the program officials (very dedicated and committed people) and to the Ambassadors (the best crop of young Nigerians you would ever meet). Everybody is doing well on a considerable scale and wowing you. “Big name” would later be sounding on almost everyone’s lips. 🤗

C — Class sessions

Our class sessions were major parts of our days and weeks, plus the accompanying thought-provoking assignments and movie nights. All our facilitators brought their A-game to the sessions with a deep level of engagements, practical experience and relatable interactions. In total, we had 49 class sessions, watched 16 insightful movies, and did 70+ individual and group assignments involving case studies and discussions. On the whole, we learnt the principles of national development, leadership essentials, entrepreneurship and developing soft skills. The curriculum was rich, practical, contemporary and hands-on. Classes were also compelling, that you can't afford not to jot down points and punchlines to ponder about. I still remember the one with Dr. Dere Awosika, MFR, the Chairman of Access Bank Plc. All the sessions were good times, altogether.

D — Discipline

Discipline was the highest and most non-negotiable order at the ALP. I absolutely loved the way discipline was instilled in us and enforced. Everyone of us was challenged to leave our comfort zones to strictly stick to the rigors and routines, including the morning physical exercise and assignment deadlines. I love that NPL doesn’t joke with time-based schedules for our daily regimen at all. No-excuse leadership is just the word.

E — Energy

One thing you can’t take away from ALP was the bustling energy all around the place. I mean, the energy of people here is unmatched. Lady Rose Ashinze was always captivating to listen to whenever she was facilitating our daily presentations. Mama’s energy is out of this world and like no other. And there was Sadiya Murtala, a very enterprising and outspoken lady whose self-affirmations I can’t but watch in a deep poetic admiration. Also, there was Caleb Arua, a spoken-word artist, whose native intelligence, sense of humor and dexterity with words I found mesmerizing. And then, Jerry Mike, a vast historian whose critical and informed views on national issues, global development and African historical events were always expressed with unparalleled intellectual energy. Everyone around was energetic and brimming with vibes. Positive energy, creative energy, vocal energy, physical energy, mental energy; just name it. You can only be motivated.

F — Food!

Food was one unforgettable highlight of my stay in the ALP camp. Trust me, anyone wouldn’t want to miss out on savoring those good and sumptuous meals. I salute the culinary skills of Mrs. Abigail Paul and others who made up the catering team — who not only go above and beyond to serve meals on time but also not compromise on the quality. All thanks to them for also preparing varieties of foods, particularly from different Nigerian cultures. Well, I made it a duty to always taste and take any food I am not familiar with. Good decision, it turned out to be. I remember salivating and enjoying the Oha native soup — whose delicious taste fanned into flames my motivation to take home to mama an Igbo girl. 😆 In all, the foods were good, nutritious and well-seasoned, most of which I ate to my fill and led to some orgasmic, unalloyed happiness in me. Food is life, they say.

G — Group B members (Masterminds)

When Group B happened to me on the second day of camp, what I wasn’t perceptive enough to know was that I would be spending my best moments with the most extraordinary, brilliant, pleasant and selfless people ever. However, this indubitable realization didn’t elude me for long, as soon as we got down to our group activities. God, we did amazing things together. And all our hard work, late-hour discussions, sleepless nights and collaborative efforts really did pay off. We pulled off stuff and made things happen together. And true to our group name, we even subtly masterminded the political scene to emerge in key leadership capacities. In reminiscence, all our jokes over meals, winning moments, winsome smiles, warm hugs and heartwarming camaraderie were also absolutely delightful. We were really a cheerful, thoughtful and loving bunch.

H — Humility

One should ordinarily think one would be intimated by the achievements members of the NPL Governing Board and these Ambassadors have had, and the big names they’ve also made for themselves in different walks of life. But, hell no! I mean, these are the most humble set of people you would ever come across — also ever genuine and supportive. It seemed as though everyone dropped whatever garb of glorious success they had and related with one another on the simplest level. No showmanship whatsoever, just people who are unassuming to a fault.

I — Institute for National Transformation (INT)

Of all the seasoned training institutions that made up our faculty, the INT was one I found the most endearing. (This is not to say other training institutions were not at their best. In fact, you would be mind-blown with their caliber). Well, I can’t exactly figure out why I have a special love for INT. Probably because its Director-General, Professor Vincent Anigbogu, is a great and honorable man after my own heart — so much that I could give up a fortune to have a one-on-one chat session with him over dinner to glean from his wealth of wisdom, knowledge and scholarship. Not to even talk of Rev. Juliet Binitie and Mr. Tochukwu Ifeneme from the same Institute, who brought uncommon vibes, unique instructional methodologies, doses of realistic talks and thoughtful manner of imparting knowledge to enrich their sessions with us. But for whatever reason it may be, I give a big kudos to INT for the incredible works they are doing in harnessing the potential of young folks like us across Africa for true transformation.

J — Jerry Gana

During my primary school days in the early 2000s, Jerry Gana was a serving Nigerian Minister, one I found most conscientious, under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. I read about him in books and 'current affairs.'

I also watched him in awe on TV back in the days whenever his press briefing was aired on NTA News. As it happened, Prof. Jerry Gana is the Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Prize for Leadership Governing Board. And my ALP experience won’t be complete without highlighting my meeting with the sage, whose humility I found charming. I confessed my long-time admiration for him and told him that following him inspired me to be a public servant someday. While I met Prof. Jerry Gana sooner than I had even expected, I am so happy I did at this time. And I am also grateful for the opportunity to hear him tell his life story during one of our Friday sessions (Time with a Role Model). It was surreal. 🤭

K — Kindness

I can’t just emphasize this enough. I haven’t been to many places in life, but I would like to think I found the kindest people at ALP. At one point, I couldn’t wrap my head around how people who were not known to one another before would spend just a few days together and be that extremely kind. My fellow Ambassadors were very, very kind people. Everyone was always looking out for one another, checking up to help out, extending goodwill, showing compassion, sharing love and caring so much.

I also had beautiful encounters of such acts of kindness — too numerous to even mention, but I will try for a very few. There was Amat, who I adopted as my ALP Mummy because of how she always cared for me and was a mother hen to everyone. Amaka, such an inspiring and all-round wonder soul who always looked out for me and I was so fond of. Dr. Eze and Dr. Mike, who always attended to our health needs with deep concerns. Glory, who can ask me a million times whether I am feeling good and happy or not. Praise (our welfare coordinator), Oluwafisola, Blessing and Oluwasemilore who I always enjoyed watching whenever they work to ensure our welfare. And many, many others. Everyone really exuded kindness with their positive personalities, talents, knowledge, opportunities, love, resources and time.

L — Love 💚💚

When I was coming to the ALP, all I wanted to do was to follow the rules to the letters, focus on classes, meet up with deliverables and do other meaningful activities as they come. But, there were other plans, unknowingly. Let me tell you something: unless during your night-time for sleep and rest periods, there is really no activity you could do at ALP entirely in isolation — you would always be around, meet and interact with other participants. Well, it happened that my hard-guy spirit went into the mud las las. I am happy I complimented the guys I love, confessed what I admired about them and appreciated them during our stay; life is short, they say. And yeah, we were there for one month, apparently enough time to love and be fond of some people, you know. By and large, love lived and still lives amongst us all. Strong bonds, meaningful relationships, close-knit friendship circles, formidable networks and lasting connections were formed. And they were all beautiful to see. We can’t be more blessed to have got one another.

M — Memories in pictures

You have been reading since, right? But let’s now have a photo break, shall we? 😍

I honestly wish all the beautiful pictures I took together with the amazing people I met could make it here. But that's the end of our photo break, so let's continue the memoir.

N — New narratives for Nigeria

It was no surprise that our ALP002 ideological slogan was “changing the narratives.” Yes, we are all patriotic young Nigerians working to see the Nigeria of our dreams emerge. And we realized for us to have a nation of ethical and credible leaders who are driven by good values, capacity and character, we have to challenge the status quo and be at the forefront ourselves. All thanks to NPL for rising to the challenge of grooming and raising us as a credible successor generation. To drive this noble mission and promote new narratives for Nigeria, we joined and belong to different spheres, namely; Governance/Politics, Social Services, Business/Entrepreneurship and Media/Entertainment. You can only watch out that we will drive change in our country in the coming months. Let's tell the new Nigerian story.

O — Orientation

All the giving-back community projects we executed during ALP were based on orientation and spreading the ‘New Nigeria’ message. From organizing an awareness campaign to sensitize N-power beneficiaries, our target audience, on the need to vote wisely and shun electoral malpractices. To teaching secondary school students about leadership values. And to also cleaning up the community and reinforcing the need for a clean and sustainable environment. We orientated and we contributed our own quota to nation-building. As we know the way, we also have to lead and show the way — walking the talk.

P — Politicking and P.R.O.

One of my proudest and high-spirited moments was when I emerged as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the ALP002. But more important to remember and highlight are the defining background moments that transpired surrounding the elections — they matter much more to me than the election results. I remember I had picked the nomination form from the Electoral Officer, sought the support of my sponsors and filed my interest to vie for the position. Our campaign started for various positions lasting 24 hours, permutations going on underneath, strategies staging, synergies playing out, preparations for manifestoes and all that. All these events, a microcosm of our partisan politics, were interesting to watch. And if I someday find myself diving into the murky waters of mainstream politics, the valid lessons I picked from all the politicking will come in handy. Lest I even forget, I had an exciting time representing my group as the National Chairman for a political party we formed and presented — Masterminds Progressive Party (MPP). And I was dubbed “Asiwaju." The party had unity and integration as its core agenda and ideology.

So, I had two most humbling moments amid the electoral shenanigans. The first was when Amb. Michael Abdullahi, a would-be contender and one of my group members, voluntarily stepped down for my candidacy and withdrew his nomination form. He said he placed our group’s interest above his aspiration, and thought Group B should have a consensus candidate for the position. “I believe you can do this and I will give you all my support,” Michael, who would be our group leader, further said to me.

The second one to remember was after I was announced as the P.R.O-Elect at the polls. Amb. Muhammed Nasiru Abubakar, the articulate and respected gentleman with whom I ran for the office, instantaneously conceded, pledged his support and would afterwards unwaveringly stay true to his words. I can’t thank him enough for his rare display and magnanimous spirit of sportsmanship.

So, the journey to my P.R.O. duties started at full throttle. And it happened that my predecessor (ALP001 P.R.O), Mr. John Aji, who returned as a program official and afterwards an NPL Fellow, had left a big shoe for me to fill. All thanks to this my seniorman, as he was ever ready to support, advise and be accessible wherever necessary and when sought. I also worked with diligent Excos who inspire me so much and had a fantastic time serving with them — harnessing human resources, coordinating our collective affairs, representing our people's interests, handling challenging situations and flexing our leadership muscles together.

Q — Quantum leap

If you ask every one of us what our ALP experience was like, all you would hear is associated with the fact we had a quantum leap. Many of us had a paradigm shift in the way we do things, stretched ourselves beyond limits and braved impossible odds in all our activities. From multitasking to delivering on urgent tasks. We all took a quantum leap and we are better for it.

R — Red Dot

You remember D for Discipline? The red dot is the system in place to track and enforce discipline during the ALP. You don’t want to get late to any activity by one minute, lest you attract a red dot. Though seemingly dreadful, I must say, but the red dot is one I find really interesting. I also love the concept behind it. It indeed shaped our conduct, protocol and behaviour in many ways during the program. In hindsight, the red dot system was actually in our best interest.

S — Songs

Towards the end of our residential training, songs formed a much-cherished part. So, we had to perform songs for our graduation ceremony, including the awe-inspiring ALP Anthem. The hours of rehearsals for these songs were so beautiful and lovely. I loved how our voices always serenaded the thrilling soft tunes and how we brought ourselves into the resonant melodies. And yes, your guess is right: we put up a magical and ovation-worthy performance on the D-Day.

T — Thoughts Congress

Thursdays are for thought congresses organized by the groups to bring together thoughts and thought leaders for a key topic of discourse. My group, the Masterminds, had ours for the second week. It featured keynote speeches, a panel session and other fun-filled activities. I loved the way my teammates were very intentional with the preparations and details. And we had a successful event and engagement, so did other groups on their weeks. As an ALP participant, thought congress is not one you want to miss for anything.

U — Unity

Unity was one of our watchwords during the ALP and we preached the “One Nigeria” message — regardless of our ethno-religious backgrounds. All our activities together all echoed the essence of unity in diversity and why we should always put Nigeria first. Now that we are Ambassadors, the journey of spreading unity and national integration continues.

V — Veragold Hotel

Veragold Hotel was the accommodation we were lodged throughout the training program for one full month. Such a cozy and eco-friendly place. The staff there made the experience memorable as they were friendly, congenial and hospitable in playing host to us. I connected with the Hotel Manager, Mr. Joe, who also does soulful music about Nigeria and whose affable personality I love. Would love to visit again. People make places, they say.

W — Working Visits

On Fridays, ALP participants have working visits and these were always highly anticipated. During the program, we had working visits to the Nigerian Army Resource Center, Mambilla Barracks, and the Federal Fire Service Headquarters, Abuja. We were warmly received at these places and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, learning so much and touring new experiences. I use this medium to pay tribute to our brave, lost soldiers, and salute our fire brigades for their hard sacrifices in service of our dear country. Many thanks to Brigadier General SK Usman, Controller General Ibrahim Liman and the NPL Governing Board for facilitating these memorable working visits for us.

X — X factor

Now that we are Ambassadors, there is a one-year fellowship ahead of us. I hear it’s more intense than the Ambassadors Leadership Programme and more like a sail and survival of the fittest. This is a component that has a strong influence yet unpredictable factors. Come what may, I trust my colleagues and I to give the fellowship our very best shots. As we face the year ahead, this is our unknown, X factor.

Y — y être pour quelque chose

This is a French expression that translates in English to “be there for something.” And I was also there at the ALP for something: new learning experiences. So, a particularly cool Sunday evening, I joined a French mini-class put together by two of our fellow Ambassadors, Okwuchi Praise and Chika Okoli, both bilingual. And they tutored some of us and shared good learning moments with us. I myself had a good time learning and relearning basic words in French. We took rounds to practice some French sentences and our dear teachers gave us assignments. Praise is the founder of Peridot School of Languages and she knows her onions very well in helping people master foreign languages. You should definitely check her out.

Z — Zenith

As we have all successfully completed our ALP and been recognized as Ambassadors, I can only wish my colleagues and I all the very best in our present and future life and career endeavors. I can’t wait to see us all at the very zenith, where we deserve to be! Let’s arise unto greatness and unveil a new dawn for our country. And let’s also go change the narratives to what we all desire to see.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” — Margaret Mead

Hearty cheers and congratulations to us, my fam! 🥂 Many, many thanks to the Nigerian Prize for Leadership for this golden opportunity. Grateful for the investment in our potentials and leadership skills.

P.S: If you’re a young Nigerian graduate (within the age of 21-35 years) reading this and you haven’t applied for the NPL Ambassadors Leadership Programme before, trust me, you want to apply for the next edition, ALP003. You should follow NPL on Facebook and Instagram to keep tabs on our great activities. In 2022, you should be intentional about applying for opportunities around and leveraging platforms for your growth. We are the ones we really need.

I hope you had a good read. So, what's your favourite alphabet? Happy holidays ahead! 🎉

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Agbaje Ayomide

Agbaje Ayomide

Baring fresh perspectives, one article at a time ✍