By Victor Gotevbe & Ikenna Asomba
It was indeed a day of joy, reminiscences and brainstorming for members of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Alumni Association, Lagos chapter, as they met on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at Public Affairs Department Hall of the United States Consulate in Lagos, for a Reunion and Engagement event.
Diplomatic Watch Magazine’s trio of Victor Gotevbe (Publisher/Editor-in-Chief); Ikenna Asomba (Editor) and Paulinus Enoobang Joel (Head of Photography), were fully on ground to give media coverage to the event.
The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.
Each year nearly 5,000 International Visitors come to the U.S. on the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). More than 200,000 International Visitors have engaged with Americans through the IVLP, including more than 500 current or former Chiefs of State or Heads of Government.
Present at the IVLP Alumni Association, Lagos State Chapter, Reunion and Engagement Event, were the U.S. Consul General to Nigeria, F. John Bray; Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Mission Nigeria- Public Affairs Section, Darcy Zotter; President, U.S. Exchange Alumni Association, as well as Alumni comprising of those who passed through the IVLP in the U.S. from 1998 to 2017.
Speaking earlier, Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Mission Nigeria- Public Affairs Section, Darcy Zotter, who disclosed that she has been working for the Department of States for over 23 years, affirmed that the Lagos chapter is the best set of alumni she had ever met, noting that, “It’s very exciting to see the IVLP Alumni Association, Lagos chapter, restarting.”
Zotter urged the association to never doubt that they can change the world, adding that she recognises the collective power and amazing talents they all possess.
This is even as she pledged the commitment of the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Mission Nigeria, to assist the Alumni Association power their various programs, particularly in their bid to impart positively and give back to the society.
On his part, the U.S. Consul General to Nigeria, F. John Bray urged members of the IVLP Alumni Association, Lagos chapter never to rest on their oars in their bid to revive the association, noting that whatever way possible, the U.S. Consulates would assist them in their various laudable programs and activities.
At the epoch-making gathering, members of the association in a consensus affirmed that the meeting became imperative to reunite all alumni members of the IVLP, as well as rejig the association for optimum collaboration towards giving back to the Nigerian society.
Members of the Alumni association who spoke passionately at the gathering towards forging a way forward for the association, reuniting the association, reviving the association, as well as creating new leaders through a Mentorship Programme were the Interim Committee Coordinator, Omowale Ogunrinde; Barr. Dan Okoye; Rhoda Robbinson; Chris Ibe; Nnabuike Edechime; Broadcast Journalist at the Television Continental (TVC), Mike Okwoche; Taiwo Adewole, among others.
Meanwhile, the Interim Committee Coordinator, Omowale Ogunrinde, who spoke at the meeting, thanked the Public Affairs Section PAS of the U.S. Mission Nigeria, for its countless support to the alumni.
According to her, the meeting was convened to encourage volunteerism among the alumni, stating that the alumni must not be tired of doing what is right.
“We are using this reunion to refresh and restart what we are called for as Very Important Leaders,” said Ogunrinde, adding that “we are gathered here to build upon the foundation that has been laid, eventhough we agree that there is so much work to be done when we come together as a team. We are optimistic that in the next few months we would showcase the IVLP to Nigerians and the whole world.”
“We can’t forget that we were selected to the IVLP as Nigerians, therefore we need to come together, work together to give back to the society. We need to begin to hold regular meetings, mentorship program for young Nigerians that would enable us give back to the society.
“Let this rebirth not die here. Together we can do great things. We implore all hands to be on deck so we can have our proper elections to make IVLP work again,” she enthused.
Speaking in the same vein, Barr. Dan Okoye decried that “Our problem in Nigeria is that we talk and talk but don’t walk the talk. We have former governors such as Orji Uzor Kalu, Adams Oshiomhole, Legal Luminaries, Academics among others, as IVLP alumni. Therefore, the time is now to engage in public enlightenment. We need people full of energy and we would definitely get there.”
For Taiwo Adewole, members of the alumni must stand to the occasion towards imparting the society positively. According to him, “We need to start doing something as a team. We don’t need to wait for the government to do everything.”
The IVLP Lagos Alumni Network Mentorship Program
However, introducing the IVLP Lagos Alumni Network Mentorship Program, Rhoda Robbinson, said the essence of the program is to connect IVLP alumni who have specific skills and knowledge (mentors) with young secondary school students (mentees) who require guidance in developing these same skills and knowledge to improve their personal skills or school performance.
Robbinson said the program targets 50 male and female adolescent students (aged between 14-19) and is scheduled to run from May-October 2018 across schools in Districts 3 and 4 of Lagos State for the pilot program.
According to her, “the aim of the Mentorship Program is to build 50 secondary school students in Lagos as change ambassadors through leadership mentoring, whilst the objectives are: to equip 50 students with leadership skills; to conduct sensitization campaigns in 10 schools in Lagos State; to build support network for IVLP mentees and to strengthen support structures for mentees within secondary schools.”
According to Robinson, the benefits of the Mentorship Program include but not limited to “increase school attendance; lower school dropout rates; healthier relationships and lifestyle choices; enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence; improved behaviour both at home and at school; stronger relationships with parents, teachers and peers;improved interpersonal skills; decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use.”
Chris Ibe, in his Call to Service for the Mentoring Program stated that, “For us to deliver, there must be unity of purpose, sense of responsibility not to allow our different wings to flop. There is a need to activate our sense of given back to the society and sense of charity. As those who have something to offer, you must be uncles and aunties to these young mentees.”
On his part, the USGEAA President, Dr. Jude Ememe, advised that the revival and reunion is not a one-off, even as he pledged the support of his organization to the IVLP Alumni Association, Lagos chapter.