By Oshewa Promise
Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.
This quote refers to the positive steps that Amb. Sunny Irakpo is taking to rescue youths from the scourge of drugs and substance abuse that has ravaged many lives in Nigeria and across the continent.
Over the years, there have been tremendous increase in the numbers of youths involved in drugs especially in Nigeria which is rated to be 3rd Marijuana Smoking Country in the world with 14.3 percent in Africa.
Mr. Irakpo is the Founder/President Silec Initiatives, a Non-Governmental Organization whose target is to curb the misuse of drugs among youths in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
The B.sc holder in Accounting from the Faculty of Management Sciences, Delta State University revealed that it was his personal encounter with his mates who drugs has destroyed their lives that inspired him in 2010 to begin the anti-drug war which he passionately kick started while observing the mandatory, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in Lagos Nigeria at Methodist Boys High School, Lagos where he spent all his NYSC Allowance including the salary (40,000) paid monthly by his primary place of assignment were all spent in his campaign which took in form of rally to the streets in Eti-Osa and seminar that involved stakeholders.
Top personalities who recognized the essence of his struggle supported him with all that he needs to keep going but was denied recognition from Nigeria Government as a young man who know his purpose of existence maintained his focus, Believing in God, and keep pushing with the hope that one day, fortune will smile at him.
After Nine years of his high level of patriotism with high sense of dedication and commitment to the fight for the well-being of humanity, he was recognized by the U.S Government for his firmness, unwavering zeal and passion for Nation Building, capturing the attention of the U.S Government who has pledged to support the Silec Initiatives campaign in its fight against drug and opioid abuse in Nigeria.
This informed his sponsorship by the U.S Government on a recent trip to expand his knowledge about the drug abuse epidemic where he visited (7) states in USA with other internationals who represented their various countries.
He, the Dogged Fighter and Nation Builder, spoke to The Boss Newspaper Exclusively about his experience and aspirations and what needed to be done urgently to save Nigeria from moral decay, decadence and the total and impending collapse of the Nigerian state, if these issues are not nip in the board.
For the benefit of those who have never met you take us into your world.
My full names is Sunday Orevaoghene Irakpo popularly called Ambassador Sunny Irakpo, I am an Anti-Drug Abuse Advocate of Nigeria, Social Commentator and a Nation Builder. I am the Founder and President Silec Initiatives; a Non-Governmental Organization, that primarily established and designed to champion the campaign against drugs and substance abuse in Nigeria with the target to carry out community based sensitization programs in tackling the issue of social crimes especially Drug Abuse in Nigeria of which presently the issue of drugs has actually taken the lives of promising and brilliant young Nigerians from us who could have been an instrument of economic growth and development. So the point is, we need to create an avenue to sensitize these young ones on the dangers of drug abuse because they are the leaders of today not just the future.
So Sunny Irakpo is at the front burner to sensitize the youths on the dangers of drugs to the human bodies and a Nation like ours. I am a B.sc holder in Accounting, Second Class Upper Division (2.1) from the Faculty of Management Sciences, Delta State University Abraka, and Nigeria. I was born and breed here in Lagos. So I am a Lagosian too by all rights and standards and a proud Deltan by origin.
I am a Native of Okpe- Isoko in Isoko North LGA of Delta State. Precisely, what we are doing presently is to help young people see the light of the future and the uniqueness God has bestowed in them by letting them know that the 21st century Nigeria can only be attained through our collective efforts and talent recognition and usage to enable us grow our Nation, so going in a way of drug abuse is something that is going to distract us from the original plan of God and that of our Nation Nigeria ,so that’s what Silec Initiatives represents and firmly stands for.
Silec initiatives has created different means to curb the issue of drug abuse in Nigeria, tell us about them?
You see this drug abuse thing in Nigeria is never our way of life and culture so there are different factors that are responsible for its present spread: we look at the parental factor or poor parentage , the environmental factor, social pathologies such as peer group pressure, economic depression, materialistic display and consciousness of Nigerians, unemployment, lack of awareness campaigns, Visionlessness of leaders etc and other factors but in curbing this drug abuse, it requires a lot because it is a trend that is really taking a lot of promising youths from us and for us to curb this, we need a lot of strategies, support and commitment from lovers of the youths because, if Governments keep failing us the people over these years, we the people must not fail ourselves as citizens and corporate citizens.
One of the strategies is that Information is Key; Information is the fuel of life and for young people to be saved, especially now that we are confronted with a lot of drug abuse situation, we need a lot of information passage with a lot of community-based sensitization programmes.
At Silec Initiatives, we believe that we must take a demand reduction strategy through community based approach and by this strategy, we need the power of information and we need programs that will enable one to educate people on the dangers of drug abuse, what Silec is doing is to help communities, families and the nation, by talking about the issue and sensitizing the Broadest Members of the public. This will go a long way in showing them the youths that there’s more to life than intake of drugs and harmful chemical substances.
You travelled to the U.S for a drug abuse programme sponsored by the U.S Government can you kindly share your experience with us?
Good and Challenging Experience I must say! . I keep asking that is black lack, and is white a right?
Firstly, I want to say thank you to the U.S Government under the able leadership of President Donald Trump who has seen the capacity, talent and recognizes the effort we have put in this work we do in Nigeria through the social media and the traditional media platforms and via Good Nigerians who communicated thus to the Embassy of the United States Nigeria.
I have been doing this for over nine years in Nigeria but the Nigeria Government have never given me any attention but look at it, a prophet is not truly honored in his own town, the Honour came directly from the U.S Government of which, I am indeed grateful to God Almighty and to the US Government for this Golden opportunity to represent Nigeria at this international level.
I also want to thank a man; a life hero, a believer in the vision of young people, a youth- friendly personality who has been a mentor from day one to me. I am talking about Chief Dr. Dele Momodu; the Chairman of Ovation Media Group.
He is a man who believes in the capacity and dream of Nigerian youths especially mine. Truth be told, It is my dream, but it is not actually meant for me; it is meant for young people out there because what we are confronting without there are a lot of problems in terms of the unemployment situation in addition to the social problems and the insecurity where drug abuse and addiction is a deep root that needed to be uprooted urgently if we must save Nigeria
Therefore for us to solve this problem we need a lot of hands and Chief Dele Momodu has demonstrated this capacity at my own angle that this boy’s dream will not die, so for many years, we’ve been enjoying his support since 2010 that we started this with him as a special guest.
I actually started during my NYSC which he himself was part of and till today, I am still enjoying that conviviality and humble Contributions. , I have not taken him for granted and I will not take him for granted in my life time because not many elites in Nigeria can do this, many at times he has portrayed me in the Ovation International Magazine, he has also broadcasted me on the social media and also promoted me and the Silec initiatives on Ovation TV. So, why wouldn’t I appreciate a Down to earth Man like Bob D, as we fondly call him, For all these tremendous support, what is on ground is heavy, the resources that we need, the human resource, the structures that we want to put on ground to empower young people are all enormous and we need all the necessary assistance to take youths from the streets to become better citizens.
Still talking about assistance, there’s one young, brilliant and forthright Personality that I met through Chief Dr. Delete Momodu, he is named Bamikole Omishore. the Special Assistant to the Senate President on International Relations, New Media and advocacy, he nominated me for this prestigious sponsorship by the U.S Government, I am indebted to you Banks, I place you specially in my heart, Thank you for the sheer confidence. I was later invited by the American Embassy here in Nigeria, so I went to Abuja and met with the Authority, where they welcomed me warmly and interviewed me to ascertain what I am doing is genuine and how it’s can be advanced with the needed support .Thereafter I was told that the U.S Government was pleased with what am doing and would like to work with me by giving me the right platform and information and strategy to aid the fight against drug abuse in Nigeria.
As at today, the U.S Government has sponsored me to the prestigious U.S Leadership Program called International Visitors Leadership Program of the U.S Department of State in Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis, I am an ambassador of Nigeria for the program and in Fighting against the drug abuse in the country.
They also provided all the means that I will need to push out this message to the public and knowing fully well that the issue of drug abuse is something that is global and not only in Nigeria, I was very pleased with this development and recognition with my first international recognition and award from Shepherd University West Virginia USA in Leadership and in Combating the drug addiction and the opioid crisis.
The American trip was an eye-opener for me to advance my campaign and put in place the necessary structures that will enable us to tackle the issue of drug abuse in Nigeria adequately.
How this whole adventure did began?
Well, I have a flair for humanity. I have always believed that for us to make progress as a people, we must have empathy, and we must lift others. That is why I believe the Nigerian government is not doing enough in terms of welfare for the citizens.
In my secondary days, from Methodist Boys High school ,Lagos some of my classmates who were very brilliant ,I couldn’t believe my eyes that before I came back from the university, I saw few of them who were brilliant hooked on drugs, I was so ashamed asking myself, is it not this guy that we were in school together who was good in mathematics, so I began to do more findings and discovered that it was drugs, so it dawned on me that this was the course that God wanted me to pursue and then I therefore passionately developed myself in that aspect.
I am an Accountant by training, Good with numbers with sound management background so I began to research on drugs with the moves on how it can be solved and that was how I went into it in the year 2010 under NYSC so it is the passion and the zeal that I had of a better Nigeria that propelled me. Also, I asked myself what do you want to be remembered for, I said it will be nice for people to say, Sunny Irakpo was a guy who championed the course of drug abuse and changed millions of lives and that is why I have kept going and that’s my Satisfaction for passing through the surface of this world.
2010 till date, apart from the fact that you were not recognized nationally, what other challenges did you face?
Well for me the Initiative has been endorsed by National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) as the most active NGO campaigning against drug abuse in Nigeria, I will not deny that fact but what is endorsement without commitment, or showing any form of demonstration to it, our endorsement is just a paper endorsement but we are working harder to see how we can re-energize ourselves on the commitment that drug abuse requires.
The fight requires a lot of efforts and it should be something done collectively. Government support should be there, parents, corporate bodies, religious organizations and everybody should be involved because the entire society is affected. No one is safe as far as drug abuse is concern. The Nigerian project is a collective project, we should invest more in humans, because if we invest more in humans, these humans will be the one to manage the various infrastructures, we should see human beings as our most important resource. Therefore Government should ensure that whatever the politicians are stealing from our economy to other economies be recovered and put into the lives of people so that this problems we are having today in the country like killings all around and how people wake up and just set another house ablaze all because they are taking substances that alter the natural process of their reasoning, so we need to put a stop to all this act threatening our common existence and that is why we are telling the government that they should wake up because they are failing on a daily basis comparing the enormous resources, for these failures not to continue in our time, that is why God has called some of us to pursue this dream together to compliment Government efforts in solving the various challenges facing us as a people, so whether the government gives us support or not, we are pushing and that is why today the U.S. Government recognizes our efforts by supporting our noble endeavour.
If the President Muhammadu Buhari led government still wants to continue in failure, then it is left for him, if it is in his own will to write a lasting legacy in the hearts of Nigerians especially the youths, God has given him this opportunity to re-write his name in gold in the books history by joining this fight to rescue our youths and to make Nigeria greater if not history will be unfair to him that his generation has completely failed Nigerians..
How can we curb this issue?
Let me tell you, we can solve the problem with just two sectors of the economy with which the unemployment present experienced can be reduced through these two sectors, the entertainment industry in the service sector and also the agriculture sector; the service sector where ICT lies, I still wonder what’s the Government doing in ICT? Which can help turn our situation around?
What are they doing with Agriculture? do you know that we still have over 85million hectares of land in Nigeria that is yet to be cultivated, a virgin land that we can channel the energies of young people into and once we channel these young people in this direction, there will be food sufficiency and exportable products whereby Nigeria will be generating foreign Currency to boost our local production? And also increase our foreign reserved? , is our government deficient in thoughts resulting into these various challenges? I don’t think so, but in case if they are, we are sharing these ideas with them once again to foster our National Growth and development. We cannot continue to sacrifice the destinies of Young people at the Altar of drug abuse due to Government negligence and absent mindedness.
Is Silec Initiatives based only in Lagos or have you spread your tentacles all over Nigeria?
Well, Silec initiatives is everywhere, it is a global brand, what we do is to move from one state to another, Lagos, Delta, Abuja, Niger state etc. country to country to solve the drug abuse and Human problems by preferring solutions.
This year we have already done a program on the 25th may tagged: Kick Out Drug Abuse from Nigeria Awareness Creation Football Tournament so our Silec initiatives is a global brand everywhere because what we are solving is a problem everywhere. It’s all about information and branding the mindset of young people, once you understand what you are selling, you take a different approach in selling your product and that is what Silec is doing, it is a moveable organization that goes around to help fix problems.
Finally sir, where do you see Silec initiatives in the next 4 years?
Waooooh! Plans in 4years? Adding more meaning to many more lives and increasing our community based sensitization program to reach out to many families, schools and institutions and foreign countries with our message. I could have explained more on what Silec initiatives stands for if time permits.
Let me share little with you, Silec initiatives operates under the project 4/24. We have the 4 as our four cardinal areas of focus which are Drug Abuse Elimination, Campaign strategy, Enlightenment on Sexual Molestation and Abuse of Children, Culture and Language Preservation, Youth Development and Empowerment.
Then the 24 represents the values that we needed to re-communicate, you know values are essential in nation building, whatever is happening today is a result of our collapse value system. We teach the value of hard work, patience, accountability, respect for others and traditions, good morals, Discipline, Integrity, etc. In this present situation where youths are eating their excreta, in the name of making fast money, this is not a good value, So our objectives includes: To drastically eliminate drug abuse amongst youths, increase economic productivity and prosperity by way of promoting skills acquisition, Providing leadership to young people, reduce unemployment through capacity building and skills acquisition etc.
Our Ultimate Goal, We intend to have the Silec initiatives correction center and that is where we will have the Silec Barbing Academy, Make-up section, Values building and Re-correction center, ICT, Fashion Designing also the Talent center where young people will be taught different skills.
Our vision is to empower a larger percentage of the youths,. I am very inspired by what Tony Elumelu, Mr Charity of Africa is doing, fighting poverty with all his might and resources. These are progressive thinkers that Nigeria should have within the political leadership space. On knowingly to him, he mentors me from afar through his good works. As a model I emulate in the business world, Mr Tony Elumelu has touched a lot of lives. My prayers is that Silec is going to take another dimension and strive in that direction and possibly with more achievements. As a model that I look up to, my goal is to do what Tony Elumelu is doing and even more, if only Government support our course and if only corporate organizations and well-meaning individuals could emulate the good examples of Dele Momodu and Tony Elumelu respectively, Nigeria will not remain the same. Believing in the God factor, nothing shall be impossible.
Thanks so much sir for the time spared for this interview
It is my pleasure, thank you, The Boss Newspaper, Thank you ovation international magazine. Thank you Ovation TV. I’m really happy for this wonderful opportunity. Thank you very much.