In January 2023, following the resounding success of its inaugural cohort, The Bridge Leadership Foundation launched a Call for Applications to kick-off the second cohort of the Emerging Political Leaders Fellowship (EPLF). The programme is dedicated to nurturing and equipping young Nigerians for political leadership roles, aimed to enhance the quality of leadership in Nigeria. With a fervent commitment to nurturing a new generation of visionary leaders, the EPLF sought individuals passionate about driving positive change and fostering Sustainable Political leadership across diverse sectors in Nigeria. As applications flooded in from aspiring leaders nationwide, the Foundation eagerly anticipated the opportunity to empower, mentor, and inspire the next wave of transformative leaders poised to shape Nigeria’s political landscape and drive progress on a national scale.
After a meticulous selection process, 25 outstanding fellows were officially inducted on May 30, 2023, representing diverse demographics including gender, geographic location, and religious affiliation. The second cohort underwent a comprehensive 6-month programme designed to immerse them in critical knowledge, skills, tools, and resources essential for effective political engagement in Nigeria. Throughout the intensive programme, our fellows engaged in a spectrum of activities ranging from immersive virtual training led by seasoned political leaders and development experts to hands-on simulations aimed at honing strategic thinking and decision-making abilities. Moreover, the fellowship provided a platform for fellows to engage in robust dialogue, exchange perspectives, and forge enduring networks with peers, mentors, and stakeholders from various spheres of influence. Encouraged to delve into the complexities of governance, ethics, policy formulation, and grassroots mobilization, the fellows emerged equipped with the vision, resilience, and acumen necessary to navigate the multifaceted challenges inherent in Nigeria’s political landscape and drive meaningful change in their respective communities and beyond.
The fellowship journey commenced with a series of life-changing Virtual Training sessions and Fireside Chat Panel Discussions from May to October 2023. Delivered across 28 meticulously curated modules focused on; Government 101, The Emerging Political Leader, Running for Office, Election Management, and Sustainable Politics. Moreover, the dynamic nature of the discussions fostered a collaborative environment where fellows not only absorbed vital knowledge but also engaged in vibrant exchanges, shared experiences, and cultivated invaluable networks with peers and seasoned practitioners alike. This immersive learning experience served as a catalyst for personal and professional growth, empowering fellows to navigate the intricate nuances of political leadership with confidence, integrity, and a steadfast commitment to driving positive change within their communities and the broader Nigerian society.
An indispensable cornerstone of the fellowship experience lay in the Civic Engagement activities undertaken by the fellows, which transcended traditional boundaries to reach over 23,000 individuals across diverse segments of society. Leveraging the power of online platforms, town hall meetings, step-down training sessions, and secondary school leadership drives, fellows galvanized communities, sparked dialogues, and amplified voices that had long been marginalized. Applying the rich tapestry of knowledge and skills acquired throughout the programme, fellows spearheaded initiatives aimed at effecting tangible change within their respective spheres of influence. From advocating for policy reforms to championing the rights of underrepresented populations, their collective efforts epitomized the transformative potential inherent in grassroots activism and civic participation. Through innovative approaches and unwavering commitment, fellows emerged as catalysts for social progress, driving forward a vision of inclusivity, equity, and justice that resonated deeply within their communities and beyond.
In November 2023, the fellowship culminated in an enriching 3-day immersive Residential Boot Camp held in Abuja, a pivotal gathering that served as the climax of the fellows’ transformative journey. The event offered a vital platform for fellows to delve deeper into their collective experiences, exchange insights, and forge enduring bonds with like-minded individuals committed to igniting change. Amidst a series of training, and interactive sessions facilitated by seasoned experts like: Senator Gershom Bassey, Senator of the 8th Assembly representing Cross River South Senatorial District, Ndi Kato, Director, Humanitarian Services, Resilient Art & Dialogue Initiative, and Mr Laz Apir, Advocacy Manager at The Palladium Group, fellows seized the opportunity to sharpen their leadership skills, refine their strategic thinking, and cultivate the resilience needed to navigate the complex terrain of Nigerian politics. The highlight of the boot camp came with the eagerly anticipated Capstone Project presentations, where fellows unveiled the culmination of their year-long quest– the Political Journey Roadmaps. These meticulously crafted blueprints outlined their visions, aspirations, and concrete action plans for effecting positive change within their communities and beyond. Against the backdrop of a distinguished panel of reviewers, in the persons of His Excellency, Senator Liyel Imoke, Founder, The Bridge Leadership Foundation/EPLF Chair, Mr Mike Adewara, Founder, Political Intelligence, Nigeria, and Ndi Kato, Director, Humanitarian Services, Resilient Art & Dialogue Initiative, each presentation served as a testament to the fellows’ unwavering commitment to excellence, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of a more equitable and inclusive society. Moreover, amidst the Boot Camp, the fellows participated in a series of Courtesy Visits to prominent institutions including the National Assembly, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), the National Museum, and the African Centre for Leadership and Strategic Development.
The fellowship experience extended beyond the confines of the programme, fostering a vibrant community of change-makers through Alumni Meet and Greet Fireside Chats. These gatherings served as invaluable forums for past and current fellows to converge, exchange experiences, and impart wisdom gleaned from their respective journeys. The Alumni delved into nuanced discussions, unearthed common challenges, and celebrated collective achievements that transcended temporal boundaries.
During the Closeout event in the Boot camp, in a grand finale featuring esteemed senators as mentors, fellows, had the unique opportunity to participate in tailored mentoring sessions by these distinguished senators such as Senator Betty Apiafi, Senator Agom Jarigbe, Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong, Senator Gabriel Suswam, Rt. Hon Chukwuemeka Ihedioha, Senator Gershom Bassey, and Senator Stella Oduah. Drawing from their wealth of experience, these mentors delved into the intricacies of effective governance, leadership, and navigating the political landscape. Moreover, the culminating ceremonies of these gatherings saw the recognition of exemplary fellows whose commitment and remarkable leadership stood as beacons of inspiration. Notable awards, including the prestigious Overall Best Fellow and the esteemed Political Readiness Award, were bestowed upon individuals whose dedication, resilience, and visionary zeal epitomized the ethos of the fellowship. These accolades not only honoured outstanding achievements but also symbolized a collective commitment to nurturing and empowering the next generation of political trailblazers poised to catalyze transformative change across Nigeria and beyond.
LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE:
The Emerging Political Leaders Fellowship serves as a profound catalyst, nurturing compassionate, well-informed, and dedicated leaders who are steadfastly committed to forging a better future for Nigeria. As the program perseveres in sowing the seeds of positive change, it becomes increasingly apparent that the leaders cultivated through EPLF will illuminate the path toward a brighter tomorrow.
In summary, the Emerging Political Leaders Fellowship extends far beyond its participants, it reshapes leadership trajectory and nurtures a generation of dedicated leaders committed to serving their communities and country fervently.