Ohio Today: For Alumni and Friends of Ohio University

A presidential summons
Obama beckons recent OHIO grad back to U.S. for African leadership forum

By Monica Chapman

Recent OHIO graduate Bako Kantiok never intended to return to the United States so quickly. But just as soon as he had settled into his home country of Nigeria, he was beckoned back to the U.S. for the President's Forum with Young African Leaders.

Hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama Aug. 3-5 at the White House, the forum was attended by 115 young leaders from 46 sub-Saharan African nations. Forum sessions fostered discussion with U.S. government officials on themes of youth empowerment, good governance and economic opportunity. Bako Kantiok in the White House

Kantiok, who earned a master’s degree in communication and development studies from Ohio University’s Center for International Studies this past June, currently works to reduce poverty in Nigeria through his work at the Fantsuam Foundation, a community-based nonprofit.

Before delving back into business, he took a few moments to reflect on his experiences with OHIO Today.

How did you come to take part in the African Young Leadership Forum?

Upon completion of my studies in the U.S., I returned home to Nigeria two weeks after graduation only to be informed by the U.S. embassy that I had been nominated to attend the President's Forum with Young African Leaders. I guess the U.S. embassy had been keeping an eye on me. However, to the best of my knowledge, I was nominated because of my contribution to rural development and my commitment to social change in Nigeria.

Reflect on the experience. What were the highlights? What did you learn?

Attending the young leadership forum was a unique experience. For me, the highlight was attending the town hall meeting mediated by President Obama and shaking his hand. What I took away from the forum is that it’s time for African youths to take responsibility for Africa’s future.

What will you be doing upon your return to Nigeria?

Upon my return, I would like to meet with the President of Nigeria and discuss the possibility of holding a similar forum that will bring together youths and the leadership of the country to discuss issues that affect the development of the country. I feel that youths in Nigeria, like most African countries, have been excluded from governance, and this is contributing to the dangerous political and security situation in the country.

How did your Ohio University education prepare you for your future endeavors?

The education I received from Ohio University has equipped me with the necessary knowledge and skills required to be successful in my profession. I also have the confidence to compete favorably with graduates from other intuitions around the world for positions in the area of international development and development assistance.

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Monica Chapman is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.

Posted 08-12-10

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