The prison situation in Nigeria is in a terrible state. This is particularly made worse by the high rate of inmates re-offending mostly within between one week to one month of coming out prison. This is mostly as a result of poor reformation programs within the correction facilities and the system as a whole.
As the initiator of Dream Again Prison and Youth Foundation, I oversee the activities of our non-profit organization and the vision is; empowering prisoners from within the prison walls towards becoming productive members of the society. With the help of my team, our goal which we have quite successfully managed to achieve is that of curbing recidivism.
I have not always been proactive though. Growing up I was trapped in what I called the prison of the mind. Like a fish in an aquarium, I could swim but never Beyond the walls of aquarium, I was limited without understanding anything called purpose. My friends even mocked and laughed at me because I couldn’t speak good English. I particularly remember that there were days while growing up, wherein I stood in front of the mirror trying to change my nose; I actually suffered from low self-esteem. However, my turning point was in 2001 when I became a believer in Christ.
This decision helped me to embrace the world of books and they have helped me in building my self-worth ever since. My achievement started back in 2012 when I establish the first library in a prison that was built in 1923, since then I have gone ahead with our team and partners to spread the work to more prisons across Nigeria, today we have about seven prisons already in our approval list to kick start our work. Just recently we built a water reservoir for the inmates at Igah prison, in the middle belt of Nigeria.
Our program in prison runs in three progressive stages
This program serves as a springboard to a new beginning for the inmates.
In recognition of our work, we being selected to be part of several innovative programs such as Kanthari International Institute of Social Entrepreneurs in India and Social Innovator Program Fellowship (Leap Africa) in Nigeria. We have also been given some awards that include, Oasis Award winner of Emerging Africa Leaders Academy, Most Outstanding Community Influencer Award [Nigerian National Youth Assembly] in 2018 Dream Again Prison and Youth Foundation got an award from Civil Society on SDG11. Our achievements haven’t come without challenges; there are moments I have felt frustrated and incapable of leading and living this dream.
Starting out, I had the challenge of gaining the trust of prison authorities. Also, especially within the first two years of starting Dream Again Prison and Youth Foundation, I could not get a team that could be intrinsically driven towards the goal. Sometimes things got so bad economically too, I remember one time that a prisoner gave me 1000 Nigerian Naira to feed myself, simply because I was so hungry that while teaching them, I was shaking.
Despite this though, quitting my mission has never been an option even though admittedly, there were moments I contemplated getting a job, especially because of my family status. I am however grateful today that even when it got hard I didn’t pick up a job but focused on helping others as through that focus I have steadily grown to master how to overcome obstacles as they come. In summary, I’m a man on mission as a catalyst to prisoners’ reformation and also coach to social entrepreneurs. In conformity many dreams died, be brave to live your purpose.