We Do Not Have to Start Big to Touch Lives

Submitted by Chuks Okoriekwe.

I am Chuks Okoriekwe, a lawyer in Nigeria who loves adventure. This photo was taken at the McKinney Roughs Natural Park in Cedar Creek, Texas when I visited Austin, Texas last year. I consider myself a social engineer using the instrument of the law to heal and transform societies, one at a time.

Growing up in a family of seven has taught me to appreciate bonds in family, devotion and looking out for people. I have learned to appreciate the little I have without losing sight of striving for something better. In the process, I have also learned that looking out for others could be soothing.

My goal, in taking the “Discover Your Inclusive Leadership Potential” Online course, is forming a bond to heal the world of hate, discrimination and violence through love, kindness and affection. I am also taking an Earth Charter Leadership course. The Earth Charter has been a very valuable document in preserving the earth. If only all its principles could be implemented, we’d have a more sustainable place to live in.

I found the introductions in the First Module of the Inclusive Leadership course to be indeed inspiring. For example, Paul Atsu’s strides in innovation for agribusiness business are enlightening and worthy of emulation. I’m also impressed with Stanley Daniel’s efforts at revitalizing his indigenous language in Canada. Indigenous languages are at the brink of extinction if not passed on to the next generation. Similar challenges are faced in Africa (due to the adoption of ‘western’ culture) but gradually we are seeing a new wave of young and dynamic people promoting the sustainability of the language culture. Young people are blazing the trail in providing solutions to the problems facing the world today.

The next module in the Inclusive Leadership course described the Building Bridges steps which are never ending. One must continue to build bridges across to those we consider different from us. It is never enough to allow societal prejudices to define a set of people. We must all understand that first and foremost, we are all human and no one made a choice of where or how to be born. One of my fellow participants, Graham Fielding shared how he used to believe that “someone would always be there to care of issues when they arise.” He is not alone in these thoughts. I was once that way, believing this myth without the urge to be an active participant in changing what I felt strongly against in my own little way.

I would say that my ‘transformation’ started as an undergraduate law student, when we were exposed to series of challenging national issues including violations of human rights at various levels despite legal safeguards. People were either unaware of these safeguards or were not informed enough to take action. At that point, I realized that it wasn’t enough to simply sit back in my comfort zone whilst others continue to suffer deprivation. More so, if nothing was done, the challenge would soon become a leviathan consuming anything and everything on its path.

It is particularly striking to see young people who have been awaiting trial for years in prisons without their cases being called up in court. Some have also spent more years than they would have served if convicted for the alleged offence(s). All these were due to the slow pace of the justice system. In Nigeria, judges are overwhelmed with the number of cases.

To become a solution which I desired and understanding that I’ve been armed with the knowledge of the law, I joined forces with some friends (at different levels) and we carried out human rights sensitization exercises. We also offered pro-bono ‘legal’ assistance to those who couldn’t afford the services of legal practitioners. One of the strategies we used was to create a radio drama series in pidgin-English (first of its kind!) to educate as well as entertain people on their rights and corresponding obligations (what they need to do when their rights are infringed).

Our little efforts recorded some successes! In addition to our regular pro-bono advisory services we offer to indigent people, we were able to secure the release of two inmates who were unlawfully detained. For me and my colleagues the joy we derived in seeing smiles on the faces of people being reunited with their loved ones was enough compensation for our time and resources spent on the project.

This story is a pointer to the fact that we do not have to start big to touch lives. If we could each decide to take action in our little ways, we’ll cause enough ripples that will change the course of history. I hope to share more of my stories and adventures with everyone while participating in the Inclusive Leadership Community.