“I want the light in the life of every YALI Network member to shine so bright that others might, through their light, find their way.”
— Peacemaker Prosper Egeonu
By the time he was 30, Prosper Egeonu had witnessed too much violence in central Nigeria’s Plateau state. He didn’t want to see any more.
Thousands have died in conflict that has erupted in outbreaks of violence for more than a decade. Indigenous peoples and settlers from other ethnic groups clash over access to land, power and resources.
His youth scarred by the horrific acts of intercommunity violence, Egeonu began to devote his business, civic and personal activities to ending violence.
In 2009 Egeonu, a YALI Network member, joined the Jos Crisis Appeal Fund (JCAF) as a volunteer, determined to get more people in the Plateau state capital city to stand up to the horrific acts.
JCAF is a partnership between Christians, Muslims and civil society groups that raises funds to provide financial assistance, medical attention and education to local families affected by conflict. This grass-roots civic group also helps displaced families find stable homes, Egeonu says, and funds organizations that work for peace.
In 2010, Egeonu started Swagg News Africa, a media entertainment group, and Stanperz Conceptz, a roofing business. He combined the outreach efforts of both these enterprises to start the “Stop the Violence” campaign. The campaign aims to promote awareness of peace and to provide a talent showcase for youth from all religions. He partnered with a local radio station to provide youth with the entertainment program Friday Night Dance Party with Joey.
Entertainment is “the latest revolution that captures the visions of the social-economic potential of Nigerian youth,” Egeonu believes, and awareness of that potential is a way to turn young people away from violence.
He went on to partner with the Performing Musicians Employers’ Association of Nigeria to further get the message of peace to music fans. He even recruited young U.S. hip-hop artist Akon and actor J.D. Williams to craft messages to “stop the violence.”
Continuing his pursuit of peace, in 2013 Egeonu joined the national nonprofit Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) as a volunteer trainer. DREP brings together youth, women, and local leaders of various religious and ethnic groups to learn from each other about how they can “resolve issues that would otherwise result in violent confrontation” and create peace.
While Egeonu admits that his efforts to reach his goal can sometimes be frustrating — volunteers become disinterested, illiteracy among some in the target groups limits his ability to get messages through, and financial constraints limit DREP’s peacebuilding efforts from reaching more rural communities – he remains determined. “Responses I get from people I reach have been positive,” he said. He suggests more training in leadership and teambuilding for fellow volunteers in order to help them stay interested.
Egeonu is active in the YALI Network and especially likes the #YALICHAT discussion forum. He has earned YALI Network certificates for online courses in civic leadership, business and entrepreneurship, and public management.
“I have learned a lot from YALI resource information,” he says. “It has built me to be a better leader.” He says the highest call of leadership is “unlocking the potential of other people.” And he urges other youth to join YALI and to engage their communities to help solve problems.
“I want the light in the life of every YALI Network member to shine so bright that others might, through their light, find their way,” he says.