I missed her call which came quite early in the morning. An hour later, I called and she would invite to an event. I debated over what clothes to put on but eventually settled for a pair jeans trousers and a striped shirt. Of course, I had my sun glasses resting on forehead as usual of me. Upon arrival, I exchanged pleasantries with her and a few others who stood close by and quickly enquired what nature of event it was. “Benue Girls Soar”, she said in graceful tone. I panned my eyes around and found banners and wall hangings complementing her announcement. “I remember seeing the advert of this event on Facebook two weeks ago”, I stated leisurely. With a signature smile, she nodded her head in agreement. Stephanie Apel looked very much like someone who badly needed sleep but suppressed it. She kept on welcoming guests at the entrance of the venue. As I took a few steps away and peeped into the hall and I found girls neatly dressed and seated in rows. The variety of school uniforms worn by the girls clearly showed they were drawn from several schools.

Designed to mark the International Day for the Girl Child, Benue Girls Soar was unusual in style and structure. Speakers took turns to counsel the guests on germane topics surrounding leadership, resourcefulness, achieving success, setting lifetime goals, health education and other sundry issues.  Highlights of the event included presentation of special numbers, poetry recitations and a scintillating performance by Naomi-Da-Diva, popular Makurdi-based songstress. Funny enough, I didn’t have the slightest inkling that I would have to play any role at this function. Stephanie requested me to anchor the show which I gladly did. I was neither eye-catchy nor an eye sore. I engaged the school girls in jokes, asked them questions and invited some of them to entertain the gathering. Teachers, speakers and facilitators too participated actively. It was quite an engaging experience for everyone. The Special Assistant to the President on Job creation, Josephine Washima, spent time the most in delivering her talk but was able to justify her slot with very inspiring nuggets. Much as it seemed I did perform averagely as anchor of the event, Stephanie Apel, Coordinator of Glamorous Mothers Development Initiative, organiser of the event, praised me in a phone message, “you are really good. You did a nice job as MC…it couldn’t have been any better. Thanks a great deal”. I felt happy and privileged to be part of an event specially designed to encourage and inspire girls into becoming useful assets in society. I considered the event an excellent way of celebrating girls who are often vulnerable and most times left at the mercy of fate.

As a friend of children, I often remember with mixed feelings, some youth-based programmes I have been part of. My folks have moved to a new residence where I no longer see children to talk to or play with each time I visit home. I still have fond memories of my experience with children. As a peer educator on adolescent reproductive health way back in 2009 at Abeokuta Grammar School, I connected easily with the students and earned their attention which made mentoring sessions quite pretty. Some of those students still interact with me on social media today. I also was part of a team that organised a spelling competition for primary school pupils in Makurdi in 2011. It’s quite interesting working with children.

FELIX NYIKWAGH wrote from Ibadan, Oyo State