Sunday, December 27, 2009

Making Information Sharing a habit...


“The delight of opening a new pursuit, or a new course of reading, imparts the vivacity and novelty of youth even to old age." Said Benjamin Disraeli (Two-time British Prime Minister). I am an avid reader, I love to read books. At the beginning of this year, I started writing a blog which I simply called ireviewcovertocover on blogger.com, with the intention of boosting my reading culture and sharing my thoughts about what I read with others.



However, 2009 seems to skid by, leaving me with some books on my priority list waiting to be read. The ones on this list includes: “Ethics for International Business” by John Kline, “Not without Laughter” by Langston Hughes, “Stop running Scared” by Herbert Fensterheim and Jean Baer, “I was told there will be cake” by Sloanne Crosley, “Poetry Matters” by Ralph Fletcher, and “Say You’re One of them” by Akpan Uwem. Meanwhile, I enjoyed reading “Uncommon” by Tony Dungy, “Be Bold” by Echoing Green, “Unbridled” by Jude Dibia, “Every day is for the thief” by Teju Cole, etc. The book selections are poles apart, but as long as it is insightful; it is worth reading and sharing with others.



Talking about sharing, do you know information is one of the best gifts to share with others? Be it in form of constructive advice or tangible data, there is importance in extending it to others to lift them up. Jill Finlayson, in December 8th Social Edge Newsletter, profoundly wrote “Social entrepreneurs recognize the empowering value of sharing information. So if you want to make a difference this holiday season, consider what information you can share, what data you can aggregate, and how you can collaborate.”



It is so easy to take for granted the importance of collaboration in a society that celebrates competition. Thus, pushing us to ignore the value in sharing simple information such as a textbook or tutorial resource to helps a classmate in a difficult course, an exciting medium of communication e.g. TV/Radio Channel, or Internet address; or just any useful link or idea that can help set the success of others in motion.



“You are the same today as you will be five years from now except for two things . . . the people you meet and the books you read.” Charles E. Jones once said. The modern corollary of this quote will add, “…and the information you receive or share.” Who meets people, read books, share information and remains the same? Information shared is the cornerstone of innovation and collaboration. After all, God puts us all in each others lives to impact one another in some way. Don’t burn the bridge of information behind you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One thing to remember this Christmas

There is something important we ought to keep in mind this Yuletide Season, if we focus on two, it might complicate our discourse. When we think about Christmas, we think about spending on decorations, new wear, food, events, etc. The Season comes with an excitement that drives us to spend so much, even more than we earn. Everyone (well almost), including the penny-pinching among men, throw caution to the wind and empty their wallet through generous expenses during this period.

The good thing about Christmas expenses is that a good amount of the money is spent on buying gifts (I’ll like to think). Gift-giving is synonymous to Christmas as heat is to Harmattan. All the Stores with business acumen launch alluring items to match the season. “Buy me” “Buy me” the item scream at us, as we make our way through the busy shopping mall. And so, we dig deep into our wallet and scramble towards the best bargain or better still the ones in vogue.

However, this is not about the excessive spending but the motive behind it. Do we really spend more on others (gifts) than we spend on ourselves every Christmas? It is imperative to keep in mind that Christmas is more about giving. So before we exercise our purchasing power this Christmas, we must ensure that our giving-list is given a higher priority. Spend as much as you want, but carefully, to reach out with gifts to family, friends and strangers with an attitude of gratitude for the grace to give (not everyone can).

Gift-giving is not limited to just material things alone; we can present prayers, time, and/or company to those around us. These are priceless in every sense.

Therefore, it does not matter which way the world has turned for you this Season, there must be at least one reason to still be thankful! Find it and extend the chain of love and glee to others.

Let it be a merry Season

Let this season be a merry one,
put away every trouble,
whatever form they may be on.

Let this season be a merry one,
no matter where you are coming from.
Don't frown at how fast the year has flown,
Don't count your loses but celebrate your blessings.

Let this season be a merry one,
as family and friends from far and near
come together with a smile,
to wish you a merry Christmas.

Let this season be a merry one,
as you celebrate
the very reason for the season,
may your heart be filled with joy.

As you thank God for all the Blessings,
have a very merry season
and share you gift with friends.

(c) Jennifer Ehidiamen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We Grow by Giving


Volunteering sound like a new concept in our society, however, the culture of helping others is not- and these two are the same thing. So many people look at the circumstances around them and growl in despair. They fail to see that such situation is actually an opportunity for them to pour out a portion of themselves and grow by serving- giving their skills or time to ameliorate the condition.

“How do we make service learning the common experience of every young person around the world?" was the theme of the International Volunteer Day Symposium organized by Peace Corps International, to celebrate this year’s International Volunteers Day- December 5th.

The day which is set aside to celebrate volunteers all over the world for their valuable contribution towards economic and social development is also aimed at inspiring other people to imbibe the culture of volunteerism, take action and make a positive difference in their local communities.


As I sat in the hall listening to Aaron S. Williams, the Director of Peace Corps, give his opening remark, I learn how much potential is in this sector. We cannot underestimate the relevance of volunteerism in shaping the human condition for good. Not only do people who volunteer transform the pace and nature of development by contributing their time, skills and energy towards peace and development, the impact they make also have a rippling effect on them because their skills are enhanced as they grow by giving.

“Service should be as easy as going to school” asserted Williams, and I stand to agree with him. There should be room for active engagement for every young person . It is true that young people need mentors, training and resources to help them easily transit into adulthood. Young people also need motivation and opportunity to volunteer in order to prepare them for the workforce in adulthood.

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) currently serves as a relevant tool that fosters the spirit of volunteerism. However, service-learning can also be incorporated into our school curriculum so that young people right from primary and secondary school-age will have an opportunity to learn how to be active citizens at a young age.

The trend of volunteering stem from altruistic service in non-profit organizations, academic institutions, religious organization, corporate groups and government agency, it can be individualistic or collaborative in nature.
While, the current challenges facing the volunteer sector include the lack of a well structured volunteering system, the capacity to manage the volunteers, the avenue to keep them motivated and a good policy framework and infrastructure for sustainability. However, in spite of these challenges, volunteers are still thriving in different countries and contributing to social and economic growth. Learn more, visit www.unv.org www.vso.org.uk www.peacecorps.org

(hands holding seedling picture culled from google image/ (c) www.treitelabs.com/future.php)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Falling in love …with Snow


“Snow. Snow. Snow! Temperature is expected to drop 27 degrees tonight. Goodbye Fall, welcome Snow! It is my second time of seeing snow first-hand, so pardon my inexplicable excitement.” That was the message alert I sent to my friends last weekend when the sky opened up to usher in the first Snow of the season in Washington D.C.

Oh! the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and earth below,
Over the housetops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet.
Dancing,
Flirting,
Skimming along.
(-Thomas J. Watson)


God is good. That is one of the thoughts that race through mind as I watched the early morning raindrops form into snowflakes. Slowly, softly and beautifully, one after another, they made their way gracefully to cover the bare earth with their essence. “To appreciate the beauty of a snow flake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” And yes, off to the street I went to see the Snowflakes hanging on bare trees, to see the streets glow with the radiance of Snow. How can I explain the excitement that filled my heart as I took a long walk through the streets to bask (not literally) in the beauty and splendor of God’s creation?


Winter season here is Harmattan season in the part of the world where I grew up. And Harmattan is not snow, cold and slippery streets but morning dew, afternoon heat and dusty streets. As the writer, Vladimir Nabokov, once pointed out "Genius is an African who dreams up snow." The closest most people from the part of Africa I grew up in have ever seen of Snow is on Television, or the pictures published in Newspapers/Magazines, or the novels we read, or by the words of mouth of people who have seen it first hand. It is like a mystery. Well, it was a mystery to me until I got the opportunity to feel the ice wash over my face. And oh! It is so white, so soft and so sweet (excuse my exaggeration here).

Long after it has stopped snowing, the flakes form different shapes where they accumulated during their sojourn to mother earth- on trees, flowers, grasses, driveway or any objects they met. Until the weather warms up a little to melt them away, they stick by satisfied that they have accomplished something significant- one the human mind have no intellectual capacity to control.


However, I share the above experience with much caution, keeping in mind that as there are two sides to every coin, so are there two sides of Snowfall experience. There at times the Snow comes in mildly or with a storm, depending on the magnitude of its impact. For example, while it snowed all calmly in the Capital city, what was described as a powerful snowstorm swept across the West, causing snarled traffic and delay in school resumption.

Does this take away the beauty of snowfall? Maybe not, because to an African seeing Snow for the first time, there will always be a moment of awe for God and the way He fathomed out the diversity in our world and weather. Some of us hope to take the cold it brings on so well, we will bundle up, drink hot chocolate and stay in love with the Season. Let it snow!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A mind divided


I’m staring at this blank sheet in front of me, totally lost for words on what to write on “Dis Generation”. Do not get me wrong, we have not exhausted the issues facing us. However, the rate at which these issues are increasing is what seems overwhelming tonight.

The discussion I had with a gentleman in the D.C. subway sounds like a topical issue. This young man decided to stay off the Nigerian shores because he was told by one of his teachers that the only way to succeed in Nigeria is to be “corrupt”. He does not have that drive he says, so he has decided to remain in Diaspora until he hears that a revolution has taken place to “purge” Nigeria of that spirit. In his words “until the corrupt leaders in all the sectors are killed, Nigeria will not change”. I wonder if he means that literally. No time to confirm. The train stops and he alights at his destination, leaving me to mull over his words.

I received some alarming messages from an acquaintance back home, some are prayers, and some are wishes. “Is President Yar’adua dead?” I asked. “Not yet” is his blunt reply. “Okay, I will join you in the prayer”. I mean, the prayer for our President to get well soon. It amazes me how sometimes we criticize our government leaders, without putting into cognizance the complexity of the country that wear out their good intentions. I am not supporting our President’s slow progress but checking on the nature of our “public complaints commission” that is geared towards finding a quick-fixer. Even President Obama will testify to the difficulty in serving a complex Nation- he has grown some grey hair within this short period of being President of the acclaimed number one country in the world.

Meanwhile, there is a call to all Africans in diaspora to act constructively by contributing their quota towards re-building the continent. No country must be left behind. While Nigerian-born Junior Kanu is championing different campaigns for his “Solving Africa” movement in USA, my colleague, Abdu Mohamed in Tanzania broadcasts his message, “I’m now working hard to start a new organization called “WAKE UP AFRICA”, which will work to help African youth and other People to sustain and appreciate their cultures and Value and not think western cultures are the best.”

I feel dissatisfied with this entry tonight. What I intended writing is on the importance of “Volunteering” for development. Some say the Nigerian education system sucks because it doesn’t equip students with life skills to give them a competitive advantage. And I say, why not explore volunteerism/Internship as a platform to sharpen the limited knowledge acquired in the Ivory Tower, until the much anticipated education reform is implemented?



Source of blank sheet of paper photo: Mark78_xp on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark78/1463574952/

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lagos Vs. New York


(Pix of Island, Lagos)

This is Lagos! No, it is not. It is New York City. Two cities, so much alike! What do they share in common? Densely populated, litter on the street here and there, the hustling and bustling, the high cost of living and yet the lingering nostalgia it leaves on people who visit once making them want to visit again.

In the song “Lagos vs. New York”, Keziah Jones didn’t fail in his attempt to draw the parallels between the two cities. The track from the album “Nigerian wood” depicts the reality in both cities- busy streets that breeds money. Well, they also have a “Broad” in common- in New York, Broadway is the spot for relaxation or amusement and in Lagos Broadstreet is the centre for business activities, just like New York’s Wall Street. In a nutshell, as Jones’ lyrics highlights, in New York and Lagos, amidst the hustling and bustling to make money, you will find things that will amuse you (or depress you). Will it be right to say the two cities are like a theater mixed with amusement and business?



I really thought Lagos was the City that never sleeps until I “met” New York. Twilight and dawn are almost the same here. Shops are open 24hrs, vehicles honking through the streets all round the clock. Okay I admit, you can tell the difference between the two cities at night. While the former bustles in the dark, with stars shinning brightly in the sky, it does go to bed a few hours past midnight. The later comes alive so bright at night and its light so well complements the lively city.



The streets of New York City and Lagos are not paved with gold. People who live there walk with their feet touching the floor. The streets are not filled with terror. For Lagos context, Lagosians (people who live in Lagos) smile and embrace life with a positive attitude despite the harsh and corrupt political climate that trickles from the nook and cranny of the Nigerian government. There are no trees on the streets where people collect money; you will have to work hard to earn good income in both cities.

Did you read/watch the interview of Akin Akinola on CNN? He is a young Nigerian who left his New York-based Investment Banking job to return to Lagos to enhance his career. I bet he settled for Lagos because he knows that the two cities have a lot in common. Okay, maybe Lagos still needs a little facelift to match up with the organized bustling in New York City. I love Lagos. I love New York City too. They are two wild cities that look and feel so much alike, yet in every sense so different.

(I dedicate this article to AJ, whose contagious love for New York City somehow rubbed off on me, prompting me to look at the City through an open mind, thus inspiring this article. I also dedicate this article to all Lagosians living in New York, and to all New Yorkers living in Lagos.)

Source of photo of New York: www.freefoto.com or images by googleimage search

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Re: Building your leadership capacity- An opportunity.

“Hi Jenny, my Name is Ambassador Auwalu from kano, I saw the Atlas corps Fellows Programme online and pick interest in it, can u please advice me on what to do?” This is an example of some of the feedback I have been receiving about the Atlas Corps Programme since the publication of the above article. While some ask for more information, others ask for a guide on how to apply. Then, there is the category of people who just respond by saying that they have the qualification but no experience in the nonprofit sector. To this last group of people, I’ll simply say, no hassle, your season will come. Meaning, don’t apply if you have no experience and interest in the nonprofit sector. There is no need to use such opportunity as a form of escapism as in the long run, you might look back and say to yourself “What a waste of time!”. For this race is not as easy as its spelling even though the setting is in Washington D.C., Baltimore and Maryland.

Meanwhile, if you are reading this column for the first time, or you missed the article “Building your leadership Capacity- An Opportunity” published November 8th, I will indulge you with the news in a minute. To all those who are avid readers, here is the exciting news- The application deadline has been extended from November 20th to the 3oth. Meaning, you have some additional days to go online and apply for a place as a fellow. And no, this is not a DV lottery. Like I said earlier on, please do not apply to be an Atlas Corps Fellow if you are not interested and committed to the development sector in Nigeria. And even if you are very involved in the non-profit sector, remember to ask yourself, “Why should I apply to be a fellow?” Do not jump at this opportunity because I say it is exciting and rewarding (of course it is!). Make sure your motives are in the right track to avoid any disappointment. And keep in mind that after applying, there are still other stages of screening through all applicants. And I tell you, this process is very thorough- so applying is just the first baby step.

Are you still keen about giving it a try? Go online to www.atlascorps.org and start with the eligibility survey form. If you are confident about the program, go to www.atlascorps.org/apply.html and apply. To cut the long story short, only apply for the fellowship programme if you: have 3 or more years of relevant experience in the nonprofit/NGO sector, have a degree or its equivalent, speak, read and write fluent English, and most importantly, are committed to returning to Nigeria after the one-year programme!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Did you watch Sesame Street as a kid?



(The Opening song)

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street

Come and play
Everything's A-OK
Friendly neighbors there
That's where we meet

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street

It's a magic carpet ride
Every door will open wide
To Happy people like you--
Happy people like
What a beautiful

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame street...
How to get to Sesame Street
How to get to...(Sesame Street).



When you get to Sesame Street, you’ll find Muppets interacting with humans! But Oh! feel free to call the Muppets by their first name- Cookie, Telly, Zoe, Bert, Elmo, Ernie, Kermit, Oscar, Rosita and of course the famous Big Bird. Sesame Street- an award winning kid-loving educational program on TV is celebrating its 40 years anniversary. Talk about the longevity of a children’s program that transcends culture and borders. Today, the rest of the world watch an interesting episode of the US first lady, Michelle Obama, visiting Sesame Street to show Elmo and some of the children how to plant their own vegetable gardens.

I was a Sesame Street fan as a kid. I remember watching the interesting interaction between the Muppets and the human characters. To me, it was simply entertaining and educational. Helping children learn basic life skills in a fun way. It was an elevated Cartoon program. The author of the book “Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell once stated that Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them. And the program has maintained that stance over the years, from generations to generations, holding the attention of children around the world long enough to educate them.

As a kid who watched Sesame Street back in the day, I didn’t have to spend the whole day in front of the screen to enjoy TV. After each episode, aired during the kiddies’ program schedule on National Television Authority Channel 5 (NTA2), we all switch back to reality and play, as kids should play- in the company of one another. Watching old episodes of Sesame Street on Youtube (internet) brings a lot of nostalgic feeling, leaving us hoping that this generation of producers and TV content creators will understand that television is also an educational tool, and take a cue from Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett to create child-friendly contents that will shape the future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Building your leadership capacity- An Opportunity

“How much are they paying you for telling people about this programme?” My friend asked, wanting to know why I was so keen on telling as many people as possible about this unique opportunity to enhance their knowledge. And by people, I mean young non-profit leaders in Nigeria who are interested in building their non-profit management skills in all ramifications.


What is this all about? A colleague forwarded to me an interesting opportunity created by Atlas Corps, which I’ll love to share with all young leaders out there, especially those working in the NGO sector, taking the lead to bring about a positive change in their community.


Atlas Service Corps is an international non-profit organization that develop leaders, strengthen organizations and promote innovation through an international network of skilled professional. They train young professionals through an exchange programme designed to shape, enlighten and strengthen young visionary leaders. They are currently seeking nonprofit leaders from around the world to apply for their 2010-2011 fellowship positions in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD and Bogota, Colombia. Expenses are paid in this prestigious fellowship program, including a living stipend, health insurance, and training.


Applicants must have 3 or more years of experience in the nonprofit sector, a college degree, fluency in English (and Spanish if applying to volunteer in Colombia), and a commitment to return to their home country after one year. Candidates from outside the U.S. are placed at outstanding host organizations in Washington, DC or Baltimore, MD including Ashoka, Asian American LEAD, CentroNía, Grameen Foundation, and Population Action International. Candidates from the U.S. are placed at organizations in Bogota like Global Humanitaria and Oxfam GB.


In addition to volunteering full time at their host organizations, Fellows are enrolled in a management development training program and join a growing network of nonprofit leaders from around the world. For more details about eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit: www.atlascorps.org . The deadline to apply is November 20, 2009. We shouldn’t wait to get paid before sharing some great links!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Essayist Called Matthew


There are some experiences that do not come our way every day but bring joy and big opportunities whenever they show up. One of such is winning a national essay competition.

When I was invited to come down to Lagos from Jos as one of the finalists of the 2009 edition of Omololu Falobi Foundation Essay Competition, I had mixed feelings. Obviously, I was not sure if I would win, and if I didn’t, just going all the way to Lagos and returning empty-handed would not be funny.

But I remembered that attending the award ceremony was not just about receiving the award alone – I would also have the opportunity of meeting some of the dignitaries listed on the invitation letter. This appealed to me because a similar situation in 2005 had a life-transforming effect on me.

I had been invited for the second stage of the Mike Okonkwo Essay Competition for Secondary Schools. I went and eventually won the first prize. Some of the contacts I got from there have been of tremendous help, for example, the chief examiner of the competition, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo’s encouragement has spurred me to achieve more.

The Falobi competition was no different. I went and was lucky to go home with the first prize. I went to the ceremony with my two brothers based in Lagos and they were no less happy than I was. "This is the third time he’s making us proud like this", one of them declared to the gathering on coming to the stage for snapshots with me. The third he referred to was the Nigerian Stock Exchange Essay award in 2006.

The occasion was particularly touching as the journalist in whose honour the essay was organized, Mr Omololu Falobi, was assassinated in 2006 by men suspected to be armed robbers. Though I had read about him from the internet, listening to people recount firsthand how he affected their lives was particularly poignant.

But, I asked myself, why does this country always consume her most passionately loyal children? As a eulogist puts it on the internet, "he was like a man in a hurry to do what he had to before he left". Mr Falobi was indeed passionate about fighting HIV/AIDS through the media, and he succeeded.

For me, writing essays is not just about winning but making my voice heard on a topical issue and proffering solutions to identified problems. However, I always write with the belief that I’m as good as other entrants, and so have a chance of winning.

My experiences should motivate Nigerian youths to believe in themselves, contribute to society positively, and never give up!

Guest writer: Matthew Adeiza, 2009 Essay winner

http://spicytruth.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Telling a Complete story


A couple of days ago, I received an email from my OWYP colleague and friend, Jeff, which simply read: Do you know this lady? Nigerian writer. Good speech. It also had a link to TED.com’s talk platform. I clicked on the link and was whizzed off to “The Dangers of a Single Story” a speech made by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

We all know the renowned author of Purple Hibiscus to be a good storyteller, except this time she was not telling us an imaginary tale. Drawing from her childhood memories and experience in Mexico, Adichie spoke on how a single story can ruin our world. She warned that a single story “...Show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become”. And most times, this single story always portrays the people through a negative perception.

“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story…it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person”. With a dose of charisma and eloquence, she argued how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a single story. “The consequence of a single story is this- it robs people of dignity, it makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult, it emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar”

“Stories matter…stories have been used to disposes and to malign. But stories can also be use to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people but stories can also repair that broken dignity… when we reject the single story, we regain a kind of paradise” Thus, we all can tell our stories right. How you start your story will determine how you’ll tell the story.

Like Chimamanda, I recently had a unique experience to tell our story during the recently co-sponsored Georgetown Africa Interest Network (GAIN) discussion with Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC) themed “Communicating Africa: Transcending borders with digital media.” Participating as one of the Panelists alongside Howard French, senior writer for the New York Times, Associate Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the author of “A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa”; Mr. Rohit Bhargava of 360 Digital Influence team at Ogilvy and author of “Personality Not Included”; and J.P. Singh, Associate Professor of Communication, Culture and Technology at Georgetown University, and author of “Negotiation and the Global Information Economy” exposed me to the raw yearning out there for this generation to take up the responsibility and tell a complete story! Read details on:
https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/csic/
and Digital Media:
http://www.one.org/blog/2009/09/29/africa-and-digital-media
http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SUSTAINING THE POSTAL SERVICE CULTURE…

All over the world today, people are celebrating the World Postal Day- October 9th. The postal service in Nigeria, also gives us more reasons to celebrate this day, at least, they have improved their standard of services over the years. Our letters/packages are delivered as speedily as they should (some intact, some tampered with!)- Okay, I admit we still have some cranky staff at the post office that make the postal sector less attractive.



There are those who are always ready to jump on customers at every slight opportunity. Most of the time I visit the post office to buy stamp, check for my mails or send letters, there is always a scene, between the customers and one of the post office staff. It is either the argument is over stamp prices, or the customer is complaining over the unfriendly and non-responsive attitude of the salesperson or the salesperson is blaming the end-users for being disrespectful etc. Perhaps this is a vital area the Nigerian Postal Union might want to address while making plans to ameliorate the sector.



Then, there is the high competition between the electronic mailing system and the snail mail (mail by post). While the email enables communication almost at a speed of light, the snail mail, just like the name implies crawls to its destination. Most people are thus forced to send their messages via email instead of the traditional system of letter writing. But what the postal system is doing quite well uphold the beauty of letter writing culture.



The relevance of the postal service in this 21st century, despite being dominated by technology, cannot be underestimated. However, there is also the valid argument that the postal service sector is contributing to global warming i.e. trees are cut down, to make paper and envelops that are used to post messages.



This year’s message from the Director General of the Universal Postal Union seems to make a lot of sense when he acknowledged that Environmental protection and climate change indeed present major challenges. “But, despite all the attention paid to these issues over the years, our planet and its inhabitants are still no nearer to achieving air that is fit to breath. It has now become crucial to rethink the way our businesses are run and to change our patterns of energy consumption. The world postal sector cannot stand aside and do nothing: delivering 430 billion letters and six billion parcels worldwide each year, and operating over 600,000 postal establishments and as many vehicles makes it a significant producer of greenhouse gas. Like other organizations, we must look seriously at ways of becoming climate neutral.”

THE ONLY EFFICIENT MINISTRY IN NIGERIA (as of October 1, 2009)

While eating in a Cafeteria with friends in Ebutte-metta, Lagos, someone asked: why do we always eat the meat last? We tried to decipher the “mystery” behind it. The only conclusion we reached was this: we eat our meat/fish last because in our society, eating it first will portray one as being greedy or uncultured. Or maybe the meat/fish serve the role of adding color to the food (status-wise) and leaves a sweet taste when eaten last. Well, that was when I was a child. Do people still save their meat/fish until the last crumb of their rice (or other) has been consumed?

We must not be drowned out by the sullenness that seems to befall Nigeria every time (almost) we celebrate our Independence Anniversary. The day brings into fore the only efficient ministry in our country- Public Complain Ministry, where everyone is a commissioner in their own right. If the chickens in my mum’s poultry could speak, I bet they’ll lodge complains against the government too, for not supplying electricity in their cage. Imagine!

The public complain ministry comes alive every October 1st. News flash, headlines, marketplace gossip, and every nook and cranny is filled with whining and nagging- all fingers pointing at the government leaders. This year, President Yar’adua bears a generous amount of the blame, along with the minister for Education, Sam Egwu; for all the failures and woes that has befallen the Nigerian education system, among others. After a long session of blame game, we end the discussion this default statement: “It is only God that can deliver us in this country… We must all keep praying for Nigeria.”

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicle 7:14. In all ramifications, we need to be humble enough to pray, seek God’s face, turn from our wicked ways and bad habit of always blaming the government leaders, and take up responsibility by playing our role. Arise o compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey!

When will we begin to learn that, to move this mountain of corruption and unproductive leadership pattern of our current government, we need more than an attitude of complaining and blaming? We need to begin to shift our paradigm from counting all the faults of our leaders (mind you, I don’t mean ignore or have a complacent attitude), into asking ourselves “What can I do to make things better?” How best can we respond to the state of the Nation, without allowing our irrational reactions flare up unnecessary committee of complainers?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Aids builds walls, Partnership builds bridges!

The International Day of Peace student observance session held at the United Nations HQ in New York brought together young people from the U.S. Through a video conference, other youths from around the world were connected simultaneously, to share ideas on how to move the world forward, from its current state of derision, anger, greed and hate that causes war. It was a very intense event. And the One World Youth Project was one of the organizations that led a delegate of High School Students to participate in the event.

After the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon’s message on the need to "disarm now for a better world", and remarks by prominent adults such as Dr. Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, the discussion forum moderated by Alexandra Francis of Peace Academy ensued.

This consisted of presentations by students at UN Peacekeeping missions via video conference- “When Flowers are killed No conscience can rest” the Iraqi youth postulated. And the Congolese students in Goma reaffirmed this by presenting “The impact of Armed Conflict on Development of Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” In a more relaxing but equally important message, the Sudanese students performed a Drama and Song on Disarmament. And then came Liberian students’ “We have suffered enough”.

During the question and answer session, a young girl in the UN HQ asked the Liberian students “…what can we do to help you…?” It was an innocuous question but the hall went silent. I sat on the edge of my sit, anticipating what the answer coming from the other side of the world will be. I held my breath, waiting. Did they not hear the question? Why haven’t anyone stood up to answer? We all watched the big screen, everyone waiting for the answer.

And then it came! A young girl walked up to the microphone. We all saw her approach and heard her speak. She echoed the very thoughts we all share in this generation. She pointed out that the only way young people around the world can help is by making sure they pass on the message of Peace. Her response reaffirmed that young people around the world need to build bridges through collaboration, instead of sending aids which builds walls. It is no longer a matter of one continent thinking they hold the solution to the world’s problem; it is about everyone taking personal responsibility. Not about one group sending aids to another but about Collaboration and Partnership for development. She spoke once but we heard her words twice. It is no longer about "how can we help", but about understanding, to applied empathy through collaboration to effect a positive change.

Monday, September 21, 2009

TOPAZ AND AQUA, a toast to creative ingenuity.

Topaz and Aqua- information, muse and glamour. That is a simple way of describing it! I ran into an interesting website recently that I thought you’d like to read about it. Okay, no, it is not some bingo link to how you can win an online lottery. It is more exciting than that! www.topazandaqua.com is an interesting online magazine moderated by young Oyinade Olajiga. Divided into six creative pages that mesmerize visitors, each of these pages carries some weight of inspiration that will leave you yearning for more. Okay, I admit, a page or two is still under construction but the others will simply blow your mind away.

Is this a website review or what? No, it is simply presenting you with an exciting example of how young Nigerians are maximizing the internet as a platform of expression and communication. I mean, yahoo-yahoo is not all there is to cyberspace!

“’Topaz’ is my birthstone (November) which makes it a little more personal and ‘Aqua’ simply means water which is one of the simplest and most abundant things in life. I'm a very deep and sensitive woman, so I write down my thoughts, whatever I see around, built scenarios and all. I remember that I would write and keep most of my articles to myself for a long time. I would then bring them out, read them, get excited and funny enough, keep them back in a file, well hidden. One good day, I was bold enough to start a blog and I decided to publish a note. The feedback was awesome and people got back to me how inspired they have been and also encouraged me to put up more of my materials up there for people to appreciate and be inspired.” Wrote Oyinade, describing her venture into creating Topaz and Aqua.

She agrees that managing an Online Magazine is time consuming; it is no child’s play when it comes to conceptualizing, editing and publishing using digital technology. “Our target audience is knowledgeable people and as such, expects a certain level of crispiness in your writing to keep them engaged and entertained enough. Although it's easier to manage than prints but it is sure time consuming but the positive side is instantaneous feedback which helps you to know what people expect from you next … it has been an amazing experience.” She said.

Topaz and Aqua is barely 3 months old but it looks like it has been around much longer. If you want to add some colors to your day, then your next click online should be to see and feel what I’ll call an online magazine redefined on www.topazandaqua.com.

A CRY FOR PEACE


A CRY FOR PEACE

It always makes me cry

When I hear of young children

being hurt without a cause

with no hand of justice to help.

It always makes me cry

when I see suffering and poverty

in this part of the world

where there is sufficiency.

It always hurt that bad

when I hear of war, war, war

with no room left for peace.

But Mother says it will be better soon

and this makes me wonder

why it can’t just be better now.

Let Peace rain into this land,

Peace, Peace! I want Peace!

© 2004 Jennifer Ehidiamen

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE! Disarm for a better world!!

Read my blog on:

http://www.atlascorps.org/blog.php

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WHERE MONEY FAILS POLITICS

I have become philosophical but idealist in my trail of thoughts these days as I ponder how much past experiences is defining the pattern of the present to determine the pace of the future. “Money makes the world go ’round”, says an old cliché, but is it really still applicable in today’s society? An average youth of this generation seems to be driven by a silent desperation to be rich or not to be so rich. While one group is blinded by the quest for material wealth, another is plunge into the rhythm of philanthropy. And there is the in-between group (there has to be), who only seek to stand in the middle of the two parallel line.

Does money still make the world go round? Or has it started failing men, as they unlearn in the middle of a Global Economic Meltdown to move on without it? If not money, then what moves the world? Politics? With an increasing rate of how we have become very diplomatic in addressing critical issues, maybe we are at the boiling point of when indeed Politics play a more active role than money. But Politics and money work hand in hand!

I once read an opinion-article of how a man asked God when the problem of the world began and God replied that it was when man created politics a.k.a government. Thus, Politics that is supposed to be facilitating sustainable principles is contradicting its values. Politics is applied in every facet of our society- both on the high and low level.

So Money or Politics, what makes the world go round? Keeping in mind that if you are poor, nobody will want to associate with you and if your politics is bad, no hope to frolic with the power that be! That is it! Power, the quest for power is the force that perhaps drives these two factors that are key players in our society. And both can be dirty, depending on how you make and keep them.

People actually go out of their way to maim, kill, lie, and manipulate to accumulate more wealth and political status that can increase their power and influence in the society. And with such power, you can make the world move at the snap of your finger?

Maybe not, because money, politics and power all have its limitations. For example, the N50 currency in my wallet right now is totally useless here in Washington, I can’t even go to a Cafeteria to buy a drink with it like I would have done in Nigeria. The modus operandi of our democratic system in Nigeria might cripple another society because the orientation is different. Power is only recognized where it is vested. Thus, all of it is vanity?

Monday, September 07, 2009

NOLLYWOOD AND THE REST OF 'EM!

"How is Ramsey Noah?" asked Abdul, a colleague from Tanzania. "Ramsey Noah?" I was not really sure the direction his question was leading. "Yes, Ramsey Noah" he reaffirmed. "I love Nigerian movies" he said. Wow! I have always known Africans all over the world are always excited by Nigerian movies but to hear someone ask me how one of our actors was faring was a real honour. He spoke so well about other actors and actresses, ones we normally under-estimate.

Another evening, I met a young lady from Uganda and when he heard that I am am from Nigeria, she delved into a long conversation about Nigerian actors and actresses. She knew them more than I did, and I'm so sure she has watched more Nigerian movies than I have.

Back in Nigeria, we never really appreciate what we have, however, it is very refreshing to meet people, especially Africans who share some admirable passion for our products. The Nigerian music, movies and other arts seems to be selling more than our politics (thanks to the hard-work of our artistes and the corruption of our government leaders). It is a good thing we still have something to celebrate though, but are we really appreciating them enough? I admit I'm guilty as charged!

As a way of keeping in touch with home, I often visit Facebook, and one of my friend's status the other day read "Are you a creative person, an innovator or a writer? Do you appreciate intellectual works? Then support Nigerian Musician as they start their Hunger strike campaign today and do watch out for no music day comes September. . ."

"wetin dey happen o? wat re they going hungry for?" I asked, alarmed because the post was not really detailed. "cos of piracy wahala, dey want gov to intervane and would want all lover of creativity, all tv station and radio house not to play music no matter how small it would be some time in sep for 12 hours" He replied. Hmm, what more can our artiste ask for?

Love is a universal language, football is a universal language, entertainment is growing fast, even faster than football, into a universal language- crossing borders and breaking down barriers. We don't know what we have in Nigeria, until we meet strangers in foreign land enthusiastically celebrating it without inhibition! They have taught me how to celebrate our very own (not mediocrity, by the way) and we should embrace such attitude!

Monday, August 31, 2009

CLIMB SOME, MOVE SOME!

Books or movie, which do you prefer? I will choose books over movies any time! Reading is a good intellectual exercise. "Everyone who knows how to read has it in their power to magnify themselves, to multiply the ways in which they exist, to make their life full, significant, and interesting." says Aldous Huxley.



However, some exciting movies can get you glued to the screen that you forget books exist. Last weekend, I got one of those experiences- and when the movie title lit up on my screen, I had to close the book to focus my attention on it--Hannah Montana: The Movie.



Have you seen the movie? Well, maybe you have been following the series in the past but the movie is rich with good music! (My favourite is the Climb Song). It reflects on our attitude towards life. As we grow through life, we encounter mountains (challenges or opportunities) that we must either climb or move. The problem is, we sometimes waste time trying to move the mountain we ought to climb over (and vice versa).

I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreaming but
There’s a voice inside my head sayin,
You’ll never reach it,

Every step I’m taking,
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking but I
Got to keep trying
Got to keep my head held high

There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes you going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing,
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes they knock me down but
No I’m not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m going to remember most yeah
Just got to keep going
And I,
I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on,

Cause there’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes you going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes you going to have to lose,

Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side…
It’s the climb

Keep on moving
Keep climbing
Keep the faith baby…
It’s all about
It’s all about
The climb
Keep the faith
Keep your faith.

(Song words are provided by Geniusbeauty.com)

Monday, August 24, 2009

TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY...

To a young entrepreneur who owns a small supermarket, sustainability could mean the ability to effectively manage his business towards expansion in order to lift others out of poverty by employing more workers and leave a legacy for his children. For a student, it could mean being academically conscientious in order to advance in life in all ramifications and become a productive member of the society when he becomes an adult.

Esther Afolayan, the Senate President of Nigerian Children’s Parliament and Esther Agbarakwe, the African Regional Coordinator of UN CSD Youth Caucus are two young female activists I respect a lot because of their active involvement and commitment towards youth development in Nigeria . In a telephone conversation with both of them recently, I asked what their thought was about “Sustainability: Our challenge. Our Future.”

“Sustainability involves preserving the environment for the future…it encompasses politics, economy etc. The challenge we young people face is lack of sustained human development effort. For example, the government gives scholarship to people to go and study abroad in order to come back and improve the society with their knowledge but when these people acquire the knowledge, they do not return back to serve their country” said Agbarakwe. “To sustain the future, we must create an enabling environment and adopt a sustainable life style, simple action such as remembering to switch off the light when not in use, to preserve electricity counts. We should also learn to lookout for the well being of those around us” she added.

Sharing a similar view, Esther Afolayan said that sustainability involves doing things that can go on for a long time so that those coming along can benefit. She pointed out that Ignorance is a major threat to sustaining the future. “Young people do things without knowing the long term effect of their actions”. To sustain the future she suggests that the Nigerian youths should be encouraged to leave their comfort Zone and take positive action.

Sustainability is a process that continues for a long time, it also means meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs. Sustainability does not waste resources through corruption or negligence. It entails the effort made by individuals, Non-Government-Organizations (NGOs), corporate bodies and Government to preserve the environment; the capacity of one generation to tackle social challenges in order not to transmit it to future generations; and the need to provide a steady economy without compromising resources for the future. Like Agbarakwe and Afolayan, I also believe we must do things more efficiently and effectively, to develop the youths and society for sustainability.

INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY 2009- PHOTO FOR LIFE, THE REPORT!



“It was a success”, “Very impactful.” “It was great to see young people doing things and older people encouraging them.” “It is my first time attending this kind of programme and I really enjoyed it.” “It is really engaging youths, the best I have attended so far this year.” These were some of the comments from some of the youths after the August 12 2009 International Youth Day (IYD) Celebration themed: SUSTAINABILITY: Our Challenge, Our future.

Over 100 Youths in Lagos and it’s environ were actively engaged in marking the event organized by Global Change Makers, Global Xchange, Belongings and other young Volunteers. The event which was tagged “Photo for Life” was sponsored by The British Council, Global Change Makers with support from Ola.lens. The young organizers turned the usual pyramid of IYD celebration upside down by stepping out of the norm (conference and talk shops) and presented the challenges of sustainability through a photo exhibition.

The event kicked off at about 11am at the British Council Multimedia hall in Lagos with the compere for the day-Stephen Oguntoyinbo coordinating the participants in taking the National Anthem. The special guests and panelists- James Uche Iroha, a reportage photographer; Tunde Kelani, a internationally renowned cinematographer; Boye Ola, a photography coach; Damola Taiwo, a web designer; and Tunde Aboderin, a development cinematographer were invited to the panel table. Olayinka Taiwo and Jennifer Ehidiamen gave an overview of the event after which the Assistant Communications Manager of the British Council Nigeria- Mrs. Omotayo gave an opening remark on behalf of the British Council.

The parlance “to know the road ahead, ask those who have gone ahead”, was in view when during the plenary session, the experienced adults panelists- James Uche Iroha, a reportage photographer; Tunde Kelani, a cinematographer; Boye Ola, a photography coach; Damola Taiwo, a web designer who made a presentation on maximizing web 2.0 for photography; and Tunde Aboderin, a development cinematographer drew from their wealth of experience to share with the youths first-hand knowledge of what they can do to be solution providers instead of being a problem.

In their words, “what is the energy of youth for if not to drive a positive change? It could be a big mistake to invest in material things instead of investing in human resource. Young people of this generation should take advantage of the opportunities and maximize the new technology to create a means of livelihood. Education is important, it is either you train yourself or get a formal training. Learn to embrace mentorship and prepare yourself to be able to pay the price in order to win the prize. Always think of inner satisfaction before money.” They all encouraged youths to make effective impact towards development and create positive change with photography or whatever they are passionate about.

Also speaking at the event, a Consultant with the Freedom Foundation, Mrs. Funmi Ode from Abuja advised youths to replicate this year’s IYD forum, noting that leadership starts from individuals leading by example. She also appealed that youths should make young adults who are achievers their role models and engage in good works.

Francis Anyaegbu also made a video presentation on Global ChangeMakers which was put together to commemorate the International Youth Day 2009. The video highlighted the various youth led efforts from around the world and he encouraged youths to be actively involved in the development process.

The participants enthusiastically shared their feedback and asked questions during the “Open Mic” session facilitated by Ayodele Taofiq-Fanida, followed by a closing remark on behalf of the organizing team.

After the plenary session, the Exhibition was declared opened by Mr. Tunde Kelani and everyone proceeded to appreciate the work of art that was put on display at the exhibition.

The event tagged “Photo for Life”, an Exhibition of photographs by young people highlighting the various challenges and prospects in their communities, was aimed at using the Art of photography to create an engaging means of involving young people to be active in building community. Considering the need for youth to embrace the challenge of sustainability in its fullness, young people told their stories using images with a focus on impacting community and creating an engaging form of expression through photography with the hope of not only telling the story accurately but also motivating other youths to take action to effect positive change. Photos from Olayinka Taiwo a young landscape photographer based in Lagos Nigeria with a passion for the Art as well as other young photographers passionate about using their talent/passion to impact their community positively were exhibited.


For some of the participants who attended the event, it is an experience that has reawaken their faith to embrace a new sense of hope, for others it might be that they are better inspired to ignite their innate creativity and passion- “creativity is key to survival” opined one of the participants. One thing that is undisputed is that our demeanor has changed for good and no longer will we sit passive in a materialistic, narcissistic or nonchalant way in the face of the challenges that confronts us.

In conclusion, the event was attended by a total number of One hundred and forty-seven (147) people. The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Silverbird Television and Superscreen TV were among the Television stations that provided media coverage for the event. It is also interesting to note that the event report was able to reach a wider range of audience, based on the fact that the first two television stations are on Cable television. A news report on the programme was showed on Network service news and Nationwide programme on NTA at primetime and this was later relayed as a news feature during the week, other television also followed this pattern. In attendance were also various print media houses including; Lagos weekly, The Nation Newspapers amongst others.

We are indeed grateful for the immense support received from the British Council, the Global Changemakers and other partners. We are gladdened by your unequivocal commitment to youth development in Nigeria as we look forward to celebrating IYD 2010

Report compiled by:

Jennifer Ehidiamen and Francis Anyaegbu

With support from 2009 IYD team members

Monday, August 17, 2009

REJUVENATED!

There is hope in our future, and there is a future in our hope! This is not a cliché, it is a conviction. As I traveled home from the British Council office on the Island , exciting thoughts began to run through my head, thoughts that rejuvenates me, knowing that the lives of those who joined us in celebrating the 2009 International Youth Day will never be the same again for good. Using Photography as an example, the simple message of turning one’s passion into action by merging intellectual knowledge with God-given talents was received warmly with understanding.

“It was a success.” “Very impactful.” “It was great to see young people doing things and older people encouraging them.” “It is my first time attending the program and I really enjoyed it.” “It is really engaging youths, the best I have attended so far this year.” These were some of the comments from some of the youths after the August 12 event which was sponsored by The British Council, Global Changemakers and Ola.lens.

For some, it is an experience that has reawaken their faith to embrace a new sense of hope, for others it might be that they are better inspired to ignite their innate creativity and passion- “creativity is key to survival” opined one of the participants. One thing that is undisputed is that our demeanor has changed for good and no longer will we sit passive in a materialistic, narcissistic or nonchalant way in the face of the challenges that confronts us.

The parlance “to know the road ahead, ask those who have gone ahead”, was in view when during the event, experienced adults panelists- James U. Iroha, a photographer; Tunde Kelani, a cinematographer; Boye Ola, a photography coach; Damola Taiwo, a web designer; and Tunde Aboderin, a development cinematographer drew from their wealth of experience to share with the youths first-hand knowledge of what they can do to be solution providers instead of being a problem.

In their words, “what is the energy of youth for if not to drive a positive change? It could be a big mistake to invest in material things instead of investing in human resource. Young people of this generation should take advantage of the opportunities and maximize the new technology to create a means of livelihood. Education is important, it is either you train yourself or get a formal training. Learn to embrace mentorship and prepare yourself to be able to pay the price in order to win the prize. Always think of inner satisfaction before money.” This generation must adopt a positive behavior to be able to overcome the challenges and help develop a sustainable existence towards a more fulfilling future!

Friday, August 14, 2009

FROM PASSION TO ACTION!

This year’s International Youth Day is themed: SUSTAINABILITY: Our Challenge. Our future. And as always (hopefully), young Change-makers across the world will be marking the day in different ways! What will you be doing to celebrate the event locally? “It is a myth that in order to be a change-maker, one has to give up a part of one’s life. We ask youth to imagine using their passion as a way to affect change. We ask youth to live their passions in a way that makes a positive impact in the world.” Says Jessica Rimington, the founder of One World Youth Project.

What does it mean to use one’s passion to affect change positively? Well, this year’s International Youth Day celebration by Global Xchange volunteers in Lagos will turn the usual pyramid of IYD celebration upside down by stepping out of the norm (conference, conference, conference!) and presenting the challenges of sustainability through a photo exhibition. With their backpacks slung over shoulders, catching cheap buses that connect different states in Nigeria, young photographers will capture the realities of this generation in lens and present them in pictures worth 5000 words.

On the D-day, August 12 2009, an exhibition tagged “Photo for Life” will be staged at the British Council Lagos to celebrate IYD in a creative way. Photo for Life, an Exhibition of photographs from the heart of Africa, is aimed at using the Art of photography to create an engaging means of involving young people to be active in building community. Considering the need for youth to embrace the challenge of sustainability in its fullness, young people need to tell their stories using images with a focus on impacting community and creating an engaging form of expression through photography with the hope of not only telling the story accurately but also motivating other youths to take action to effect positive change!

Photo for Life will feature photos from Olayinka Taiwo a young landscape photographer based in Lagos Nigeria with a passion for the Art as well as other young photographers passionate about using their talent/passion to impact their community positively.


Youth action, inclusion, and their full participation are key to developing today’s world for the generations of today and tomorrow and central to a sustainable existence.(UN IYD). The British Council Nigeria and Voluntary Service Overseas Abuja since 2006 have encouraged youth participation in developing their community through their Global Xchange IYD Celebration. Here is calling out to all young people out there to stand up and be counted- express yourself positively through your passion and be committed towards working for a positive change to build a more sustainable future!

Monday, August 03, 2009

RE-BRANDING MUSHIN!

“What can we do to develop the community we so much desire?” asked Femi Aderibigbe. To find answers to the mind bugging question, he gathered some young people in the Mushin Community in a forum at The Gospel Faith Mission Int’l Ayantuga. If you have ever been to Mushin , you may notice that some parts of the community are better off than other parts of Lagos , especially the self-acclaimed “hot spots”. Judging by face value, the community looks very warm, clean and boisterous. But, due to its past records of notoriety, young people who live in the community are stereotyped and now have to work extra-hard to prove their worth, in order not to be limited by their background.



For an average young person growing up in Mushin , not only do you have to cope with the unsavory reputation of the community, but also the discrimination you receive anytime you mention that you are a Mushine. “I submitted my CV for a job to a top official in the Aviation sector, but when he saw my address his countenance fell. He promised to get back to me and till today he hasn’t” recounts a young resident on some of the discrimination.



So many people like the Aviation Boss still believe that no right thinking people live in Mushin . Thus, residents are often pigeonholed and denied opportunities to be. But today, youths in the community are saying no to the discrimination and taking up responsibility to correct all erroneous opinion. “Born in Mushin does not mean Mushin was born in me. ” Said Oshungbon, a student. In the past, Mushin was known to be very notorious; the community always records the highest negative impact of any riot in Lagos . “No matter the name Mushin has carried before now, there are a people of value in Mushin .” Indeed, value and integrity is what will take you places irrespective of your community or background.



Like every other community in Lagos , Mushines (people who live in Mushin ) have talent, intelligence, resilience, skill, and compassion. And the young people are ready to come together to harmonize their value to develop the community by taking back its steering wheel from hoodlums, and rebrand the community in order to make it marketable.



Most young Mushines were encouraged by Esther Afolayan, the Senate President of Nigerian Children’s Parliament, to start the trend by neglecting negative attitude that misrepresent the community. “Do not speak too loud on the phone, avoid dressing awkwardly, don’t endorse any stereotype, standout as a model to others, interact with people from other community in a positive way etc. It is not really about where you live, but about the values in you!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

ONE DAY

When I heard that 8 years old Kanyinsola Soyannwo of international children’s film festival was going to deliver a speech to the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, I quickly signed up to join the crew that will witness the event. You know, it is not everyday young people get to have a tête-à-tête with Law makers.




“One day I asked my father what the future holds for me.” Young Kanyinsola began his speech, and a deafening silence filled the hall. “He took a deep breath, took my hands and led me out of the house to the balcony. He asked me to look up into the sky at the Moon and touch it if I can. I told him it is too far away and I cannot touch it. He smiled, asked me to close my eyes, and stretch my hands out and touch the moon.” Kanyinsola looked up to examine the impact of his speech on his attentive audience.




“That night, with my father beside me, I closed my eyes, deep, and looked inside my heart, and saw the moon, not far, far away, but so close by that I could easily stretch my hand, and touch it. That night, my father told me the future is as far or near as I see it in my heart…I stand before you as a child to tell you that one night, beside my father, in our small house, I looked up, stretched my hand, and touched the moon. That night, I realized that the future is as far away or as near as I see it in my heart. The future that I see is so close, so near, just a stretch away. The future that I see is not tomorrow, or weeks, or months or years away, but the future that I see, the future that I bring before you, is now, is today.




Today I am eight years old, and with my strength, there is so little I can do to change the world. But I can lend a voice, my child’s voice, to the call of children for global peace in Africa , a call for our brothers, our sisters, our fathers and mothers, in the Plateaus, the highlands and the Deltas, to drop their arms and embrace peace, for the sake of Africa , for the sake of children. I see a future. I see the future. I saw it that night beside my father. I saw it that night when I closed my eyes. It is a big, bright, beautiful future. I see it. I hope you can close your eyes and see it too.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

READER-RESPONSE TO "FOR GIRLS ONLY"

0705900xxxx: There is nothing you can do rather than to help her out in finding her the choice of man she desires because she has no hope of going to school due to lack of sponsor. She is from a poor family according to her. Do you expect her to go into prostitution? Please help her out…Thanks. Akor J- Port Harcourt.

Me: To pimp girls is like giving them an executive ticket to PROSTITUTION. Poverty is no excuse. What Happy needs is to get a job and work with her hands and not sleep around.

0705900xxxx: Please get me right, I did not say pimp her. She requested for a man to marry instead of her sleeping about. Secondly, she is not using poverty as an excuse- that is her condition. She needs to work, agreed. But where is the way out now that the labor market has been taken over by nepotism?

0805082xxxx: I read your article today- for girls only, I don’t think she should be scolded- at 22, it is better to get married if that is what she meant by her SMS than to be hawking in brothels in the name of funding her educational pursuit- please guide her with worthwhile options. Thanks. Ken.

0807162xxxx: hello Jenny, how was the weekend. I really enjoy reading your little column in THE NATION. You seem to always hit the nail on the head. I’m very impressed by your choice of words too...

0705823xxxx: Hello I’m Daisy from Benue State . Should Happy be blamed? There are countless girls in her situation who are encouraged, coerced or even forced by so-called parents, guardians and mentors, to sell their bodies in exchange for material things. Who then will educate these young women on the error of their ways when those who are supposed to take care of them are in fact responsible for their wayward behavior? Perhaps it is the mentors, parents and guardians who should be educated.

0803391xxxx: Good day Jen, ‘a nice and handsome man’ will of course empower your client, a man of her own, not moneybag, to lean on. She wants to be responsible, what is wrong with that? -Hankaka.

Me: Thanks for your text, but how will a nice and handsome man empower her?

0803391xxxx: Unless he wants to be saddled with a liability, he could identify her shortcomings and work on it. Heads together with love they can tackle it; remember it is now 2 heads.

Me: So any girls having issues now should start looking for a man to tackle their problem instead of taking up the challenge? The solution is not ‘quick fix it’ girls should learn to stand on their feet!

FOR GIRLS ONLY

“Good day, my name is Happy. I am 5ft and I need a man to call mine. I am 22 years old and some months. Please help get a nice and handsome man.” For some inexplicable reason, a young girl who copied my number from this column sent me the above text.

I told her that I was not a pimp and thus shouldn’t send me such messages. Out of curiosity, I asked her why she sounded so desperate for a man when she should be concentrating on more important things- e.g. securing her future with a good education or other form of positive empowerment. But guess what her reply was? Her parents are poor, thus, she is tasked with the responsibility of funding her studies.

But the text does not read “please help me get a nice, handsome and RICH man.” How does Happy intend to keep being happy and be empowered to fund her education by seeking a nice and handsome man?

Understandably, not necessarily acceptable, some youths in this generation are termed nymphomaniac, a very noxious challenge of our time, and the cravings for materialism is skyrocketing by the minute. You will be shocked at the things girls do for money these days- thanks to the increase of “poor” parentage in our society. Or is it the taste of youths that have become too expensive for humble parents to meet up with?

Amidst all of these, young girls are being fed with lies that are derailing their priorities in life. One of such is that all they need to be happy is to have a man- an aristo/a sugar daddy and its likes. This misconception about life has driven so many girls into self-destructive measure, leaving them emotionally and psychologically unstable.

More than ever before, it has become very crucial for parents, guardians, mentors, and stakeholders on youth and women affairs to teach Happy and all other young girls (including myself- can’t stop learning) from a fresh perspective, that their worth is not validated by the number of men that have laid claim on them. Thus, their energy should be redirected towards self-discovery and self-development in order to be like graceful pillars carved to beautify a place and be truly productive.

Monday, July 06, 2009

RE: A NATION’S IDENTITY CRISIS

Dr. Reuben Abati’s “A Nation’s Identity Crisis” published June 21st in the Guardian caused quite brouhaha and some youths are still sulking over the way he dissed this generation. I read the article and was appalled by how glaring it was that Dr. Abati does not know what it means to be in this generation. Although his article was underpinned by extensive research, not void of error as Banky W clearly pointed out, his level of detachment from this generation could not be ignored.

“You may not have noticed it: Nigeria is suffering from an identity crisis imposed on its part by an emergent generation of irreverent and creative young Nigerians who are revising old norms and patterns…” wrote Dr. Abati. And I ask, is time not supposed to change yesterday? He went further to analyze how this generation of youths have bastardized the image of Nigeria that Prof Dora Akunyuli is working so tirelessly to rebrand.

I am equally pissed by the name naija as much as I am browned off with the trend of the Nigerian hip hop that lack the sense, shape and skills found in good music. But I wonder why the politicians and businessmen in the older generation spend millions to have them mime in their events if these artistes are so empty.

Dr. Abati pointed out that “the older generation of Nigerians were brought up on a culture of correctedness and completeness…” Has it occurred to anyone yet that the older generation is denying the younger generations the privilege of being brought up in that tune of correct culture? The yawning gap that exist between the two generations is created by the lack of commitment and detachment of the older generations who are more concern with acquiring more titles than nurturing the younger generation.

We do not know Flora Shaw and Lord Luggard but we know him- Dr. Reuben Abati and a handful of other prominent adults in our society. But what role are they playing to ensure that the history they do not want us to forget is properly communicated? How are they mentoring this generation that lack discipline, patience and the ability to think through a subject to its logical end from utter ruin?

I understand the issues Dr. Reuben Abati seek to address and I respect his concern. In this age of the so called identity crisis, should this generation be so quickly endorsed? We will appreciate everyone's sincere commitment in turning the tide for good. After all, the bad leadership of the older generation is what has culturally refined us. We might be on the internet and sign up to twitter but we are not twits, the name Nigeria means something to us!

Friday, July 03, 2009

HE IS YOUNG AND NIGERIAN


What does it mean to be young and Nigerian? Does it mean putting one’s energy into internet fraud a.k.a yahooyahoo and dancing all day to Olu Maintain's "Yahoozee" or Kelly Handsome's "Maga don pay" to validate our efforts or relevance? Does it mean gaining admission into the University and as a result of peer pressure succumb to the bandwagon of aristocracy by becoming an assorted prostitute under the daring umbrella of "aristo"? Does it mean doing drugs and engaging in other unprintable acts?

Tolu Ogunlesi defiles that norm to redefine what it means to be young and Nigerian. As described by Kola Oshinowo, He has got passion, he is driven by purpose, and he is making progress, thus embraced by a world of possibilities. Being young and Nigerian is what Tolu represents and is celebrated for globally and locally. Well, ignore the fact that he just quit his day-job in the middle of an economic recession, while many are clinging on to theirs so religiously no matter how unsatisfactory, to focus on the talent life has handed him.

Although he studied Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan , today he is a writer, not just a writer but a celebrated achiever. He was a guest fellow, Nordic Africa Institute, Cadbury Visiting fellow and a finalist- 2009 CNN African Journalist of the year! How did he do it? "Hard work" said Tolu. Well, his hard work sure paid off. In the words of his Mentor , Toni Kan, "Tolu is the most published Nigerian on the internet". Talking about mentor, what is the importance of mentorship in achieving one's dream? Tolu says "The best way to see far is to stand on the shoulder of giants...there is no way you can be successful without learning from those who have gone ahead of you." So being young and Nigerian also means learning from mentors, their mistakes and their success.

On his advice to young people out there, struggling with the veracity of being Nigerian, Tolu says "This is the best time to be young and African. There are many opportunities out there, we need to keep our eyes and ears open...Sometimes I see a kind of a small mindedness in young people...we should aspire to compete on global level and stop being ghetto kings."

Tolu Ogunlesi is no ghetto King, he is respected and admired. It is no wonder the Future Award's Redstrat triplet (Emilia, Debola and Chude) on Wednesday organized a Red Reception for him at Swe Bar, to showcase an outstanding peer Role Model for this generation. The young man who breathes passion, purpose, progress and possibilities is now an icon in the Journalism profession (more than he is in the medical field?) and he is committed to keep blazing the trail.

Monday, June 22, 2009

THE DIFFICULT PILL TO TAKE

I love the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for all the most obvious reasons so many people love her- its academic and social vibrancy, as well as its ability to always be the first to break new ground. The rave of the moment is the exciting 1st Nigerian campus marathon, taking place June 24th, organized by the HKHE UNILAG students’ sports forum in conjunction with African Youth initiative on Crime prevention.

On a personal note, my interest in this event is stemmed in its significant role in closing the yawning gap between the students and staff of the institution. “Most lecturers and students have this master-slave relationship,” said Chris Ibe, the pioneer of the event. Thus, the programme is aimed at fostering a community where students will be able to relate freely with their lecturers on the positive light of Mentor-Mentee relationship. Dr. Adeyemi Awopetu, the staff adviser to the programme, said that the event would also create an avenue for new talents to be unleashed for the world of marathon that is currently being dominated by athletes from Kenya and Plateau state. “Exercise is a difficult pill to take…but we have to exercise to increase our fitness level and live longer.” In his view, the programme will achieve so much if embraced and sustained.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grace Otinwa is a keen advocate for youths to be engaged positively, thus her support for the event. “We encourage youth participation in active lifestyle as a means to meaningfully engage them.” She defined an active lifestyle as a lifestyle that is engaged in physical activity at least 30minutes to one hour everyday. “Our body is designed for movement, thus you have to move by way of walking, jogging, or running in order to alleviate diseases.” Fitness is a requirement for productivity and longevity. She also hopes that the students will be challenged to eschew cultism and other social vices and embrace activities that will contribute to their social, spiritual and mental growth and development.

Prof HOD Longe, the dean of student affairs, who threw his weight behind the concept did not hide his enthusiasm about being the first school to hold such event, “It is a noble initiative, and within the context of University, we have never had such an event in Nigeria.” He said. “Everything is not work, work, work! Fitness is very important because you are healthy when you are fit.” Now you have one more reason not to loathe UNILAG- she is a good at being the first to do credible stuff!

Monday, June 15, 2009

DANCE FOR LIFE!

If you were not at the National Theatre Iganmu Lagos last week then you missed a lot! Yeah, you missed the Crown Troupe of Africa’s live concert- the great music, the acrobatic dance, the thrilling cultural choreography, and the rib cracking jokes- all powered by a group of talented young people!

Five years ago was the last time I visited the National Theatre (shame on me right?), thus I was shocked by how intact the whole place is (well, the toilet was a little bit out of shape), and impressed by how so many fans turned up at the Cinema Hall 1 to watch Segun Adefila’s dance-theatre group at their best.

You know, a famous quote by Plato says “to sing well and to dance well is to be well educated.” And this group testifies to it with their commitment towards projecting our culture through the art of dance and music. Segun Adefila, the group leader once said “Some say art is for Art’s sake but I say art if for life sake.” Thus they make it a duty to pass a message about life through all their dance performance and songs, last week was no exception.

The star studded event, which was organized to celebrate Crown Troupe of Africa’s 13th anniversary and give a sneak preview of their anticipated/soon-to-be released album, brought together the likes of Sound Sultan, W4, Yinka Davies, Tosyn Bucknor a.k.a Contradiction, Princess, Modella, Tunde Kelani, Marian Travis, Yemi Sodimu, Beautiful Nubia and a host of other artistes.

The group set the stage ablaze with their first performance “Ere ti ya”, even those that didn’t understand the Yoruba language couldn’t help but dance to the rhythm and heavy beats displayed by their rich talent. Adunni and her Nerfititi vocals, all clad in white attire and armed with shekere, sang their own song with a passion that sent jitters down my spine.

“Mi o ni choice” another music-dance performance by the Crown troupe also deeply rooted in satirical lines and afro centrism cheered the audience up before sharing the stage with other artistes. Beautiful Nubia left us all with something to think about in his poetry performance titled “Can’t you see?”. Some performances were dipped low while some reeled to high heaven. For Segun Adefila and his group- The Crown Troupe of Africa, I am optimistic that the days will be good to them as long as they stay true to the course.

Friday, June 12, 2009

LEARNING FROM KIDS...

Children are important. Every society that wants to secure its future must invest in the children…the foundation must set right! Bad home training and bad influence from peers are some of the factors that contribute to the increase in juvenile delinquency…The CATE Green Africa trip to Badagry is not one I will forget in a hurry. Not because it gave me an opportunity to associate with people who are keen about greening the environment, or the significant experience of visiting the renowned Badagry Heritage Museum and the First Storey building in Nigeria but also because it gave me the opportunity to hangout with some brilliant kids who revamped my perspective on some critical issues. Yes, you can never underestimate how much you will learn from children by listening to them and taking note of every thing they say. That was exactly what I did…here are excerpts of our conversation:

So guys, did you have fun today?

All: Yes!

What is the significance of this trip to you?

Immanuel Oke: Well, the significance of this trip is to celebrate the Bicentenary of Bishop Ajayi Crowther and learn about the values that distinct him.

Sometimes we overlook the importance of history, did you learn anything at all from the tour?

Daranyo Omotunde: History has a role to play in the development of every child because it helps them learn where we are coming from and understand why things are the way they are.

Oluchi Amakoh: Learning about Bishop Ajayi Crowther really inspires me to aspire to become great too. The Nigerian children today are terrified because of the kind of environment they are exposed to- fighting, quarrelling etc as a result; they tend to define Nigeria based on such exposure, without knowing there is more. My visit to Badagry today has really challenged me to appreciate Nigeria better, despite the present challenges, because our forefathers faced worse situation. Imagine being in the generation where slavery thrived! We should endure and believe that Nigeria can change anytime just as it changed in the days of our forefathers. But we all have a role to play to change Nigeria .

Immanuel Oke: Yes, we all have a role to play. We can’t really leave everything to the government. Growing up in a bad environment is not an excuse to become bad. We must learn not to allow our environment influence us.

Michael Daranyo: the environment children grow up in matter too. But it is just that we are too quick to criticize the government in Nigeria , forgetting that the dirty environment we live in today was not made dirty by them. For example, is it the governments that drink pure water and litter everywhere with the sachet? If we don’t help ourselves, no one else can!

Israel Joseph: I think the Nigerian children should concentrate on their education right now and not worry about money. Our government only thinks of themselves. I am sure when we become leaders, we will not be like that.

Monday, June 01, 2009

IN MY PRINCIPAL'S SHOES

Good morning madam” greeted the JSS 2 Class of Sophia Group of schools. “Good morning students. You may have your seat.” said the young principal. “What do you have now?” she asked in impeccable English. “Business studies” the students chorused. “Good. Go and call your teacher.” And with those words, 12-years old Nellie Egun walked off to another class. As part of her responsibilities as a principal, she was making her morning rounds to the various classes to ensure that activities are going as smoothly as they should.

Twelve years old Nelli Egun was awarded the school super-hero of Sophia Academy after emerging winner of the weekly school quiz competition that was held for the term. One of her prizes included serving as the first one-day principal of the school. Asking about her experience as a student in a principal’s shoe, she says “It has been fun. This morning I made some announcements on the assembly and went round the classes to ensure that things are going smoothly.” To be an outstanding student in all ramifications, Nellie encourages her peers to be current about what is going on in the society. “Read wide and read newspapers in order to be up to date and knowledgeable about general issues.” She said.

For Mrs. Dupe Ajayi, the Principal of Sophia Group of schools, the idea of awarding super-hero to students every term is to encourage them to sit up and be competent in every field of knowledge. “We do this by engaging them in healthy competitions called who wants to be a hero. The quiz covers their curriculum as well as current affairs.”

“The first super-hero is not just an excellent student in academics but also an excellent student morally and in other areas of life. From our record, everything about Nellie stands her out, thus other students are encouraged to emulate her and conduct themselves well because leadership is something you work for and not something you steal.”

She encouraged the Nigerian students to fear God in order to walk in wisdom. On the challenges of today’s education system, Mrs. Ajayi said “The only challenge we have now is that there is no much emphasis on moral studies. In our days moral study was an important aspect of our curriculum. We need to return to our first love which is the love of God. Our curriculum is faulty because we are trying to copy others when we don’t have the right infrastructure. The government needs to start looking inward and stop talking from the two sides of their mouth when implementing new policies.”