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:
and Digital Media:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


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.”


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.