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

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