Wednesday, July 29, 2009


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


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!


“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


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


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.