Sunday, July 25, 2010

I was a baby when the big bridge fell

Looking at the situation in Nigeria today, does the lyric from the song “Sweet Jesus” by Gary Chapman resonate with any Nigerian born October 1st 1960? For the purpose of this article, the bridge is a metaphor that describes the pre-independence era.

There is a river running through this town
It carries the water
There isn't any way to slow it down
Or make it stop
I was a baby when the big bridge fell
So I don't remember
But I have listened to the stories well
And so I know…

This generation can only comprehend that era based on the stories we read in textbooks. Some tell it without hiding the bad taste the experience left in their mouth. Others tell it with disjointed facts. But the undeniable fact remains that in 1960, the big bridge of colonialism and everything it represented fell and Nigeria gained independence.

About 50 years later, we sing the song of freedom in a different tune. We are faced with the challenge of stopping an overwhelming river of injustice and oppression that is running through Nigeria before it drowns everyone. Leaders at different levels (including workplace and school) are going wild with greed for power and materialism at the cost of other people’s well being, thus driving the country backward into recession.

Nmachi Jidenma in her article "Grow Up Africa!" wrote “I don't know about you but I am frankly tired of the current whine fest we all seem to be partaking in a little too much towards Western nations. Isn't it getting a bit old? "They are too condescending" "They give us too much aid." ...They are too this, they are too that! I used to partake somewhat actively in the whine fest but I have decided to move on”

We can apply this same attitude and move on in Nigeria. We can’t keep whining and nagging at the failed Nigerian government leaders for so long. After all, my government teacher (an authority in his field) did teach us that we, the people of a state, make up the government. Thus, we should be solution oriented.

Ayodele Taofiq-Fanida, recently initiated “Project 1960”, a research aimed at documenting the lives of 50 Nigerians born October 1960. The stories will give “Nigeria at 50” a human face and proffer solutions to the overwhelming problems in our society while bringing hope to the younger generation. The book, which will also feature a detailed introduction on the pre and post-independence history of Nigeria, will be launched during our country’s 50th independence anniversary. For more details please email That is Ayodele, doing his thing, what can the rest of us do, aside nagging?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vitamin ‘D

A few nights ago, I had an interesting discussion with a friend. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to refer to him as Vitamin D for two reasons—his first name starts with a ‘D and the discussion was really vital to the mind, like vitamins to the body.

Vitamin D is a skilled Basketball player and also a skilled website builder. He shared an interesting entrepreneurial vision and I asked him what was motivating him to do what he is doing. All he said was that he wanted to make money. I was astounded by the response. His words sounded strange to my ears because it was not diluted with the usual element of “change the world” I was used to. But his honesty was spot on.

For many years now, I have been so rooted in the field of Social change, which most people refer to as Social Entrepreneurship that the business side of entrepreneurship has eluded me. I am always baffled when I meet people who would not volunteer or share their skills or use their resources to serve others without expecting anything in return. But the reality is, if we were all volunteers, the world won’t stop spinning but we might as well be imbalance. "We need to reverse three centuries of walling the for-profit and non-profit sectors off from one another." said Bill Drayton of Ashoka. Social change-makers need Business entrepreneurs to create a balance in every society. One field must not under-value the relevance of the other; at least that is what I learnt from Vitamin D.

As a young person, it is crucial to define what area you would like to serve in- the non-profit sector or the business sector- fulfillment is key. And like Vitamin D, be very honest and focus without allowing anybody’s lack of understanding relinquish your passion.

Dear ‘Deaola:

How did we forget how to be young?
and think like a normal lady would?
Every minute, our hearts are filled
with a mandate to change the world
while reaching out to the once forgotten.

But I sometimes wish
I can sit, cross leg, read a fashion magazine
and not worry about the tears of the world.

Our dream as little girls was to be and do,
like Biblical Esther, Deborah, Joseph and Daniel,
We laughed when those in pain found succor
and cried when gun shot drowned our teenage giggles.
We dream with our eyes open and hold on to grace.

Our dream, dear 'Deola,
has always brought us together and apart
to find our paths.

I had a glimpse into the future,
in our Septuagenarian age,
young girls asked us how they can change the world,
we saw ourselves in them and told our story.
For a new circle of change-makers bud with every generation.

(c) Jennifer Ehidiamen

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great...

"Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.” (Jim Rohn).

I first shared this story on and would like to tell it again. A couple of weeks ago, Oyetola (not real name) was selected by an international organization to represent Nigeria at a conference in London. As he later recounted “I just applied for the conference and I got in…” I paused for a few minutes; waiting for him to tell me he was using the opportunity to abscond, after all, relocating from the shores of Nigeria is something he has always pursued fervently. But was I disappointed! “I took part (in the program) and I was inspired. Now I know it is better for me to return home, because there are a lot of things I could do there… Trust me, I will be home in about two weeks…”

No longer is Oyetola obsessed with the idea that real life begins outside the shores of the continent. Although he admits life in the continent is stressful, he said for the first time he realized that to make a good life for himself, he would also need to contribute to Nation building. If it took a week conference for the young man to experience such a paradigm shift, I put aside my beef against youths who are always attending conferences after conferences instead of committing their time and resources to doing hands-on development work.

“It would take a whole generation to change Nigeria because it took a generation to destroy it.” Oyetola said, reflecting on how the program impacted his perspective about the current socio-political landscape in Nigeria. “Whose generation then?” I asked. “Our generation. But it has to be a collective effort…to effect a total revolution” he said.

The condition in Nigeria today damages the self-esteem and aspirations of many youths. Oyetola compared it with walking on the street of London aimlessly without a sense of direction. Nigeria has so many resources and potential, yet it seems out of the grasp of the average Nigerian youth…

Like Oyetola, many of us need a re-awakening experience to enable us re-channel our energy, passion and commitment to nation building, without compromise. When Nelson Mandela, the former South African President, addressed the crowd at Trafalgar Square in London’s Make Poverty History Campaign, He said: “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy.But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.” That was five years ago. But his words resonate to youths today, in Nigeria and everywhere...sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great, we can be that great generation.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010

An Attic room of a different dimension

I like my attic room. It gives a vantage point of our neighborhood, which is a sight for sad eyes, depending on who is looking out the window. But the attic, as described by the former occupier- a writer, is “definitely not for everyone.” Before her, the person who lived in the room was a painter. It seems to me, people who live in the attic have got some artistic traits or a good sense of creativity needed to make a palace out of the unpopular space.

A few days after moving in, my feet got accustomed to the steeped stairs that felt a bit dangerous climbing up and down on. Nothing about living in the attic is normal. The temperature is totally different, from the rest of the house. I was told “in terms of temperature, it can get very hot very fast in the room, so I generally keep the vents closed. The air-conditioning unit in the window is broken but the house's central air-con works fine in the room.”

Also, the shape of the room is different from the others. “The ceiling is asymmetrical which is strange for some people. There's no closet. Because the stairs are so narrow it would be difficult to bring most furniture up there.”

However, despite its oddity, the room is one of the most spacious in the house. Located on the very top of the building, you can be sure of enjoying some level of privacy. Its exquisiteness is the exposed red brick walls on the two end of the room. The attic is definitely not for everyone, but I found the room with my name on it, not literally. And it is serving its purpose.

Sharing Dayo Israel and Dabeseki’s story in the last two editions was not to validate education as the only path to fulfillment. Or discredit the potential ways vocational study and other non-traditional education system is helping young people discover their passion and equipping them with the skills needed to serve and succeed in life.

Just like the attic, some situations are created in a way that will help individuals find their unique paths. But the pressure to conform to the norm takes over too quickly and we loose the unique opportunity to have a vantage point of how things are and ought to be. Before we know it, we start working with another man’s wristwatch and forget our sense of purpose and individualism. And when the going gets tough and the pressure heats up, we either end up blaming others and the society for our circumstances or take responsibility to find a new dimension to make life livable.