Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Reminisce of Yar'dua's 1st Speech

“Your country has a new President,” She said. “An acting President” I corrected drily. And we both kept mum over the issue as I reminisced over an old article I wrote after President Umaru Yar’dua gave his first Presidential speech. His words tingled in our ears with pleasure… but did anything come of it? How much water has passed under the bridge since 2007! And with our new acting-President Goodluck Jonathan, we do not know whether to set our expectations high or low. But all the same, to sum up a new love letter: good luck to us Nigerians!

The old love letter: Congratulations Nigerians! We have a new government. Did you listen to the intoxicating speech given by our new President? That sounds so good... “Our New President”. Anyway, I was privilege to read the speech again this morning and I gained a broader understanding of why the world was excited after they listened to President Umaru Yar'adua's Presidential speech. The sure worth an ovation. If the power of presidential speech has anything to do with their performance, I cannot help but join Mr. Richard Gozney (The British High Commissioner) say that indeed a great future awaits Nigeria.

“Fellow Citizens, I ask you all to march with me into the age of restoration. Let us work together to restore our time-honored values of honesty, decency, generosity, modesty, selflessness, transparency and accountability...”says Mr. President. “Let us recapture the mood of optimism... Let us join together now to build a society worthy of our Children. We have the talent. We have the intelligence. We have the ability. The challenge is great. The goal is clear. The time is now.” he added.

Forgive me if you don't understand my excitement here, but this is the first time this generation is witnessing a Civilian-to-Civilian transition of power. The freshness of this new administration is worth jubilating over. Moreover, we would be dancing to a different tune if the third-term bid had made it through.

We all know that Nigeria as a whole has not been as easy as its spelling but we might as well stand on the right foot and join this new government in moving things right. Lets shun all manner of cynicism like the president advised and march on in the fear of God to restoration. Happy new dawn Nigeria. We hope in days to come, we will still have a course to dance.
Remember, this is a “Let us...” affair. All hands should be on deck to move Nigeria forward... everyone has a role to play. And once again Nigerians... Congratulations! And Mr. President, we hope you will back up your words with action. Everyone will be watching you lead by example and hopefully as the head moves, the body will follow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An unforgettable Valentine’s day

It was exactly today, four years ago. Few days before, my colleagues and I were planning how to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We made plans to organize a barbeque night to bring friends and family together. However, I was notified by my then producer at PRTV Jos, where I was interning, that I would be joining his crew for the making of “Rural Watch” a social diary-cum-advocacy program that serves as a voice for the voiceless at grassroots level.

So we made the long drive from one village to another. I remember being excited to see the Kerang Volcanic Mountain view as we drove by- It is the highland washed by fetching springs which supply the popular Swan spring water. We made a stop at Pankshin before heading to Doc Pai, the tipping point of my experience.

We saw the lack of basic amenities and the enormous inequity that exist in our society. It was an unforgettable Valetine’s day-one of the most challenging experiences of my life so far. For a young lady who grew up in Lagos, doing over three hours mountain climb and seeing beyond the myopic view of Lagos-city life came with life lessons that has helped me come on leaps and bounds.

Be well prepared: The teacher who gave us directions to the village up the mountain commended our team for being well prepared... Others relished the compliment except me because I was wearing a sweat shirt. Anyone familiar with mountain climb knows the importance of dressing light in comfortable clothes and shoes. You may never know what life will throw at you, but make sure you are always well prepared after making a decision.

Never give-up:
Midway through our climb, I became dehydrated and exhausted. I looked at my producer and Camera crew and said to them “I want to go back”. My producer laughed but disapproved of the idea. He told me that it will be much easier to climb down than climb up the mountain. Just like in everyday life, the way up is very difficult and tiring. So if you want to climb up the ladder of success, keep in mind that it won’t be easy, you must be ready to pant, sweat, and be frustrated at some point but be resilient, keep your eyes on the goal and never give up.

Be content: The people we met up the mountain were not wearing the latest fashion but they knew how to laugh and dance without inhibition. Their small community was cut off civilization (or not invaded by it), yet they made a receptive palace out of what seems like penury and we felt at home visiting them. They looked content - after all, "For better is half a loaf than no bread." But don't settle for half a loaf (which is better than none) when you can have a Bakery-- and feed more people.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My first day at DCPS

The District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) classroom was not exactly what I expected because I didn’t really know what to expect. Being a teacher’s daughter, I have had several opportunities to be in classrooms in the past and even teach a few classes. But Public Schools in Lagos is not the same as Public Schools in DC, hence I walked into this classroom with an open mind, but with a clear understanding of my purpose- to coordinate the One World Youth Project cultural exchange program.

Basically, the One World Youth Project connects Middle and High Schools globally for the purpose of cultural exchange and collaborative community service. For the past five years, we have connected about 67 schools in 26 countries. However, to be more effective and sustainable, we decided to expand to include Universities by setting up a program that will train University students to be cross-cultural facilitators and advocates in their local communities and also connecting universities globally through our network of participating institutions while bridging the disconnection that exist globally.

Oh well, the idea of bridging the yawning gap created by cultural stereotypes and religious diversity can be easily perceived as naïve. I mean, how can one close the disconnection that has existed for so many years even before this generation was born? Why does culture and cultural polarization seems to create more pain than gain? Is the beauty in our diversity fading?

As I sat down along with my team mates to listen to the 7th and 8th graders talk about what they think of culture, I began to see how deeply disconnected we are from one another- despite the popularity of technology age- the internet! It was disturbing to hear some of the kids say aloud in exasperation that life is a struggle and they wish we can start over. Isn’t that worth mulling over?

We recognize that no one in the world is exactly the same. But we all have many things in common and everyone in the world needs some of the same things- including basic amenities, respect and love. Everyone in the world needs God, forgiveness (all the “black people” hating “white people” (and vice versa) need to stop) and freedom, not just from an oppressive government but from people judging and stereotyping others. We need to create a deeper level of communication and connection that breeds mutual respect and understanding, empathizing but not the imposition of one’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs on others. Well, these were some of the thoughtful take-away I got from the youngsters in one of the DCPS. Despite the disconnection that exists, there is hope in our future after all because we are aware of this disconnection and awareness is the first step to restoration. The experience was rejuvenating.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Every cloud has a silver lining

It is easy to become detached amidst the injustice, anger and more anger- a boiling rage. Despair could take the place of patriotism. I mean, don’t we have a reason to be angry towards government leaders that are more concern about their selfish ambition than building the Nation? But what happens when the blame game and protests seems no longer effective in addressing the issues and challenges facing us? How can we press on and not to loose hope?

“Today the shadow of doubt has been cast on the future of our nation but be rest assured that we deserve to have our pride restored if only you and I decide to actively participate in this process. The solution to our problems lies in you and I. Patriotism, Activism and concern for Nigeria is not a favor, it is a duty we owe our motherland. Let us hold on to the hope that has brought us this far, we have what it takes to make a change.” Rosanwo Babatunde, Global African Dialogue GADO, Ukraine/Nigeria.

“We live in such as interesting time. Interesting for us as a people, a Nation and even as individual. We have been failed not only by our leaders, but also by one of US – who have put a stigma on not just the Nation but also on we Youngsters. However I believe that this lays the onus on us – as Young people to correct the wrongs – come together and rebuild Nigeria. It is time to re-write the history of our Nation – a New History of like Nelson Mandela wrote in our Neighboring South Africa, and like Obama wrote in the far United State of America. Remember, there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground, and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish, and put forth sprigs like a plant.” Dayo Israel, Africa Diaspora Youth Forum.

“Many not-too good things has happen and many have lost faith in Nigeria, but we must not, because the country' hope rest on us to do better. As a child, I had dreams and aspirations in spite of growing up in a middle-class family with various challenges and now I can say that I have overcome some of them. You too can achieve greater things only when you believe in God and in yourself. So continue to believe in yourself, in God and in Nigeria.” Esther Agbarakwe, Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition.

Every cloud has a silver lining and the same is true of the current situation in Nigeria. It comes with an opportunity to stretch our hope and tenacity. Nigeria would flourish again, but we must choose to water it with our skills, talent, passion and gift. Let us rise and build.