The odds surely were not in my favor on Friday the 19th July, 2013. I was already running close to the 5pm submission deadline for an NIPP bid when the internet decided to stop working, then power would follow and like cherry atop the cake, the generator would not start. This all would leave me in thought, if we succeeded in acquiring the desired power plant, would Nigeria’s power situation be any better? Would we do a better job than the government has done at managing the generating plants? Just when I thought it could not get better, it did.
I very lazily flung my drawer open and I saw it, a printed out invitation for the 20th to an event that would compensate for what had now become a hard-work-filled-week with no results to show. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, Aisha Babangida, Simeon Ononubi and Okechukwu Ofilli all people who I considered role models were going to speak.
Dressed in smart brown pants and a slightly off-white corporate shirt complete with cufflinks, I left at least 15 minutes early to the Sheraton Ladi Kwali hall venue of the event- as this event would be a gathering of people who lead twitter protests demanding change in Nigeria, I had expected it would start on time.
My excitement quickly paled; I registered, a really nice name tag was printed and pasted on my left breast pocket- this is how organized events should work I thought. I took my seat and after what must have been a good 45 minutes behind schedule the MC- very young in his demeanor, would come with apologies, he would assure that the event would start soon.
The lights would go off and in a matter of seconds focus on a projector from which the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2009 Oxford TED talk ‘Danger of a single story’ would play. Not minding that this talk is about 5 years old and probably is the most watched Nigerian talk by Nigerians, everyone in the hall sat watching: knowing what would happen next, but watching nonetheless.
Bringing with it relief, the very refreshing Sir Ken Robinson talk on Education stifling Creativity would start. Just then, the MC would rudely interrupt again; tell a tale of how time was a scarce resource and go on to explain the video like we were not capable of watching and understanding it for ourselves.
Aisha Babangida would give the first talk. I was amazed at her simplicity, there was humility, kindness in her voice, qualities that I previously did not think would be present in someone who was born to a military ruler who is said to have single handedly destroyed Nigeria’s future and squandered all the fortune that would come with it.
She went on to give a talk on values, respect and mentorship. She would speak of her mother’s NGO Better Life program which she now runs and is still focused on empowering women and youth. She would end her 18 minute talk with a tale of how someone who accused her of being rich and therefore not in touch with the poor people’s plight would later become her press officer and co-worker on a few people oriented programs.
Then Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in his impeccably tailored safari and usual humility would take the stage, give a stimulating talk on overcoming the fear of vested interests, talk about his experience with firing bank chiefs and how everyone was sure he would loose his job and/or life immediately afterwards.
He would speak of a certain female bank chief and Usher in her local church who stole more than a billion dollars and owned more than 200 choice properties in Dubai. A male bank chief and pastor of his local church who was handed over to the EFCC for prosecution and was mandated to pay back about N47.1bn in looted funds, with the intervention of some Northern leaders he was eventually discharged of all liabilities- At this point, I thought to myself, if you have any thoughts that suggest that a woman cannot out perform a man, just look to the story of the female bank chief.
He would quote really gory statistics and warn that if we do not demand change for fear of loosing security, we should know that in a matter of time, we surely would loose the same security we seek to preserve.
The MC who at this point sounded more like a bearer of bad news to me would announce that Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai was not going to come.
Simeon Ononubi who is CEO YouWin and has found start-ups since he was 16 would give a talk on business innovation, he would tell his experience with starting ‘Back Up My Phone’ with as little as a hundred dollars, only to sell the application a few months later for about Twenty thousand dollars. He would also talk of ‘Simple Pay’- Nigeria’s equivalent of Pay Pal. His talk was easy flowing, sensible, nice. I remember leaving the venue with new found respect for the man.
Nasir K Mohammed who was Secretary General to the ‘Nigerian Model UN’ and is just as impressive with his qualifications spoke on Entrepreneurship. Bright Jaja followed with the story of ReDance Africa and how the organization he founded with very modest expectations has grown beyond all he thought. Fatima Dansamaila talked on youths in sustainable development and Engineer and dedicated blogger, Okechukwu Ofilli who also is creator of the Okada books application would give a very lively talk on innovation.
In the end, despite its flaws, it would do what a TED talk should do: there was a richness and abundance of ideas exchanged amongst speakers and participants that is bound to see anyone walk away with one or two of his or her own ideas. Personally, the event would leave me inspired, motivated and with zeal to go break barriers, be the best I can be.