Sunday, July 19, 2015

#ShapersCONNECT review

Adejoh Idoko Momoh
For anyone who knows me, they know I’d never pass up on an opportunity to hear El-Nathan speak. He isn’t just a phenomenal writer, he is also true; his honesty is brutal in an ‘I-don’t-care-if-it-hurts’ kind of way.
When I got the #ShapersCONNECT invite and it pointed out that one of my favorite people, Jake Okechukwu Effoduh will compere and El-Nathan John will speak on social media usage and its consequences, attendance was a no brainer for me.
You see, there are certain social circles in Abuja and the Abuja Global Shapers is one comprised of leaders under the age of 30 who are exceptional in their potential, achievement and drive to make a contribution to their communities. At least that’s what it says on the website.
Being there at the event and seeing all the people, I could tell this was no ordinary crop. It
was evident in the way they spoke; the ease with which words bounced off their lips, the delicacy with which they held their glasses, how they gently rubbed on your forearm as they complimented you, I was glad to be there.
The theme itself was fitting- ‘the role of youths in an Evolving Nigeria’ and 3 entrepreneurs shared their perspectives. I do not remember names and all, but I remember the feeling that came with the first entrepreneur. She had this ‘our-society-is-plagued-with-ills-look-and-i-am-here-to-correct-it’.  
I believed this, at least until she started speaking. She began a sermon on financial lessons she learnt from reading the Financial Times and continued with the fact that she relocated from the United States in 2010 and started her Nigerian business in 2011.
She spoke on poverty, talked about discipline and savings and the fact that she was 21 years old when she bought her first house in Maryland. She now owns two homes in the United States.

‘I hardly think she is qualified to talk on poverty’ I said to the stranger who sat next to me. He grinned. The sort that suggested he didn’t want to be spoken to.

Talks of poverty are important in the sense that they create awareness around the issue and the urgent need to end it, but her views were very elitist, unrealistic even. How do you weigh poverty by the capacity to buy houses? In America no less? How many middle class Nigerians even own homes in Nigeria? How many Nigerians have even heard of the Financial Times? Or seen a copy? Or read its words?
Home ownership is important, but it hardly is one of the issues poor people in Nigeria concern themselves with. Poor people usually have issues that surround survival: feeding, access to water, shelter even if make shift or temporary, they hardly are concerned about saving up to buy a home, it’s the least of their priorities.
The second entrepreneur who is the founder of Designers Market Place spoke on innovation in business and youth participation. I honestly have no recollection of her talk. DMP is an event that holds on the last Saturday of every month in Abuja. Designers showcase fancy clothes and prospective buyers come to occasionally make purchase. The DMP is a terrific idea in the sense that it provides common ground for designers and buyers to interact and achieve patronage. For most, it is simply a social hangout, one where you wear your finest clothing, meet up with friends and pose for selfies with mostly red disposable cups.
The close was the most interesting for me; El-Nathan gave a fantastic talk on social media and responsible journalism. He spoke of the lack of social consequences for misuse of media power and the responsibility for free speech. He closed with what to me was sheer genius and I quote, ‘Everyone can choose to assert his right to free speech, but ask yourself, what end does your assertion serve?’ Pure brilliance.
While El-Nathan spoke, I saw Ohimai Godwin Amaize more known as @MrFixNigeria on twitter adjust in his seat, seeing as he has been irresponsible with social media usage, I was almost sure hearing El-Nathan speak mostly rebuked him. I thought to myself, 
'there’s someone finally facing the consequences for misuse of social influence'.

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