Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who is Nigeria's Savior? We All Are!

Theme: Teamwork
[Naija Mondays Series]

Who is Nigeria’s Savior? We All Are!

When I think of ‘Teamwork’, I think of my intramural soccer team in college, the N4C group, my work group, my support system, and many more basic life dimensions. Basically, almost everything we do relies on some level of teamwork. Tiger Woods plays a so-called individual game, but he has a team in his caddy, his trainers, and his coach. In some sense, even a combination of Tiger and his competitors form a team because that is where we get our entertainment from. I am not sure I want to watch only Tiger Woods swing a golf club for an entire weekend, but add some rivalry, and a bunch of other characters, and you now have an audience. Even the human body functions as a team of parts.

Some people are very impressed with the job Governor Fashola’s administration is doing in Lagos, Nigeria. I hear some people say they are “impressed with the job Fashola is doing.” While this is not a false statement, Fashola cannot get anything accomplished alone! In fact, his most difficult task is to surround himself with people that share his vision and are competent enough to hit their goals.

I joined a team of individuals that started a Foundation to empower indigent youth through education. The group is called Merry Hearts Foundation. I have come to appreciate the importance of teamwork and the need for trust because no one individual can do it all. When a team sets forth to achieve a worthy goal, the results are a joy to watch. While I could probably have helped a few students if I embarked on the journey alone, collectively we have helped over 50 students and orphans, and provided infrastructure worth about $10,000 within 2 years.

When I read through the N4C blogs, I realize that each writer brings a unique style that sort of defines their writing. By combining the different styles, we leverage each other’s strengths and appeal to a broader audience. The N4C group is a lot more than our blog! So even as we strive to accomplish greater things for Nigeria, we will need to leverage the strengths of people other than the group administrators. We need to tap into the ideas, experiences, intellect, courage, network, and personalities of the greater Nigerian community – especially N4C members.

But it is very important to note that the idea of creating a team is a subset of the bigger picture when discussing ‘Teamwork’. More important is the ability to create a functional team that draws on individual strengths to elevate the performance of the team as an entity. In fact, my favorite teams are ones that bring together diversity of ideas, thought, background, experience, skills, approach, and ideologies. Diversity brings forth more holistic results when the diverse team members contribute to the end product because there is less likelihood of pigeon-holing team ideas and actions to restrictive paths. Obviously, this depends on the team dynamics.

This brings me to another important point: selflessness of team members for the greater good. Assume I were elected leader of ‘N’ state and you were elected leader of neighboring ‘M’ state. If your state is prospering and mine is floundering, it is probably easier for you than any other state to provide some level of support because we are part of a neighboring team of states that form a country. Unfortunately, many people will rather beat the other party (or state) down to selfishly benefit their party. The problem arises when you do nothing and my state’s economic turmoil starts affecting the national economy. Imagine bitter, jobless people from my state crossing over into your state and partaking of criminal activities to sustain their families. While no one justifies such, you will probably spend more resources trying to secure your citizens when you could have shown a worthy gesture by providing support. Selflessness also means that the individuals that make up the team do away with their egos/personal agendas and welcome strategies that benefit the team.

When I think of Nigeria, I think of a team of capable and courageous individuals that will stand together to fight the tides of failure, beat down the culture of corruption, and raise the hopes of a nation. Nigeria’s success is not a ‘1-man’ job so do not wait for a savior – it requires a collection of productive individual efforts. I envision a leadership team that is void of ethnic prejudice and embraces a balance that protects the interests of the nation as a whole. I pray for a government that includes people from every corner of Nigeria. How can you design a car for pregnant women without women (preferably women drivers that have been through pregnancy) having an input in the design? How can we resolve the issues of the Niger Delta if we don’t have people in leadership who share the vision of finding a resolution? Imagine going into the Nigerian government and trying to curb corruption all by yourself – it is impossible! You need a team of individuals that share your vision and are up to the task.

We urge you to be ‘functioning’ team members of Nigerians4Change (N4C). We will be rolling out some projects in the near future and your uniqueness is all we seek! Small team member contributions add up to great team successes. We welcome your participation, ideas, and action as we trudge forward as a TEAM of Nigerians (or otherwise) thirsty for groundbreaking successes for the great nation of Nigeria!!!

Humbly written by Tomiwa Igun

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Naija Mondays (Theme: Teamwork)

Title: Who Will Bell The Cat?

For about seven weeks, different individuals have written from various perspectives of what being Nigerian entails as well as the outlook of Nigeria from the present political facet, to what we hope it would be. Going back through these passionate and well written opinions and hopes, one major condiment was salient. Everyone in one way or another made mention of this very important attribute, a must have if we look forward to a developed and efficiently habitable Nigeria: Teamwork.

The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of the term did do justice to what I was thinking in my head: Work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole. Isn’t that what being a part of building a country that works is all about? This is what N4C is about, and I can just see President Barack Obama’s face as he persistently employed every American to join in the effort to rebuild America. I carry such hope for Nigeria, where the citizens would be apt to asking questions and getting involved with the affairs of the country, where corrupt policies would be thrown out the door for the overall gain of the populace. It doesn’t take just the president or his cabinet to achieve; it takes every Nigerian working in their own small way, targeted at the same goal and purpose; rebuilding Nigeria.

Don’t think I and N4C are being Panglossian in reasoning thus over looking some intricate issues, but we can’t help but be optimistic about Nigeria. And as Benjamin Franklin puts it, we must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately. This is in response to those who believe Nigeria would be better as separate entities and thus do not wish to participate in the progressive development of the country but speak ill of certain units of the country. It’s our duty as a country to work things out together irrespective of our locality and ethnicity.

Vince Lombardi knew a thing or two about the positive outcome of teamwork when he opined that people who work together will win, whether it be against complex defenses, or the problems of modern society. If we all take a stroll down memory lane, we can all attest to the fact that healing Nigeria is fighting against complex defenses and problems of modern society, so do we come together as patriots with a keen sense of duty, or would we let these vicissitudes, tackle us and make us listless? I throw it at us to go back to the tenets of our being Nigerian, back to the days when neighbors helped neighbors and when raising a child was the job of the community. Back to the days when youths respected their elders and would stand up to let an elder seat instead, back to the days when the ratio of WE’s surpassed that of I’s, a great indicator of development. And as was displayed by Prof Chinua Achebe in his classic Things Fall Apart, when the center doesn’t hold anymore, then things begin to fall apart. It becomes imperative we as Nigerians need to come together to work on our country. The proverbial stick of broom when compared with the bunch cannot stand the test of being a cleaning agent, and same goes for us as Nigerians. I cannot do it alone, we need to come together as a whole: The south letting go of their grief with regards to the exploitation of their land and working together with the west while the east and the North can also come together in harmony.

In Closing, I would reiterate the words of Sir Henry Ford: COMING together is the beginning, KEEPING together is progress, and WORKING together is success. That is my dream for us as Nigerians, for our generation. It’s not good enough to talk, it’s not good enough to idealize these things, it’s not enough when we choose to become part of organizations and groups; We need to start COMING,KEEPING and WORKING (DOING) TOGETHER as NIGERIA. The era of the rugged individual is giving way to the era of the team player. Everyone is needed and no problem is insurmountable. With a little courage, teamwork and determination, Nigeria can OVERCOME Anything.

Written by Seleipiri Iboroma Akobo

Monday, April 13, 2009

Defending Nigeria: A conversation with a German Girl

(Naija Monday Series. Theme: Destiny)

There was nothing remarkable about the girl I was talking to. She was in her third year of a PhD program, and had graciously agreed to be my host for a night while I visited the school. We had taken an instant liking to each other: when we first met at the department, all through the tour of the campus and the drive around town, and were now at dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Then the dreaded question came: Why were so many of the 419 crooks out of Nigeria?

It always takes me aback when I have to answer these questions, and I’ve had to answer them quite a few times. The first time it had come up, it’d been at work. My all white-male team and I had been gathered in a conference room, ostensibly to review design files, when someone had gone online and started projecting overhead humiliating images of my country men from 419eater.com. I wanted to cry. Why are your country people crooks? They’d asked me. And why are they so stupid they’d actually take these pictures of themselves and send it abroad? Are they that desperate for money? I looked away in shame and stuttered an answer I can barely remember – something about how all countries had crooks and poverty and unemployment drive people to extremes.

Now, however, I looked Helga full on in the face, and smiled. "Because they’re smart," I said. "And sharp but temporarily idle minds find things to do. But surely you will not judge an entire nation by the mistakes of a few?" She smiled back at me. "Of course not," she said. And we continued our conversation.

I don’t know if my answer was completely true. But I do know that my days of being ashamed of Nigeria are over.

During the course of the same weekend I had to answer several questions about government policy with regards to Science and Technology in my native home, and some of the projects being done. I proudly pointed them to the Science and Tech University in Abuja, crossing my fingers and hoping that the website would not be down. How about industry in general? I was asked. What progress had been made? Although I privately railed about the low quality of the wireless telecommunication infrastructure that had been installed – low because prepaid plans offer carriers little incentive to deliver quality service as they have few contracts to maintain – I waxed poetic as I described the fact that communication isolation was quickly becoming a thing of the past, and painted delightful pictures of the numerous possibilities that awaited my generation. How about power? I smiled. The power problem has already been solved, I said. All that remains is to figure out how to deploy these small scale alternative power sources and make a real impact.

Some of the professors were amused, others downright cynical. How will you deal with the vested interests? They asked. You have all these dreams. How do you hope to accomplish them? And why you?

Because this is what I was made to do, I answered. This is my destiny. And it's not just me, I continued. I told them about this generation, our generation. About the murmurs of unrest that have been echoing from the congested islands of Lagos to the rocks of Abuja... The echoes that had reverberated and birthed foundations and non-profits and businesses from Atlanta to Seattle, to London, to Kiev. I told them of the things I had seen – the businesses making profits even as they competed in a landscape rife with uncertainty, but showing the kind of resilience and creativity that only Nigerians are known for. I told them about my friends and frenemies, about icons and politicians who were using their positions and their stature in community to make a difference. And as I spoke, I realized something:

This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill, tell-them-what-they-want-to-hear BS to get the offer. This was really what I believed.

I am proud of Nigeria. Of the faceless Nigerians that go about their business everyday, and of the famous CEOs that now serve as role models. I am excited about Nigeria. And I am excited about this generation.

The winds of change are coming. It is destiny. Even if we try to run, we cannot avoid it. If we sit back and watch, and refuse to help, it will simply consume us. We have a unique chance to shape the future, to make an indelible mark on our Nation. Won't you come join us, and fulfil destiny?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Naija Mondays (DESTINY)

Wait, it’s my turn!

For the past few weeks (Mondays in particular), you’ve been blessed to read from various extraordinary young people about their views, their hopes and dreams for Nigeria. Their posts were based on the theme DESTINY. This week, I’ve been given a rare opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

I’m not a writer and was sincerely not too keen about writing but then, I looked at my life and considered the theme, DESTINY! Destiny is what brought me to the point of writing this post, believe it or not. I’ve had a very long while to think about what to write, so here we go!!

Destiny: What It Means to Me

Destiny can be described in many ways but I choose to define it as: the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events. I’ve been through various stages in my life, tried to go certain ways to avoid certain things but always seem to end right where I should have been initially. It took me seven years to attain my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry but seven years that led me to my destiny, where I’m supposed to be. And you know what I tell people, those seven years were just the beginning of the best of me.

Nigeria, My Love.

I see the same for Nigeria. Greatness lies in the country in so many ways and in so many people that it is tough to pick where to start from. We’ve been known to be so smart and intelligent, blessed with natural resources that many countries long after, attitudes, characters and personalities that only point toward great things. But very few have stepped up to their destiny to bring Nigeria into the lime light of its greatness. We’ve talked and talked and talked that talking now just seems like me bringing in air. Words have no more effect on the greatness of the country. I’ve lived in two other African countries, United States, visited some other countries and everywhere I’ve been too, the consensus seems to be the same. The way forward for Nigeria is in us, you the person reading this article, and me the writer. In addition to talking about it, we need to start doing; doing in the sense of stepping up and facing our destiny and leading Nigeria to where it needs to be.

Which Way Forward?

You know, every individual has his/her own plan to change Nigeria for the better but I have learned over the years that working together as a team ALWAYS yields the best results. It means helping one another achieve what is best for Nigeria. What are you doing to lead Nigeria towards its destiny? Are you one of those that like to talk and talk and talk but never have any action to show for it? Are you one of those that would agree with everyone but when it boils down to getting work done, you come up with excuses? (I used to be like that a few years ago…but my destiny caught up with me). Are you preparing for the next stage for Nigeria’s greatness?

Final Words

I’m a believer that one must continue to push forward positively and work hard and smart to attain their destiny. That could mean stepping out of the comfortable box, which you’re used to. Take that leap of faith in facing your fears and working towards your destiny. You might as well start now, because sooner or later, your destiny is going to catch up with you and you won’t want to be left wondering why you hadn’t stepped up to it a long time ago.

So I leave you with these words of hope: “The Struggle continues, Victory is Certain”.