Monday, May 18, 2009

Gbe, k'emi gbe

(Naija Monday Series. Theme: Teamwork)

It was hard for me to write this post.

I usually don't find it hard to write. I am the daughter of an English teacher, and my summer vacations were spent writing essay upon essay for my mom. I would ask her if I could go play downstairs with the neighbor's kids. She would ask if I had read 'all my books'. The few times I dared to say yes, she would say to sit down and write her an essay. Those were interesting days... But I digress.

Why was it so hard to write this? A simple reason: guilty conscience. I haven't been a very good part of a team I belong to of late. Of course life happens, and work happens, and travels are necessary, but guess what? Those are all excuses. So five or so different times in the past few days I sat down to pen an exposé on the amazing awesomeness of teamwork, and each time I felt incredibly like a hypocrite. "What right have you to write about this?" my conscience would ask me. Each time a slow reel consisting of the list of things that I had not yet done for N4C would begin to play, and I would put my laptop away, ashamed.

But that's not going to work. I cannot let myself get tied down by my shortcomings, and or let it suck out my energy and creative ability. I am not perfect. I recognize and acknowledge that. But I will not sit and wallow in self-pity. I will pick myself up, shake that dust off, and move on. So this is me moving on. This is the first small step towards me picking up my slack and doing my part. This is me rejoining the team... and this is part of the beauty of a team:

While I was otherwise occupied, my teammates have kept N4C going. They have researched articles of incorporation and tax laws, continued to encourage members and representatives all over the globe and co-ordinate projects. If I were doing this alone, N4C would most certainly have dropped into obscurity. But they were there - and I hope to be there for some of them in the future.

Man is a social being, but every now and then we are tempted to think we can handle our lives and projects alone. Unless it's a class project assigned to individuals, in which case collaborating can get you kicked out, I humbly submit that it's best to work with a team. It's amazing the diversity of ideas, based on all the unique individual's experiences, that each team member brings. I remember brainstorming sessions with this amazing group of people, strategy sessions with SWE in college, and staying up all night to finish projects for the organization my friends and I were charterring on campus at that time. Being in a team and contributing to a team teaches one so much about oneself - you get to see yourself through the eyes of others, you learn to compromise and admit that your ideas are not always going to be implemented exactly the way you want it, and best of all, you get to see the end product: the culmination of all your efforts, an achievement which, hopefully, if you picked the right teammates, is way better than anything you could have done by yourself.

Let's take this lesson from one individual's personal life and apply it to our lives in general and Nigeria in particular. Find a project you're passionate about. Find people who are passionate about it too and can come into agreement with you (so that you're not just going round in circles). Create a team, and actually be part of that team. I tell you, it's a beautiful thing, when done right.

Nigeria yii ti gbogbo wa ni.... Gbe, K'emi gbe
(This Nigeria belongs to all of us.... Lift her up, and I'll lift her up too).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Project Play Your Own Part (PYOP): Naija Monday Series

Theme: Teamwork

This was how the revelation came to pass. My mother came to see her kids in the United States just a couple of weeks ago, and we had a fabulous time with her. But I remember something that happened so vividly. We were driving back home after church on Sunday, and decided to stop by a famous fast-food place (disclaimer: fast foods can kill). And so it was that this place also had one of those luxurious drive-thrus, where you can just sit back and relax while your food is served on a platter of silver and you just need to swipe that card. On the verge of our relaxation, next thing we knew we heard our mother muttering to herself, "if this was Nigeria now, nobody will stay in line will hear people even in this small drive-thru saying, "abeg madam, pls we get children for back...make we pass na, abeg oga...madam...biko!"

Well, as you can guess it was a bit funny so we giggled a little. But then I was aggravated in my spirit not too long after laughing. Why can't we as a people play our own part? Why can't we as Nigerians work as a team? Why, why, why? In my head, I imagined that the honest people of the country are being terrorized by those who don't care. If there was such a drive-thru, let's say in Victoria Island, Lagos, and there were people trying to jump the line, those ones who were initially waiting for their turn would get mad and also try to do the same. But a continuous cycle of revenge will never turn any country around.

So, my people, it is with the little strength I have left that I am asking you to join our team on a mission to bring back honesty and teamwork. Teamwork is thinking about those "few" people who are trying to make a change, and even when these changes can't be seen yet you still take the time to join the mission and play YOUR OWN PART.

1) If you see people littering the streets of your city, please don't join matter how dirty the street was before you got there. Your empty bottle of aquafina water will only add to the pollution of the atmosphere.

2) If you see traders in the so-called 'black market' selling expired products or things of less quality than the originals, please don't buy them just because they are cheaper. We are diminishing the worth of our own land.

3) If you see a street dented with pot-holes and you are the owner of a company, please plan to sponsor at least that one street. You don't have to sponsor all the streets in Lagos, there's a team of other people out there who will take the other streets.

4) If you work in one of those oil companies, try to talk to authorities to see if they are working exactly according to the laws of the land. Teamwork is doing your own part, unless you're scared of getting fired.

There are so many things I can list if I spend time thinking clearly, but I hope this message is very clear. We notice a lot of disparities just by driving down one street in a city, but we do nothing about anything. Teamwork is playing your own part, whether or not you see the others working.

To join one of our project teams on N4C, please visit our facebook group (link on the left). When you get there, just click on the "Message Board Topics," and you will find a topic that says: "N4C Project Team Assignments."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dinner and a Movie!!!

(Naija Mondays, Theme: Teamwork)

Teamwork!! Hmm…reminds me of my soccer team in church. Wonderful young, energetic girls with two goals in mind: first to win, second to have fun! I was gonna tell you all about how we work together as a team, defenders, midfielders and attackers alike to accomplish these two goals. But some hours ago, as I was flipping through channels looking for Heroes on NBC, I came across Ocean’s 12 on AMC.

So yes I am one of the 3 million females on the planet that think that Brad Pitt is extremely fine. I also think George Clooney is absolutely beautiful. So when the producers of Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 decided to cast both of them in the same movie, I agreed it was a wonderful idea. So even though I had seen the trilogy before, I decided to watch it again just this time.

And then I realized how ironic the situation was. The Ocean’s trilogy is a perfect example of teamwork on so many different levels. So I decided to write about it instead. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I recommend you do and to that effect, I promise not to include too many spoilers in this piece.

Ocean’s Eleven in general is about a group of thieves led by Danny Ocean. Their thefts involved well thought-out plans in which every team member had a specific part to play. As a disclaimer, I am not endorsing any kind of criminal activity but I just have to admit that there are many lessons one could learn from this unique team.

Unity in Diversity
Their team was unique in the sense that it was diverse. There was a young Asian whose remarkable flexibility served as an asset. There was Danny Ocean himself whose intelligent mind thought up the genius schemes required for every bust. Likewise every other team member brought something different to the table. Reminds me of Nigerians. We are so different yet so similar in the sense that we have a common goal: greener grass, a better life, wherever that may be found.

What stereotype defines you or are you an exception to? Are you the stereotypical Ijebu man considered by others to be stingy? Or are you the stereotypical Igbo man cunning like a fox? Are you the naija hustler in a foreign land that would do any thing to afford the next meal? Are you a straight-A student always buried in your books? Are you the popular rock star life-of-the-party? Are you a neat freak whose room almost appears not to be lived in? Are you a talkative always eager to share something new with whoever’s willing to listen?

Whatever category you fall into, you are unique. You are necessary. You are an equal.

Playing Your Part
I remember a scene from Ocean’s 12 where they went over their master plan to steal a relic. Each team member in turn recited what part he would play and they did this minute by minute. They were so precise and every detail counted. In the same way, we all have a role to play in Nigeria’s greatness whether or not we currently know what it is. Needless to say, the earlier we find out the better. Every unique trait- stereotypical or not - is an asset to Team Nigeria!!

Indulge me for a moment and let us journey to the Nigeria of my dreams. Imagine the stingy Ijebu man as minister of finance; no wasteful spending. Imagine the neat freak as minister of culture/tourism; museums, beaches, zoos, historical sites kept in good shape, instead of rundown establishments. Imagine the talkative as minister of education or information; eager to share knowledge, and enlighten the masses. Imagine Mr Popular as minister of foreign affairs; quick to learn new cultures and ways of interacting with all sorts of people; excellent international relations and fair international trade. Imagine our straight-A genius as minister of science and technology; Nigeria at the forefront of alternative forms of energy (solar, wind, nuclear) instead of our shameful oil dependence. Imagine our cunning Igbo thinker as president co-ordinating and harnessing the talents in all the other team members to achieve a common goal. Maybe a little Utopian- but possible, even probable, practical and priceless.

Having an Inside Man
Another special thing about Ocean’s 12 was the inside man. By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to skip to the next section. Consider yourself warned. Major spoiler on the way.

LaMarc, “the greatest thief of all time” was their inside man. Because of him, Ocean’s team was sure to win against the Night Fox, the other thief that had challenged them.

My point is there is value in wisdom that comes with age and experience. Despite the ineffectiveness of recycling old people as our leaders in Nigeria, let us not devalue the wisdom of our elders. Wole Soyinka and Gani Fawehinmi are a few examples of older people we can learn from.

Indulge me again but this time not in dreamland. Whenever you get a chance, don’t hesitate to talk to your parents about Nigeria in its glory days and how things worked at the time. Don’t hesitate to share your own ideas with them and get their perspective. Never hesitate to read an inspiring book whose author’s life reflects a zero-to-hero kind of journey. Never hesitate to once in a while, sit in serenity and be inspired from within. I believe that our leadership is in desperate need of young, fresh minds and ideas. Nevertheless our elders are essential parts of our team so that we do not repeat our past mistakes as a country.

Nigerians in Nigeria also serve as inside men and together with Nigerians abroad, we are sure to make a difference.

Before I conclude, I have to mention this essential ingredient for progress. Peace is essential for teamwork. We need to learn to embrace one another as fellow Nigerians regardless of ethnic group or religion. We need to put our country before ourselves instead of voting for leaders based on where they are from. We need to stop inter-tribal wars and realize that our real enemies are corruption, ignorance, nepotism and complacency.

That said, I repeat “Whatever category you fall into. You are unique. You are necessary. You are an equal.” In addition, you are Nigerian. Nigeria needs you. So step out of your comfort zone. Step out of complacency. Stop waiting for someone else to do it. Teamwork is what we need. Welcome to Team Nigeria. Welcome to N4C!!!