Aaaww! Remembering the Chemical Engineering Boys

I miss the Jaja Boys; I mean my former roomies and neighbours on A-Wing of King Jaja Hall, University of Lagos. We had a nice culture that was also in practice at the Mariere extension of the Chemical Engineering boys’ clique. It had to do with exclaiming “Aaaww!” whenever there was a dry joke in the air. It felt sweet and fun to do it to others, but you often don’t want to be the butt of such taunting exercises. People just keep winding you up sometimes, anyways.

Mallam J and I were customers (a la good friends) and he often tormented me with “aaaww-inspiring” lines. To be fair to him and myself, not all jokes or attempts at being funny or witty deserved the “aaaww!”, but many of us just soon became addicted to the stuff. Mallam J intentionally belaboured me with so much of jaw-dropping stuff, especially during his midnight calls. He has a funny way of making/squeezing his face. Doubei ‘Zude, Jyde, Ese, Ufot, Idris (a.k.a Oga Ade), Oloye, Alaka Laurenzo, Majio_UK, MLK are some of the numerous clique members who made life fun in the midst of school pressure. So what’s the point of all this?

Anyways, it was on a Wednesday night, October 20, 2010, around 8:55PM Nigerian time. I was listening to Cool FM 96.9 on my Nokia phone (Nokia for life!!). Then the guys anchoring the show talked about a particular couple. The husband was at the wheels in their car while the wife had sat at the back of the car with their baby. But she had a problem. They had decided to help one of the husband’s colleagues from the office with a ride. The ‘innocent’ lady had taken a place in the front of the car, next to the driver, the husband that is. Paraphrasing the hosts, the wife felt slighted and irritated by the lady’s choice of seat and felt she should have taken a seat next to her and her baby at the back of the car!!!

As usual, many callers called in to voice their opinions. While someone questioned the woman’s *‘para-ing’, another could not just understand why the woman could be so ‘paranoid’. But, who knows the kind of skimpy stuff or cleavage-announcing top the colleague-from-the office’s attire could have been wearing? Someone even said the ‘nagging’ wife needed to take ‘Paracetamol’. Still another guy, albeit mean, said she should take some ‘parrafin (oil)’ to avoid paralysis! One chap even said his own paranalysis of the whole matter was that “some people just like to be paranoid.” On and on they went; both the hosts and the callers. Someone said that her ‘para-ing’ could lead her to paradise too soon! Then, one of the hosts in closing said (paraphrased) that paradventure, she might need the attention of the paramedics!

Aaaww! :) What an effort at rhymes and rhyming! Right now, I can see Mallam J, Alaka Laurenzo, Jyde, Doubei and MLK reeling on the floor! Aaaww!!!

My SONY Vaio Laptop Story

As I make this post, I’m back to De Café for the first time since my laptop incident. What a coincidence! Anyways, I’ll make sure not to spend more than the 1 hour I’ve paid for. Care to know the story behind my apprehension and fear? Read on!

Back in the days in Jaja Hall... a little over a year ago

On the morning of October 4th, 2010 I checked out of Solitude in Jibowu having lodged there over the weekend attending the Ford Foundation Youth Dialogue. I hopped onto the streets and was soon home. As soon as I got home, I dropped my stuff, picked my laptop bag and off I went to school. There, almost at noon, I joined my final year Design Project team members in continuing work on our project report. Five hours later, I was off. After about ten minutes of strolling and sharing banters with Idris, a friend, classmate and former bunkmate, it was time to part ways at New Hall. I took a left turn into the New Hall (Yem-Yem) Shopping Complex. Thirty seconds later, I was safely in De-Café, my favourite browsing spot in UNILAG, aside the comfort of modem-on-laptop hostel room browsing.

I bought two Swift Hotspot tickets (for two hours) and opened my hitherto hibernated laptop. As I was getting ready to have my seat, there was a spark (I heard the sound first). The next second, two guys in the corner where the Air Conditioner had gone crazy started rushing out… Perhaps, still living with the dread of the MEND militants who had bombed Nigeria’s capital in an attempt to ‘mend’ an ailing nation over the weekend, we all turned back and everyone attempted to exit the door safely. Perhaps, I still had Nkiru Njoku’s experience close to my heart, so I decided to save my laptop by holding it in my hands while I made a frantic attempt to escape imminent danger… Alas! Someone impeded my leg movement so I tripped and fell; my darling Sony Vaio Laptop fell face down! I got up, dusted my body and went through the door only to find part of the laptop casing broken. When I opened the laptop and turned it on, what I found was more shocking! The laptop screen was not broken, but the display was rather blurry! Gbam!!

I was dumbfounded for those few minutes. I couldn’t blame anybody, but just kept quiet. I showed the café attendant who could only sympathize with me. I had to sell one of my tickets while I eventually used the other to browse and check for a SONY accredited service provider in Lagos. Two days later when I visited Flying Dove in Apapa, they examined the laptop and told me there was no solution. They refused to give further details. I wonder what they wanted me to do with the laptop now. Throw it away? Never! At least, not yet – it’s three months shy of two years!

Two days later I got ‘Deolu Adeleye, a computer whizz and friend, to help recover my most important files. We connected the laptop to a flat screen desktop so I could smoothly operate and salvage my VIP documents (later I’ll back up the entire hard drive content). This guy has experimented so much with laptops that he is fast becoming a special consultant on PC matters!

Lessons learnt from the episode?

If you try to save your life, you may as well lose it! I had forgotten the Safety lessons at Ariosh Ltd. last year during my internship/industrial attachment. We had been told that if there was a fire incident, the priority was to come out alive, not trying to salvage some valuables. But we soon forget rules under pressure, not so? Perhaps, I should have tried to exit that café alone first, and then later think of getting my property out, right? Maybe, most likely, I would have left De Café with my laptop in top shape after browsing for two hours. But that’s past now.

Always prepare for unpalatable situations like this. Now I’ll be sure to back up as regularly as (twice) every week. I also imagine a family man who has just finished disbursing school fee, housekeeping allowance, grand parents’ allowance and all at the beginning of September only to bash his new car in a ghastly motor accident. Imagine the sweat that would spring from his pores. Yes, he survived the accident, but he now has a liability he most probably didn’t plan for. What if Junior just fractured his leg on the school playground or grandpa just fell sick again. So many things happen without prior notice. [It’s not easy to be a man (or woman) o!)]

 

The Ford Foundation Youth Dialogue Experience 2010

By Gbenga Awomodu

Claiming Our Future: Nigerian Youth’s Vision of the Next 50 years

The Ford Foundation, West Africa Office, Lagos, Nigeria

October 1-4, 2010

Dr. Oka Obono during a session with the youth delegates

It’s been 50 years of grant making in West Africa by the Ford Foundation. As part of the programmes lined up to commemorate this anniversary which coincided with Nigeria’s golden jubilee, the Ford Foundation organized a youth dialogue on the issues relevant to the future of Nigeria and I had a privilege of being a participant.

From Friday October 1st 2010 till the morning of Monday October 4th I was tucked away somewhere in Jibowu, a Lagos suburb. It was a rather busy weekend as I joined other young people from across the country to deliberate on the future of our dear country. With the rich resumes and profiles of all the other participants, albeit intimidating, there was no doubt I was in very good company. The first two days were filled with series of sessions fashioned to properly groom all the panelists before the actual Youth Dialogue on Sunday. Action Health Incorporated, Lagos hosted the preparatory process. From the welcome address by Mrs. Nike Esiet, the Executive Director of Action Health Incorporated, to the mentally stimulating drills and speeches-cum-lectures by Dr. Oka Obono, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan, it was a wonderful ride. Some of the other distinguished resource people who took part in grooming us were Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi of the Population Council, and Dr. Uwem Esiet, a Director at Action Health Incorporated.

Dr. Oka Obono, as usual, mesmerizing us with his oratory

I felt Dr. Oka Obono was a knowledge drunk man! In a very good way, though. He had us all captivated as he swayed from politics to economics and leadership. In his spellbinding eloquence, he read from Paulo Coelho and copiously took us on several trips down history. He quoted from Deepak Chopra, Andy Stanley, JFK, and Malcom Gladwell. He drew lessons from the lives of Bayajjida, Wole Soyinka, Umaru Dikko, and Nuhu Ribadu, telling us what the four men had in common. If I took anything away from Dr. Obono’s sessions, it was the lesson that acquisition of useful knowledge and information liberates a man. Young people have to take the pain to study, not just what they’re being taught within the four walls, but everything possible about the world around and within them. A well informed mind is more suitable to lead a nation than an ignorant fellow!

On Day 2, he continued in his talks on Envisioning Nigeria, eventually helping us paint pictures of the Nigeria we desire in effective words. Mrs. Nike Esiet helped add necessary spice by facilitating a session on “The Place of Poise and Passion in Public Speaking.” Later in the evening, it was time for some social outing. Half of the participants chose to watch Ije: The Journey, a blockbuster Nigerian movie showing at the Cinemas while the other half, most of whom had seen Ije: The Journey more than once, decided it was time to “Eat, Pray, Love”. Altogether, it was fun having extended socializing time amongst other participants.

Ms. Ndidi Nwuneli, Programme Officer, Ford Foundation West Africa, moderated the Youth Dialogue

On Sunday, after dress rehearsals in the morning, it was time to depart for the Ford Foundation office on Banana Island. At the Ford office, Ndidi Nwuneli, a Programme Officer at the Ford Foundation, West Africa, who would later moderate the actual Youth Dialogue, introduced herself, helped us run through the discussions, and ensured we cut excess fat and unnecessary blabbing. At 2pm prompt, all guests and observers were seated and the discussion kicked off. It was a lively 90 minute display of passion for a better Nigeria. Vital issues in several sectors of the economy, including Education, Health, Power, Environment, Agriculture, Leadership and Governance, Media and ICT were raised and possible solutions were proffered.

L-R: Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi and Mrs. 'Nike Esiet

Some of the observers, including Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi of the Population Council, Luis A. Ubinas, President, Ford Foundation, and Kofi Appenteng, Partner, The West Africa Fund made some remarks and encouraged the young people to appreciate the positive things about the country whilst taking personal steps to effect positive changes in areas far below expected standards. Dr. Adhiambo Odaga, the Representative of the Ford Foundation (West Africa Office) gave the vote of thanks. Thereafter, it was time to socialize, pose for those memorable pictures and call it a day. It is hoped that the young panelists would harness the opportunity afforded by the Youth Dialogue to effect positive changes in their personal lives, their immediate communities and the nation at large. I am especially grateful to Action Health Incorporated for nominating me. It was indeed a memorable experience and I am ready to make it count.

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Front row (L-R): Dr. Uwem Esiet, Kamal Usman, Theresa Okpa, Gbenga Awomodu, Chinelo Eleodimuo, Olumide Idowu, Mervis Emelife and Dr. Oka Obono; Back row L-R: Ferdinand Adimefe, Emilia Asim-Ita, Chinedu Ogueri, Kamal Hussain, Safuratu Abdulkarim, Femi Adesegha, Emmanuel Okodogbe, Afamefuna Titus Igwe and Mrs. Nike Esiet


Youth Profiles

Femi Adesegha graduated from the Community Life project (CLP) Youth Centre Programme in 2007 and continues to volunteer there, including with the Theatre Group. He hopes to study Mechanical Engineering in the near future. Femi was nominated by CLP.

Ferdinand ‘Ladi’ Adimefe has a degree in Anatomy from the University of Port-Harcourt and a Masters in Media and Communication from the Pan African University. He is the initiator of Interface Africa, an NGO whose mission is to inspire young Nigerians. Ferdinand was nominated by the CLEEN Foundation.

Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju is a graduate of the Insurance Department of the University of Lagos and is completing a Masters in Media and Communication at the Pan African University. She began her professional acting career in December 2005 and has featured in more than 20 stage plays and 60 productions. She serves as a drama instructor in schools and on reality television shows and is popularly known for her role in “V-Monologues – The Nigerian Story,” (2008 & 2010), and “Sizwe Bansi is Dead” (where she played a South African man). Kemi was nominated by the FATE Foundation.

Gbenga Awomodu is a final year Chemical Engineering student at the University of Lagos. He is a freelance writer and editor and created “Egbe’s Diary” (http://gbengaawomodu.wordpress.com), a repository of his thoughts and other works. Gbenga was nominated by Action Health Inc.

Chineloma Eleodimuo is currently a student of Biochemistry at the University of Benin. She was recently elected Student Union president by an overwhelming majority of students. During her tenure, she has led the fight against the indiscriminate victimization of student activists on campus and fought for the renovation of hostels, reduced cab fares, and a hygienic environment in the bukkatarias. She has also advocated for, and achieved, free and fair elections on the university’s campus. Chineloma was nominated by WHARC.

Kamal Hussain El-Yakub has a National Diploma in Accountancy from the Nasarawa State Polytechnic, Lafia. He has been an AHIP Peer Health Educator (PHE) since 2006 and he currently works as a teacher. Kamal was nominated by AHIP.

Mervis Ifeoma Emelife is studying towards a degree in Mass Communication. She is a writer, poet, public and motivational speaker. She works with the Young Visionaries Initiative of Nigeria, a youth based organization focusing on changing the negative mindsets among Nigerian youth and is also the editor of a teens magazine in Lagos State. Mervis was nominated by Action Health Inc.

Olumide Idowu is a graduate of Statistics from the University of Abuja. He established the Youth Alive Initiative (YAI) and Friends of the Environment Nigeria (FoTEN) and is engaged in a range of projects including the Computer Literacy Project, Answer Solution and Knowledge (ASK) around HIV/AIDS, Young Entrepreneurship (YES), Switch ICT Project and projects on environmental issues. Olumide serves as an ambassador for Microsoft Nigeria’s Microsoft Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative (MISSPIN). He also works as Communications Manager (National Support Team) and project director, AIESEC Abuja and is a founding member of “One Magazine” and “Integrity Magazine.” Olumide was nominated by LEAP Africa.

Afamefuna Titus Igwe is currently enrolled part-time in a Business Administration degree programme at the University of Lagos. He started Speedmeals Mobile Kitchen, a registered food and services company that cooks and supplies food to schools and organizations. He is also a guest columnist for The herald newspaper where he teaches development and self-improvement programs for Nigerian youth. Afamefuna was nominated by the FATE Foundation.

Emilia Asim-Ita is a Mass Communication graduate from the University of Lagos. She is the Managing Partner of Thistle Praxis Consulting, a management training and CSR consulting firm and runs A’Lime Media, a strategy, production and advocacy company. She is also a television presenter and anchor and has produced and presented “YouthTalk with Emilia” on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) (2003-2008); co-presented “Rubbin Minds” on Channels TV and anchored a book review segment, BOOKED with ‘Milia’ on Silverbird TV’s breakfast show, “Today on STV”. Emilia was nominated by LEAP Africa.

Safuratu Abdulkarim Mahmoud has a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from Bayero University Kano and is also a graduate of the Lagos Law School. She is a legal practitioner and a member of Youth Advisory Group. Safuratu was nominated by AHIP.

Chinedu Demian Ogueri is a graduate of the University of Ibadan with degrees in Botany and Microbiology. He is the author of “Youth to the Rescue of a Nation,” published by Hadassah Publishers and was recognized as the winner of “Young Achiever Award” by Action Health Incorporated in 2008. He is currently the Director of Demian Ltd, a business development and property marketing outfit in Port Harcourt. Chinedu was nominated by CLEEN Foundation.

Emmanuel Okodogbe joined the Community Life Project (CLP) Youth Centre programme in 2005 and has since continued to play active roles as a youth volunteer. He plans to study International Studies and Diplomacy in the University in the near future. Emmanuel was nominated by CLEEN Foundation.

Theresa Isu John Okpa is currently enrolled as a student of Mass Communication at the Cross River University of Technology. She serves in a range of roles within the Girls Power Initiative (GPI) including as a youth facilitator, the deputy head of department, Youth Development, and as coordinator of the GPI Theatre Group. Theresa was nominated by GPI.

Kamal Usman has a degree in Biosciences from the Bayero University, Kano. He currently serves as the Assistant State Programme Officer for AHIP in Jigawa State. He is the author of the campus motivational “YOU CAN DO BETTER.” Kamal was nominated by AHIP.

Cross-section of youth delegates at the Youth Dialogue

I got a cool shot with the Ford Foundation President, yey! (Never mind the height difference :))


Another cool pose with Ndidi Nwuneli

UNILAG Memoirs: Notes from the Lagoon Front

By Gbenga Awomodu

The UNILAG Senate Building. Photo credit: Williams Ozowe

In a few weeks, I will say goodbye to the undergraduate years. Like it happened to me when leaving the primary school and even the secondary school, I have started to have a deep sense of nostalgia. Barely five years ago, we all wore our matriculation gowns and felt really cool about ourselves. We never really saw beyond that day… No one really knew what lay ahead. Today, I look back and see fantastic moments and bashed hopes, deferred dreams and hope renewed, up times and down times, good times and not-so-good times. I will miss a lot about UNILAG. The Lagos Varsity Christian Union has been my home away from home. If I were to write about my experiences in LVCU, it would take a whole book! Today, I share some of my experiences at the Lagoon Front Resort…

 

The University of Lagos is perhaps the only university in Africa bordered by a lagoon. The lagoon front is a major tourist attraction in the university community. It was given a serious face lift last year under the leadership of Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, the immediate past Vice Chancellor.

 

***

This Road links the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre to the Lagoon Front

Sometime in Year One (2006), some weeks to my second semester examinations, a senior I had known in the secondary school met me at the Lagoon Front under one of the numerous trees that dot the beautiful landscape. He greeted me in an unusually husky voice that was in tandem with his shabby appearance. After the basic introductory banters, he asked me for my department and course of study. “Hey, Chemical Engineering… that is good! Hope nobody has been disturbing you o?” He then went on to tell me tales of students in higher levels who took advantage of freshers like me who were naïve novices. Well, I was able to convince him I didn’t really need his help… I have never seen him since then!

 

***

The Lagos Third Mainland Bridge as viewed from the shores of the Lagoon Front

In mid-2008, a big volcano hit me badly. I had just checked one of my results, and what I saw made me simmer. It felt like someone had jabbed a dagger right into my heart! I had just seen the lowest score ever in my life!! How could I have scored this low; even though the lecturer had contributed a lot to this dismal and unacceptable result? My spirit was troubled and I hurried to the Lagoon Front, perhaps somewhere in the cool of the late afternoon, like the ebb tide, my soul could find some rest and my spirit some calm. I spilled out tongues I could not understand… I wrestled with God in my mind and spoke so fast I wonder how he still heard me. I must have spent about an hour in my groaning but when I left the Lagoon front, I had received some peace in my heart. But we humans hardly understand his ways. Despite the lecturer’s word to review our scripts, over a dozen of us had to write the course the following year… Still, I trust God, for he knows best and who am I to challenge him?

 

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The Julius Berger Lecture Theatre

I have often visited this same Lagoon front to do my last minute revisions, moments before the commencement of exams. In these last two years, I have written most of my exams at the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre, a three-minute stroll away from the Lagoon Front. During the examination period, it is not rare to spot scores of students doing some last minute cramming and revision. While the ‘learning colleagues’ from the Faculty of Law who have strayed like lost sheep from their Law Library are trying to properly file the series of legal cases and definitions in the new cabinet they just acquired in the expiring semester – their brain memory space that is -, the young Engineers in the making are busy gnawing away at gigantic formulas and differential equations like sick fellas chewing bitter paracetamol pills. But some people come there not to read, but on romantic picnics. Remember, this is a tourist attraction, a relaxation spot even for people not members of the university community. Sometimes I wonder what the studious students think in their mind when they see twin lovers at different spots under the coconut trees tangled in hot embrace and telling themselves sweet nothings, while they are busy pacing the length and breadth of the shores, trying to stuff their brains with as much information as possible for their impending exams. How many of them can actually stand the repugnant smoke from the pipers, usually a group of guys who visit the Front to feed on marijuana and cigarette. Occasionally you see two mature lovers doing justice to one or two bottles of beer. In short, here you could make motley of friends!

 

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UNILAG Lagoon Front Resort

Sometimes, I just visit the Lagoon front to experience the cool breeze, indulge in the relatively quiet ambience, and simply spend time all alone. How I love the inspiration that flows at times like this! Penultimate Sunday, after the LVCU service, I needed to compose a song for my local church so I took a quick trip to the Front. I frantically begged God to give me a song, and He did! In the less than forty minutes I got the first verse and chorus ready. (If I may add, I completed the song two days later, and the Youth Choir presented the song and came first last Friday. They now represent the Archdeaconry at the Diocesan level)…

 

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Cuddling lovers @ the Lagoon Front

Last July, I took a stroll to the Lagoon front, my earpiece perfectly nailed into my ears, cool music seeping into my head. I love music. A lot! …I made an unusual decision, picking a quiet spot to the extreme left, near the wall that borders the Lagoon and the Guest Houses. For the first twenty minutes, I observed as the canoes brought in passengers from the other end of the Lagoon into UNILAG and loaded waiting passengers. The female canoe paddler reminded me of the popular saying, “What a man can do, a woman can do better.” She looked happy and contented in her made-in-Naija English jersey and pair of thigh hugging jean shorts; she steered the little boat with such ease and skill that her deft handling caught my rapt attention. I made a mental note there and then to return and get her picture (Lanre Shonoiki, my cool friend had to part with 100 box to take this shot sha. The female captain smiled as she squeezed the note into her tight pocket)… A few moments later, two young chaps approached me, a guy in a hearty gist with a beautiful girl. They held hands and were all smiles. In twenty seconds, they walked past me and stationed themselves right behind me. Though my plugs were still intact and the music was still on while I tried to manage inspiration to write a poem, the chirps of these two lovebirds reminded me of their continuous lurking presence at my back. Once or twice I had to look back, and there they were cuddling and stirring into each other’s face. I think the guy was trying something funny… Their giggles and the girl’s occasional silent screams punctuated those moments. Eventually, it was time to leave and I stood to exit. A few metres away, my curious mind turned my head backwards to discover something: the guy’s face was now buried in her face. He was teaching her how to kiss (or maybe it was the other way round). The poor girl must have been praying in her mind that I leave. I imagine how much I had delayed their action. Anyways, that was not totally new. It is not entirely strange to behold cuddling couples in the most creative and desperate positions, even in front of the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre in the cool of the evening, when the path is least traversed and nobody is really watching… They seem to be telling whoever cares to listen: this is our choice. If you like, stare. Really, what you do with your time is your choice. Ain’t it?

 

(c) Gbenga Awomodu, September 2010

Female paddler @ the UNILAG Lagoon Front. Photo credit: Lanre Shonoiki