With the exception of a typically Nigerian moment in the middle of Adelola Edema’s passionate talk, TEDxYaba was intentionally enlightening.
The afternoon kicked off with Head Coach of Nigeria’s Para Powerlifting team, Prince Feyisetan Are, raising the audience to the challenges still facing physically challenged athletes in preparing and participating in competitions.
He noted that Paralympians are recognised more abroad than in Nigeria. They are mostly always remembered by administrators when there is a need to show medals to the President. It was a light, if thinly veiled, dig at our concentration on able-bodied athletes, even if they have not always brought back the goods (and gold) from competitions. Cue Super Eagles in Russia.
Are’s talk wet the ground for the crunchy moments at TEDxYaba 2018. Here are the peak of the bunch:
Grey-bearded and draped in brownish-grey, Adewale Ajadi stepped up and gave what I thought was the first insightful talk of the day. His moment came after Bashir Aminu had sought to stir the audience on the promise of Blockchain in Africa (to moderate success). Ajadi’s talk, being a critique of how we are now all living online, resonated.
“When you connect on the internet, do you realized you are leaving a footprint?” he asked. It must not have been the first time most persons in the audience would hear that, but Ajadi’s focus on intentionally preparing for ancestorship provided a unique vantage point for the argument against impulsively posting content on social media.
I thought he captured his idea in this question: “Are you going to be proud that future generations will assess you based on your online footprint.
How Much Is Your Life Worth?
After Ajadi, Life Bank founder Temie Giwa-Tuboson introduced us to a method for calculating the monetary value of a Nigerian life. I’ll have you wait for the video to come out to see it for yourself but if I invested N86 million in you, dear reader, that could make you at my disposal.
She framed her presentation around terrifyingly bad Nigerian maternal deaths figures. It was designed to impress on the audience something each of them born of them born of a woman must have already known: “Mothers matter”. Her tribute to Saifura Ahmed and Hauwa Liman, two humanitarian workers killed by Boko Haram this year, as an inspiration for her advocacy sent a brief wave of mourning through the room.
Then, Cobhams Performed!
Good talk digests better with good music. Cobhams genius filled the room with a live rendition of ‘Unstoppable’, after which he gave a seven-minute talk on why everything that will change about Nigeria has to be done by individuals acting intentionally.
“Intentionality comes with adversity” Cobhams told an audience still delightfully humming to the tune of the song he played “but it also makes adversity easy to deal with”. He described his awe at sitting through Kemi Adetiba’s ‘King of Boys’, penciling it as one intentional act that is sure to spark a chain of creative intentionality from other individuals.
And, like I suspect most people must have yearned for, he ended his talk with one delivery of the ‘Ordinary People’ chorus. Never mind ideas worth sharing, a Cobhams Asuquo live performance is a moment worth re-living.
— iMostom (@iam_tomiwo) December 8, 2018
Capitalism Isn’t Freedom?
Perhaps not everyone will remember this. But for a country where 80 million people are living below the poverty line, the answer given to a quiz about the value of capitalism was disappointing. The poll on the organiser’s Twitter showed a slim majority support the view that Capitalism is not Africa’s only route to economic development. It is a pointer that, for all the blame that goes to politicians for being clueless, even citizens are guilty of not knowing what will have to happen for true economic empowerment to become a reality. An audience member’s boisterous use of Julius Nyerere’s communalist Tanzania as a good case study against Capitalism could not have been any more ironic.
Thankfully, that question session was followed by a presentation by Obinwanne Okeke, the young CEO recently featured the cover of Forbes Africa. His tips for resilience as a Nigerian entrepreneur are not necessarily to be universalized, but those intentional about economic empowerment would find much value in them.
Living Poor in Lagos
If it wasn’t intentional to set up a talk about urban poverty right after one on entrepreneurship, the stars must have been in alignment. Megan Chapman of the Nigerian Slum and Informal Settlement Federation pulled everyone’s attention from Okeke’s real estate aspirations to the real agonies in Lagos slums. In cardboard houses and shacks from Otodo Gbame to Makoko, Nigerians are often getting arrested by the Police for “wandering without evident means of livelihood”.
Yes, arrested for being poor.
You must have heard Lagos’ owners fantasize about modeling the mega-city after a foreign tourist destination. Chapman says: “Lagos doesn’t need to be the next Dubai; it needs to be Lagos”. And to those who have turned forced eviction into a sport: “If we want to fight urban poverty, we must stop fighting the urban poor”.
Technology alone can’t solve urban poverty. But human beings can. Critical we invest in and create spaces for the urban majority to participate, build wealth, and co-create Lagos #TEDxYaba https://t.co/aZnqUq8tft
— JEI (@justempower) December 8, 2018
That’s the amount in traditionally budgeted for your healthcare as a Nigerian. Compare that to over $6000 for a UK citizen and you realize why healthcare in Nigeria is in dire straits. Dr Ola Brown, founder of Flying Doctors, was armed with statistics that argued the need for healthcare in Nigeria to be fixed, with a focus on five pillars amongst which are Sustainable financing, primary healthcare expansion and task-shifting.
The talk was a demonstrated extension of her e-book on the subject of fixing healthcare, published last October.
The Icing… And The Cake
Adelola Edema got a second chance on the stage after that typical Nigerian moment (still wait for it). She spoke on her work on on educating children with special needs in Nigeria. This was a reminder to observe children with an eye that seeks to discover their gifts and special needs, without getting worked up over the apparent disabilities that may exist.
Edema was followed by Akinse Fela Buyi. His was a shoemaker’s story or how artificial intelligence technology has saved the costs of having to work on one customer’s request multiple times because of wrong measurement.
The evening, arguably, belonged to Chinedu Azodoh, “first of his name”.
— Freyy (@godfrey_orji) December 8, 2018
He did not talk about his work as co-founder and CTO of Max.ng, the last-mile mobility company creating a credible alternative for navigating the mad traffic in Lagos. Azodoh, instead, thrilled the audience on the need to intentionally live a balanced life.
Nothing about it felt scripted; about twice he demanded to be clapped for and an engaged audience easily acquiesced. His story of working hard and playing hard had a tinge of privilege about it. People with 12-hour work days in Lagos (work plus traffic hours) may not be able to relate. But nobody should die because they were working to hard to live.
“Live your life, strive for balance and build your dreams”
It was a simple message and the six foot six techpreneur, who turned to karate, salsa and semi-professional rugby to distract from his work obsession, told it with the humor and grace required to make those who waited for the last talk of the day feel specially treated.
And About Those Live Videos
If TEDx events must feature screening videos from previous events, organisers will do well to choose short ones. People come for the live talks and while it makes sense that some recorded talks could provide extra for the audience, they shouldn’t take up so much time. Especially for a TED talk in Lagos.
And the talks should be about ideas immediately relatable to the environment of the audience. It was notable that the audience at TEDxYaba showed more appreciation for the now viral Robert Neuwirth’s “Igbo apprenticeship” talk than one by #MeToo founder Tarana Burke.
All in all, TEDxYaba lived up to the energy of its expectant audience. Organisers apologised for the absence of Deola Sagoe and Segun Awosanya (Segalink) to show up. Not sure many who listened to Ajadi, Giwa-Tuboson, the Flying Doctor, and Azodoh were especially bothered. The last speaker in particular had made the four hours worth the investment.
The typical Nigerian moment alluded to in the first sentence was power outage. The idea that Nigeria’s perennial power problem can continually surprise even the most organised event: surely that is also worth sharing so we find a solution once and for all?
Opinions: Part formed, Part undergoing reform