It was a bright sunny day, the chirping birds and the clear clouds welcomed us to this Saturday, it was the last day of April; a day on The Platform. With much hopes and expectations we boarded a cab to the illustrious venue, the International Conference Centre. We were met with a warm welcome: a notepad, a pen and a pass were handed to us in an organised fashion, we were ushered in to the massive hall and took our seat at the choicest of places-Upstairs. It was already a few minutes after 8am, for a program that was set to start at about 9am the hall was still pretty empty.
As the time approached 9am I took an observational tour to be able to rate the proceedings, as I did I engaged in a rather entertaining discuss with one of the cameramen assigned to the program who hailed from Enugu. It was during this observation I noticed the orderly procession that followed as people arrived in an avalanche towards the 9am mark. It was a beauty to behold coming from a country where most citizens believe if you were not rushing or in a hurry you were either corrupt, very rich or not smart, I was in for a treat.
As men advanced in age forced their phone numbers on young girls on the stairs and in the lobby with facial expressions that said “give me a call, I can change your life for good, you don’t have to be on the platform another year” the time drifted past 9am and the program wasn’t yet started. Then I figured no matter how intentional you are in this country it is still going to be a difficulty to begin a program on time. Especially not one where the vice-president of the nation or any other dignitary with a security detail that long is scheduled to attend. This is the same reason many of the politicians, preachers and businessmen don’t have their kids going to school in this country no matter how much they love and cherish the country- Nigeria.
...So we waited and finally the event coordinator stood on the stage in his properly ironed suit and hair nicely combed, he proceeded by unapologetically teaching the audience basic courtesy where needed. Well we couldn’t blame him, some Nigerians have to be reminded to reduce chattering and put their phones on a silent mode in a public gathering or as my friend joked “turn off the Tecno phones completely… because you know those phones cannot be trusted to stay silent even after pressing the silent button” Soon the program was connected to the world, the first speaker was up and the tears began.
Passion was on display, as Taiwo Oyedele made us see that Nigeria is just trying to get to 5,000 megawatts of Electricity while a city called Dubai is currently producing 40,000 megawatts and how despite Nollywood churning out the 3rd largest amount movies its quality is still so low it might not make top 50. Finally for a lack of proper data the fight against corruption is just a fight against few corrupt people and not corruption in itself.
Alibaba made us appreciate with facts how Nigeria has had a tradition of honouring people who have added no value but instead have in time past taken value from us; a system that doesn’t recognise creativity. There are no artistic or tourist connection to our history, if not where are the statues that represent the likes of Sam loko, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Awolowo, Usman dan Fodo… even Dr Adadevoh? He was very emphatic that the entertainment industry doesn’t need the government's money, just an enabling environment, like an anti-piracy arm in the Nigerian Police Force. Now that would go a very long way, won't it?
Mrs Oby Ezekwesili took off like a Boeing 707. She judiciously took her time to tell us how most of the economic revolutions happened in some other countries. She made us understand how this is actually the 5th Oil price slump since Nigeria’s independence, so this thing has happened 5 times before, so it is quite clear Nigeria needs not be dependent on Oil anymore as the other speakers have previously mentioned. She alleged and argued “if it’s working don’t try to fix it” that the well-intended idea of a command and control approach is now been adopted to replace what existed, which obviously the current financial minister Mrs Kemi Adeosun during the week refused claiming “The present government has a planned economy and does not operate a command and control system. There are no quick solutions to the current economic woes… we would come out better”
At this point the stage was set for the very passionate Mrs Ibukun Awosika the chairman board of director’s First bank limited. She was tired, she was fed up, she came with a cry “all of you giving me CV’s there are no jobs, Nigeria is in a critical position, it urgently needs more businesses small and medium; more entrepreneurs that is how you can get jobs or rather give jobs” she is rich but several times she yelled “why is it so difficult to do the right thing in this country?” explaining further she lamented “I have a manufacturing company but as it stands now it is more profitable to sell off, but for the looks on the faces of those people working for me; what would they do if I sell?” by the time she was done it had sunk in us that entrepreneurship in this country is more of national service than it is for pleasure and our educational sector needs it included in every program.
At this point hopes were running low, then he stepped in; the Vice President of the Republic of Nigeria. He came in like one who carries his entire office around even the ones waiting to have a little moment with him, the crowd was so much if you didn’t look carefully you just might not see the VP. He stood on the platform and after a few jokes as a good speaker would to calm the already tensioned nerves, he began “hopefully the budget would be signed this week” with a smile “hopefully” In summary he said to everyone who cared to listen, this country was messed up, healing is going to take a little time, please be patient. The change you seek is a process worth waiting for.
The platform was really a platform. So many speakers, so much depth, so much learn. I end with the quote this two speakers; Mrs Oby Ezekwesili and Ibukun Awosika began with
"Nigeria is a work in progress"
"Hope is inexhaustible; Hope is Nigeria."
God bless Nigeria.