I am at the park. Inside the bus I will travel to Lagos in, there is a couple at the front seat; the only passengers. There is a commotion beside the bus. From the flakes of conversations of the women who sell snacks and soft drinks to passengers, and a pricking gloom that has lingered in the air since I got here, I deduce that a woman, who had been a passenger of a bus that stopped here, had run mad. Pity is bold in these onlookers’ eyes and it is vivid that they are more worried about the woman’s wailing little boy than her. I too am.
I am thinking of how to help this boy- how to get him help. But there is barely anything I can do.
This is one of those helpless situations that remind me that saving the world ought to be canceled in my list of feasible.
I am in Unilag hoping to get the location of the hall without asking anyone. I call a friend who is at the university teaching hospital, but he doesn’t answer his phone; probably still asleep. I ask a lady where the hall is and she hurries a direction which after using, I realize that not interrupting her urgent steps would have been a better choice.
I am lost. I ask a janitor sweeping dirt by the street for direction, and from the way she speaks so assuredly like she knows this place the way she’s familiar with the broom, I know I will get to the hall without having to ask anyone else.
I am at the hall, and late because I went to the lagoon with my friend and lost grasp of time. There are three women at the registering table, smiling. I get my tag, the woman behind the computer asks for my name and clicks away on her keyboard and then… I could go have my seat.
I sit at the second row and pretend to read Helon Habila’s measuring time, when in fact my eyes are scanning the hall.
One of the women comes to the front and introduces herself as the chairperson of the conference and gives a brief talk about the organization. She enjoins everyone to take few minutes in meeting other participants in the hall.
Reluctantly, I stand and remain fixed at a point watching the concurrent introductions and catch some names and schools.
When I’m on my way back to sitting, a guy comes to me and there is a cursory introduction.
The woman asks us to tell the person by our side the reason we are here and what we hope to achieve from the conference.
I needed a break from home because my school had been on strike for eight months, so when a friend sent the link for registering for this conference, I didn’t hesitate applying. That’s why I’m here, I say to the girl beside me.
She says her brother registered for her and she really doesnt know what the conference is about.
We both at this moment are two clueless individuals who at the end of the conference would have given everything up to be here now.
I don’t know what I hope to achieve. My best friend said -in verbatim- leadership conferences are crap, no one can teach you how to be a leader. I agree with him, no one can teach you such thing as leadership; it is like being taught how to live.
After breakfast, we are split into groups and I’m the only female in my group. Our activity is reading the message on each allotted share of cards and putting them in a chart -with agree, disagree, no idea, and no consensus boxes- based on our conviction or non-conviction.
The next stage where, as a group, there is a repositioning of cards in the chart is interesting and argumentative. I amuse myself a lot; I believe that I’m quite vast in knowledge and almost always right about things, perhaps it’s because it’s been eons since I had been in the midst of intellectuals who are sophisticated and well-informed, so I am surprised when more than a person doesn’t agree with my stance and with valid facts are able to win me to their side.
Today, I have achieved:
Now I know that when amidst people, it is pertinent to learn from them if one repels deafness born off ego and listen without constantly interrupting their speech.
There is a clear difference between baseless arguments and constructive arguments. The latter leaves you changed- of beliefs or convictions- or as a changer, and the former often leaves you frustrated and bitter.
Everyone has something to say, while you may not agree with their opinion, you should learn to respect it.
From the chairperson’s speech, I learnt that cultural diversity isn’t limited to ethnicity as I thought; it could be a difference in age, professionalism, or specialization.
We meet the community evangelist of Next generation Africa and he gives us a warm welcome. From him, I learn these:
When you want to start a NGO, you first should identify the problem you want to solve and target a locality.
What problem do I want to solve?
I remember the mad woman and her boy. The problem of shelter for the homeless, and lack of mental facility in Ibadan.
The globe itself is a cluster of problems, but if so many humans can choose one problem each and work towards solving it, the world may lean towards being saved.
Create your own unique solution after problem identification.
Seek partnership, advisably from firms whose objectives align with yours.
Build a formidable team. As a leader, know your members’ skills and help them in being more versatile- send them to seminars or workshops, for example. These skills besides being self-developing can be harnessed in bringing the goals of the organization to fruitfulness.
I went through a quite devastating experience yesterday, and because of this I’m cold and withdrawn today.
I have a new group and we are to come up with a project that fosters civic engagement in Lagos.
I am unprepared for this. I’m abashed and mad at myself because this isn’t a good day for mood swing and the surfacing of a rookie self.
Everyone talks about thier project ideas. I am silent and completely passive, talking only when all eyes at the table are on me, expectantly awaiting my opinion.
I channel my reservedness into productivity, conform it to becoming a tool I learnt from a session yesterday- observation:
A group of people from different cultural backgrounds, with almost equaling level of knowledge coming together to reach a consensus on different ideas provided by same members are like the vanes of a fan that in a non-functioning state are apart, but when connected to electricity rotate to work for common purpose and appear to be one.
We don’t reach a conclusion on what project to work on till our mentor steps in to redeem the day and makes us realize that our lack of oneness has kept progress away, and that we should never let the fear of rejection keep us from saying our idea or opinion.
Suppressed thoughts and reactions come afloat when he leaves; each person unloads their mind and we move forward.
I’m wondering who/what our source of electricity is- our mentor or goal?
Presentation of projects takes place today. We brainstorm on the form our presentation shall take and there is a suggestion to add a short play. I am not sure its not going to be distracting, I eventually speak up when the drama rehearsals are ongoing. I await a colossal of angry reactions -because I should have spoken up earlier, while we all hadn’t agreed on adding the drama- but no offense is expressed. We talk about it and they convince me that its not going to be distracting.
It takes mature minds to make a strong and productive group, people whose focus is directed towards results and won’t let anything remind them of an ‘I’ instead of ‘us’. People who can put away differences, preferences, and embrace selflessness.
I’m awestruck at the sight different projects, the ideas behind them, and the manner with which the presenters deliver.
There are stunning young minds, great brains and beautiful hearts in Nigeria. I am sure of this now, more than ever.
On my way home, I think of what my friend said about leadership conferences. And again, I agree with him. For me, GLE was not a mere leadership conference; it was four-day soul-searching, self-discovery, and all I learnt about leadership, I did by listening, observing, talking, commenting, and being open-minded.
Leadership can be learnt.