I absolutely enjoyed Enugu, and my 3 day stint in the city…but I almost didn’t go.
IdeaCon is short for Idea Conference, our community of thinkers and talkers, that gives us a platform to engage young people and their ideas, question old truths, examine new ones, and build human capacity in a way that uplifts not only the individual, but also adds up to national development.
It was an idea that was birthed through a Facebook question in 2016. Now, IdeaCon has held physical conferences in Abuja, Lagos and Enugu. Next month – September – the IdeaCon train will move along to Kaduna State and later in November, it will wrap up 2019 in Lagos.
It has been quite the journey, especially because IdeaCon is personally funded by the founders. Yet, nothing quite prepared us for how challenging it would be holding an edition outside Lagos and Abuja.
It was many things; unresponsive volunteers, a venue that exceeded our budget and logistics we didn’t foresee, to mention some. Of the six (6) editions we have held, IdeaCon Enugu has been the most expensive to organize. It was juggling many balls together and trying to ensure none falls flat. Should we postpone Enugu? Should we cancel it completely? Oh yes, that came up during team conversations.
We went ahead with it. And I am oh so glad that we did.
I learnt a few things. I’ll share some of them with you.
- It is important to deploy local solutions championed by locals
When I was choosing the topics that will be presented at IdeaCon Enugu, it was important to me that beyond the topics being valuable ones, they were valuable to the audience they were being presented to.
In this case, being Eastern Nigeria, I wanted a topic that pulled at their cultural pride, something that made them think; “that’s us”. That’s exactly what the topic; “Creating an indigenous mindset around entrepreneurship – a proposed Igbo model”, presented by Okoye Hilary Nzube, did. It was a topic they could relate with, presented by someone like them.
- Young people are willing to learn
It amazes me every time when I hear people say stuff like young people are not willing to learn, they don’t attend ‘serious’ programs and so on.
I’m often left thinking; “What? That’s not true”. I am not saying it is not harder to organize programs that are not tilting towards the entertainment end of the spectrum. It is. So hard.
But there are young people out there, just like you and I, who are hungry for more and are actively searching out opportunities that allow them access that. One of our speakers, Linda Madu, presented the topic; “Waste Recycling – The double sword to poverty in Nigeria”. Linda already recycles waste from her kitchen into biogas, so it was a practical transfer of knowledge.
It was a revelation to see how interested people were and the many insightful questions they had. Beyond that, they wanted more. Can you teach me? What do I have to do? I have a community of younger people – can you train them? It was amazing to see.
- Being late to programs is a culture for so many of us
IdeaCon was scheduled to begin at 10am. At that time, there were less than 10 people present. People came in at 11am, and there were others who showed up close to 1pm.
When asked why they were late, there were actually people who said variations of “isn’t it Nigeria? I didn’t think you would start early oh”. And it makes me wonder; if we get to events late because we think they will start late, do we not see that we – and others like us – actively and directly contribute to this culture?
Let’s stop this thing we tag ‘Nigerian time’. Let’s rename it, so it means that we get to places at scheduled times. Let’s show respect for the time of others, and self.
- Conversations are important, even when we don’t agree
The words came out, like water moving on its path and interlocking with rock formations before it continues on its meandering way. They ebbed and flowed, touching everything from the civil war to economic prosperity in a national context.
A lot of these conversations are not easy, but the attendees touched on them. While I can’t say we reached an agreement, it was an insightful look into the different interpretations of history, and how this is impacted on by our personal opinions and/or experiences.
Lastly, I’ll say this;
- Every little effort counts
Sometimes, I am discouraged by what I term ‘The Nigerian Project’. It all just feels very exhausting, like for every step we take forward, we’re compulsorily pulled another five backward.
This past weekend reaffirmed for me that everything counts. We can decide to throw our hands up and say “You know what? I’m tired. I give up”, but like I said in my closing remarks at IdeaCon Enugu, where will that get any of us?
Oh, you’re working on leaving the country? Good for you! You absolutely should maximize every opportunity. But can you leave with your mum, your dad, your siblings and the other people who occupy places in your heart? No? Know that your seemingly little efforts matter in the grand scheme of things.
This country, our country, follows every one of us wherever we may go. We might as well make it work.