TEDxYaba2017: Dissecting the Past; Talking Growth, Opportunities and Possibilities for the Future.
As you may have very well heard, the 2017 edition of TEDxYaba themed Past, Present, Future held last Saturday August 19th. The event which was very well attended offered an opportunity for
attendees and speakers to contemplate the past, present, future of Yaba especially as a symbolic
representation of the innovative spirit that is sweeping through human society world over generally
and in Nigeria especially.
One remarkable thing about the session, were the deep lessons and parallels drawn from erstwhile simple, everyday life like jollof rice, story-telling, poetry, how we wear our hair, the photographs we take; the cartoons our children watch; how we live our lives every day; our little communities of learning and knowledge sharing among others.
The talks were as interwoven as they were distinct in nudging different aspects of our consciousness
to reflect on this important theme as you will see. Just read on.
Curator Lagos Biennale, Folakunle Osun kicked off the sessions with an expose on ‘Jollof rice’, the
famed West African dish, popular for its ability as a leveler in every party regardless of tribe or
tongue. It was a great way to start; telling us (and I paraphrase) that if we all as a people can agree on
jollof, we can agree on everything else. The message of this talk, like Aduke’s neo-soul “man is just
man” cannot be more apt in speaking to the need of peace and acceptance in these times.
TED Fellow, Tunji Lardner asked the very important question: “What really can we learn from the
past; how do they define the present and how can we begin to imagine a future given all that we can
learn from our past and present especially?” To be sure, the challenges especially in a country like
Nigeria, are analog as much as they are digital and it is important to recognize these as an important
step towards addressing the challenges and solving them. To be able to dissect these, new mindsets
are required. If this generation can learn from the mistakes of the past they can avoid the mistakes of
their leaders and actively take charge of their future, he noted, stressing that they must not miss the
next industrial revolution.
Actor, Lala Akindoju as though on cue yet earlier on in day in pinpointed the importance of
storytelling as a critical tool for defining the past, present, future; and boldly challenged erstwhile
beliefs when she declared that “ other people’s experience is the best teacher!” Why make the same
mistakes other people have made when you can learn from their experience? Why repeat the
mistakes of the past when you can learn from them to better define the present and future?
Finding home grown solutions to our African problems is an important step to re-imagining the
opportunities in our collective future. While at these, being confident of who we are and what we
are made of; being proud of our natural hair knowing that it is “ours and ours alone to wear as we
like”; not conforming to please society even in this little task but dutifully finding and owning our
truths in our ultimate journey to self and the endless possibilities that abound to us in that discovery.
And importantly recognising that to win in life and everything else does require a bit of rebellion
even if how you choose to solve your problems; like how you wear your hair. There was a lot to
unpack from Ade Balogun’s talk on African hair revolution.
“Whatever you are great at, would always be a tool to express the things you deeply care about”.
That was Photographer/Musician, TY Bello, connecting the dots and reminding us how through
power images over the years she has and continues to change perspectives and influence narratives
that redefine past beliefs/assumptions while ultimately molding the future. This talk again harps on
Lala Akindoju’s stimulating talk on the power of story-telling to create new perspectives and
inevitably new opportunities.
This was further reinforced in Omobola Johnson talk. Everyone agrees that Africa is a continent of
possibilities yet it continues to be perceived as one of experimentation (evidenced in the level of
external support it gets, important as they are). To unlock the possibilities and potential of the
future, investments need to scale. And to do this, Omobola Johnson lets us know that we need
communities of Knowledge, Skills & Capital where through interactions and shared learning;
Africans can begin to control and tell their own stories with a view to changing their perception on a
In his talk “Disgrace to the Family” Victor Asemota shows how everyone has a capacity to not only
be influenced but to also influence others regardless of social class or work. The future is one built
on influences and role models. There are different factors shaping career choices which are today
very distant from the default expectations of African parents and there is as well, a boundless limit
to learning opportunities in the digital age. If mined appropriately, one can be certain that the right
role models and influences are being raised for the future.
This was for me reinforcement on the need for leaders in Andela’s Seni Sulyman’s talk earlier.
Leaders of the future, not government but individuals who everyday seek to add value, acquire new
knowledge and skills and are willing to transfer these skills and impact society. The highlight here
was the key question “if future generations of Africans – your children and their children and
grandchildren- was dependent on the actions you take every day, what kind of future will they
To open his timeless poem ‘History Is’ an examination of the intrigues of Nigeria’s political
landscape till date, Efe Paul Azino begins with a calm deliberateness and measured cadence, a
discussion of the challenges of the present day. In the end, he tweaks that masterpiece to reflect the
challenges of youth today in the face of waywardness of political leaders and their corresponding
actions to win the future – revolution.
The future is one of limitless possibilities as far as your minds can fathom literally. You only need to
see Judith Okonkwo’s talk on Virtual reality to know this. And it was exciting to see this
consciousness affirmed during her talk. Who would have thought that it was possible to impact the
education, health and tourism sectors or enhance to enhance learning opportunities for Nigeria’s
out-of- school children many of whom are in the IDPs using Visual Reality? But that’s what Judith
Okonkwo is doing with her organization, Imisi 3D.
In this same vein, Maryam Uwais through her work on Social Protection is ensuring that Nigeria’s
really poor people can move beyond the limitations of their past into a whole new future of
possibilities. Through the initiative Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP)
Mrs Uwais ensures financial inclusion for microenterprises, specifically the unbanked and under-
banked; giving them direct access to quick, easy and interest free-loans of between NGN10, 000 to
NGN500, 000 for up to 6 months at no other costs except a 5% administrative fee. This inevitably
expands the economic opportunities available to them.
Re-imagining the future seems a lot more possible after this event. There is nothing more
empowering than knowing that unlocking the opportunities imagined in this collective future as well
the solutions for the myriad of problems that plague growth primarily resides with individuals, you
and 1 – in the choices we make or do not make. As the convener Emmanuel Adegboye hoped,
TEDxYaba 2017 has sparked interesting conversations and ideas which hopefully will in the coming
days be evidenced by corresponding action that would set us on course to a more sustainable future.