2018 wasn’t all sad and bad. There were great moments, progress that left us proud and hopeful. Let’s celebrate those moments…
Another year has come to a close. Twelve long months of more negatives than positives. There was so much pain and bloodshed, so many broken promises and heartbreak. Blood of the innocent flowed and those we reposed confidence in made excuses instead of impact. The old got killed in their beds and men were slaughtered as sacrifices to cows. Evil men reigned supreme. Old men not only looked away while things went wrong in the market, they participated shamelessly and shamefully in macabre dances. Too many losses. Too many lost goals, too many sad stories.
But 2018 wasn’t all sad and bad. There were great moments, progress that left us proud and hopeful. Let’s celebrate those moments because what shall it profit us if we choose to mope and see gloom at a time like this? Nothing. I choose to see the sun and not its shadows. I choose to look forward to tomorrow. I choose to enjoy the warm winds that show that Nigeria is still breathing. Happiness is a choice. Let’s focus on that choice.
They were not born whiz kids, these five girls. In fact, five months before they became the cynosure of all eyes in faraway United States of America, Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye had had little contact with the computer. But they had passion. They wanted to do something different. They had potential and an organization discovered it.
For five months, they researched and worked and put together a tech app which they named FD- Detector, a device used to identify fake drugs using the bar code to verify the genuineness of the product. These teenage girls did it and wrote Nigeria’s name in gold in Silicon Valley. Yes, Silicon Valley. The app can reveal and verify expiration date of any drug even when some backroom faker has rewritten it with ink. Prof Dora Akunyili must be dancing somewhere in the great beyond. These girls built this app from the very scratch using open source software from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These are students from humble background from Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) Secondary School, Onitsha, Anambra State. This is not one of those schools where fees are paid in dollars and the students have ballet and German language lessons. It’s just a public school like you and I attended. Yet these brilliant girls beat Spain, USA, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and China to lift the trophy. They stood tall among the 19,000 girls from 115 countries that participated in the competition. Their Fake Drug Detector App trumped 2000 other apps that were submitted.
Moving on, a Chemistry teacher from The Regent College, Abuja, Jamiu Aliyu, beat 119 educators across the globe to win the 2018 Honeywell Educators at Space Academy scholarship in United States Space and Rocket Centre Huntsville Alabama. It was his sixth attempt, having written essays for six consecutive years. He was the only Nigerian and one of two Africans who got the scholarship. When in 2017, the fifth year of his application, the assessors told him they were putting him on the waiting list, Aliyu waited with bated breath, yet no good news came. He did not get discouraged. He changed strategies and in 2018, he got the big break, a win that may change his life forever.
According to him, “If your goals are big enough, they must scare you. If it is going to be, then it is up to you. I found my place in space.”
Aliyu’s goals are certainly big and scary. Here’s a Chemistry teacher who can imagine what fun it will be teaching students how to make alien toothpaste. He can imagine a school where students will be able to test their own hypothesis, a classroom where students can find their place in space, where they are not limited by race, religion, location, and any other self-limiting factors.
This is certainly an unusual teacher in Nigeria, a happy teacher who preferred to fail forward instead of moping and blaming everybody. He said, “It does not matter what subject you teach, you can turn your classroom into a learning space for the future scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians among them. A great teacher inspires.”
I decided to check Jamiu Aliyu’s full profile and what I found left me with freshness of hope, that all is not lost. Here is a man who has excelled at what he does, teaching with a passion, focused on his mission and determined not to let failure win. He’s a Nigerian. I’m happy there are people like him carrying the green passport with me.
His next two projects in the next 365 days as a way of ‘giving back’ and appreciating God for this opportunity?
“One, is to enrich 5000 teachers with the innovative learning techniques through hands-on training and two, is to establish STEM Mission for upper primary and secondary school students.
Now, assess this next story
Kambinachi Kanu is a 10 year-old pupil of Temple Preparatory School, Ilupeju, Lagos. She participated in the ‘Ericsson’s Girls who Innovate’ competition in the 9-12 year old category, made it all the way to the finals to become global winner. Themed ‘The Future of Education ‘ this year’s outing is the second edition and wait for Kambinachi’s winning idea: to help Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps so the poor kids can continue their education using tablets via e-learning platform in a safe place where classrooms are used only when security is assured. She’s 10. She’s concerned about the less privileged hundreds of kilometres away from her nice classroom in Lagos. She was willing to put in the long, hard hours to win. She didn’t do it for the money. Ten-year olds don’t think money is for more than chocolates and holiday fun. But just imagine how much work she had to do to beat other children from here through the Middle East and entire Africa. She won, yes. She’s the cute brilliant child of Mr and Mrs Kanu but the icing on this cake for me is this: Kambinachi’s innovation will benefit 600,000 children, which is 33% of the total 1.8 million displaced persons in the country. Kambi is not a politician. She did not make any campaign promises. She just did her bit and won for her peers who are stranded in camps, hungry , with little or no hope for education or a better tomorrow. She did her bit. She is a good Nigerian, our assurance that tomorrow will be a better day.
These are living heroes, young people
But Imam Abubakar is 83 years old, the Imam of Nghar Village, Gashishi District of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Plateau State who had had the presence of mind and willingness to die rather than surrender 300 Christians to death in the hands of bloodthirsty herdsmen. He hid the women in his house and the men in the mosque, then stood guard and, with a poker face, told the vengeance-crazed herdsmen that everybody in the mosque was a muslim, not Christians. That was how Imam Abubakar saved about 300 persons on June 24, 2018. The marauders had invaded about 15 communities in Barkin Ladi LGA and killed hundreds of persons. But they needed more blood which this old man denied them, risking his own life. For Christians fleeing for their lives. He is a muslim. He is an Imam. He is a northerner. But in a moment that mattered, he realized that he is a human being, a father, grandfather, a leader. He did what a good leader should do. He led. He protected. He sacrificed. He didn’t turn tail and run. He did not abandon those who sought his help.
Imam Abubakar had no security vote or armed soldiers or policemen. At that critical moment he was just a good man doing what needed to be done. He didn’t think of what could befall him. He simply did what was right. He is a good Godly man. He didn’t behave like the ones who live on taxpayers’ sweat and blood but still steal from the poor. Imam Abubakar wasn’t thinking of the National Honour and Presidential handshake coming his way.
He saved them from mass slaughter. That is what good men do.
But Joseph Blankson died. He gave his life that 13 others might live. Blankson, a contractor working with an oil and gas company in Port Harcourt, was a great swimmer but that day, his strength failed him. He couldn’t swim to safety after rescuing others. He died leaving behind a sad but proud widow and children.
He had gone to his village and boarded the boat with his sisters. When the boat capsized, Blankson jumped in, rescued 13 but was too exhausted while trying to save the 14th person, and tragically drowned. Nineteen people would have died without his selfless courageous efforts. Six, including Blankson, died. Agood man was swept away with the waves. But we will never forget him.
What do all these stories teach us? That we are a good people. We are humane. We love life. We are each other’s keeper. We are as intelligent and innovative as the best of them on this earth. We are a people who thrive and flourish in the face of the oddest of odds. We are a strong kind people. Let’s not even bother with the people who are muddying up our space. Let’s just be happy and hope that 2019 will strengthen the good Nigerians and take away the wicked.