Saturday, August 20, 2011

Igbo Youth, Balanced Youth

Being a keynote speech presented by Peter Obiefuna at the inaugural ICAE Youth Day banquet, Edmonton, Alberta, Saturday, August 20, 2011.


Chairperson, ICAE Youth Leadership, ICAE Youth, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for choosing me to speak at this awesome event. It gives me great pleasure to speak to you on the topic, “Igbo Youth, Balanced Youth” to honor our youth, and set the right note not just for today’s amazing event but, if you permit me, for the rest of your many days to come. Please join me to look in the direction of some youth in the room and say to them, “Igbo Youth, Balanced Youth”.


For this speech, I want to define balance in metaphor -- as a 3-legged stool. All the 3 legs are important for keeping the stool stable. Each of the 3 legs needs to grow to the right length for the stool to be balanced. If any of the legs is shorter than the others, the stool will be unbalanced. Also, if any of the legs starts growing too long and much faster than the others, the stool will also be unbalanced.
Now, a life of balance is a life that is driven by purpose and evaluated by purpose. The purpose of the stool is to provide a stable surface to hold something. One of the legs can say, “Look at me, I am so long and beautiful!” That may be true, but until all three legs are of the right length, the stool is not balanced. The stool does not provide a stable surface.
I propose that the challenge to balance being faced daily by the Igbo Youth in the face of a multitude of coexisting and sometimes conflicting norms, can be illustrated by the balance of the stool. As an illustration, if you are the stool, one of the legs you stand on may be your heritage Igbo culture, the other, your immersion Canadian culture and the third, your unique views and values. Our youth do indeed bring unique values to the culture table. We must recognize it, respect it, nurture it and allow it room to grow.


“Hey, that is not the way we do it.” How many times has someone said that to you before? I can tell from the puzzle or even frustration that accompanies that statement that you sometimes feel inadequate because you feel unequipped to understand omenala (Igbo custom). Worse still, the next day at work or school, you are also told the same things by people expecting you to equally follow the oyinbo (dominant western) culture.
I applaud you today as persons of balance because you have been able to transform and are still transforming yourselves into this complex blend of a personality that can dynamically integrate the omenala and oyinbo customs. Even though not immersed in Igbo land, you diligently accompany us your parents and guardians to these socio-cultural events. You passively imbibe, you gain self worth, you gain identity, you learn of your roots and without thinking it, you deeply come to terms with who you are, your culture, your customs, your values. Then you similarly imbibe the best of oyinbo when you go to school and work and play. Just as passively as you imbibe these cultures, you also integrate them and display the most fitting conducts from these cultures to each of your target audiences. You meet someone where they are interact with them the way they will understand while sprinkling in elements of the things that make you unique. You are today’s example of those who “to the Romans, become Roman to win them over.” You do this at work, you do this at school, you do this at community meetings, at home, on the bus and while just hanging out, liming, chilling, ‘chillaxing.’ Your personality is a blend of multiple cultures rolled into one. You provide expression that is a dynamic blend of all those cultures. You uphold the best of each and you determine when it is most appropriate to express which. Without thinking, you can even express a blend of cultures that is better than each of the subcultures you contain. You are better than a typical Igbo person in subtlety and western-style politeness, decorum and etiquette. You are better than any typical westerner in colorfulness, instant friendliness, warmth, community spiritedness, reverence for elders, responsibility to family, to list but a few. That makes you better than both of them, even better than us your parents and guardians. That makes you unique, that makes you special, that makes you more balanced that we could possibly be. That positions you better than us to take hold and contribute better to the future of both Canada and Nigeria because you contain in you, the right balance of all that is good in both cultures and so are better suited to become leaders of both. More particularly, you are better fit to lead Canada into a blossoming multicultural tomorrow.

Igbo Youth! Balanced Youth!!


This is a passionate call to our parents and community leaders: We can learn from our kids how to survive here. Their tongue is more flexible to dictional adaptation, their ears are more tonally adaptable. If you doubt this, listen to their accent; listen to some of the metal and brass music they actually enjoy. Those are the things we can see. The one we can’t see: their mind is very flexible, agile, pragmatic and goal oriented. You will never find out unless you let them express it. Give them room to grow. Empower them to learn to become leaders. You must stop the present attitude of “The Young Shall Grow Only When the Old Has Died.” Begin now to give room to your young people to make safe mistakes and to learn from them; to learn from doing and not from being told. Their ears are full with our tellings. We need to let them do. We need to back off a little. We stunt their growth by hand-holding them too much. We breastfeed our young adults when other cultures in the same country feed their own hard meat. How do we expect ours to compete in future that will be demarcated by those who got some practice and those who just passively followed Mummy and Daddy’s micromanaging and brainwashing? If we don’t trust these youth, let us start engaging them to discuss our concerns. If we trust them, let us show it by cutting off the apron strings, a few strings at a time. We owe them guidance not bottling up.

Igbo Youth! Balanced Youth!!


Dear Youth, because you are balanced, you must maintain balance. You must keep balancing. You must evaluate what people throw at you before accepting it. Because you are balanced, you don’t have so many excuses for failure like others do. You will just have to succeed. You have no excuse to wallow in depression or contemplate suicide. You have a dependable community backing you up. There are people to talk to. You are worth more than your disappointments. You are somebody. Because you are balanced, you will process peer pressure differently. In fact, you will be the ‘peer’ pressuring your friends to consider things from your perspective: A richer, more balance and cooler perspective. You will not do drugs, cigarettes or get drunk just to belong.
Lastly, because you are balanced, you accentuate the good parts of all the cultures you imbibe. You are greater than the sum of all the parts. You are better prepared than we are. You will achieve more, you will be more adaptable, more survivable and you will attain more than we the adults possibly can. You will march forward with that mindset and nothing can stop you. Not the place you are coming from, not the place you find yourself today, not the place you are headed. You are my hope for a better future for my people. You are my young heroes.

Thank you, God Bless you, and have a wonderful Youth Day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Pencil Maker to the Pencil

This write-up is inspired by a FaceBook message posted by Unical Chapel of Redemption on Facebook. It really inspired me and before I could post a comment, the page was either pulled from Facebook or something. So, I am posting both the original comment and my response here, hoping that it will bless someone like it blessed me.

Here is the original post:

The Pencil
A pencil maker told the pencil five important lessons just before putting it into the box:
1. Everything you do will leave a mark.
2. You can always correct the mistakes you make.
3. What is important is inside of you.
4. In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings which will only make you better.
5. To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the 
hands that hold you.

And my comment follows:

I have a few more:
1. You can't make a good point until you are sharpened.
2. You can't depend on yesterday's sharpening. You have to keep returning for sharpening.If you work as hard as I expect, you'd need quite frequent sharpening. The Pencil that needs no sharpening never gets used.
3. You are made for a purpose. If you are HB, be content and trust my plan for you. Don't waste time trying to be 2B, 3B or any other xB. Make the best of what an HB pencil does and more importantly, make the best of my purposes for you. Your work will be reckoned according to what an HB should accomplish.
4. Someday, your length of days will run out and all you have left is your work.
5. I have provided you an eraser. But you actually have to use it. Some people call it redemption in the name of Jesus.
5. You don't have to scrawl aimlessly just so that eraser can abound. If you spend your life scrawling and erasing, at the end, you will be like a forgotten dream. Spend your short length of days to write things that endure.
6. Erasing your mistake is one thing. But restoring the length of graphite you lost in aimless scrawling is another. Be wise. SELAH!
7. Even after erasing your mistakes, some of the mistakes can leave a mark on the paper. Be careful because the consequence of your mistake can live on in the world you foray even after you are forgiven.
8. If you are used for a very horrible purpose... Like being used to stab people in the eye ..., you cannot erase some of the outcome of that. Then you could even be locked away and may be destroyed, never to be a useful pencil again.
9. Even when you mean well, and have all the great ideas you want to write down, don't scratch so hard or you will tear the very paper on which you want to leave your mark. Do not be so zealous as to destroy the very script you are making.
10. Have a nice life and a nice journey. See you on the day of reckoning. Your maker.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Daddy day camp

This was one nice evening out with the kids at the neighborhood play park. Fun stuff!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Does Apple Care about the Customer?

The other day, I was completing an after-sales questionnaire for a branch of Best Buy, one of the major electronic retail chains, and one of the questions ran something like: Do you feel that Best Buy cares about the customer? I scratched my head quite a bit and couldn't cone up with an answer. I then entered, "I don't know". Today is different. I actually think that Apple cares about its customers.

I am sitting in the Apple Store at West Edmonton Mall waiting for my iPhone 4 to get fixed. And I thought I should just blog this positive experience and go as far as suggesting that Apple does care about the customer.

It all started this morning when my son, Pete, picked up my phone as he usually does. Then unfortunately for my phone, as I carried him to the dinning table for breakfast, he sighted something else he liked: cookies. Then Pete lets the phone go crashing to the floor. And it smashes against the metal bar of his dinning chair and the back glass was totaled.

Broken iPhone

The broken iPhone
My first reaction was to check the Internet for "Where on earth will I find the back glass of this unit?". The options ranged from a do-it-yourself kit + instructions to special services that charges you $200. Anyway, i called Apple. First the service desk tells me it would cost $220; at which I said, "Hey! It's just the back glass, not the entire thing!"; at which she said, "Oh! OK. Give me your serial number. Wait a moment. Sorry about that. OK. It will cost $29.99. I was ecstatic. I got an appointment for someday.

Now, a few minutes ago, I arrived the Genius Bar and this smart guy Greg comes says, "What can I do for you?". And I say, "Hey men, it looks like I smashed my iPhone", pointing at the badly damaged phone on the table. And he says, "It sure looks like you did!", as he pushes a few more buttons and announces, "Ok. You've not requested service since you bought the phone so, we will just cover this damage. That means that I got a $0.00 invoice. I was even more ecstatic. It may be just $29.99 or $299.99. Whatever! It just leaves me feeling very cared about right now. Totally!

Update: About a month after the first post, I also smashed my front glass. This time, it was supposed to cost $230 ... cost of replacing the whole phone. I understand that Apple doesn't change the front glass in repair shops because it is fused into the touch circuitry. They just replace the phone, that's what the $230 is for. Well, after telling me that physical damage is not normally covered, they said they were giving me another one-time complimentary replacement. They took my shattered phone and gave me a new phone. Finish. Cost: $0.00. I went home, synced in an image of my phone from the computer and moved on like nothing happened. This is beyond overwhelming! Thank you, Apple.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

iPad 2: What you can’t have

Since late 2010 rumours have been abuzz about what to expect and not to expect about the upcoming iPad 2. These rumours fall in two categories: one is a wish-list type prediction. These say, because I’ll like to see it, then I believe it’s coming. The other comes from a handful of mainstream tech journalists who claiming special knowledge from “people close to the matter”. I sit here and read them all and in some of them I go, “nah! that’s not going to happen”. And here is why.


This is the most “nah!” of the iPad 2 predictions I see online. If you know anything about Steve Job’s Apple, you’ll know that IOS will never support Flash unless those 6 issues raised in Steve Jobs paper, “Thoughts on Flash” are addressed by Adobe. And you and I know that this has not happened yet, if ever they would. So, you can be sure that Flash will not come on iOS devices anytime soon. Many web sites have been re-writing to accommodate non-flash devices and most browser manufactures (even IE) are gunning to make HTML5 more mainstream that it used to be. There would be no reason for Apple to return to Flash right now and  potentially lose the edge on that unbelievable 10-12 hour battery life. That brings me to the next group of predictions.

battery life

Just so you know, the one most unsung yet most significant success story of the iPad is the battery life. It works because the battery lasts all day. It won’t be such a great travel companion if the battery dies on you at the first airport. You won’t have carried it everywhere you were going if you needed to carry charger cables with you. There are a few key things Apple did not spare resources for during the design decision for iPad. One of them is battery life. They purchased an entire chip company and used their processor because it gives all that power and uses less battery than what the other chip makers could squeeze in. So, if you want iPad 2 to sport anything, just ask yourself: will that hurt battery life? If the answer is yes, you are not going to get it. From what Jobs said on “Thoughts on Flash”, Flash would therefore be a “Nah!”. So would some of the things people are speculating on.

lower price

Price is a big deal! So big a deal that two major contenders (HP Slate and Microsoft Courier) that started this race with iPad did not make the finish line the way iPad did and many person think that price had lots to do with it. They could not bring it in at a close-enough price and battery life. Historically, Apple’s version x+1 of any iOS device would always either see a price cut or feature bump for the same price or both. So, price is looking really good. I am putting my money on feature bump. That is, Apple is more likely to give you a larger storage space, more memory and more speed for the same price than to lower the price altogether. The main argument against lowering price is that there is no serious price contender right now and sales are amazing at the current price point.

PC-type File System

This is a tough one for me because I really want the feature for myself. But the nagging voice of reason in my head is saying something else: Apple is very consistent with design philosophies. Once something does not match the design philosophy, it doesn’t make the cut. iOS devices are designed to be non-geeky. They are designed not as computer interfaces but as consumer electronics.  Apple does not want iOS devices to look so ‘computery’ with file name and extension and file association and stuff like that. That’s the drawback for a generic file system-type interface. I am not saying the feature will not happen. I am saying that it will only happen after Apple figures out a way to make you not have to know a file name to access the space.

One possible way this could happen is to make the file system into a service that supports both standard MIME types and unique app-registerable types. The idea is that when Apple opens the file system for you, they don’t want you to identify the item by file name. They want you to see a nice view of page 1, a nice photo, an album cover or video frame. That’s what is holding back the file system and if it’s coming, it’s coming because they have figured this out. And of course, if it comes, Safari will also support the browse button and you can interact with your local or LAN network file system from web sites.

SD Card

This is not going to happen. Take a look at the iPods, from v1 to v-now; the iPhone, from v1 to v-now; and the iPad. Take a look at any of those vis a vis their competition. You’d notice that while their competition believed that you have to attach some extended memory card slot to help you expand what these devices did, Apple cannot stand people poking flat plastic devices into their computers. Funny but that’s true. They’d rather devise a file format that is so compact that you never use up all your 64GB of flash drive than to give you a slot that no one ever really uses.

USB, etc

There are three things counting against this one: Battery power concerns, design philosophy (Apple wants all iOS devices to speak to the world of peripherals through the 30-pin interface. Period). More fundamentally, Apple doesn’t really like peripheral interfaces that look so mechanical and techy and ugly. They don’t want their devices look like you could take screw-drivers to them. They don’t like people poking things into their personal devices, if they can help it. First, they spear-headed making the floppy drive smaller then got rid of it. Then, they spear-headed getting rid of the parallel port. Then, they spearheaded replacing the serial port with USB and then got rid of it. They never liked the CD tray and never had one. They had a narrow slit slot … and that’s even only on their full-scale computers. You are not likely to get any of these on the iOS devices.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Becoming a responsible member of society

I was guest speaker at the inaugural event of the Nigerian Students Association of the University of Alberta. Here is the text of the speech..

Chairman, Dr Temi Sonuga
Fellow Guest Speakers: Drs Raymond Anana & Ali Ahmed-Hameed
President and Exco, NSA-UofA
Honorable members NSA-UofA
Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me. I know I am in the midst of academics but permit me to take a pragmatic and perhaps practical populist slant to this subject.


Becoming a responsible member of society.
Responsibility is based on an expectation that is created by a social contract.
Social contracts have key tent posts. They are founded in law, in tradition, in the golden rule and in common sense.

Responsibility happens at the meeting point of ability, willingness and availability. Ability is acquired through diligent learning. Humans are designed to learn. Willingness is kindled most easily through vision sharing and impartation. Availability through appropriate prioritizing.
When someone is guaranteed an expected outcome because he/she left the matter in your hands, then, you are being responsible.


Becoming a responsible member of society.
A member is a part of a whole. You need the right member mentality to be the right kind of member. The most accurate member mentality is depicted in the following words from a very popular book:
And if the ear says, "I am not part of the body because I am not an eye," would that make it any less a part of the body?If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, "I don't need you." The head can't say to the feet, "I don't need you."

A member is an indispensable part of the whole. A member does not have to look like or have the same abilities as the other members. The whole misses something when the member is missing. When you walk out there on the street, or in your classroom or in your workplace, you will not look, act or be identically endowed as the other persons around you. But you are a key part of the whole. This society, without you is no longer this society. You can have all the abilities, willingness and availability but not know that you are qualified to belong. You are a first class member of society.

People and situations will test this assertion. They will try to make you doubt or feel less of your worth. You are too young; Too dark, light; Too short; Too female, male. They only want to delegitimize you. Worse still, they want you to believe that. Once you do, the seed they sowed will bear fruit for generations. You owe yourself the responsibility to say, in the true indomitable Nigeria spirit by saying to yourself, "No mind them abeg" (meaning: Please, don't mind them). You have to believe that you have all you need for your moment. When you face that challenge, focus all you've got on that problem, not on your perception of inadequacy. Just seize the moment!


Becoming a responsible member of society.
Society can be as large and as extensive as your imagination can carry you but you can only influence one segment of society at a time, one microcosm at a time, one moment at a time. There are very few people that get to influence extremely large segments of society in a single moment. These are people like Adolf Hitler, George Bush, Bill Gates, and Billy Graham. For such ones, the whole world (the macrocosm) can get to become their microcosm. For the rest of us society is easier to grasp when decomposed into smaller microcosms of responsibility.

A guy sitting on a moving bus with a near-term pregnant stranger standing beside him with only a bus pole to cling onto is in his microcosm of responsibility.
So is a tired young woman going home from a late shift in an understaffed hospital only to see a dying patient lying in his/her vomit on the corridor.
So is a driver driving around the neighbourhood of a school.
So is a man in his home with wife and children needing to be loved, protected, cherished and respected. Even your home is a microcosm of society!
It's difficult to see our home as a slice of society and the fact that we dress up different before leaving the home underscores that difficulty. Your home is a microcosm of society. Show me a man or woman whose home is in a mess, who sees no value in considering the opinion of his children or spouse, and I will show you a disrespectful person in the wider world, an impatient, insecure bully that will consider your opinion as a threat and reacts to it with anger. The social contract has to be fulfilled at home as well.

The microcosm of one

You are also responsibility to the microcosm of ONE. Yourself. You need to minister to yourself. You need to take time to be clean, dress right, speak right, teach yourself some grooming, don't only smile into the mirror to see your pretty face. Also take a look at the mirror to see what we see when you are mad. One important responsibility to he microcosm of one is the duty to defend your own interests.
It is ok to have your own interests and it's ok to protect them even in the face of conflicting communal interests. It's ok for both of them to be in conflict. You may wonder: how can I be responsible to the wider society when I am pursuing self-interest? Is that even possible? The answer is yes. You just have to follow the rules. Actually, there is only one rule: you have to declare your self-interest or you should not make it out as pursuing communal interests.
I will give you a hypothetical but accurate example:
Suppose that Dave Fashola is a greenhorn newbie to Edmonton. He was being prepped by this unpopular leader as his successor and was even given a taste of that level of leadership. The promise was that power will change over in March/April 2011 and he will become the leader. If you try to throw this leader out, I can understand why Dave Fashola would be livid with rage.

The person behind this fictitious character is free to protect his self-interest but is not allowed to claim to be doing it in the interest of the greater good of the people. He has no right to delegitimize people’s interests because it ran contrary to his hidden agendas. He has no right to drag an entire community's name to the mud because he is frustrated. He is not a responsible memberr of society if they says that he is acting out of love for the larger community.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear students,you may not be able to influence the entire world with one single action. But you can influence your microcosm. And one microcosm at a time, you will touch your entire macrocosm of responsibility. It takes work, it takes preparation. It takes zeal. It takes learning. All in all, you have to first agree that you are not an outcast, you are not second-class, and you are a member of the whole. You don’t have to look like the next guy. You are qualified to belong.

Long live NSA - UofA, Long live Nigeria and Canada.
Long live you, yourself.

Thank you.