Friday, 8 November 2013

TRENDS ON NIGERIAN CAMPUSES - Joshua Oyeniyi (Published by THE PUNCH NEWSPAPER on 14th October, 2013)

I recall vividly a debating competition I won during my 200 level days. During the competition, all the contestants had to speak impromptu on randomly selected topics and I was asked to speak briefly on “Social activities on campus as a major source of distraction for undergraduates”. I did my best in supporting the motion but my opponent made some punchlines in his retaliatory response. “The university”, he said, “is a place for self-discovery and not necessarily for sitting tight with books”. He went on to make allusions to the possibility of students finding out who they really are and what they were born to do. This, therefore, threw up the mind-boggling question: Are the social activities on campus doing more harm than good?
Having spent over four years in a federal university, I have attended a series of events cutting across the academics, career development, human capital development, music shows, talent hunts and so on. Truth be told, these activities are designed to bring to the fore the innate potential of our undergraduates and the organisers deserve lots of kudos. But how much is too much? One particular type of social events is the talent hunt shows now trending on our campuses nationwide. This is spreading like wildfire throughout the length and breadth of Nigerian institutions of higher learning due to the generous acceptance that greeted their introduction. Whether it is a musical talent show, where the new Tufaces, DBanjs are expected to rise from, or beauty pageants where another Agbani Darego will spring from or a comedy talent hunt from which another Ali Baba, Basket Mouth or Seyi Law could emerge, is another matter entirely.
There has always been an ever-increasing excitement amongst undergraduates about the above-mentioned social activities. Does it not pose a concern that so many Nigerian students in tertiary institutions are turning to these shows and events as a means of escaping academic rigours and finding quick fame and riches?
The thrills and frills that fill the air during such shows speak volumes for how much of an attraction they are. The other day, I got talking with Allen Ekwuru, an undergraduate of the University of Lagos, who won a Macho contest on campus and eventually went on to win the Mr. Universe Nigeria Pageant. He said, “I have been receiving calls from fellow students as to how they can get to where I am.” He even bared his mind on the challenges he has had to confront, one of which that is his receipt of anonymous calls from women asking to be visited with promises to pay for his return tickets.
This writer once attended a musical and theatre art talent show on campus and was mesmerised by the confusion that many undergraduates have about what really their talents are. It is absolute futility to try to be what you are not or venture into a career because someone else has made it via the same route. It was obvious that many of these contestants had no business with music, singing or acting but only wanted the fast lane to stardom.
However, many beautiful talents are being discovered by the day at these shows and the bearers of these talents were born to use them to get to their point of greatness. Another Nigerian undergraduate only recently made Nigeria proud by clinching the spot of World Miss University Africa in far away South Korea. Your guess is right – Tobi Phillips was discovered at a social event competition on campus and the list is endless.
The fact remains that this trend has been a distraction for many undergraduate students who have nothing in common with talent hunt shows.  Perhaps, those in this category need be reminded that their primary responsibility on the campus still remains their academic work and full concentration must be given to this. Each one needs to know what his/her talent is and work diligently  towards developing same for their benefit other than blindly attending one campus event after another to the sore detriment of their studies. There is no worse path to frustration.

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