Speaking during a debate one is prepared for is challenging. Being told what side to argue for at the last moment is another ball game.
That was the challenge before Emilia Uupindi at the finals of the African Regional Inter-Collegiate and Inter-University Debate on Human Security organised by the Institute for African Culture and International Understanding unit of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta last week.
The event was part of activities to mark former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s 76th birthday.
Although Uupindi was not an alien to debates as she had represented her school, the University of Science and Technology in Namibia many times before, she was not so confident last week when moments before her turn, it dawned on her that she would be speaking against the motion contrary to her earlier preparation for the motion.
“Though it’s not my first time participating in debates, I did have butterflies in my stomach to the effect that I initially prepared to speak in support of the motion but later realised I had to speak against the motion. So, it took me a few minutes to start to think fast on how to re-organise my thoughts without having to revisit any book or material online. And I didn’t think I could articulate my points. I was really nervous,” she said.
But Uupindi surprised herself and impressed judges with her oratorical prowess, articulation and good command of the English language as she marshalled her points on the poser: “Threats to human security in Africa are self-inflicted and not induced by the west”, at the main auditorium of the institute.
Uupindi in three minutes argued that the West uses media propaganda as a weapon to subjugate Africa, defining the continent’s challenges as well as solutions to them.
She said: “Basically, everything that is inside Africa; our success and problems are defined by the West via media propaganda. But the question is: ‘Is it for our own benefit or theirs?’ Then the other is that Africa is very rich in terms of the economy, in terms of resources, but we don’t have the skills, and equipment. We don’t have the machines to further process the minerals that will give us those products that will further boost our economy. So, we are actually dependent on the West and with that they control us, and control our leaders.”
She added further that foreign aids are being granted African countries by the West with strict conditions to further impoverish, enslave her people rather than help them, and make them perpetually subservient to Western whims and caprices.
Her performance put her past three other debaters representing Nigeria, Ghana and Botswana.
In the collegiate category, the duo of Oduselu Tolulope and Sofarasin Temitope representing Tai Solarin University of Education Secondary School, Ijebu-Ode beat the Federal Government College Odogbolu, Trinity Montessori School, Cotonou, Republic of Benin, and Zuarungu Senior High School, Ghana, to claim the trophy.
Oduselu attributed their success to God’s favour and the drilling from their school ahead of the competition.
“Our school is known for excellence and hardwork. They (school) make us to believe in ourselves that nothing, however tasking, is impossible. Of course I experienced a little bit of stage fright when I mounted the stage, but once I started speaking, my fear eloped,” said Oduselu to The Nation.
Adressing the participants, Chief Obasanjo, who said he was reluctant when the idea of a debate was sold to him, thanked the Chairman of the Centre, Prof Akin Mabogunje, and its Director, Prof Peter Okebukola for their thoughtfulness which he said, kept him and his wife, Bola, on their seats while the finals lasted.
He said the debate highlighted the leadership deficit on the continent and the need to prepare the young ones for it.
“This observation has reinforced me to start thinking that perhaps our next edition of this competition should centre on leadership in Africa. We must start preparing the young ones for leadership challenges in the future because they will definitely take over from us. Nobody can start to readdress the issues of insecurity and bad leadership in Africa in future than you. If you do not start now, we may become second class citizens in the near future,” he said.
Prof Mabogunje equally spoke on the essence of the contest.
He said: “With this contest, we are forcing our youths to conform these twin generational challenges -insecurity and bad leadership. Threats to life has become a more serious issues though our act of omission or commission.
“We are also trying to tackle the issue of corruption that permeates Africa; and we strongly feel that to succeed, there must be a renaissance of our cultural values which I believe can protect us from Western domination. We must break the cycle of war, insecurity and bad leadership on our continent.”
The competition kicked off February 5 with over 64 schools (32 secondary/college and 32 universities) participating.
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