team-tunji-Tunji-Lardner

When your space finds harmony with your place, it’s a beautiful thing. The challenge is that all of you have your respective space which is a good thing but the place called Nigeria does not engender the collaboration between your space and this place.

These were the words of Mr Tunji Larder, Executive Director and founder of WANGONeT, West African NGO Network which was established in 2000 to harness and bring the benefits of the steadily evolving information and Communication Technology sector to Non-Governmental Organizations, Government Parastatals, Educational and Cultural Institutions and the Private Sector.

Mr. Lardner holds a Bachelor degree in Philosophy from the University of Lagos (1980). His international experience includes a long association with the United Nations system, serving in various capacities worldwide. Building on his early media career in Nigeria, he has over the last two decades gathered wide international experience including serving as an Adjunct Professor, Centre for New Media at the Columbia University School of Journalism (1996-8) and as a Research Fellow, Freedom Forum Media Studies Centre (1992-3) also at Columbia University. Mr. Lardner was also a Reuter Scholar/Knight Fellow with the Department of Communications at Stanford University (1988-9).

He also has UN and World Bank experience in coordinating conferences, possesses excellent writing, a robust intellect, integrity, great public speaking skills and mature interpersonal skills which blew me away while I sat and listened to him speak at Septembers Clique Africa hangout. I made a mental promise that to share his words to Nigerians and the world at large.

“There are two ways you can reference an environment. You can reference your environment as a place which is a geographically located large long fixed point of reference. However the bigger dimensioning of that place is what we call a space.

When your space finds harmony with your place, it’s a beautiful thing. The challenge is that all of you have your respective space which is a good thing but the place called Nigeria does not engender the collaboration between your space and this place.

So you abandon the boundless, limitless, prospects and possibilities of your own space, that space where you dream, create and innovate and use the alibi of your place as the reason why it’s not happening.�?

“As a younger man, I used to write in the newspaper. I still do and have a column on the guardian. I used to dream, I could be in class and just stray off to a place not bound by time and then I come back. I empowered myself, I set my mind free. The space I inhabited was my space and I took it with me everywhere.�?

“One of the things Nigerians ought to learn how to do is dream again. They need learn to dream in a universe that is not constricted by this place. Too many people are local champions who are not ambitious enough. They don’t think deep or beyond the boundaries of what they see and because of this every single thing about the place gets to them and thus they just become part of it.�?

“I wrote an article on the guardian sometime ago; ‘In praise of mediocrity’, it was my own tongue in cheek way of saying that Nigeria a huge place, is a government of mediocres, for mediocres, by mediocres. We are all in the same nest of mediocrity and have allowed mediocres rule us which is the challenge.�?

“When I went to Stanford University as a young mid career fellow, coming from Lagos, I knew by 27, I’d outgrown the space, it was clear to me I’d outgrown Lagos. I was wishing, I was dreaming that there will be a space somewhere I could have the opportunity to just lie back and read a book or two without having to worry about anything. That was the minimum thing I was looking for.�?

“And when the fellowship letter came through I couldn’t believe that It was possible, that somebody who did not know me, deemed the application I wrote anonymously worthy. Being the paranoid I was I knew there was a catch.�?

Nigeria is a transactional country and this means there’s a short time, immediate application no longevity and its purely defined by the contract. Transformation on the other is a much bigger space because it literally means you are changing the form of. You are transforming. Thus to transform Nigeria, you have to transform your selves in order to transform your space. Its only when you are able to transform your space fully integrated full into your complete understanding that you can build your own universe within the realm of whatever it is you are dreaming and then you can now see the picture very clearly.

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“Typically in the continuum we have the past, it happened yesterday, but the moment I say ‘the past’, or ‘the present’, it’s gone. The challenge for this generation in Nigeria is the possibility to fully understand the past while in the struggle of the present to be able to envision a Nigeria of the future that they create because it’s still unwritten and nobody knows it and nobody can deny them that future. They have to co-create it. Thus pining over the past is a waste of your time, what has been done has been done and this doers will not come back to apologize to anyone.

“Regardless of who did what, when, why, how, this is the age of consequences (Winston Churchill)�?. “The people who founded Nigeria didn’t not give you the blue print, you can judge by their behavior, they really don’t care. Thus the question remains; “Can you collectively envision a future that we have not seen before?�?

“What I do now doesn’t make financial sense that much I can assure you, everybody thinks I am crazy, that’s fine, which I probably am, but that’s also ok. What is important is that you have to find something that you want to do and you commit yourself to it. The fact that you are young doesn’t mean you are going to live forever, somehow tomorrow and you are hit by a bus, that’s it. Some of you are not going to make 50; get used it for that is the honest to goodness statistical truth.�?

“This cringing sense of compliance, this sense I which somehow you have to respect older people, fuck that shit, it has to be earned.  I don’t want you to respect me because am an old farf respect me because there is an exchange of value.�?

“You have to recover the ability to dream, do not use Nigeria as an alibi. Your mind is boundless but you are not using it. You come into Nigeria which is an (RDF )Reality Distortion Field where up is down and down is up. How do you see through all of that; the refraction, smoke and mirrors to get to a point of clarity. It’s when you are dreaming that you can see beyond the field. We have inherited the most ‘the Nigerian gene’. We have been programmed to survive through this environment. Can you create a Nigeria that you want to live in, a Nigeria that you want your kids to live in? And so each time we talk about Nigeria and the heroes past, idolation with the past, the glory days, there were never such thing, it’s all pure fiction. There never was a glory day in Nigeria, don’t delude yourself that Nigeria will be great again, it never was.  Can you create your own reality?�?

Funny enough, I am 27 now, using Tunjis words, I know I’ve outgrown this space, Its clear to me now, Ive actually outgrown Lagos. I find my self wishing and dreaming for a space somewhere I could have the opportunity to just lie back and read as many books as possible, tell those who care to listen the contents of this books without having to worry about anything.

Image Credit: Wangonet.org and Weabless blog

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