Transformative Power of Work by Ikechukwu Onuoma

28 09 2018



UNIV NIGERIA 2019: Getting down to business

Did you ever think about the fact that only humans have hands? It may seem obvious, but it’s not. In the world of nature, we humans are uniquely vulnerable: wings, paws or flippers get you around a lot faster and farther; furs and feathers provide protection from the elements; refined senses, instincts, and defense mechanisms automatically kick in to ward off dangers and detect opportunities for growth.

But our vulnerability is at the same time our strength.

With our hands, we can build wings to fly.

With our hands, we can design our own habitat and weave our own clothe.

With our hands, we can provide care, establish relations, and protect ourselves and others.

Our hands are instruments open to infinite possibilities.

With our hands, we humanize the world through arts and Medicine, Gastronomy, Architecture, Fashion, Communication, Education, Domestic Work and Design.

Our interdependence creates employment opportunities in Commerce, Health Care, Politics, Law, Economy, Business and International Affair.

Our openness to infinite possibilities drives work forward creating Technology that entertainment us and innovations in research.

With our hands, we work. But have we always worked in the same way? Today the world of work is undergoing arguably the most drastic transformation since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. Information technology, shifting social demographics and globalization are some of the factors that are shaping the ambiguous future of work, in which one-track careers are being replaced by multi-faceted professional trajectories, and personal capacities and aptitudes such as critical thinking, resilience, problem-solving and decision-making are increasingly valued over technical know-how.

The world of work in the 21st century is full of challenges: vast geographic and social inequalities, corruption, inefficient structures, forced labor, unrecognized and uncompensated work, human trafficking, unregulated activity in emerging sectors and high levels of youth unemployment.

So let’s get down to business. The 21st century professional is serious, dedicated, diligent, creative, focused and capable of persevering in an integrated cognitive and physical effort. What kind of personal development does a professional in today’s workforce need in order to convert needs into opportunities and vulnerabilities into strengths? How does one´s profession become an authentic service to society and the individuals who surround us? What can your hands do that a robotic arm cannot? What can you contribute beyond the scope of artificial intelligence? The challenges are many, but our hands are open to infinite possibilities.



Ikechukwu Onuoma is a lawyer and the national coordinator of
Univ Nigeria

Sarah McLachlan’s $15 music video gives $150,000 to charity

1 12 2017

Fools do nothing when they think the can do little. Canadian musician and song writer, Sarah McLachlan may not have done much to ease the sufferings, injustices and hunger in this world, but she did something, she did what she can. A successful musician, she could have spent 150,000 USD to produce her music video, “World on fire” with all the glamor and glitz, but she decided to use her camera phone instead, and spent just 15 dollars and donated the rest to charity

“World on Fire” music video opens with the singer sitting on a simple chair in a barren room on an otherwise empty set. A title card comes up: “What’s wrong with this video? Well, it cost only $15.” Then the song, featuring the lyrics “The more we take, the less we become / A fortune of one that means less for some,” lists where the rest of the typical $150,000 cost of the film would have been spent (“a producer would cost $7,500”). The twist is that McLachlan’s video dollars are used not on those typical production costs but to help poverty-stricken children and women in Cambodia, Niger, Bangladesh, India, and other struggling countries. (That would-be producer’s salary instead bought “6 months of medicine for 5,000 patients” in a Nairobi health clinic.)

 It’s not worth the risk

22 08 2017


I had a chance encounter with someone at the swimming pool recently that got me thinking. He works for a foreign NGO that deals with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa.

“We go around educating people with the illness about the importance of taking their drugs,” he said.

“Why is that necessary?” I asked, wondering why someone living with AIDS would need an agency to remind him to take his drugs.

“They are ashamed,” he replied, “there is a strong stigma attached to AIDS in this country and people simply do not want to be identified or known as having AIDS.”

“I can understand that,” I said.

“Yes.  So, even though we are offering the drugs free, yet people don’t want to come forward to collect them. Many people are living in suicidal denial

“Human beings are very complex,” I said.

“But do you have preventive program as well?” I asked.

“Yes, we promote the use of condoms.”

“Are you aware of the claims that condoms are not foolproof, some even have holes big enough for Aids viruses to easily pass through?

“That has not been scientifically verified,” he countered.

I smiled.

“But I am sure you aware from experience perhaps, that fingernails can scratch holes through latex condoms?” I continued.

He smiled and began speaking truthfully.

“Yeah, you are right,” he said, “many of the condoms are even expired without the user’s knowledge. And many people don’t check expiry dates before putting them on if at all they do.”

“Sex is a passionate affair,” I said, “and in the heat of passion, people get carried away and become careless.”

He smiled. Looking cornered, he said, “In the absence of better solution, what else can we do?”

“But there is a better solution,” I said with another smile.

“Abstinence?” he asked.

I nodded.


“I know, but how many people can control themselves?” he scoffed.

”It is not easy I agree, but when you challenge people, they can do a lot. At least warn them of the dangers and educate them about the abstinence alternative.”

He nodded. There was a thoughtful look in his eyes.

I continued, “Consider for a moment how doctors and nurses wear gloves, and surgical masks and gowns when going in for a surgery. Compare that to the level of protection offered by a single condom. Besides, we are not talking about just HIV/AIDS; there is a host of other sexual and nonsexual transmitted diseases which can be transmitted during sexual acts.

He was silent.

“Plenty of different body fluids are exchanged during intercourse” I added.

“You are right,” he admitted again, “abstinence and mutual fidelity is the only prevention worth promoting. The stakes are two high, and it is not worth the risk of using a condom.”

We concluded and shook hands. He was an honest man and I left the pool feeling that I had made a friend.  I promised to send him an article I wrote many years ago on the “Bleak stories behind failed condom campaigns”


From the Editor

Chinwuba Iyizoba

Princess Margaret Agbim goes home: Aged 86 Pictures and Videos

22 04 2016




Bube Iyizoba and Chino Paint Uli Red: Igbankwu 2016

29 03 2016






The Boy who Caught the Wind to Save his family: William Kwankwaba

3 05 2015

William Kamkwamba was forced to drop out of school because his parents couldn’t pay $80 a year for his schooling. But he did not loose hope. Instead he educated himself using a local library.

In 2002, following one of Malawi’s worst droughts, which killed thousands of people and left his family on the brink of starvation, he built a windmill to pump water into his father’s farm. “I was very interested when I saw the windmill could make electricity and pump water and I thought to myself: that could be a defence against hunger. Maybe I should build one for myself,” William told the BBC.

He described how he stumbled on a drawing of a windmill in a tattered book, and began to dream. He dreamt of bringing water to his father’s farm — it was a matter of surviving or dying from hunger. So, against formidable odds and penniless, he began to work. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, he worked on his project mostly in the night, with no other light except a smoking paraffin lamp, enduring bites from the mosquito’s and insects attracted by the light.

The taunts of sceptical family and friends made things even worse. “Many, including my mother, thought I was going crazy,” he recalled. “They had never seen a windmill before”.

For spare parts, Kamkwamba rummaged through dustbins and refuse dumps. He used bicycle spokes, a tractor fan blade, an old shock absorber and fashioned blades from plastic pipes, which he flattened by holding them over a fire. Neighbours, shocked to see him sifting through rubbish, concluded that he was on drugs,

“People thought I was smoking marijuana,” he said,

Can you catch the wind?

Finally, Kamkwamba finished work: a 5-metre (16-ft) tall, blue-gum-tree, wooden tower, swaying in the breeze, looked more like a tinker’s folly than a work of engineering, “I received quite an electric shock climbing up that tower,” Kamkwamba told the BBC.

But, glory was soon to follow. The neighbour’s jeers soon turned to amazement when Kamkwamba scampered up the tower and hooked a light bulb to the turbine, and, as the blade began to spin in the wind, the light bulb flickered alive and the crowd of astonished onlookers went wild.

Soon the whiz kid’s 12-watt wonder was pumping power into his family’s mud brick compound. Before long, locals were queuing up to charge their mobile phones and the Daily Times wrote an article on him.

He expanded the 5-metre windmill to build a 12-metre model and a year later succeeded in bringing solar power to his village. Then he installed a solar pump. As the fame of his renewable energy projects grew, he was invited to the prestigious Technology Entertainment Design conference in Arusha, Tanzania. By the middle of last year he had built a “Green Machine” windmill for pumping well water. By last September he had received a scholarship to study in the elite African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The moral for Africans is clearly that we must learn never to give up trying to change our environment. Unfortunately, many Africans are still waiting for things to happen. Recent surveys show that 64 per cent believe that success is determined by forces outside their own control. In my own country, Nigeria, the refrain is: “God will provide”.

Young William’s story is a challenge to African youth, who, often faced with incredible limitations, give in to despair. This example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity should spur all Africans to get rid of lazy attitudes and start working, using personal study and self help, to overcome the myriad of problems caused by deficiencies of education. As Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, put it: “When we are no longer able to change a situation… we are challenged to change ourselves. Difficulties test men’s virtues and sometimes spur them to do the impossible.” In short, Africans are called to do the impossible.

In addition, William’s story is a good example of why Africans should continue to have lots of children in the face of opposition from western population control enthusiasts. William is the second eldest of Trywell and Agnes Kamkwamba’s seven children (he has six sisters). Africans have lots of children not because they have never heard of contraceptives or abortion pills. These are available over the chemist’s counters in Africa, and many young unmarried girls are familiar with them. We have children because we love them and we believe they provide our greatest potential. William has taught his family to maintain the windmill when he’s away at school. His sister, Dolice, and cousin, Geoffrey, can quickly climb up the tower, as it sways and clatters in the wind, to make repairs — a living proof that people are the solution to Africa’s troubles, not the problem. Every child comes with one mouth to feed, two hands to help and a brain to innovate. Poor countries don’t need less children but more dynamic people.

It is sad and ironic that in super-rich countries people don’t want children. The Americans, the Swedes and the French, on average are much richer than Ivorians, Ghanaians, and Togolese or even Indians, yet fertility in these countries is below replacement level. This often makes young people in such “advanced” countries comfort-freaks. It can be argued that they are so spoilt by infinite luxuries and comforts from a tender age that even the smallest setback can become intolerable. The caving in of European societies to euthanasia and birth control is a result of Western culture’s lost ability to cope with suffering, pain and self denial of any kind. As one American lady said to me: “My biggest fear is suffering, and I am so scared of pain.” Thus, the high suicide rates in these countries.

In Nigeria, our large population creates a huge market for businesses. MTN, a mobile phone company in Nigeria that pioneered the GSM mobile phone here in 2001, making phones available to street vendors and artisans, declared $800 million profit early last year. Africans have hope because of their children — hope in the future, hope that one of the many little ones running around will be another Barrack Obama or better still, another William Kamkwamba.

Finally, the great margin for improvement in Africa is often a source of excitement and enthusiasm for the adventurous. I recall letters from a German friend who returned to his native Germany after spending one year in Enugu. “I feel like coming back to Nigeria immediately,” he wrote to me. “I would be back in Nigeria this minute if I was given the chance.” He says he is feeling choked by the infinite rules and regulations of Germany where everything seems to have already been done. He longed for Enugu, where he could be himself, where he felt needed and where he could contribute something. Challenges are important. The abundance of challenges in everyday life — though trying and unpleasant — may directly or indirectly contribute to making Africans happier.

William Kamkwamba, who has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and flown to conferences around the world, is determined to return home after his studies and to bring power not just to the rest of his village, but to all Malawians, only 2 percent of whom have electricity. “I want to help my country and apply the knowledge I’ve learned,” he says. “I feel there’s lots of work to be done.”

Chinwuba Iyizoba

The Color of Love: Ezinma & Adam Igban-Nkwu 3 Jan 2015

13 01 2015

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