I was drawn into the world of UK-Africa communications and community development in 2000 by Peter Adetunji Oyawale, and by his wife, my friend Agnita. Peter was a visionary, an innovator and a system builder. He had a plan called Oke-Ogun Community Agenda 2000 Plus (OOCD 2000+). It was an ambitious plan and intended as a model for African Welfare and Development on a wider scale. Peter and Agnita enlisted my help and gradually a small, spare time, communication role began to develop as I discovered how I could be most helpful. I communicated with other people in the UK and I supported communications between UK and rural Nigeria.
I knew Peter as an ex-navy communications man, a man with IT (Information Technology) skills who was living, working and studying in London, but his life had started in very different circumstances. He never forgot his early life as the son of impoverished, illiterate, subsistence farmers. He was passionate about improving the life opportunities of his friends and family back home, and other people like them.
Peter’s OOCD 2000+ plan covered an area of ten local governments in SW Nigeria, and was a wonderful combination of local entrepreneurship, Community Digital Information Centres, community radio, football tournaments, other competitions, trophies and “Good things that the West enjoys”. Peter had developed appropriate relationships within all ten local government areas and with the state governor, he had strong networks within his local community and in the Nigerian community in London at all levels. He had made strong links and detailed preparations. He was funding OOCD 2000+ in whatever way he could, with a business plan for sustainability once he started to roll it out.
Sadly, he died while he was back in Nigeria. Given the tragic circumstances of his early death my commitment became much deeper (see Peter Adetunji Oyawale). When he died I was in a communication role. I felt a compulsion to continue communicating with people, to gather together whatever fragments of Peter’s active network remained after his death and to play my part in rebuilding whatever new version of his vision might be possible.
In the TEDx talk “Don’t Be an Entrepreneur, Build Systems” Marc Ventresca talks about passion and persistence.
In my case the original passion was related to anger about the way Peter had died, loyalty to those he had left behind, and a determination that his work should continue in some way. Over the years my interests widened. I came to learn more about the issues and the related disconnects. Gradually I built my own networks and developed an understanding of where in the system I could usefully play a part that was most relevant to what I could bring.
My persistence came from many sources including:
- What I was learning
- The respect I had for work that was being done by the Nigerians I had got to know in Nigeria
- My dislike of waste – whether that is wasted money and physical resources or the wasted talents and aptitudes of people who are restricted by lack of opportunity.
- The disconnects that I found between information on the Internet and the “reality checks” of my own experience.