I really looked forward to attending the conference with my Nigerian students. The thought of a weekend far away from this our exciting Coventry with my people reminded me of class trips back home. There was always only one outcome, FUN!!
As the postgrad rep and a point man for ICONS in Warwick, I excitedly started preparing and surprisingly found out it was much cheaper to rent a 17 seater van for a whole weekend (10 pounds per head excl. fuel). I was confident in my preparation because when I was nominated as postgradrep, I was guaranteed the support of everyone. Sadly, the short story is that people wanted to know if I would guarantee them getting a job there. Of course, I refused to tie myself to such a deal (Do I own UBA, or Shell? Is my surname FGN?). On the day before the trip, 5 of the 11 people that I had assuring me dropped out, throwing 5 spanners in the works. It was no longer possible to do a rental. The only other option was a 41 pound return train journey. I was left with myself and Ayo Obi T to represent Warwick.
I got there a little after the first speaker and saw lots of Nigerian faces. I was pleased. I whipped out my camera and started taking pictures. The lectures were interesting and some were longer that we would have wanted. Things continued smoothly until a lady spoke out expressing great disappointment with the program because she could see in no place where they wrote of Job opportunities which was why she came. We all applauded her courage for speaking her mind and the minds of so many. I could understand her expectations but at the same time was disappointed with the mentality people had regarding career prospects and getting a job.
Expectations like this are the ones that give rise to ‘job recruitment agencies’ that waste no time in feeding on our desperation. It would not have cost the ICONS organizers anything to set up a table collecting résumés for onward passage to the trash bin (digital or physical). Taking a look at the people that were there, we had the owner of BenTV, Alistair Soyode, VP of Oceanic Capital, Roy Ovbiagele, a proprietor of an A listed college San Michael’s , Charles Umoh, The director of Environmental Agency in Nigeria, Prof. law Ezemonye, Serial Entrepreneurs, Ade lawal and Dayo amongst others.
Taking a good look at the people, any open mind could smell numerous job and enterprising opportunities
- BenTV: Imagine the number of programs you could strike a deal to produce or business proposals to provide services or goods. Or maybe a job? Believe me you would not get an easy one on one with Ben Bruce.
- VP, Oceanic Capital: it is too straight forward to suggest potential opportunities
- SAN Michaels: Like above too easy to see the employment opportunities when discussing with THE OWNER of an A listed school.
- Prof Ezemonye: He publicly spoke of the gap and needs that the multi billion naira funded organization needs at the moment
My good friend Ighiagbon Oviawe once told me “Nigerians too like food-is-ready”. For those that do not understand pidgin, it means Nigerians (me and him included) like things set out in the easiest form so that all that is left is to take.
Nothing stopped anyone in the hall to walk up to any one of the people above to discuss potential partnerships or job opportunities. We were all waiting for the bell to ring and someone to announce “Line up here to submit your CV and go there to collect your job offer”. Sorry, it DOES NOT EXIST!! If only we knew the amount of ‘one person’ vacancies that exist in very profitable companies that are waiting to be filled by referrals, the opening too small to call for résumés. That is what the networking opportunities are there for, it is left for us to take it.
ICONS provided us with the opportunity to link up with or fellow brothers and sisters to talk of personal school projects and help with the search of our Michelles or Baracks! .Our hosts, The University of Hull Nigerians, were too exceptional, we were bountifully entertained and there was something of the sort of a variety night where the only representative of Warwick came out tops on our competitions. See picture with expensive prizes below.
I also had the rare opportunity of dancing with my mum in their club with the oyinbo man dishing some Naija Jams. (The video can be seen by my facebook friends). It was such a wonderful experience and I really feel sad for those that missed thinking it would be boring. I also had the chance to present to the delegates a forum for Nigerian students, UKnaWAH. (please Register).
ICONS has come and gone and the momentum from the event seems to be dying down. We must first of all realize that ICONS is organized by the Award winning Akan Odon, and others as a volunteer project which was started when he was a PhD student, and now he works full time and does this magnificent work in his spare time. At the moment, we need it more than he does. If we want this to be taken further, we should all put forth ideas to make it better. I have pledged to fully volunteer in the organization of the next edition.
My suggestion to keep the fire burning will be that several little events should be planned both before and after the National Conference. Reason being that Masters Students will have only one opportunity to attend such an event throughout their stay and secondly the gap between events (one whole year) will not help foster the bonding that should be created between us. Consequently, I would recommend Nigerian associations in different schools to come up with programs for which invitation should be extended to every ICONS member. As for me, I am planning my visit to Leeds, Wolverhampton, Lancaster, Greenwich and other universities to reunite with the people that I met at ICONS.
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Pictures fof the event can be got HERE. Slide show is below.