Tonia Makes A Breakthrough In Medicine

By Tope Templer OLAIYA

Certainly, Tonia Osadebe, the last of a family of three children, is the sort of youth that Nigeria needs at this time when the image of the country is mired in negative press. The 22-year old did not only graduate tops in her class in the Engineering Department of University of Denver, she, along with three others designed a project that will make a quadriplegic patient capable of only neck movement to have control of his immediate environment. The project provides solution to independent control of room devices, access to Internet, phones, and communication with nurse station outside being user’s friendly and language independent interface. She tells TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA, how she came tops in a field dominated by men.

Tonia Osadebe

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How do you feel studying Engineering at Denver?
Yes, it is a man’s world. We were 20 per cent females in the department and because of that, they try to pay special attention to the females; for us to catch up when it is even not necessary because I graduated tops in my class. Females bring a different twist to engineering. There is this stereotype that men are logical while women are emotional. But we are breaking the stereotype. I like to do something different.

What is the design project about?
In hospitals, I don’t know about here, even if you are bedridden, at least you can move your hands. So, you have the remote controls to turn on the lights, or switch channels or call the nurse and things like that. For the quadriplegic patients, they can’t move their arms or legs, but can’t access their environment. The idea behind it is to provide the means at which patients can control their immediate environment. We met patients to find out their experiences and frustrations and we selected someone who had a motorcycle accident and couldn’t move any part of his body.
That is what I mean about females having a different twist to engineering. It was a team of four – three boys with me as leader. We built the software, connected it to a hardware that was connected to all the devices in the room, so the patient had the opportunity to change the light, the channels, chat with the nurses, access internet to keep himself busy, rather than just sitting there the whole time.
The mouse has a knob on its head that would make the user to move the cursor and click to get things done, just like a mini station for him on a computer that has everything he needs to control his environment. This took us about a year to put up. It was good and successful, and everybody was pleased with the project.
The department was very supportive. I could walk into my adviser’s office any day, I have her personal phone number to call her if anything was going wack. They bought everything. You just make a list of what you need and they sign, you buy what you need and they cover all the expenses, there are no hurdles. You can imagine trying to implement something like that here. God knows how long it’s going to take to have them pay you back.

Did you think of the project because you were a triangle student – from class to library and to your room?
Not really, right from high school in Queen’s College, I was in the top 10 in my set. I always take my academics seriously. Expectations had always been high, you come home with your result and they expect nothing but all As except in Igbo and French. I went to Denver and I was determined to keep it high, because at the end of the day, your parents will be proud of you, besides with a very good GP you can be wherever you want. Anybody who knows me will tell you I am the class clown. I make everybody laugh; anytime you come to class and there is someone doing something funny, it’s me. But despite all the noise in the class, I studied independently, so, my mates hate me for that because at the end of the exams, I come out tops, which always make them mad. I mix studies and play well. I am very sociable, I am not a triangle student, and I don’t even like the library and don’t go there.

How would you describe your stay there?
I enjoyed my stay there, but it was a trying time because I went there at a young age of 16. Typically, you start college there when you are 18. I was much younger than everyone else. Engineering is not a female major. It was not difficult to blend in Denver because black population is very small. So, I am one of the three female students and one out of the two blacks in the class. The people are very receptive and almost everybody in the campus knows me as Engineering student. Teachers there are very passionate and encourage students to be independent. Education there is easier than here, where you cram a lot of information and at the end of six months, you just have to pour everything out.

Any down moments?

There were some challenging points because of difference in culture. Going from here to a completely different, I encountered culture shock. I went there not having anybody to run to. I had to make new friends and understand their accent. I cried the first day I got there because it was all different from Nigeria, but with time, I caught up with the changes. At the beginning, I just couldn’t understand, especially with the literature class, because there were some information they expected you to have and this took me some time to catch up. I also had some problems with spellings, as the British spelling can’t be used for an American word.

And the Nigerian community
In Denver, the Nigerian community is not much. The first time I got there, I heard there was a lot of Nigerians there, but it was not until about three months of my living in Denver that I met someone who knew many other Nigerians there. And I asked myself, where have you guys been hiding? That was when I knew that every first Friday of the month there was a Nigerian party in one club. I was so annoyed to learn of that. But in my campus, we are just three. The Nigerian community does not exist because black people are not that much.

What next?

Right now, plans are on to patent the project over there. Already, it’s been (published) in a couple of scientific journals. Technically, it is the property of the school because they provided all the resources, but if I am interested in setting it up here, I have access to that as it is my work. Right now, I just want to be done with school, face my Master’s before thinking of commercializing it. I like the emotional impact it has on people’s life. I remembered the interview we had with a patient and how he shared his experience to make phone calls to his daughter; it was such an emotional one and to be part of all that was a great feeling for me.

The future

My dream is to head an outfit and to manage people. I have the intention to come back home, but I have to get my Master’s out of the way. There is so much to do here. America is great, but it’s not that great, to be honest. I always look forward to coming home. I always cry every time I had to go back there. I eventually want to open an NGO, sometime along the line to help women in engineering field as well as mentor upcoming ones.


From The Archive: TB Joshua Is Like Every Other Man On The Street…

DATELINE: September 29, 2009

Earlier this year in an interview with The Guardian Newspapers, the presitigious and renowned Nigerian newspaper, TB Joshua spoke on a range of intriguing issues…

Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) was recently mentioned among the world’s leading faith healers by America’s TIME Magazine. He was also awarded the National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the government in recognition of his humanitarian activities. He spoke to TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA at his church’s headquarters in Ikotun, Lagos on what the award means to him and why his church attracts high-profile visitors.

“If not for the grace of God, I would be like any other man on the street…” TB Joshua




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First, how do you feel with the National Honour bestowed on you by Mr. President?
Honour where? You mean the one that was given to me in January. Well, that is not new to me and is not something special to me. As you can see for yourself, a lot of people, organisations, government, home and abroad and even foreign missions have been honouring the grace of God upon my life. Just last week, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) presented me with an award. But then, the honour is not meant for me, it belongs to God. I am just a vessel God is using.


First, it was your meeting with the Governor General of the State of Bahamas in the early 90s, followed by the visit of President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, a few years later. Since then, other world leaders have come to visit you, most recently, was the new President of Ghana, Prof. John Atta Mills and you are preparing to receive a South African leader in the next few days, what do you think is the source of attraction?
It is a simple answer; it is because their needs are met. People will always be attracted to wherever their needs will be met; and the needs of men vary. What I want and like might be different from what you want; so, you will always go to where your needs are met. It is not in my power, it is God, who is answering the needs of his people. Even in the Bible, people travel far and wide to where their needs will be met. Also, the work of God is like honey. Wherever honey is, insects seek and find it. When God is doing a new thing in a place, people are attracted there. So, these presidents and other foreign nationals come to the church, because of what God is doing here.


Despite this, most Nigerians have still not acknowledged what God is using you to do. Why is it so?
You see, every man of God has his gift. This is my own area. In the academic world, we have professors of English, Chemistry, and Mathematics. If some people do not need my gift, this does not mean that it is not needed somewhere. If what you have is not needed now, that does not mean that it will not be needed tomorrow. So, it would be too soon to begin to say this and it would be too soon to praise or come to the conclusion you have drawn now. God’s time is the best. Sometimes, what you need at the end might be the most important thing to you. Let me give you a good example: a friend you discover later in life may be the most important friend you would cherish more than the friend you have had from the beginning of your life.


Apart from the headquarters’ church in Lagos, which has become a tourist attraction, do you have other branches of the church?
Branches everywhere is not the issue, what is the issue now is making disciples of Christ out of men, making another T.B. Joshua. If this could be possible in the life of Elisha and Elisha came out of Elijah even more powerful than his master, why not also in our time, so that after I am gone, there will be men who God would raise up to achieve His purpose in the world. That is the biggest reward God can give to his servant. Like they always say, there is no success without a good successor. The greatest honour will be to make disciples who will do better than what we are presently doing.


Do you see your children taking after your ministry in the Synagogue?
The ministry is not a will; it is not a property you can will to your children. It is a spiritual inheritance and the Bible talks about the inheritance of saints. You must meet God’s condition and no human hand can be employed to do the work of God, neither can the mouth do the work of God. It is not a matter of ‘I can speak good grammar’, it is only God that will choose who He wants. It is predestined, as it should be by divine will. I cannot force my children to follow in my footsteps, they have to decide on their own, and I can only point them to the way we also have followed. I cannot give them the power because I am not the owner of the power. I can only do my best to train them in the way of the Lord and if they are ready to follow and make a difference, it is their choice, not mine.


Who is T.B. Joshua?
Joshua is a man like you. I am like anybody else on the street; the only difference in my life is the grace of God. That is the difference and that is what separates me from the man on the street. But with that, because I am a man who has known what it is to lack, I do not close my eyes to the needy. Because I am somebody who has experienced what it is to be poor and without money, I give of what I have to help the poor, because I am a man who knows what it is to be hungry, I give food to feed the poor and those who are hungry, as a way of appreciating the grace of God upon my life because if not for the grace of God, I would be like any other man on the street.

Living The Magic Of Tube

By Tope Templer OLAIYA


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“Like they say, if you do something you love, you will never work again. I feel that way now.”
   Working where magic lives does not make Biola Alabi’s story a fairytale; but it is something close. After seeing the best of two worlds in Nigeria and the United States of America, she now comfortably sits in Lagos as the managing director of MNet Africa.
   Listening to Alabi tell her story and sitting down to watch a soap opera, both provoke the same sensation of excitement, intrigues and suspense. For the moment the narration lasted, you are forced to stay glued to your seat and hear all of it reel out in interwoven lock of adventures. Yet, the hard-worker insists she is not there yet. “I am still at the beginning of my journey and I am looking forward to learning more.”
   Growing up in a small family of three siblings in different parts of the world, she relishes the times she spent in Akure, Ondo State. “When my dad was here, he was a lecturer. So, during holidays, we always went to the family house in Akure. My education was in the US, so I enjoyed the best of both worlds and I have very fond memories of those places. There are sometimes when you miss both places for different reasons. My parents were very committed to us as children, making sure we had the right mix of exposure and experience.
   “I grew up reading a lot. My parents limited our TV watching and; of course, NEPA also limited our TV watching, as there weren’t so much generators then. But the beautiful thing about reading is that you can read from anywhere. When you read, it exposes you to a lot and you don’t have the time to engage in chatter. It actually sprouts my love for travel. I had a list of places I wanted to see before I was even 10.” Then she retorted, “I hope people still read the way I used to. I hope young children still read?”

LOOKING back now, Biola never really thought she would be in the media. “My parents were typical Nigerians, you have to do things that made sense, and you had to be a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. They were very clear about what you wanted to do and I decided on medicine or pharmacy, which is why my degree is a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. But after an internship in a pharmacist company, I discovered it didn’t suit my personality.
   “One of the courses you have to do is a marketing class. When I took my first marketing class, I was hooked and I knew this is the major for me. So, I decided to minor in Marketing. I didn’t even break the news to my parents that I wasn’t going to apply to medical school. I just decided to take a break, work for a while and see how things go. I was already exposed to different marketing opportunities in school and one of the jobs I had at the time was with CBS College Tour. CBS is a broadcasting firm in the US and they raise awareness in universities with the tour. So, when they came to my campus, I was already worked up. There were so many exposures and it made me realize marketing had so many facets.”
   Eventually, she got hooked with marketing and left the US to live in Korea for two years, taking a job with Daewoo. “I traveled and saw different parts in Asia, before coming to work for them in the US. Their entry into the US market was a massive campaign, because they were bringing something new and I enjoyed talking about that.”
   From there, she ventured into the internet world and met exciting opportunities. Internet was the revolution at that point in the US. She joined Big World, an internet service company. “It was an experience for me, everyone wanted to work in an internet company. Everyone was so young at Big World. The person who started the company was 25 years old and everybody was under 30.
   “After a while, there was a crash in the market, some companies survived, some didn’t. Amazons is one of the companies that survived and it was able to buy up a lot of the little companies in that space and my company was one of them. At the end, all the internet business withered down. I think that is what happens in every revolution, when you have a lot of things happening at the same time, the market would correct itself. And I think that is what happened even with the stock market here.”
   But did she go down with the firm? The answer was in the negative. “That was the best learning process for me, I always say that experience was my MBA. I learned a lot from the failure of it. It was fun working with your friends who were your age. You made mistakes together and grow together. The lessons you learn outside of the classroom really shape you and make you the person you are.”

THAT working her way back home marked the turning point in her career and her eventual journey into media business. Before coming back home to join MNet in November 2008, she was at a company in New York that produces different children programmes. One of the most popular ones is Sesame Street. “It was an organization that showed commitment towards educating children, not just in America, but all over the world. There were over 120 local versions of the programme. In South Africa, for example, the programme I worked on is in five different languages. I loved every minute of it and I loved New York, it was a city that I had always wanted to live in.
   “So, when MNet came calling, I was ready to come back home and I had been looking for opportunities throughout Africa, though I had done some work in South Africa with Sesame Street, and I had began working in Nigeria, trying to do Nigerian version, which is really how I came in contact with a lot of people in African media. When MNet was looking for someone to manage the African business, I put myself forward and had the interview process started. It was the perfect match; they were looking for someone to be based in Nigeria. I didn’t have to think hard about it, once they made the offer, I said yes, packed my bags, left New York and came to Nigeria.
   Now, she is loving every minute of it. And looking for the right word to describe her present status, she says, “it is very exciting. I spend my time watching TV. I truly love and enjoy TV. I still read and spend time with my family.”

BUT what is her typical Monday like? “The beautiful thing about this job is that each day is different. However, we do have some things that are consistent. Monday mornings are big mornings for us. We usually start our day here by eight. We have staff based in Nairobi and Johannesburg. And we always get on the call first thing on Monday. We talk about where we are, what we are doing and I give strategic direction of where the company is going and what is happening. The next part of the day is getting into the nitty-gritty of what is going on in each production across Africa and responding to emails.
   “We are constantly on the ball, understanding what is going on, what shows are doing very well and if the show would be appealing to African audience. When Oprah, which is a stable on our channel, announced that she would no longer be doing her show, although that is for another year, we still had to think of what is going to happen when the Oprah show goes out of syndication. There is going to be an Oprah replacement. We always have to be thinking a year or two ahead of what’s coming down.”
   Alabi is passionately committed to telling the African story and she is not stopping at that, she is drawing from her last vestige of strength to project better images of Nigerians.

Lagos: Weather Forecast Raises Fear Of Flood, Storms

By Tope Templer OLAIYA


IT is about another time Lagosians would begin to sing the old nursery rhyme Rain rain, go away. While many look forward to the rainy season as a huge relief from the searing heat of the last few weeks, the prediction of a heavy downpour spanning over 200 days is already raising anxiety among residents of Lagos.

Last week, in an address that signaled an admission to providence, the state Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, called on residents to take necessary precautions to avert dangers, while bracing up for heavy storms.

The alarm bell is already ringing. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has predicted the probability of 236 days of heavy rains, with the possibility of heavy storm. And the reason for the alarm is justified. July 10, last year is a sad reminder of the day a heavy downpour shut down Lagos.

“The implication is that Lagos shall experience a rainy season of about 234 to 238 days. A break is expected in-between, while the rains will start again in late August or early September, before the season finally ends in November 2012. So, the end of rainfall is November 12, with marginal error of two days between November 10 and 14,” Bello said.

The wave of torrential rainfall was last year extended to other states, including Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Edo and Rivers, alongside its attendant destruction of lives and property.

If July 10 is a distant memory, it was an unusual gust of strong wind that descended on Lagos in the morning of February 13, killing seven and wrecking havoc on so many buildings. The rainstorm pulled down the roofs of not less than 200 buildings.

However, the commissioner noted that government would not relent in ensuring the completion of ongoing rehabilitation and clearing of the canals, disclosing that the state is collaborating with the local governments in this regard.

“We want to assure residents that all the needed measures would be put in place to ensure a flood-free rainy season.”

General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the state “is on top of the situation.” For him, government will not be caught unawares unlike the previous season.

He said the administration of Babatunde Fashola “is taking the battle against flooding more seriously, at least to save residents from its grave cost.”

Osanyintolu, however, acknowledged that flood “is the main natural disaster Lagos metropolis is susceptible to.” And bearing this in mind, he said the state “has fine-tuned its early warning system, intensified sensitisation campaign against flood disaster, and taken multi-pronged approaches to contain its imminent crisis.”


CURIOUSLY, unlike previous attempts at warning residents, the state government is silent about the fate of some communities in the north-eastern part of the state. Last year, residents of over 10 communities were directed to relocate uplands in order to avoid the grave consequence of flood disaster.

The flood-prone communities listed as disaster zone areas include Ikosi-Ketu, Mile 12, Agiliti, Thomas Laniyan Estate, Owode-Onirin, Agboyi-Ketu, Owode Elede, Maidan and Isheri North.

But for residents of the affected areas, there is no cause for alarm, as they insist people at risk of flooding are those living on the bank of the river, which runs through the communities. A resident of Agiliti for three decades, Mrs. Victoria Omidiji, said “we are not suffering from the rain, it is the dam from the Ogun River, which is opened once in three years, that floods this area. And the dam was last opened in 2010. So, until 2013, we have no reason to fear.”

Omidiji, however, thanked Governor Fashola for coming to the rescue of the community with the construction of a bridge, which before now had been the nemesis in Agiliti. In the past, whenever there is heavy rainfall, the whole area is cut-off from Mile 12, while a canoe is used to come in or go out of the area.

“The only thing that can make us leave our homes in panic is only if God cancels the decision he made between himself and mankind that He would not use flood or water to destroy the world again like it was in the days of Noah. If that covenant does not fail, there is no rain that can destroy us,” Omidiji said.

Another resident, Ademola Ibrahim, described most of the areas designated as disaster zone as an island surrounded by water. “It is only those on the wetland that can be affected by rain water. Those who bought land close to the riverbank were lured because of the price.

“They also saw other people already inhabiting there, but they forgot that majority of them are from a particular tribe who live on water. These Itsekiris and Ilajes are comfortable with water and they built their house with palm fronds and wood, instead of blocks, meaning they are prepared for any eventuality without warning.”