By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
On Thursday, July 10, 2014, a fairly unknown organization, Life Can Be Greater (LCBG), made an extraordinary entrance into the consciousness of Lagosians with an emphatic message: “Life can indeed be greater and better without government, by proffering practical solutions to everyday problems.”
The inaugural campaign for the group’s unveiling was an ideas contest, with the theme Solutions Session, which was held at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo campus.
Looking forward to an engaging interaction with the organisers, the students, many of whom are already battle-weary from the protest over the tuition hike and prolonged faceoff of the institution’s management with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (LASU Chapter), thronged the Faculty hall of the Social Sciences, venue of the event for a breath of fresh air, since academic activities were put on hold.
After filling the hall to the brim, the students got the first shock of the day as a few dozens of the participants were immediately rewarded with a N20,000 cheque in the first few minutes of the event. It was a simple game: they were all to look under their seat and pull out a brown envelope tightly sealed beneath it.
Ecstatically, everybody ripped open their envelopes; but while some hissed as they read out the words printed on the cards, ‘Better luck next time,’ there were rapturous screams from various parts of the hall as others proudly waved their new found prize which is to be applied towards their tuition.
This got the event to a fiery head start as the students decided to seize the moment and not only compete for the remaining envelopes with various size cheques, but contend among themselves for the two big prizes: the half and full tuition scholarship on offer.
This was exactly what the organisers wanted, challenging the students to think creatively and proffer solutions to everyday problems in their communities, while rewarding those who come up with brilliant simple answers to internal and national issues.
Marketing Executive and PR director of LCBG, Mr. Derin Olukayode, said Life Can Be Greater is a movement that proffers solutions to societal issues on a small scale and galvanizes citizens to push for their implementation on a wider scale. “We are looking for practical solutions, we don’t have to wait for the government for everything.
“There are little things we can do to make life better for ourselves and the next person and that is what we want to inculcate into the students. Life indeed is hard, schools fees are high, but life can be greater if we focus our minds on solving those little things that make the country and ourselves greater.
“LCBG is here to let you know there is hope. If I have learned anything in life, it is the power of hope and the power of one person to change the world by giving people hope. Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela, Obama and even the young girl from Pakistan, Malala are examples of the power of what one person can achieve,” he said.
During the solutions session, several pertinent issues directly affecting students were thrown up, among which include the worrisome trend of students dropping out of school in large numbers every year because of the high tuition, inadequate funding of education, insecurity problems, incessant disruption of academic calendar owing to ASUU strike, and absence of accommodation for LASU students.
“We are worried because those that drop out of school today are the ones who will become the society’s nemesis tomorrow, and no matter how successful we become, we still have to live in a society with a high level of hoodlums and thugs. Also, we wonder why WIFI network is free in other universities like the University of Lagos (UNILAG); yet, we pay a lot in LASU to subscribe to the internet connection in this ICT generation,” one of the students said.
At the end of the ideas contest, two winners emerged. Oluwafemi Okunleye, a 300-level student of Accounting won the full tuition scholarship for his didactic analysis of the accommodation problem in LASU and his solution of the state government engaging private sector organisations like Life Can Be Greater, in a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) mechanism that will alleviate the suffering of students who travel long distances to attend lectures.
Lawal Ismail Omoniyi emerged second best and walked away with the partial scholarship for inspiring his fellow students to catch the entrepreneurial bug early in life, because “nobody owes us a job after graduating. It is up to us to create the future we really want and one thought-provoking seminar like this is enough to change people’s lives,” he noted.
In an elated voice, he told newsmen after the event that he was happy to have won the partial scholarship. “It is really a great day for me. When I came here, I wasn’t expecting to win any money, but along the line I was inspired by what was happening in the hall and I called up my spirit of determination and psyched myself to come up with a brilliant idea, which fetched me N100,000.
“I also thank the organisers of this programme, they have demonstrated that indeed, life can be greater. I emphasized during my presentation that one seminar is enough to change people’s life and build up the entrepreneurial spirit.”
A member of LCBG, Ms. Omorinsojo, explained that the group could not afford to give every student grants and decided not to award the scholarships based on academic performance, “because we believe each student is qualified to be a change agent and history has shown that bright students do not have the monopoly of creative ideas and solutions.”
Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, the MC of the event said: “We are happy we fulfilled our mission, which is that for the students, even if they didn’t win any money, many would be leaving the hall challenged and inspired to change their environment by looking inwards for solutions to their own problems.”
Speaking on the faceoff between students and the state government, Omoniyi said: “I don’t think the school fees is okay yet. Even with the reduction, LASU fees remain the most expensive public university in Nigeria and that is not a good reputation at all. Lagos generates more revenue in a month and they only have one state university to run, so there is no excuse to take tuition fees beyond the reach of the masses,” he declared.
The president of the Students’ Union, LASU, Comrade Nurudeen Yusuf, popularly known as Optimist, was also full of praise for the LCBG team for bringing such huge relief to students through the programme.
“When it began, just like the Nigerian thing, we never thought it could come to reality, but as an optimist, I was hoping something good would come out of it, but not in this fashion. We are happy as student union leaders, because we did not only fight for the reduction of the tuition fees, but we fought for cushioning the effect of the new fees for our students.
“We look forward to more rewarding cooperation with the LCBG team. We believe there can be greater life in LASU, in Lagos, and even in our country. As a student body, we have the vision of launching a students endowment fund where we can dip our hands into some millions of Naira and give to indigent students. With this, the public will have more confidence in us and even support the project.”
As the event ended, there was a palpable air of inspiration. The students filed out with a controlled entropy, and unable to mask the euphoria, the winners lined back to redeem their prizes.
The Life Can Be Greater team promised that this was only the beginning. They emphasised that almost every aspect of life in this country had major issues, most of which they truly believe can be solved with simple solutions from individuals. In the very near future, they intend to launch a solutions sessions video platform on which anyone can leave a short video with a simple solution to a problem in their community. This way they are not alone in trying to make life in our society truly greater.