Seven years ago, I stood on the stage in the Trenchard Hall of the University of Ibadan and I experienced the heady feeling of having a large room full of people waiting with bated breath for what I had to say. It was not my first experience of public speaking, but it has been, by far, my most impressive. And I say this despite having had the opportunity to speak on other stages in other countries.
However, SuperBowl is not important just because it is the biggest oratory competition that has graced the revered compound of the University of Ibadan, nor is it important because winners go away with great prizes. SuperBowl is important because it fosters a culture of deep thinking and intelligence.
SuperBowl finds the best and the brightest of Nigeria’s young thinkers, gives them topical and socially relevant issues; and then provides them with a stage, upon which to share the results of their brainstorming and research. The ideas that come out of this process can be nothing but pure gold.
In the days of old, orators would share their ideas on hallowed platforms in ancient Greece and Rome and other bastions of eloquent thought. From these conversations came some of the foundational thoughts that underpin our understanding of the world and society today. SuperBowl is a nod to that great time, when eloquence was celebrated.
Late Professor Olu Owolabi of the Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan, once described the good university as the ideal, upon which the rest of society is supposed to model itself. The university is in itself a microcosm of society, within which we should find a working version of all that we hope to see in the outside world.
The university experience is not just about books. It’s also about leadership, relationship and team building. It’s about developing valuable life skills and very importantly, it’s about social discourse.
This is where SuperBowl comes in – the big stage where students get to share their ideas for changing society and making it better. It’s the place where intelligence is celebrated and the audience listens with bated breath not just for wit, but also for innovation.
As the University of Ibadan once again braces for this rocket to land, a lot is different, but so much is also the same. SuperBowl is still a celebration of wit and words but this time, it is also a celebration of strategic thinking.
This year, competitors are hitting the stage to play the roles we wish our politicians would play. They are taking the political bull by the horns and hitting the stage prepared to show us a little taste of what we should expect from them when they begin to lead the nation. And these are the youths that will eventually lead Nigeria.
Contestants will also be tackling global issues. We have seen what happens when young people are given the stage and allowed to share their ideas and opinions. Youth activists like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg are fearlessly taking on global leaders and demanding reforms. The SuperBowl stage this year will be that space where Nigeria’s young people once again show that we care about global issues and we also can be part of the solution.
SuperBowl is more than a competition. It is more than oratory. It is a culture.
I once heard a professor express shock that young Nigerians care about matters of intellect, after watching a student-organized event. Events like SuperBowl are the ways we disabuse the notion that Nigerian students are ‘not all that’. No one can see young people pushing their way into a crowded hall, desperate to share in a festival of thought and not understand that the Nigerian youth has been underestimated.
If you know people who still do not believe that Nigeria’s young people understand more than just football and make-up, bring them through to SuperBowl, and let them be wowed by the quality of ideas that flow from the minds of young Nigerians.
As a SuperBowl alumnus myself, I am excited to see the fruit that the stage will bear this year. As a member of the general public, I wait with bated breath to hear the ideas that will flow forth as students discuss “The Re-Construction of the Nigerian Nation”.
My dearest hope is that events like SuperBowl receive the kind of support that they need, to spread their tentacles across the length and breadth of the nation. We need to put intelligent discourse front and center in this country. And we need to promote a stage that lets our young people express themselves and deliver society-changing ideas.
SuperBowl ’19 will kick off at the Wole Soyinka Theatre of the University of Ibadan on October 25 while the semi-finals will hold on the 26th. The Grand Finale will be at the University’s Trenchard Hall on November 30, 2019.