8 Years Ago

Working on the ongoing social campaign to redirect the energy of young Nigerians – from cybercrime – towards positive engagements, I took a trip back to my earlier eMails on brining IT literacy to young Nigerians — at a time when internet access was plug and pray (you had to take a walk after entering the website address so it would have loaded by the time you returned to your seat). I came across an interesting eMail message…

At about this same time 8 years and 12 days ago (5:56am on Monday, October 2, 2000), I rose from deep thoughts to write to Dr. Philip Emeagwali. The eMail is reproduced below:

Good day sir,

I found out your site and address after so much search.

I do not need to tell you how I got to know about you because the whole world does.

I am a final year student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Nigeria. I’m in the Electronic and Electrical Engineering department and I’m building an infotech career in Internet Technologies (with websitedesigns and eCommerce options). I am also presently the chairman of the electronic club of the department.

All that was necessary so that my purpose of sending the mail will be understood.

Sir, we have a dying need here in Ife and in Nigeria at large.

I HAVE A DREAM! I have a dream that despite the climate here, Nigerians would be able to see, harness and synergize the innate potentials to produce Global Impact. We have what it takes and I believe we can fly, taking advantage of the present democratic dispensation.

Sir, we need encouragement for the average Nigerian undergraduate because the system over the years has changed our paradigm to chasing after certificates rather than expertise.

We need someone like you, a Nigerian and a frontliner in Global Technological trends to salvage the situation.

Sir, I’m writing to find out how you can be of help to us. We have already held a seminar where we discussed NEXT GENERATION, taking the bulls by the horns to harness our potentials so as to make global impact. That was actually when someone gave me your website address.

Sir, I would eagerly await a response to your mail and thus continue with the correspondence. Thanks for believing in us. Thanks for your anticipated cooperation.

Yours,

‘Gbenga Sesan

About 24 hours later (at exactly 4:55am), he replied with a copy to Mr. Chris Uwaje who, at the time, was the president of the Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN). The events that followed that response have been chronicled in my forthcoming book.

We have come a long way since October 2, 2000. At the time, very few campuses had internet access. Today, the issue is not the access but what we do with it. Increasingly, internet access has become available but we need to treat the cancerous growth that appears to be attached to this rather good news. Cybercrime is a topic that may have many sides to it but I choose to look at the angle of providing alternative positive opportunities for the many young people who are daily attracted to the vice in the name of how for do. When we gather at Planet One on October 25 for The Alternative, it will not be a time to curse the crime or accuse the actor, it will be a time to discuss how we can provide an alternative that will create a much better scenario.

With the number of phone calls I have received (describing how each person has been a victim of an increasingly smarter group of online crime actors) since we announced the event on FaceBook, I am convinced that we need to act now. As we presently do with our Ajegunle.org model, we will work with partners to retrain at-risk youth and empower them to create an enviable career in IT (as they already invest their energy in this area, even though in a negative sense) so they can inspire positive peer pressure. Details will be unveiled next week Saturday at the event and , and I can’t wait to see how we can add another drop to this much-needed ocean of change.