New Nigeria Club!

At 3pm today, the New Nigeria Club will be launched at The Balmoral Hall, Kudirat Abiola Way, Ikeja (Lagos, Nigeria). The event will feature Prof. Pat Utomi, Fela Durotoye, Funmi Iyanda, Niyi Adesanya, Deolu Akinyemi and ‘Gbenga Sesan :).

At the event, I plan to speak very briefly about a thought that occupied my mind all of yesterday, and that I spent quite sometime discussing with my girlfriend in the first few hours of 2008. The major difference between Nigerians is not tribal! Actually, education and work have closed the tribal gap for many people: If you were born in Akure; schooled in Zaria (because your dad moved to the Zaria branch of his workplace) and Enugu (for your university education); work in 4 countries across West Africa and plan to complete your postgraduate (which will make a total of 4 years) in Europe; tell me how much of tribal issues will make a difference between you and your friend who has also not known one single place as home.

The real difference is in our attitude to the Nigeria project. You’re either Hopeless, Relieved, a Returnee or Strategically Positioned. I’ll be back to explain that after the audience at the New Nigeria Club launch get the first taste :). I also see a very strong similarity between these four groups of Nigerians and those described in the Bible while Israel was in captivity — and some were worried about why they should sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

We are already 13 hours into the new year, so please stop assuming that the year is new. In some locations, it’s already January 2 — and for those in my time zone or those with a few hours to their advantage, the 2nd day will be here probably before you finish sending text messages to all your contacts! See you at 3pm if you’ll be at the launch, and when you sign up for your New Nigeria Club membership gbengasesan will be glad to be your sponsor.

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Happy New Year — Plus 23 Answers

Happy New Year!

I spend the last few days of every year reviewing and planning, and came across this interview (The Business Woman) again — and it brought smiles to my face as it tells a lot about the past and the future. There were 23 questions, so I invite you to enjoy my 23 answers.

1. Most accomplished moments:
When I am fully prepared for a presentation, finish writing an article (or policy document), or when a project that I have designed to help improve the lives of underserved communities takes off — and proves to be useful. A recent example is the project that has now proved to be a sustainable model for helping underserved communities across the world through the opportunities that new technologies provide.

2. Low points on the job?
Moments when I see those who can make a big difference focus on other (possibly less important) involvements! My heart breaks each time I see policy makers, business leaders and other influential people ignore the opportunity to use their positions to promote positive change.

3. Favourite quotes:
“The whole world stands aside for a man who knows where he’s going!” (Author Unknown, but I’ve modified and used over time)
“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson — not Nelson Mandela, please)

4. Your style:
Simple enough not to cause a stir but unique enough to make others want to try it out!

5. Most memorable assignments?
Speaking for the first time at a United Nations assembly; addressing the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a final year student; and serving as Nigeria’s Information Technology Youth Ambassador!

6. Mentors:
Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Philip Emeagwali, Mr. Tom Isegohi…

7. Wanna-bes(role models)?
Would you allow me to combine the unique strengths in various people? Add the following: Wole Soyinka’s passion for change, Bill Gate’s access to resources, Oprah’s midas touch and Steve Job’s restlessness with innovation!

8. Favourite Cities?
Addis Ababa (the contrast), Athens (the history), Geneva (the buses/trams) and London (the strangers).

9. Best of Nigeria according to you (men/women of honour):
Wole Soyinka (speaks with influence), Pat Utomi (stands up for values), Okonjo Iweala (works smart and resigned when the timing was right) and Dora Akunyili (knows her onions and understands positive noise)

10. Happiest moment?
The day Temilade Agbaje looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You are the best at what you do!”

11. Saddest moment?
Hmm… The day I was robbed while trying to help others who were stranded.

12. Favourite IT gadjets?
My laptop and mobile phone. Fortunately, they talk to each other 😉

13. Love to hangout where?
Movie theatres

14. Family Backround:
I was born in Akure (Ondo State, Nigeria) on July 27, as was my younger sister seven years later. My parents share the same month of birth (April) while the kids (four of us) also share the same month — July. Growing up was very conservative, especially with my dad being a teacher at that time. My mum was a nurse and she travelled a lot while my dad would always correct every error in letters we wrote from boarding school. I learnt about avoiding the act of comparing myself with others early in life — as my dad would always ask me to remain concious of the fact that being rated in the first position in a subject did not mean one scored the “highest mark obtainable”. I learnt, early in life, about the need to run my own race and only compare myself with the “best possible me”.

15. Inspired by?
Stories of success, especially of people who do so against all odds.

16. Has a passion for?
Using what I know to inspire others towards development, either as individuals, people-groups, corporations or nations.

17. Favourite meals?
Pounded yam with edika-ikong soup. If I spend one more second thinking about the question, another favourite food (e.g. fried plantain) may come to my mind!

18. Favourite drinks?

19. Call the fashion police if i wear?
Sunglasses at night 🙂

20. Like the smell of? (Perfumes)
Calvin Klein Crave, Armani Mania

21. Books you can read again and again
Autobiographies; The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman); A Whole New Mind (Dan Pink); Business at the Speed of Thought (Bill Gates) and Confessions of an Economic Hitman (John Perkins)

22. Your life’s purpose statement:
There’s a longer (and poetic) version of seven stanzas at but a summary, which is what I would love inscribed as my epitaph is: “‘Gbenga Sesan identified with the bottom 70% of the world’s population and used what he knew (ICTs) to give them better livelihoods! He grew from a shy young man in the corner of a little-known town in rural Nigeria to become a tall and change-swinging global citizen.”

23. Qualities you like in a woman:
Confidence turns me on, charm holds my breath and the woman whose skills and attitude complement mine has my attention.

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