Roses from the Concrete

by Nnaemeka Oruh

I will first clarify that the title of this essay has been borrowed from the collection of poems Roses Sprouting From The Concrete by Tupac Amaru Shakur. Shakur used the concept of roses growing out of the concrete as a metaphor representing something precious that comes out of a very difficult and near impossible condition. In my attempt to domesticate the expression, I entitled my collection of poems Otiin Growing in the Desert (otiin being the Obuohia Ibere word for scent leave).In other words, I am using the concept here as an adjectival that describes the resilient and determined whom against all odds seek to succeed.

This clearly is the story of so many Nigerian students who struggle to gain knowledge through our deficient educational system. It is also the story of almost all Nigerian youths no matter their field of endeavour. It is clear that most of our public schools are deficient in research facilities; deficient in capable teachers/lecturers; and deficient in structures and equipment. This has placed this country in such a situation where many graduates from our institutions are considered half baked. For those who manage to come out of our schools with knowledge enough to compete with other graduates from schools from other countries, they represent typical examples of roses that struggled to come out of the concrete. This is because the Nigerian educational system is clearly a concrete situation. The same can also be said of most other Nigerian youths struggling to make ends meet in whatever field they find themselves.

Now, prior to the commencement of the Beijing Olympics men’s football competition, little hope was placed on Dream Team IV. It was clear that even the sports ministry did not plan well for the games hence Nigeria’s dismal performance at the Olympic Games. As Elder Bode Oyewole, the former chairman of Shooting Stars affirms in Saturday Vanguard of 30th August,2008 while commenting on the few medals the country got, “The medals were not as a result of any planning from the NSC,NOC or AFN.We all knew that the team was not prepared and that they were going to fail in China.” This lack of preparation characterized and indeed is the framework of our Beijing 2008 outing.

But against the inhibitions of the lack of official preparation, some struggled to convert nothing to something. I am talking about our two bronze medalists and the silver winning Dream Team IV. But more importantly, I am concerned with the coach of Dream Team IV, Samson Siasia whose tactical prowess, combined with the individual skills of the players to ensure that we went that far in the competition. Now my focus on Siasia springs from the very important fact that he is from the Niger Delta region. A region which in the last years has become known international as the home of militants. Lots of negative publicity have been attached to this region such that one sometimes equates it with the biblical Nazareth where one may query: “can anything good come out of it?” Samson Siasia emerged from this “dirty” circumstance to become one of Nigeria’s most accomplished indigenous coaches. He has as part of his accomplishments, two silver medals—one from the Under-20 world cup, and another from the Olympic Games’ men football event. Siasia thus qualifies as a rose which emerged out of a concrete.

In Siasia’ vein too is this years winner of the NLNG award for literature Kaine Agary, and music super stars Timaya and Duncan Mighty. These three artistes have shown that there are other means through which the youths of the Niger Delta region can contribute positively towards the development of the Nigerian society. Above everything else, they showed that the Niger Delta region does not produce only youths who are negatively motivated .Timaya’s position needs a little more explanation. This is a young man who for several years walked the streets of Nigeria, hoping to catch the attention of sponsors with his music. It did not come easy as he spent years nurturing his music, and trying to bring it to the limelight. For close to twelve years, he held on, desirous to grow from nothing to something. And within those twelve years, disappointment came in torrents. He held on. Today, he will always be remembered as one of the two artistes (aside from Tuface Idibia) who had very successful first albums. Duncan Mighty on the other hand is at the moment making waves with his own new album. However, Nigerian music lovers will most remember Duncan Mighty as an artiste who lends a new flavour to any song where he is featured in. In that vein then, he emerges as our own version of America’s Nate Dogg, and Senegal’s Akon.

Mention need to be made of former Miss World, Agbani Darego. Agbani’s resilience and dogged strength saw her emerge as Miss World 2001 despite the stiff opposition she faced. In doing that, Agbani exhibited the ingrained strength which the survival of the fittest mentality of the Niger Delta region had imbibed in her. The same can also be said of Timi, winner of West African Idol 2007. It was a very remarkable thing that Timi won that particular contest. But the truth remains that the young man clearly has talents. As Afro beat super star Dede—one of the judges for the contest – told Timi, “After this, you will never carry a gun as a militant.” Dede saw the talent, the doggedness, the strength, in the young man, and knew immediately that he had the stuff that winners are made of. Timi’s success is no longer news. He remains a glaring example to many Niger Delta youths of a positive road to success.

It seems to me that a lot of creative talents abound in the Niger Delta region. And more than ever before, the youths have become aware of this and are exploring their creative abilities to the fullest. These determined efforts by them to turn the destructive capabilities inherent in Niger Delta youths into something creative clearly present them as precious roses emerging from tough concrete. Thus, despite the devastation in the region occasioned by many years of oil exploration and drilling, and the resultant (often times over zealous) demand for reparations by many youths of the region, some youths of that region have found the strength to draw the attention of the world to the fact that with adequate support, the region can be a better place when every youth is given the opportunity to pursue his/her innate, and positive talents. At the same time, the exploits of these young men and women serve as examples to other Niger Delta youths that success lies where determination lives.

There is something about roses from the concrete which make them a wonder to behold. Now when a rose sprouts from a fertile and normal condition, it is no wonder, yet we accept that it is beautiful. But it is something else when a resilient rose defies the laws of agriculture, and pushes its way out of the abnormal and difficult conditions presented by the concrete. The rose immediately sends out a message to all: that resilience and determination conquer everything.

And to us all who are members of the society, it is our duty to at all times express our support to those of our children who manage to occasion grand exploits despite the inhibitions inherent in our society. It really does not matter what happens to be the short comings of those individuals. What really matters is that they have been able to emerge from near impossible situations.

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emeka May 13, 2009 - 7:23 am

Yes Enitan,ethical shortcomings should always be taken into consideration.What I was actually referring to are their imperfections.No human being can lay claims to perfection.You know,most times when people talk about these “Roses’,they focus mainly on their imperfections.My contention is that we shouldn’t always focus on the circumstances under which they arose.We should always praise them for rising above the dirtiest and most difficult of circumstances to become idols for our sons and daughters.

enit March 10, 2009 - 5:11 am

Hope alive! This is a well written article of success against all odds. I approach the one sentence with relative trepidation – “It really does not matter what happens to be the short comings of those individuals.”

I believe that it does matter what any individual’s shortcomings are depending on what they are, no matter how desperate a circumstance we rise from. Ethical shortcomings are often times subversive. Some of our most unscrupulous leaders rose from dirt and possess extensive ethical shortcomings that continue to plague the overall progress of the country.


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