If you see how we worked almost all night, you would have been scared. I think we stayed up almost till 3am. We still woke up by six to do a little more before the 6:30am deadline. (I think it was 6:30, I can’t remember exactly. Kelechi had previously said it’ll be 5:30. Imagine the fear in the contestants’ minds. She later extended it sha. Thank God!). We needed more time because of Bukunmi’s advice. We needed to compress a lot of things. One lesson: know what is expected of you long before hand; do what is expected of you!
We left for Ikeja Sheraton at about 8:30am. We all sat and Teams started bringing out laptops, not caring that people might see their ideas. Which way! Na d last day na! I quickly rallied Pamela and Nina and told them: this is what might help us to win: we need to write out exactly what we have to say, the humour we’ll be using, the illustrations we want to give, everything. It will give us the edge when we’re up there on the stage. We have to be desperate if we want to win!
I got out my Unilever notebook and started writing. I filled about 4 pages. I started timing myself with my watch. Pamela exclaimed “engineering students!” I replied that of course engineering has taught me to be exact. It was about 9:30 when I started writing my speech. I finished at about 10:14 because all the teams had to learn how to move to the stage during the “Great Nation” song that will be played before announcement of results. I don’t think my mind was really in it. I was clutching fast to my notebook. Even when we had to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of the event, I never left my notebook. FUT Minna had taught us how to memorize things in very short times. I was prepared to use this skill. Up till today, I still remember my closing paragraph: the result of continual repetition. FUT Minna don teach us beta thing.
Nina and the other team leaders were called to pick the order of presentation for the teams. Just like at the regionals, we picked number 2. So we were to present just after Team VHF. I didn’t feel scared. I felt that it was the normal path. After all, I didn’t exactly want to be last when the audience and possibly the judges may not be strong enough to fully concentrate.
Team VHF was called to present and the other teams were led to a waiting room. At the waiting room, we were so quiet. Some managed to whisper. I tried to cheer us up. I remember telling maybe Team Achievers (or was it Deluxe Brains?) “Come on smile! Why are you looking like that?”(naija style that is: com’on smile). I forced some smiles. Lifebuoy Musketeers in their characteristic wisdom continued meditatively, smiling at my efforts to liven up the room but still retaining their seriousness. I rep una!
After about ten minutes, we were called out to wait at the entrance of the hall where the presentation was to be made. Seyi (Unilever “Uliwood” founder, and great with a camera), came to offer us water and words of encouragement. I had a good drink from the round bottomed glass. Pamela came to have a sip. Maybe Nina was too deep in preparing she didn’t think of water.
Ezekiel (from last year’s winning team, and also with Unilever) also came to encourage us. He said we should be smooth, flow and just be ourselves. I saw more purpose in having my speech in my head so I can simply manipulate words with freedom when I’m on stage.
We got in finally. Team Aspire from the Federal University of Technology, Minna. In my mind, I was excited, thinking, Oh God, this is it! On our first slide were the words “My son just won’t stop washing his hands!” With that Pamela introduced us, explaining that a boy was so addicted to hand washing his mother became concerned. She continued, adding humour here and there and really getting the audience engaged. I was smiling happily on stage. I was like, yes, audience, I like that you like it!
Our video was quite interesting for the audience too. One kid was using enormous energy to scrub his hands: between his fingers, spreading them and rubbing quite fiercely and things like that. But the video stopped halfway. Many teams had issues with their video or presentations though. It’s like during the transfer to the presentation laptop some of the material got corrupt from the flash drives. We went ahead with the rest of the presentation. However, we didn’t finish. I got back into trusting God mode. We have prepared, presented and it’s now up to God. According to the movie “The Great Debaters” which we saw on Day 1 of Camp, “…the judge is God because He decides who wins or loses….” and “…my opponent does not exist”.
Lifebuoy Musketeers presentation was quite energetic. Williams, just like during the regionals, spoke so forcefully that the audience was at the edge of the seats, really excited. I told Williams during the regionals that he spoke like a pastor. Paul’s part was interesting too. He started with “Now, let’s talk about money”, and the audience was like “yeah!!!!” Brenda came in between Williams and Paul and was also full of energy. I remember during the regionals when she made an illustration about a mother and her child. I felt the chill in the audience as she gave the illustration and I thought it was really effective. Musketeers had energy, detail and flow.
After the presentation, a lady asked a question and Williams answered so forcefully that you would think he was scolding her for bringing a question with an obvious answer, ending with “Okay????” and throwing the audience into fits of laughter. Even the judges no fit shout! They too were caught in the moment.
Before the announcement of results, we watched some videos prepared by Seyi. It reduced anxiety of the teams at that moment. In the video, Achievers were so serious they didn’t even have what to tell the interviewer. They were like we just have to win, saying it with all seriousness. Williams had the worst PR. They always showed him with his beloved apples or at the dining table. Paul….that scary face you made really showed excitement. Now that I think about it, I wish the short tune I sang was actually longer. I still don’t like singing in public. Actually, I don’t sing well yet. But it would have been good PR. Maybe a record company could have heard my voice and snatched my up after the competition J.
And those dancers who performed for the “Great Nation” song were glorious. When it came to announcing the results, I was thinking God this is for you to decide. During the regionals, I prayed all through the judges’ recess. I actually forgot to do that this time until a friend reminded me. This time, I started after the judges had returned. I just knew that God had to glorify Himself though. Anyhow it happens. But I never lost hope.
Thabo Mabe started by saying that the song “Great Nation” was appropriate for the moment. Third place…. then he started talking about something else. Everybody laughed with tension rising. He’s trying to prolong the tension. Unlike me, I was a little tensed. Third place: Deluxe Brains. They were given their gifts and they took pics. Second Place: Team Aspire. Oh yes, us. I was disappointment in myself. I could have done more. But we got second place. All my prayers were still heard. We didn’t drop too far from ranking. We got our gifts and took picture. First Place: Lifebuoy Musketeers. The great excitement started. We all celebrated them. They got their gifts, took pictures, went out for interviews.
The organizers seemed to abandon the rest of us though. It was a great experience all the same!