Friday, 2 March 2012

Jerome Okolo at TEDxEuston 2011 - Not learning from history

Hans Rosling was 'just' a well respected Swedish professor - until TED put him its stage. Since then Hans Rosling has become world famous - the first of his 3 TED talks has been watched close to 4 million times. That is the power of TED in shaping the conversations on things that matter. TEDxEuston aims to do the same with issues that matter to Africans. When we invited Jerome Okolo to the TEDxEuston stage - many asked - Jerome who?. Well, we were soon to find out! Having brought the audience to exhilarating laughter as he took us through his immigration journey, we wondered where it would end. Well it ended where it started - the piece of land known between 1967 and 1970 as the "Republic of Biafra" in South Eastern Nigeria. But his was not a war story, but one about history and our obligation to learn from it in order to shape our future. Just after Jerome delivered his talk which left the audience deep in thought news filtered into the TEDxEuston community that Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu - the leader of the Biafran struggle had passed away. As Ikemba Nnewi is buried today in Nnewi, it is important to listen again to Jerome's talk to remember why an understanding of our history is so critically important in shaping the future. Share his talk - every Nigerian should watch it - we are aiming for 4 million views! 

Jerome Okolo’s life story provides a vivid and personal illustration of our tumultuous and rapidly changing epoch. He was born just as Nigeria’s Civil War was breaking out. His parent's journey took them from being penniless refugees, to privileged University of Nigeria staff – classical music, tennis, swimming – and then to facing the ire of the successive Military Administrations. Sent off to the far North of the country for his college education, he got caught up in the first outbreak of Islamic militant violence, when the Maitatsine sect attacked Nigerian Security forces, an attack that had to be repelled by the Nigerian army. He left Nigeria to study in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, just as that town was the flash-point of the ill-fated Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He traveled on to Ukraine for further studies, just as the world’s worst Nuclear disaster takes place at Chernobyl. Traversing East to West and back again, he witnessed the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. He was completing his dissertation in Moscow, when the August 1991 putsch against Gorbachev was launched in Moscow. Returning to Central Asia after completing his studies, he was again caught up in civil war, this time in Tajikistan, and escaped on the last Tu-134 out of Dushanbe. In 1993 Jerome was just re-launching his business career when another violent event, the siege of Parliament by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1993, almost ruined everything.

Watch his amazing talk at TEDxEuston 2011 HERE.....and share it!

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