Sunday, 7 December 2014

Dinner in the infectiously youthful company of Chief Jibunoh


Shy and shrinking
Generally, I am not that good at networking, but I have that there are some people I have met who have had such a profound impact on me and with whom I have cultivated interesting eye-opening relationships.
I can strike up conversations with people on almost any topic, from the utterly mundane to the very serious, the theme that recurs is that our lives are stories, yet many of us never really get to tell those stories from the unique perspective of our voices.
I was in London to attend TEDxEuston and had arrived the night before to stay at my very good friend, Funmi Iyanda's place who as I arrived in London was about to go out to dinner with friends.
To dinner
By happenstance, the planned meeting was running a bit late and with it came an invitation to join them for dinner in London’s Mayfair area.
Before we left, she mentioned we’ll be meeting with Chief Jibunoh, his daughters, granddaughters and friends. I had read of his expeditions on the Sahara Desert years ago and this suddenly looked like an exciting prospect to meet an explorer.
Dr Newton Jibunoh [CNN] is nothing like what you will see of his peers in Nigeria, a grandee, no doubt but quite down-to-earth, adventurous, optimistic, interesting and most of all, an engaging raconteur. At 27 in 1965, he drove alone all the way home from London to Nigeria crossing the Sahara Desert, he has gone back to the desert twice again.
Much as I will not share as a matter of discretion the particulars of our dinner conversations, he left a great impression on me.
Adventure is educational
He is an environmentalist; he founded the NGO – Fight Against Desert Encroachment [FADEAfrica].
However, this well-travelled man allowed me to draw a contrast, the unusualness of his activities that we do not generally find amongst Nigerians, who tend to travel but appear to lack a sense of either adventure or curiosity.
As one of my tweeps observed on Twitter a few days ago, London is the main holiday destination of Nigerians, probably with Dubai and New York, not to imbibe art or relax, but just to shop.
Losing our youthfulness
It is a sad reality that there is no inquisitiveness that drives the desire to explore, to discover, to experience, to appreciate or to understand things and differences outside our zones of comfort and familiarity.
This mind-set has insidious and debilitating consequences because it robs us of youth and youthfulness, the possibility of expanded horizons is left to degenerate into disabling myopia, as we allow bluster and bombast to cover for our satisfied and yet stark ignorance.
In Dr Jibunor, who is soon to be 77, I found a man still open to the new, the different, the other and the exciting and as we parted ways, we all knew he’ll be up to something really adventurous and we cannot wait to hear of what he has gotten up to next.
More pertinently, there is a need for us to capture a sense of adventure, the quest for knowledge through the education of experiencing something new, first with our neighbourhoods, like going down a different path, trying a different means of transport, trying different foods, going to museums and breaking out of established norms.
The world is a beautiful place, but until we get out to see that world of people, culture, diversity, amazing colour and breath-taking nature for ourselves, the sense of beauty will only heard of in the stories told by others, like Chief Jibunor.

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