Our work at ZODML often puts us in touch with people who have a passion and desire to positively impact the lives of others. Abdul-Hakeem Buhari is such a person. On December 6, 2013, as ZODML’s BookCorner Ambassador, he took time out of his very busy day to speak to and inspire students of Ireti Junior Grammar School, Ireti Senior Grammar School, Falomo Junior High School and Falomo Senior High School (all in South-West Ikoyi). The BookCorner Project is a ZODML initiative which puts about 400 books in state secondary schools by way of micro-libraries. BookCorner Ambassadors introduce the schools’ students to the micro-libraries’ value as a channel for self-improvement. Abdul-Hakeem Buhari, at just 20, is a multiple award-winning orator and a First Class (Honours) Economics graduate from the University of Lagos. His awards have come from Chevron Nigeria Limited, the Acorn Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation and the University of Lagos. He spoke to ZODML’s David Aiyeola about his successes and passion for public speaking.
“I began to have a profound interest in reading in primary school. My brother and I used to read novels and short stories. We started reading books by James Hadley Chase in Primary 1 and by Primary 4 had read several novels in the African Writers Series. I enjoyed reading encyclopedias and the Guinness Book of Records for general knowledge. These sorts of books helped pique and sustain my interest in reading for a long time. I did not start serious academic reading till my early secondary school days. I wanted to be the best in certain subjects so I could get prizes at the end of the year. I was lucky to be blessed with the kind of parents I have. I cannot quantify the impact my parents have had on me and the role they played in the achievements I have today. After Allah, no one has helped me become what I am today more than my parents. In junior school, my mum used to help us with our projects in various subjects. My dad used to wake us up by 3:00 am in the morning and would study with us even when there were no exams. When the time for exams came, he would drive us to school and study with us in the car until the bell rang! This was without a doubt something that gave us the edge over our peers and today we are reaping the rewards of their efforts. Many believed I was too young to be in secondary school and that I would not be able to cope. I took the entrance examination at the age of 8 and gained admission into JSS 1 at 9. The biggest challenge, however, came when I applied to university. I was 15 at the time and there was a stipulation that all entrants must be at least 16 years old. It wasn't easy to convince them but God's grace and my academic results ultimately made it possible. I became a public speaker because I love proper communication. I learnt to speak in public by imitating successful orators. My first public speech – which was well received – was at the University of Ibadan as part of a debating contest. I was also proud to become the Unilag Debate Champion in 2012, after competing against speakers from a dozen other faculties. I see oratory as the power to bring about change. It is a vital tool for everyone to have. As such, I spend considerable time investing in others to help them communicate better. I am still learning myself and I strive to improve every day. The class of those I am privileged to mentor has also evolved quite significantly. I began with those who were my immediate juniors in school. I then expanded to kids and teenagers who had challenges with public speaking or self-confidence. Now, I am fortunate to help train my colleagues, peers and even seniors on the art of proper communication. Doing this is deeply gratifying and helps make me better at speaking.
To young people considering public speaking Abdul-Hakeem’s advice is “start early, don’t stop. Practice ceaselessly. Get a speech mentor. Imitate them and someday you'll be able to initiate your own style. When it gets difficult, don't tire. Reach out to like-minded friends and obtain strength from them. Most importantly, know that your success or otherwise in this is dependent on God. Pray to Him, seek His assistance and you will be successful by His Grace.” David’s encounter with Abdul-Hakeem is one of the many opportunities ZODML staff members have of meeting inspiring people. His words inspired and encouraged all that heard him speak.