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“How We Lost Our Capacity To Innovate” – Watch the [email protected] Talk by Okechukwu Ofili



Okechukwu Ofili is not a stranger to us at BellaNaija. In his talk at [email protected] in Abuja, titled “How We Lost Our Capacity to Innovate” Ofili speaks on Nigeria’s history as told him by his dad, the story of Nigeria’s refinery and our incapacity to be innovative.

The question is, in 2013 how much can we create on our own?

Here’s an excerpt of the speech below:

And this is the truth. The history of the war is not really recorded; it is largely ignored. Ignored by the world and ignored by Nigeria, because of the evils and anger it triggers. But within the anger and evils there are great stories that a nation can hold on to. Stories such as a young group of Nigerians running a refinery independently in 1967…only because they were given the opportunity to do so.

Now I am not saying we should get rid of foreigners Mugabe style; after all, we saw how that turned out in Zimbabwe. What I am saying instead is that we should give each other a chance…the same chance that we give foreigners, so that we can re-write our history from a Nigerian perspective.

The guys during the war were able to work on that rig, maintain it, and build more refineries from scrap metal, simply because they were given a chance. To be honest, they had no other option but to give themselves a chance. And because that happened, they were able to succeed. Imagine what could have happened if this type of thing continued occurring in Nigeria! What could we have achieved and what could we have created?

But sadly we have forgotten about that, about our history and our ability to innovate.

We have situations where even before a Nigerian has failed, we are already plotting his foreign replacement. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with our men’s football coaching positions. Anytime a local coach is hired, he is barely given enough time to prove himself. In other words, he has no room for error. The moment he fails his first match…actually before the first match starts, the entire nation is already shouting for a foreign coach. It is like we can’t see success without a foreign influence.

But ironically when the foreign coach falters, the country is quiet, until he is fired or he quits, and then another unfortunate local coach is brought in to replace him and the cycle repeats itself.

Look at the case of Steven Keshi at the 2013 African Nations Cup … nobody gave him a chance; not Africans, not Nigerians and not even the people who hired him. After he drew his first two games, his head was being called for. It did not matter that Nigeria still was in contention to win the tournament; people had already started panicking. Panicking so much that the NFF (Nigerian Football Federation) had already started working on a foreign coach replacement even before he had played the quarter final match against Ivory Coast. Nobody believed he could win that game, nobody. Was it because he was Nigerian? If he had been a foreigner, the reaction would have been different. If the foreigner had failed, people would have probably blamed the players or the referees or that man from the village…. But when a Nigerian is in charge, or in any leadership position, we rail at him and give him little or no chance.

Watch the inspiring video here

For more information on Ofili, visit


  1. ForeverYoung

    August 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    What happened to innovation? You need a certain level of grace to see it….

    • slice

      August 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm


  2. nana

    August 26, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    wait!! when was the TEDx event?

    • Okechukwu Ofili

      August 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      It was around July 20. Pretty nice event.

  3. Mz Socially Awkward...

    August 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Ofili, we believe in ourselves plenty. I mean your dad believed in the ability of his children to make something of themselves, which informed his decision to have you tutored outside Nigeria (this is not a jibe, by the way, just stating a fact and addressing the brain drain you’ve touched on).

    What we don’t have are leaders who believe in the people they govern (hence the lack of home built refineries, etc… I mean on that subject alone, all I have to say is that Nigeria needs to go and study a thing or two from Brazil about how you make your oil and gas industry WORK for the good of your country). Your talk is well meant but I think you should be directing it towards Aso Rock, the House of Senate, etc. etc.

    • Ready

      August 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      +1. BN Team, it’s nice that you guys come up with new columns and collabs, but you really should look into this like button thing.

    • Abeeee

      August 27, 2013 at 12:11 am

      No we don’t believe in ourselves especially in science and tech. And the talk should be directed at every single Nigerian out there especially young people. We are all leaders one way or another, we influence each other believe it or not. CEOs need to start trusting their Nigerian employees, the government needs to trust Nigerian contractors and while they are at it they can fix the education system to get rid of the trust issues. Oh and by the way some ‘Aso Rock people’ were present at the event. Keep doing what you do Ofilispeaks, your Tedtalk was inspiring.

  4. Hidi

    August 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Excited to watch this.I practically stalk this dude on social media.He is so smart, funny and articulate.

    *Now plugs in headphone and pretends to do valuable work at the office! 🙂

    • oyin

      August 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      maybe he should also address the issue of people pretending to work at the office :p
      eye service na part of the problems we get for we country…..
      you know say I dey talk truth

    • Hidi

      August 26, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      LOL, na you sabi. I was multitasking….doing my work and listening to the video..And yeah, I dont work in Nigeria! #okbye!

    • oyin

      August 26, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      ela oh


    August 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Well done to him. He makes many good points.

  6. Jay

    August 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Good luck

  7. Msunderstood

    August 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Good points.
    Me, he’s so cute n well spoken.

  8. nene

    August 27, 2013 at 12:34 am

    okechukwu is easy on the eyes. handsome and funny man.

  9. damepenelope

    August 27, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Good.We need to hear more of this.Nigerians are incredibly smart people who excel at whatever they set their hearts to do. Hear Aso Rock!

  10. justice

    August 27, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Welldone Mr Ofili

  11. Rose

    August 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    @bella…..More of this @ ofili ….. nice one

  12. Joshua

    August 27, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Well put together by Ofili. Innovation is ‘fluid’ to Nigerians but Integrity is scarce. Can we all even as BN family embrace integrity as the foundation where innovation and other good qualities (we give-away to foreigners @rock-bottom price) thrive, to move Nigeria forward. Thank you…sober…hugs

  13. onyeka

    August 30, 2013 at 2:18 am


  14. NNENNE

    August 31, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Give the job to the right people; no nepotism, no tribalism, no bribery. Create an enabling environment. Trust me Nigeria ‘s got talents! Take a look at Nigerians around the world and see for yourself.

  15. sisieko

    September 3, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Great speech Ofili. Your point about the fish really spoke
    to me.Find your niche and do your best .God bless Naija!

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