THE WARDEN’S CHALLENGE: A HERITAGE ABOUT TO BE LOST?
The Warden’s Challenge is an oratory competition held in honour of the incumbent Hall warden. The contest is aimed at building the writing and public speaking prowess of Brownites. It is also an avenue for members of the L&D to compete. Renowned speakers that have graced the stage include Anyanwu Roseben, Isa Folajomi, Dibia Ernesto, amongst others.
This year, the Warden’s Challenge was scheduled to hold on Thursday,10th March 2022 at 5 pm. However, a few minutes to the start of the event, a notice was put out stating that the event had been postponed to 7.15 pm and would hold at a different venue. Brownites and even the judges had to readjust their schedules to fit into this new timing. With the rescheduling of the challenge, one would expect a full house. Brownites turning up in large numbers and speakers firing on all cylinders. Alas! This was not the case.
After a long wait, the Warden’s Challenge eventually commenced at 8.00 pm. Not long after the start of the event, it was announced that there was only one contestant present, as opposed to the eight contestants that had earlier indicated interest. The event was brief and recorded a very low turnout for a yearly event that Brownites looked forward to.
The ABH Press got in touch with the Chairman of the Warden’s Challenge Committee, Mr. Segun Ogunlana but he was not available for an interview. We then went ahead to speak with a member of his Committee, Mr. David Salami. According to him, the Committee did not envisage a low turnout of audience and speakers. In his words, “apart from social activities, debate is an activity that records a large turnout of Brownites as seen in the last Jaw War’s attendance“. About the contesters, Mr. Salami insisted that their decision to pull out at the last minute must have been for personal reasons. He stated emphatically that the committee played their part as they were in constant communication with the contesters. He also added that since they paid to pick up forms to participate in the challenge, they must have been interested in participating. Finally, he mentioned that he was surprised by how the hall executives did not place as much priority on the challenge as would have been expected.
The ABH press also got in touch with two of the absent contestants. Mr. Obinna Amaji claimed that his absence was due to personal reasons; a series of events, some related to school, had prevented him from preparing adequately for the Challenge. Concerning the claim that the low turnout was due to poor planning on the part of the committee, Mr. Amaji had this to say “The committee began this process with calling for speakers and maintained an adequate level of communication with the participants, including when the first stage had to be scrapped (I make this assumption from how a committee member related with me). They prepared for the contest with the hope of being treated in good faith by those who had expressed interest in the challenge. I, for one, did not do that. That was ill-mannered (of me), and I do not think it hints at the poor planning of the committee. I think, just like me, other participants had their personal reasons for not eventually turning up. I failed, however, to communicate my decision to pull out to the committee early enough. Had they had that prior knowledge, perhaps, contingencies could have been made in time“. According to Mr. Amaji, he only communicated his decision to pull out of the contest to the committee about 15 minutes to the start of the event. He also added, “ I disappointed quite a number of people, including those rooting for me, by my conduct and eventual absence at the Challenge. It may not change anything but I apologize for having let them down.”
When we spoke with another absent contestant, Miss Folashade Olajuwon, she said that “As at the time the event was moved to 7 pm, I was still trying to figure out whether or not to attend. But school was a little bit overwhelming and I had many deadlines to meet the week of the event, hence I had to forfeit the challenge. Also, it would have been more convenient to participate in the challenge if it was slated for a weekend.” The ABH Press went on to ask her if the prize money was not enough motivation and her response was, “Are you joking? Money that I had analyzed in my head how I was going to spend it. The offer was really good but as I said, school was quite overwhelming.“
We also reached out to the sole contestant and winner of the challenge, Mr. Adiat Tijani, and asked him how he felt about being the only speaker at the event. Mr. Tijani had this to say, “There was not much to feel being the only speaker at the event. I didn’t go to the event with the mindset of competing. I went with the mindset of someone who had a beautiful speech and wanted everyone to hear it. When the audience and the judges liked the speech, I felt good.”
In the future, we hope that Brownites, Executives and especially public speakers, would go back in history and read the chronicles of the Warden’s Challenge since its inception, to appreciate how much of a prestigious event it is. We hope that we do not get to a point where the Warden’s Challenge loses its relevance, becoming a relic of the past.