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Interview: JAW WAR to go National This Year – TLDS President

Integral to the student culture in University of Ibadan is the Jaw War annual debate tournament hosted by The Literary and Debating Society (TLDS). However, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent campus lockdown, many have raised eyebrows as to the possibility of a 2021 edition of Jaw War. The expectations was further fueled when on April 28th, TLDS, called for volunteers at the oncoming 2021 edition of Jaw War. In a follow-up conversation with the President of The Literary and Debating Society on Sunday, May 1st, our correspondent, Yemi Alesh, gathered new information on the state of affairs in the Society as well details of planning towards the upcoming Jaw War debate tournament.

How has been your experience as the President of the Literary and Debating Society 

So far, it has been good being the President of the Literary and Debating Society of University of Ibadan. It is just funny that my administration has been the longest-serving. I was handed over to as President of the Literary and Debating Society on March 4th, 2020 and it’s over a year now. We couldn’t do anything last year due to the COVID pandemic but since we have resumed, I have had some wonderful experiences.

How has the outbreak of COVID-19 as well as the subsequent lockdown affected specific activities or programs of the Society? 

The pandemic affected the planning of the LnD because initially we had it in mind to host the second edition of the Ibadan Literary Festival and there was also the plan to proceed with the usual conference that started in 2017 but because of the pandemic, we could not proceed with the festival. We had to postpone the Ibadan Literary Festival to the second semester, right before Jaw War.

Most people think that the Literary and Debating Society organizes only Jaw War. Can you tell us more about the Ibadan Literary Festival and the role of the Society in organizing it? 

First, there is this impression that the only thing TLDS does is Jaw War but in 2019, during the Dara-led administration, the Ibadan Literary Festival was instituted. As a need for me to continue the initiative, that’s why we want to have the second edition and it is also to revive the literary aspects of the society. Yes! The Ibadan Literary Festival is an initiative of the LnD that is aimed at rejuvenating the culture of art appreciation, educating and bringing together intellectual minds to air their views on issues in the literary sphere. This is usually achieved by bringing together artists and creatives across various genres so that they can discuss their perspectives. In 2019, we had the likes of Ayodele Olofintunade, Professor Femi Osofisan and a host of others. This year, we will be considering the theme, “The Rebirth of Legacy”. The event is scheduled to be held in July.

What do you consider the value of public speaking to an average person or student? 

Public speaking is a life skill. It Involves being able to think and articulate one’s ideas well. Having great public speaking skills helps improve your leadership skills. You will know that great leaders in the world are known to be great public speakers. Consider the likes of Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Joe Biden. These men have great mastery of public speaking skills. It is very important to erase the mentality that public speaking skill is meant only for certain classes of people. It is a basic need of life.

In light of the various challenges currently surging in life, what do you consider the value of public speaking in addressing those issues and the roles of students in contributing their quota to the discourse?

There is a problem with governance if there is not adequate communication. We, as students, who have good public speaking skills should be able to speak out against these things. Another thing is having a platform that provides for an opportunity to debate on topical issues in the country. Jaw War provides such a platform.

Speaking of Jaw War, which is recognized as the largest public speaking tournament in Sub-Saharan African and due to the advent of the pandemic and the virtual nature of this semester, some have wondered if and when Jaw War will be back? When will Jaw War be back? 

Jaw War is back already and in second semester, Jaw War will be hosted.

Specific date? 

Well … we will be having a press conference where we will release the date, the draws and the judges. All I can say is Jaw War is back.

What innovations should we be looking forward to in this year’s edition of Jaw War?

We should look forward to having the best edition of Jaw War this year because this year Jaw War will be going national. Asides the UI tournament, we will also have a Jaw War national competition where we get to host students of other tertiary institutions. There is going to be a process where schools will apply for the competition and we will eventually select the top seven who will eventually come down for the national finals. That does not erode the usual intra-UI tournament. Students will enjoy the UI tournament. It’s just that we are expanding our scope to beyond the university.

Are there any plans in place to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 precaution rules especially with respect to maximum capacity of venues and sitting arrangements?

Yes, plans are in place to abide by the COVID rules. The truth is, over the years, we have had an audience of over 5,000 that attended Jaw-War both physically and virtually. But this time around, because of the prevalence of COVID, we will limit the number of those that will be staying in the hall so that everywhere is not choked up. We will also utilize live streaming platforms like YouTube. We will also make use of social media platforms to live stream it.

Should the management proscribe large gatherings or student-gatherings of any kind due to COVID-19 pandemic, are there alternative plans by the management? 

We are also making available other plans if the initial plan does not work out. But if lectures in the second semester will be physical, I don’t think anything should stop us from having the event physically and virtually. That is why I said earlier that due to the prevalence of COVID, we will make use of the virtual means to complement physical events. If eventually we are not permitted to have the physical event, which I don’t think will be the case, there is an alternative plan in place.

Bringing the discussion home, as a stakeholder in Kenneth Mellanby Hall Literary and Debating Society, what do you think has been responsible for the inability of the hall to win Jaw War despite her great efforts year after year and prospects of KMHLD winning the competition this year? 

Mellanby LnD is a unique society because it has been a strong contender at Jaw War. We are not so happy that we have never got to the finals and that is not a result of our lack of preparedness. It’s just that life happens. While I was Vice President, I tried my best to ensure that we got to the finals but we eventually lost by 0.25 at the semi-finals. As I have said earlier, the problem is neither lack of preparedness nor incompetence. We cannot speculate what is going to happen now but I think that what we can do is study the patterns across constituencies that have won Jaw War. I believe that we will try our best this year, and not relent.

In what ways do you think the average Mellanbite can support the Society towards achieving its goal at winning Jaw War? 

What they can do is to join the society because the society comprises capable persons and when we have more, we will be at better chances.

Any final words? 

I want everyone to look forward to the 2021 edition of Jaw War because it is going to be different from preceding editions. We will also make sure that it is excellent.

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