Ona Kan O Wo Oja! (there are many possible means of attaining a single goal) – Yoruba Aphorism
My Lords, there is something very cold coming and it’s not winter. It is a battle of wits and words, where everyone strives to be a winner. It has, for a while, been the only song being sung by many within the nooks and crannies of the school. A War where speakers battle; not with swords, but with words. Not on the field, but on the stage; behind a lectern, in front of an audience. Behold, Jaw War!
For those who know not, Jaw War is the biggest public speaking competition in the University of Ibadan, and arguably the biggest in Nigeria. It features speakers from different Halls of residence and Faculties of study, as they debate different topics throughout the stages of the competition. This is one competition that is educative, entertaining, emotional and every other word that fits something of immense value. But I’ve not come here today to speak about the beauty and splendour of Jaw War, but rather to speak for the ideality of the Jaw War audience, as regard a standard debate.
My Lords, the problem today is not about whether Jaw War is a standard debate or not, for to doubt the standard of that is to stand out in absurdity. The question is how ideal is its audience? For the sake of clarity, Merriam Webster Dictionary defines ideality as the state of being exactly right for a particular purpose, situation, or person. And what is the purpose of a debate, if not that your stance be understood and favoured over your opponents’? This presupposes that an audience that understands the speakers and is capable of deciding which side should or should not win, is indeed fit as an audience. We do not, however, need a photographic memory to remember the further arguments that always ensue after every round of Jaw War, among the audience themselves, as they iron out their opinions among one another, regardless of the Judges’ verdict. It is even rumoured that it was one of such controversies that led to the ban on Jaw War some years ago. My Lords, this is exactly what a debate should do to the audience. To make them believe in the speech so much that they want to fight for your stance.
Furthermore, my Lords, University of Ibadan is unarguably a home of intellectuals and great minds. It is a habitat for intelligent organisms scattered about like a broken bottle. We never cease to have cases of the manifestation of their intellects: in writing, journalism, speaking, academics, creativity, entrepreneurship and every other thing that denotes a display of intellect. In light of this, it is pertinent to note that the bulk of Jaw War audience does not come from Agbowo or Apete or any of the suburb areas surrounding the University. They are rather from the various Halls and Faculties of the Institution. Now, if I may, what makes an audience more ideal or fit for debate than the possession of intellect and capability to comprehend the message being conveyed? And if this is exactly what UItes possess in their arsenal, how better ideal could such audience be?
It is true that here in UI, during Jaw War, we often snap fingers when we feel the lines, we “hmm” when the analogies hit us and in fact uncontrollably clap when the logic is just too overwhelming. I mean, how do you hear things like “whether you call euthanasia mercy killing or even Ronaldo killing, it is still killing”, and not have your soul tickled. But it is only human to do that, it is only human to feel, and it does not affect the ideality of such audience. In fact, in the purported foreign public speaking competition that could be erroneously regarded to possess the standard audience, they also clap, they murmur, and laugh when necessary. It is human. There are just some lines creatively embedded in speeches to keep a space between your lips, as your teeth kiss the air, and your soul feels the gospel.
In the end, we need not compare with other environments, my Lords. It is us and us alone that determine the ideality and standard of our audience. This is Jaw War, this is UI, and public speaking has been redefined.
“Adopt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” – Bruce Lee.
The stage is set. The gear of preparation is on five. And predictions and jibes are being hurled here and there. Not because Nigeria is in the world cup but because Jaw War is about to answer global questions. It is our own public speaking world cup here in the Premier University. Because last year’s drama is still being dramatized on the leaves of our memory, we are expecting yet again an overdose of actions. Actions from speakers and their speeches. Actions from the judges and their judgments. And actions from the audience and their aroist tendencies. Duke, this where I’m driving to. The audience. They mean a lot in every debate.
Ideally, facts should be bedrock of every speech. But having an audience whose thirst cannot be quenched by facts is far from ideal. An audience, who, rather than pinpoint vital points made by speakers, punchlines and puns are what they are on the lookout for. Well, there is little blame that can be written against their names. After all, there is an award for the best punchline and non for the best facts. Would you blame them?
The condition to which the audience are subjected is in itself unideal. They sweat to their pants. They strain their ears to pick what is said at times because the microphone is bad. They at times even find it tasking to see speakers because the hall is not well lit. Such conditions are not ideal for effective speaking; how earth can an ideal audience be met in such an unideal atmosphere?
In accordance to the stipulation of the National Institute for Civil Discourse Standards of Conduct for Debates, the audience of a debate must: refrain from creating disturbances to other audience members, candidates and moderators; practice active listening when someone else is speaking, seeking to understand them. Duke, here in UI reverse is the case. If a speaker delivers well, rather than a subtle reaction, the whole auditorium is upturned by Jaw War audience; thereby, the judges are barred from further grasp of the speaker’s points. If he doesn’t, he gets a backlash; thereby, they eat up the little confidence left in such speaker. Only a few are able to retrieve it back. I’m not even sure Jaw War audience know rules guide them same way rules guide the debaters.
This moment, memories of the US Presidential Debate between Ogbeni Enujawaya Donald Trump and Iyaafin Hilary Clinton comes to mind. By using standard as yardstick, this is a standard debate with a near ideal audience. As intense as the atmosphere was, the control of the audience was well managed. However, in the case of our dear audience in Jaw War, once they are punched by a punchline or tickled by a pun, they go wild and go gaga. Duke, do we still doubt the unideal of this audience? On this, I leave you with the words of Ron Paul that, setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms. I believe we can do better and learn from good examples here and there.
To add, the Third Edition of Oxford Dictionary of English describes ideal as something that is perfect and flawless. Inferring from this, in the real sense of the word, Jaw War audience is far from been perfect. A crowd numbering up to a thousand is an aggregate of many character, many mind-sets, many intentions. In them we would have intellectuals, we would have intellectual vegetables; in them, we would have those whose aim is to learn how speakers speak, and some others how to boo erring speakers. If a Jaw War audience is ever going to pass the ideal test, then they must be perfect for the intent of the competition which is to solve global problems and not the other way round.
In all, Dukes, I’m not suggesting that the organisers of Jaw War should search the length of Agbowo or Poly in search of an ideal audience. No. Rather, I’m simply saying that UI audience can do better in making Jaw War a world standard competition in terms of speaker’s speeches and audience attitude. I’m simply saying that unnecessary crowd reaction during speakers’ delivery can be held until the completion of their speeches. I understand that some speakers are exceptionally genius for their lines not to trigger occasional reflex reactions. But let it be occasional and controlled. Let us hearken to the advice of the Yoruba: if it is too much, it loses its sweetness; a good soup is severed in measured quantities.
CONCLUSION: This column is about you; it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom. You can vote for the scribe whose argument you adjudge better by using the poll option on our website.
IS JAW WAR AUDIENCE IDEAL FOR A STANDARD DEBATE?
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