Anzaa Msonter has emerged winner of the 2018 edition of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM) essay competition.
Anzaa Msonter, a 600-level Medicine and Surgery undergraduate of Benue State University, at the award ceremony in Lagos, said he had been participating in the annual competition for the past six years, adding that he picked the spirit of persistence from his father who studied through being a village headmaster to become a PhD holder.
The first and second runners up honours were awarded to Ndubuisi Paul, a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Olawoyin Mustapha of the University of Ilorin respectively.
Presenting the awards to the trio, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of CIPM, Ajibola Ponnle, implored the winners to keep striving in their endeavours and keep shining as CIPM Ambassadors. She reiterated the Institute’s commitment to youth development, as it continually repositions and re-strategises in engagement with the youth.
According to her, the essay competition remained a very strong element of the Institute’s corporate social responsibility, which has translated to being a strategic platform for capacity development for the youth in the areas of research and knowledge management as well as an avenue to achieve its mandate for national development of the economy.
“Today, we would be celebrating these young achievers in the success of their submissions to the Essay Competition, and indeed we are happy as an Institute that we continually strive in our bid to contribute to the development of our economy through capacity development and engagement of our future leaders.
I strongly believe that if we get the people-issues right, we can get every sector of the economy working right and what better way to start this than from the youth, our leaders of tomorrow.”
Making his valedictory speech, Anzaa Msonter, who wrote on: “Generating Employment Through Creative Solution”, urged the youth to take responsibility for their future rather than wait for government. He said youths should stand on their right and avoid the slogan: ‘wait for your turn’, urging them not to leave the shores of the country, adding that integrity, hard work, and commitment, which he learnt from his father, keep him going.
Ponnle said the 2018 edition of the CIPM essay competition had about 120 students from 34 universities across the country participated in the competition. An elaborate process was followed in determining the winners of which the seven best writers were selected for an intense defence of their work and three winners emerged.
Anzaa Msonter, Winner of the 2018 CIPM National Essay Competition, shared his experiences, thoughts and insights with PositiveNaija on June 26, 2019.
Motivation for Participating in the Competition
I would like to say I am a voracious writer generally. I write to convey my thoughts and perspectives on issues affecting the society. I have been participating in essay competitions since I was a primary-five pupil. I cannot remember what motivated me the first time, but since I left secondary school eleven years ago, I have been motivated by two aims.
The first aim is to earn some money to pay for my education in life while my parents are paying for my education in school. If we want to be great, we will realize that most of the education we really need is not in the school curriculum, and we will make sure we acquire it notwithstanding the cost. In life, sometimes the cost of acquiring that critical out-of-the-curriculum education includes even losing the education provided by the curriculum. There are people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and others who paid this price to acquire the education that has placed them where they are today, even though that education was not on the school menu.
The second aim, which is equally important, is to contribute my ideas to the debate on how Nigeria can make progress. I happen to be quite passionate about this country. This may have something to do with my early exposure to the state of the country by reading my father’s newspapers and magazines from my junior secondary school days. I became aware that there are problems in Nigeria. I noticed that the bulk of the content of the newspapers and magazines was focused on problems and attempts to solve them. With time, I developed a firm conviction that I had something to do that could relieve the nation of some of the problems. Since then, that conviction has grown stronger, and I have been writing opinions on several platforms, trying to point the way forward for the country. When an essay competition is open for entries, I do not first look at the prize. I usually look at the topic. If it is something I am passionate about – a problem facing this country that I believe I know how we can solve – I will prepare my entry irrespective of the prize.
So, in summary, my participation in essay competitions is motivated by my desire for something more, both for myself and for this country.
Factors that Helped Me Win
The most important factor is passion. An essay competition is different from a conventional examination. In a conventional examination, you can pass even without being passionate about the subject matter. You only have to score a certain number of points. Secondly, there is no limit to the number of people who can pass. The entire class can pass an examination. In an essay competition, you have to be passionate about the topic. If you are passionate about the topic, it is also likely that you have been studying or following developments in the sector long before it became an essay topic. You may even have written about it on your own a couple of times. This means you are not only passionate about it – you are also knowledgeable.
You need to demonstrate that knowledge, and the essay judges need to feel your passion for the subject matter as they read your essay. Personally, passion is very critical because I am not simply writing the essay to be among the top ten or top forty. I am writing that essay to win. Unlike examinations where everyone can pass, not every participant will win the essay. Therefore, for my essay to stand any chance, it has to be lacking in absolutely nothing. Quite frankly, if I am not passionate enough about a subject matter, I do not waste my time writing on it. There are other good writers too who would be participating, who may have passion and knowledge to their advantage.
Again, when you have passion for the subject matter, you love your essay so dearly that you cherish it even if it does not eventually win you the competition. This is because you are deeply convinced about the line of argument you took in the essay. You did not just put it there hoping that it might be what the judges want to hear. Instead, you put it there because you believe in it and even if you knew ahead of time that the judges would find your thought process controversial or even offensive, you would not have changed it. This depth of conviction is important because if you are not convinced yourself about the content of the essay, it is very unlikely that others will be convinced by it.
You see, I participated in the CIPM essay competitions every year for five years before I emerged winner the sixth time. What kept me going was not just the faith that I could win. Faith that you will win is baseless except you have faith in the entry you are sending in. Each year, I looked at the topic and was certain that I had something useful to contribute to the debate. So I was fulfilled each time I wrote because I cherished the ideas that I had put down. I felt good about myself for the ideas that I had and was convinced beyond doubt that my ideas represented the best option for the country. I do not write essays just to win money. Every essay I have ever written is as personal to me as my child – it bears my name, represents my personality and my view of the world. I won’t take a line of argument in an essay if it does not harmonize with my personal ideals and convictions on the subject matter even if I know that line of thought will win me the prize. Someday, when all my essays are compiled together in a volume, readers should be able to appreciate the consistency in my convictions and perspectives on Nigeria.
Now, that is the basic infrastructure for winning an essay. Next, you need to know and be sure to understand what the judges of the competition want from the winning entry. You must read it and cross examine it to be sure you understand all the perspectives possible. Sometimes, you will need to contact previous winners and read their entries to get a full idea of how a winning entry reads like. Personally, if the requirements or the topic of an essay competition are vague, I do not bother to participate. It is like gambling – you never know how to prepare to win. Again, as a matter of personal principle, I do not participate in any competition that requires online voting at any stage. I know that organizers often have what they want to achieve by including the online poll, but I do not participate because I do not have the time to mobilize people to vote my entry. I believe that a competition should be judged on the basis of credibility and merit. If my ideas are the best, let the judges award me the prize without subjecting me to the additional agony of an online campaign.
One more thing is that since the essays are to be written and not sung or acted, you need to have developed your writing skills. You are not likely to win an essay competition if the only time you write is when you are trying to win a competition. I must add that you must be a voracious reader also. The wider you read, the more robust you are able to make your arguments. Reading widens your perspectives on various subject matters and makes you full of ideas when writing.
Relevance of the Award to Me
The relevance of the award to me is to be judged by what I set out to achieve when I began participating in essay competitions. Like I said earlier, I want to earn some money to acquire self-development in the areas that are important to my dreams in life but which are not included in the school curriculum. This means I need to buy books, attend courses and trainings to build capacity for my future. Judging from this point, the award is very relevant to me because it includes some money, which although not huge, is essentially enough to acquire the materials that I need at this moment.
The award is also relevant to my second motivation for participating in essay competitions because it has provided me an opportunity to communicate my convictions and ideas on how we can make progress as a nation in the area covered by the essay. I also know that it has created some exposure for me in the public. People want to know what I wrote in the essay that won me the prize. They believe that if judges engaged by an institute as reputable as the CIPM certify me winner, perhaps, there is something in me worth listening to. I can seize this opportunity henceforth to amplify the same message I have been trying to send to fellow Nigerians on how we can make this country work.
The award is also significant to the future of my writing career. I have pioneered a writing firm [Citizens Concepts] that provides freelance writing services in various forms including editing and proofreading, biographies, memoirs, speeches, essays, and other related areas. The award has improved my profile. I hope that when potential clients read my CV and see that I have won this prestigious award, they will bother less about my professional background, and realize that I have been thoroughly assessed elsewhere on my writing skills, and found to be competent.
Being a Medical Student
People are often surprised when they read about me and find out that I am a medical student. I am usually not impressed. A medical student is like any other human being, who can have an interest in any area of life, who can pursue that interest keenly, and who can succeed in that area of interest. All my life, I have never subscribed to the status quo without asking questions. In Nigeria, we are not going to make progress until we find the courage to evolve a value system that prioritizes capacity-building in the individual’s area of passion and talent. It’s time to move away from blindly compressing all the intelligent pupils into the science class, dispersing them into architecture, engineering and medicine, and subsequently expecting them to surrender their dreams and aspirations when those dreams do not tally with their professions.
I know that this is not a popular line of thought, but it has won me the 2016 Sigma National Tertiary Essay Competition at the University of Ibadan, and it also won me this CIPM essay competition. This means that this line of thought resonates deeply in the hearts of the judges. We need to evolve a system no longer ruled by the fear of poverty, but the desire for prosperity. The fear of poverty is a threat – we cannot run an economic system on threats. The desire for prosperity is good motivation and we can build an economic system on it.
Message for Nigeria and Nigerians
I also have a message for young Nigerians. We have to take responsibility for ourselves and the future of this country. This country has to work somehow because it is the only one we have. We have to be serious-minded, take a sober look at the state of Nigeria today, and ask ourselves whether we are ready to live in a country like this for the next fifty or sixty years of our lives. And if we think we cannot afford to live this way for the rest of our lives, then we can no longer sit down and follow that dumb Nigerian cycle of spending the earliest and most energetic decades of our lives pursuing a defective education, spending our middle decades pursuing the mirage of job security, and the rest of our lives wondering why the dreams of our youth failed and the nation did not change. We can no longer afford to plan for our future without also planning for the future of the country in which we hope to spend our future.
Anzaa Msonter is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Citizens Concepts (https://citizensconcepts.com/). He is a national award-winning essayist; award-winning story writer; blogger as well as a freelance correspondent for The Nation newspaper.