Upon his instatement as the new President of The Great Independence Hall Literary and Debating Society, our correspondent, Covenant Odedele interviews Tolulope Salami about his experience as a public speaker in UI, and also, his plans for the society. Sit back and enjoy!
Hello. Kindly introduce yourself and your new position
TS: My name is Tolulope Salami. People call me TiOlu. I’m a proud Katangite, a penultimate Law student, and I’m the new President of the Indy Hall Literary and Debating Society.
Can you share your foray into public speaking in Indy L&D and in UI at large?
TS: It’s a very interesting one. Coming in 100 Level, there was an impromptu public speaking contest during the Fresher’s Week, and the winner was to win a standing fan. I was reluctant at first, but my roommates pushed me, and I did go. We had the competition, and from 8, to 3, to 2 people left, and I eventually won. So, I was told I had to join Indy L&D before I would be given my fan, so I joined. I joined late compared to other freshmen who also joined, and they were already preparing for the Folarin Adepoju Freshmen Debate Competition before I joined. So, there were many interesting things, but I was more concerned about my Faculty L&D society. Even though I didn’t get my fan, I moved on. Indy L&D has always been good, but in 200L, the new set of executives was not so active and as a result, the meetings were not consistent which affected the preparations for Jaw War. I remember us changing speakers even on the day of Jaw War then. So, last year, we tried our best. I even wrote speeches for the Quarter Finals, and we weren’t able to present them because we couldn’t continue in the competition. It’s been a lot all along.
So, from what you shared, there was a time when the society was very active. Picking from your experiences, what are the major achievements the society has recorded?
TS: Oh, alright. 2 Jaw War competitions ago, we actually did well. We went as far as beating Tedder and qualifying for the semi-finals, and that was big because we were considered an underdog. Tobi Odeyinka, Emmanuel Falade, Paul Umeokoro really did well. It was a convincing win against Tedder Hall. That was a major one given that we don’t have those you will consider as major speakers.
Talking about Indy L&D’s performance at last Jaw War, we didn’t do so well. What do you think affected our performance in the last Jaw War?
TS: There were a lot of factors. To start with, the organization of the competition had a lot of inconsistencies. For instance, there was a circulation that we should reduce our banters while writing speeches because Jaw War was meant to be an intellectual forum. In fact, we had to remove lines that seemed like bants in our speeches because of this rule. However, our opponents came with bants, insulted our hall and cafeterias, and went away with that. That was unfair on our part. Also, there was a case in the first round where we were declared the winner, and on the next day, we were told we didn’t win. There wasn’t any coherence with the judging system. There were many issues. Over the years, judging has always been a problem in Jaw War, and we were told a judges’ conference would hold to address that. Eventually, no one was carried along. It was held virtually, and only the TLDS UI President was in the conference. This affected the integrity of the judging process. Secondly, we competed against Alexander Brown Hall, and they were very much represented in the Jaw War audience compared to Indy Hall. Indy guys weren’t even up to twenty. I remember one of our speakers lost his morale after listening to one of the opponents’ speeches. But, we tried our best anyway.
From your response, it seems these were things beyond your control. But do you think Indy L&D was prepared enough for Jaw War last year? Do you think there was enough input and preparation from our end?
TS: Well, I think some things weren’t also in our favour. To start with, it was a virtual session. So, we could not hold the usual weekly meetings, and our preparation for Jaw War was sudden. We started recruiting in second semester, and in some way, flawed our preparation. Compared to ABH who had time to meet physically and prepare for Jaw War. However, we put in our best and presented two freshers during the competition.
Coming in as President, what are your plans? What should we expect?
TS: A level of intentionality. For a L & D society at the hall or faculty level, we should be able to produce quality, seasoned speakers. We should do more beyond Jaw War. Very soon, we will put out a call for new members, we’ll interview them, and ensure they come to meetings. We can then produce quality speakers that even if they don’t speak at Jaw War, can do well in the other competitions. Also, discipline. We will build a formal structure and also put stringent measures in place to ensure discipline and seriousness of the members. We will also ensure everyone is involved and carried along. Beyond Jaw War, we will have contests within ourselves. This will go a long way with accountability and grooming our speakers. I think that’s it.
Talking about Jaw War, while we wait for the fixtures, we will have the Folarin Adepoju Freshmen Debate Competition to introduce freshmen into the system. Also, we have considerations for new members that are staylites. Every intending member is required to watch previous Jaw War videos so as to acquaint them with the UI public speaking system. If we can put in the work and yes, it’s not wrong to dream big, we can actually win Jaw War next year.
So, are you saying you are working on making Indy L&D win, or just do the possible best?
TS: Alright. Last year, I was actually very optimistic we could win. I believed we had few, but quality speakers that can pair each of the rounds and perform excellently. But now, beyond the optimism, we also have the time. So, to an extent, we have a good number of factors in our control. So, I’m working towards that, but even if we don’t necessarily win, we can put off a brilliant performance during the coming Jaw War.
Now, in UI public speaking system, there are two constituencies: Faculties and Halls of Residence. Do you think it’s a disadvantage for Indy L&D, as most students share commitment between these two, and may be more invested in their faculty than Halls? Have you observed that? Do you think it’s a disadvantage?
TS: Alright. My observation would be streamlined to my faculty and my Hall. My faculty has the highest number of quality public speakers, and that’s why we are called the faculty of public speakers. But most of them aren’t even devoted to Law. In fact, last year, many Hall L&D Presidents are Law students. However, it can be a disadvantage for many as the members get to learn from two different constituencies even though many focus on one. Some can commit to both and even speak for both. Also, in Law, most people cannot speak if they aren’t in 400L or 500L because there are many good speakers. So, the hall is an advantage for younger speakers to get on Jaw War.
To be more precise now, what does Indy L&D needs to do to win Jaw War?
TS: Firstly, we need to have a very clear vision, and then work towards it. Nothing good comes casually. We need to be more intentional and do the needed work in our preparation to win.
Apart from Jaw War, there are other public speaking competitions on campus, are there plans to spotlight Indy L&D through these other ones?
TS: Yeah, I look forward to winning them, especially for the freshmen. For example, we’ll be hosting the Folarin Adepoju Freshmen Debate and others that will come along the line. So, from this, they have a feel of what public speaking looks like in UI. And as we groom our members, we ensure they are disciplined and excellent enough to represent us. With due diligence, I believe we have all it takes to win these.
So, earlier you said that the poor turnout of Katangites during Jaw War dampens the morale of our speakers. And it was obvious last year during our contest against ABH, they outnumbered us and that wasn’t good enough. So, how do you want to solve that problem, and increase the participation of hall residents come Jaw War 2023?
TS: I believe we have to start within ourselves in the society, and the hall. When we have in-house competitions, we will work towards increasing publicity and engagement within the hall. I’m also working on carrying the executives along as much as possible. I remember last year, Dr. Tee was at the venue but with very few Katangites, and we just had to make noise. We weren’t even up to twenty-five. So, we would work closely with the PRO and he has even promised to help us with enough publicity alongside using the Public Address System when the time comes. This time around, we will carry it on our heads, and ensure there is active participation from Katangites.
Alright, any final words?
TS: Well, yeah. I believe there would be visible results from Indy L&D come Jaw War 2023. Thank you for having me.