Picture the university’s intellectual scene in football terms for a minute. What teams do you see? Halls? Faculties? This article analyzes contestants in the first leg of the hall category of Jaw War, the school’s largest tournament for stimulating conversations.
Queen Idia Hall v Independence Hall
When Joy Eguaoje sing-sang about the big bad wolf blowing her opponents’ structure away at the last edition of Jaw War, she had probably intended it to end right there. In a twist of fate, however, members of the Great Independence Hall now find at their rear, wolves in the very same people with whom they have shared an amiable custom of water diplomacy for a long time. This time, Amifel Eribo’s ‘Divas’ will not be campaigning far like they did against Queen Elizabeth II Hall, they will tackle Indy for the sole contender spot from their neighbourhood.
The Idiates do not seem to be in the best of times. If there is anything their absence at the recent Sultan Bello Hall Bilaterals indicates, it is a possible lack of committed rookies with whom to build momentum. The Bilaterals were no doubt a way for the Noble Men to test their squad and by failing to show up, Idia signaled a likely reluctance to field some of their already known speakers, the doing of which would have been the ultimate overkill.
We can safely eliminate Neyen Williams, the current TLDS president, from anything that can be likened to an Idia Jaw War squad. As it is, the office overflows with public attention, enough for its occupant to be unwelcoming to additional judgment. The only speakers with known potential that Eribo might therefore be able to field are herself, Joy Eguaoje, Shittu Tomisin, and Alaiyemola Dideoluwa. But with Shittu remembered for walking off the podium more than once after forgetting her speech (as opposed to the standard of proceeding, even if in fits) and Alaiyemola being a relatively new reveal, Eribo and Joy may very well be the only deadly opponents for Katangites to truly fear.
But even as you might begin to see Indy’s win as a near given, the Republic is not better off either. In reality, both halls suffer from similar weaknesses. The Indy Hall squad is perennially popular for lacking depth; this year does not look like it is much different. If anything, it more or less revolves around the administrative trident that Salami Tioluwalope, its president has built for himself. There is Adebayo Abdulrahman, a Vice-President and experienced speaker. There is also John Eriomala, another Vice-President and experienced speaker. Both mostly debuted at the same competitions with appearances at the regular hall and faculty Jaw War rounds and as contestants at the Rookie of the Year event. They were hardly subpar on either platform.
Of particular interest is the decision leading up to the choice of Eriomala as the second speaker against Alexander Brown Hall. While constituencies are prone to pulling off surprises with their lineup when facing a famed opponent, his selection and subsequent appointment as Vice-President in 200 level suggest a number of things, the important ones being: a vote of confidence and a scarcity of existing veterans willing to take the mantle. If the latter was a factor, then our earlier argument stands – Indy LnD is lacking.
The team might shore up its strength with its other two notable speakers, Anushiem Chidera and Odeyinka Oluwatobi (if the latter’s duties as Vice-President at the Union of Campus Journalists allow him and the former’s schedule both as an advanced Pharmacy student and pivotal member of his faculty’s LnD checks out). We have not spotted much of a demonstration on the rookie side, either. Again, the hall’s showings at the Bello Hall Bilaterals tell a lot. Eriomala and Adebayo are considered prize speakers and were therefore not fingered for an event that supposedly required newbies; what might be debated as a selection of the most willing recruits to represent probably also points to an absence of depth.
The summary? Indy does have an interesting lineup, one with numerical advantages in track record and speakers. For Idia’s potential four in the best case, Indy has five. And for its two, in the least optimal, Katanga has three. Whether you think of this in terms of individual speaker quality or surface numbers, the opening legs appear close to call. We expect Independence Hall to emerge victorious, but only after a tussle with the Divas. Onwards, the hall’s fate is uncertain.
Alexander Brown Hall v Ransome Kuti Hall
If there is one thing the Brownites are known for, it is their acumen for ‘bants’ and clumsy punchlines in every speech. For the Kutites, it is the seeming irreplaceability of Ayo-Salako Faithful and Okusanya Goodness. We must state early on that we do not expect a stark variation from the clinicians this year. The Otito administration was easily the most particular about standards, yet the team managed to slip in some fishy lines.
Regardless, Alexander Brown might turn out to be the most difficult to scrutinize. This is due to its squad’s off-site location. Save preceding familiarity with the speakers from their time in the university, knowing who to expect at Jaw War is a tough game. Its access to the choicest speakers from various medical specialties also makes it a dangerous opponent. Although there are some popular names as usual, it is standard in the order of things that we see new faces defending the hall this year.
What makes the ABH-Kuti faceoff more interesting is the Kutites’ loss at the semi-finals. And while there is of course a desire to avenge the results at the opening round, how they intend to pull it off is another question. Beyond the Salako brothers (the younger one debuted in 2021) and Okusanya, who piloted the UI team at the LASUSU debate, there are not many speakers famed for dexterity at Kuti Hall. And to make a surprise less certain, the Hall did not field representatives despite an invite from Bello at its bilaterals. Even if Kuti is fortunate enough to upset the Brownites, the feasibility of surviving with the same team pillars it leveraged the last time remains to be seen.
Zik v Queens
Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall has suffered a lot of indignities. Not only did its speakers have to bear the conceit of Sultan Bello Hall as they protested their (later reversed) win, but they have also not been vested with the same honour as other halls. Occasionally, they are forgotten when constituencies determine invitees to their competitions. However, it appears there might be a change this time. The current leader of the Society, Omotayo Ajibola, has been rattling sabres almost as well as his Indy Hall counterpart.
In terms of actual squad depth, however, the ability to deliver might be quite fluid. There are a few known faces, but scant cumulative records. Still, obscurity is a possible ace up the president’s sleeves. Being overlooked by Bello Hall during invites to the Bilaterals means that it is hard to tell if there have been new additions to the squad and their level of competence. At the Lord Tedder Hall King of the Podium, Zik’s use of a single speaker in an impromptu speaking competition only goes so far with shedding additional light.
Even more, a trip back in time to the Awo Interhall Oratory in 2021 only ends with us observing a win by the current president – a restatement of abilities that we’re already aware of. Regardless, we can safely bet that since Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall is keen on making an appearance this year, they will be coming with no less than a squad of their most trusted speakers. Some of that number we can easily guess are Ogbonna Chiziterem, Ebenezer Olagunju, and, of course, Omotayo Ajibola himself.
As for Queens, there is little debate. The office of Speech Coach is currently occupied by Owadayo Olabisi, a 200-level law student who debuted at Jaw War in 2021. That, as it is, is enough indication. The hall, like Indy, is relying on a crop of fresh speakers. Save Theresa Adekunle, the president of the Faculty of Agriculture’s Vocal Knights, and the constituency’s own president, Joyce Uveruveh, there is little else by way of competition. As such, Zik is our best pick for this one.
Tedder v Awo
The Hall of Fame is certainly popular for one thing among the Amazons – its consistency in helping them lose. That quality might feed into Awo’s bearing in this year’s tournament. It will not only boost morale for the subsequent rounds, but it will also set a handy precedent. And without a doubt, the Awo team is packed with heavy-hitters. At its head is Aisha Yusuf, the president, recurrent Jaw War debater, and Female Best Speaker in 2021.
She leads a squad of competent rookie and veteran speakers, including Ogunsesan Nafisat, Bello Saidat Eniola, Odebiyi Anjola, Georgeana Reuben, and many others. The grand reveal of the Obafemi Awolowo arsenal occurred in 2021 during an intra-society competition. Besides its numbers, the society is also highly motivated and thorough, a transformation that began in 2018. That organizational zeal might reverse its trend of near-trophy misses.
On the other end of the divide are Tedder’s Lords whose glory days are fairly agreed to be over. With the exit of legends like Onele Peter Cole, Sadik Oluwagbenga, Apollos Dikibo, Yekeen Ayomide, and, most recently, the highly probable no-show by clutch speakers, Sultan Habiblah and Lawal Mubarak, its speaker attrition has been a long way coming. But the lights might not be out on the hall’s blue banners just yet. Its induction of a fresh squad of potent speakers at last year’s King of the Podium Oratory competition suggests that new people will be taking the mantle. Whether the squad’s leadership will risk losing to a groomed opponent to test raw speakers is a different question.
Here, both halls have a 50-50 shot at breaking.
Mellanby v Bello
There really isn’t much to analyze here. Kenneth Mellanby Hall falls short in the face of Bello’s brutality and squad depth. Although the latter has suffered progressive attrition too, it is not lacking in repute for thoroughness. Even more, the team it presented at its Bilaterals has a handful of choice veteran speakers that, relative decline or not, Mellanby might be unable to match.
We predict a Bello win here.
Beyond the issues considered above, there are other dynamics that might play out in societies’ selection of speakers. It is not always the case that there is an outright absence of excellent debaters, commitment and logistical issues could also be limiting factors. Thus, this is by no means a complete picture. We implied based on scenarios we consider compelling and leveraged recent information to support them.