The Hand Warrior

You cannot begin to imagine the aura of bewilderment that engulfed me when I entered into the Alumni Hall, the venue for the SuperBowl’s grand finale. It was not up to 24 hours when the semi-finals of Jaw war 2019 held. So I remember that I did not feel the stuffiness that I felt the earlier day as I entered into hallowed venue of SuperBowl. With the privilege to have attended the two elite and biggest public speaking competitions in the University of Ibadan, it is not wrong to laterally place them side-by-side— after all both seemed to have groomed great public speakers overtime since their inception. The only difference, as it appears on a surface level, is that while Jaw war is a debate competition while SuperBowl is an oratory contest.

As I entered the Alumni Hall, the cool air that wrapped my body is enough to bring sanity to a depraved mind. As I sat down, I noted the difference in the conditions enjoyed by speakers at SuperBowl to speakers at Jaw war. Here, not only are the speakers treated like royalty but also we, the audience, shared in the nobility treatment. We sat comfortably on highly decorated chairs, and were served refreshments coupled with other mouth-watering giveaways and engagements that showed that we were part of the show. I must admit that in all my years as a spectator in any of Jaw war rounds that I have not yet received such regal treatment not even at the grand finale and I am certain that no Jaw war audience has ever. This brings to the mind the question: why has Jaw war, the largest public speaking platform in University of Ibadan, not risen to the level where the speakers and equally the audience would be treated like humans let alone royalty? Well, one may not be able to find a befitting answer to the question but what one may be sure of is that Jaw war is a competition run by students; hence, it explains the limitations and flaws plaguing the supposed largest public speaking competition in West Africa.

Now, we may wonder of which limitations and flaws do I speak of but before we jump into an unbending conclusion with an accusation of biases, let us to vigorously be reminded that it was on one of the Jaw war rounds that a fight almost ensued between the judges and some disgruntled members of the audience. Or was it not at Jaw war that there was no power to see speakers deliver their speeches? That the audience had to help with their phones’ torch lights? That the speakers were sweating profusely while delivering their speeches? That abusive comments instead of healthy banters were thrown at one another? Who can tell? Maybe punches would still be flying around. Indeed, going by what one has seen so far, especially in recent rounds of Jaw war, it would suffice to say that the purpose of public speaking may have been defeated and that Jaw war may not be a genuine ground for public speaking competition, let alone the biggest one. One thing is sure, if Jaw war survived to be called the ‘former’, SuperBowl has displaced her if she is on the quest to be the ‘latter’.

But one may argue that jaw war is not a dinner table where words are chewed peacefully but a war of words and therefore, there must be heavy bloodbath, as evidenced by the boiling comments and statements thrown by speakers.

Do not get me wrong, I have not said that Jaw war is not good place to be, ranging from the scintillating speeches, down to the mind-blowing and jaw-dropping punchlines. Jaw war is certainly a good place to be but SuperBowl may be a better place to be.

However, it may be argued that SuperBowl is bigger and better of a competition because it is being run by an academic staff and not majorly by students. Therefore some levels of organisation is expected of the show. This is not far from the truth as one of the brains behind SuperBowl is a lecturer from the Department of Communication and Language Art, Dr Bisi Olawuyi, who contributed immensely to the success of this year’s edition. This is exemplified by the weight of public attention, the prizes, partnerships and sponsors. Although we know that the road to this year’s SuperBowl has not been very smooth due to the fact that the contest has been moribund for several years. The last round was in 2012 about seven years ago. But we are happy that the Battle of Wits and Words is finally back to reclaim the throne as the University’s biggest and grandest public speaking platform and we hope she sits so long on the throne as she desires.


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