Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People
May 23rd, 2014

Bringing Back Our Girls

Bring Back Our Girls


A few weeks back I was speaking at a conference in Denmark. I asked the audience whether anyone had heard about the girls that were kidnapped in Northern Nigeria. Only one person put up his hand. If I went back there today and asked the same question I believe every single person in the room would put up their hand. In fact I believe that the same would apply to an audience anywhere in the world

I believe that the current awareness is largely due to the #BringBackOurGirls hash tag activism; the rallies; and the resultant global media focus and coverage of the abomination that took place on the night of the 14th of April when well over 200 girls were kidnapped by the militant group – Boko Haram.

So now the world has heard and people on a global basis from school children to celebrities, politicians, business people and just general everyday people are saying – “Bring Back Our Girls” This has worked to the extent that it has brought global attention to the situation. It led the global media to focus in on the situation, to go to Nigeria ask questions of the previously silent Nigerian government. It has led foreign governments to openly offer support and follow up by providing some support (even though I’m not really clear on what the support is and the impact that it is having). I believe it led Boko Haram to release a video showing girls believed to be the girls captured. It has led to meetings of interested parties, inclusive of meeting of Nigerian officials and neighbouring countries in France.

However, at this point I find myself asking where are we now and what happens next? I believe that John Simpson of the BBC provided a good analysis of the situation on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, the 18th May. Ref: (from 9.20 minutes). He concludes his analysis by saying that the best thing is to negotiate for the girls’ release.

I tend to agree with him, especially when cognisance is given to the fact that within the last week and in spite of all the attention there have been bombings in two major cities (Kano and Jos) leading to the killing 100s of people. This to me clearly demonstrates that the Nigerian government no longer has an effective military; is not effectively deploying the military and/or has no control over the military.

Furthermore, when President Goodluck Jonathan went to France for talks, all I heard was what sounded like medium term plans. What about the immediate issue of the girls? Now I’ll also add, what about something to at least try and ensure the more immediate security of the people within the country. In addition to the further bombings that I’ve mentioned, I understand that Boko Haram are threatening to kidnap more girls.

I’m not really hearing the government addressing these issues. You may say suggest that perhaps this is because I don’t live in Nigeria – this is true, however, no one that I know based in Nigeria is talking about the governments plans or actions.

It also seems to me that the global media presence in Nigeria is understandably dwindling – there are other events and areas of the world that they need to cover. They are therefore not present to raise the questions with the Government, as they were a couple of weeks back. I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes, however the only people that I see still asking direct questions are Women’s leaders such as Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin of Campaign for Democracy of Women Arise that plan to go round the country over a 14 day period holding rallies ending up in Chibok. Whilst doing this they are demanding that the Government answers questions and acts to get the girls released. Campaign for Democracy is Nigeria’s first human rights organization which was formed way back in the early 1990s. I believe that it is credible and well intentioned. (Read Dr Joe’s full profile on facebook as per the link)

I also believe that if the Bring Back Our Girls campaign – hash tag and rallies are to continue and have any real impact going forward they work in conjunction with Campaign for Democracy and/or any other such well established group asking questions and demanding answers.

I’m conscious that a key #BringBackOurGirl campaigner, Oby Ezekwesili continues to lead rallies in the capital Abuja. I’ve noticed that Dr Joe (@DrJoeOdumakin) and Oby (@obyezeks) follow each other on twitter – I hope they are or can begin to work together in solidarity.   The Nigerian Union of Teachers has also held at least one demonstration. I also hope that they can/are working together with the key campaigners.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of their approaches or what they say, but it’s not about that. When I was a School Governor we at times had long debates on issues, then would stop us with remarks – how does what we are discussing affect the students? What is in their best interest? As we all had the students’ best interest at heart we would ultimately be able to come to some agreement. I believe the same applies even more under these circumstances – if everything who declares an interest truly has the best interest of the girls at heart, then they must be a way of uniting for the best possible outcome.

You see it’s no longer about awareness, we are all now aware. At this stage it’s only a united effort behind such campaigners that can bring about results. If the campaign is not taken to a more strategic level, Boko Haram will go ahead with their threat to kidnap more girls as the Nigerian government and the rest of us watch in horror. The world has said Bring Back Our Girls – not the Girls or the Nigerians girls, but our girls. If we truly believe that they are ours – then I believe this is a must.


Susan Popoola

Copyright 2014 This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

July 7th, 2013

Reflecting on 7th July… In 2005 and 2013.

Today, the 7th July 2013 marks the 8th anniversary of the London bombing by four terrorists. It’s also the morning that we wake up to the news that Abu Qateda has finally been deported from the UK.  In addition to the news of suicide bombings in Uruzgan, Southern Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq; and  Lahore, Pakistan, there was a report of at least 29 pupils and a teacher being killed in a boarding school in North Eastern Nigeria.

Whilst I recognise that these acts of terrorism are perpetuated on the basis of these people’s definition of Islam, I really  and truly wish that we would stop calling them Islamists. I believe by doing so we almost begin to give their acts some justification or even credibility. As a Christian, I cannot speak on behalf of Muslims. However, on the basis of my understanding of Islam and interaction with Muslims over the years, I don’t believe that terrorism is a true representation of Islam. I therefore believe that by connecting terrorism to Islam and calling the terrorist, Islamist or Islamic extremist we inevitably end up avoiding the need to take the time to really and truly understand and define the root causes of these terrorist act.

More critically, however, I believe today is a time to pause and reflect on the victims of such acts.  I could try and search for the right words to express the sadness, the grief and loss as a result of such events.  However, there is someone who has a direct, personal experience that I believe expresses the situation much better. Her name is Marie Fatayi-Williams, the mother of Anthony Fatayi-Williams.

“This is Anthony, Anthony Fatayi -Williams, 26 years old, he’s missing and we fear that he was in the bus explosion … on Thursday. We don’t know. We do know from the witnesses that he left the Northern line in Euston. We know he made a call to his office at Amec at 9.41 from the NW1 area to say he could not make [it] by the tube but he would find alternative means to work.

Since then he has not made any contact with any single person. Now New York, now Madrid, now London. There has been widespread slaughter of innocent people. There have been streams of tears, innocent tears. There have been rivers of blood, innocent blood. Death in the morning, people going to find their livelihood, death in the noontime on the highways and streets.

They are not warriors. Which cause has been served? Certainly not the cause of God, not the cause of Allah because God Almighty only gives life and is full of mercy. Anyone who has been misled, or is being misled to believe that by killing innocent people he or she is serving God should think again because it’s not true. Terrorism is not the way, terrorism is not the way. It doesn’t beget peace. We can’t deliver peace by terrorism, never can we deliver peace by killing people. Throughout history, those people who have changed the world have done so without violence, they have [won] people to their cause through peaceful protest. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, their discipline, their self-sacrifice, their conviction made people turn towards them, to follow them. What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? Death and destruction of young people in their prime as well as old and helpless can never be the foundations for building society.

My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, the head of my family. In African society, we hold on to sons. He has dreams and hopes and I, his mother, must fight to protect them. This is now the fifth day, five days on, and we are waiting to know what happened to him and I, his mother, I need to know what happened to Anthony. His young sisters need to know what happened, his uncles and aunties need to know what happened to Anthony, his father needs to know what happened to Anthony. Millions of my friends back home in Nigeria need to know what happened to Anthony. His friends surrounding me here, who have put this together, need to know what has happened to Anthony. I need to know, I want to protect him. I’m his mother, I will fight till I die to protect him. To protect his values and to protect his memory.

Innocent blood will always cry to God Almighty for reparation. How much blood must be spilled? How many tears shall we cry? How many mothers’ hearts must be maimed? My heart is maimed. I pray I will see my son, Anthony. Why? I need to know, Anthony needs to know, Anthony needs to know, so do many others unaccounted for innocent victims, they need to know.

It’s time to stop and think. We cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred. Look around us today. Anthony is a Nigerian, born in London, worked in London, he is a world citizen. Here today we have Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, all of us united in love for Anthony. Hatred begets only hatred. It is time to stop this vicious cycle of killing. We must all stand together, for our common humanity. I need to know what happened to my Anthony. He’s the love of my life. My first son, my first son, 26. He tells me one day, “Mummy, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die. I want to live, I want to take care of you, I will do great things for you, I will look after you, you will see what I will achieve for you. I will make you happy.’ And he was making me happy. I am proud of him, I am still very proud of him but I need to now where he is, I need to know what happened to him. I grieve, I am sad, I am distraught, I am destroyed.

He didn’t do anything to anybody, he loved everybody so much. If what I hear is true, even when he came out of the underground he was directing people to take buses, to be sure that they were OK. Then he called his office at the same time to tell them he was running late. He was a multi-purpose person, trying to save people, trying to call his office, trying to meet his appointments. What did he then do to deserve this. Where is he, someone tell me, where is he?”



Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013


Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated





August 8th, 2012

Who Am I?

It may sound criminal, but I actually missed the Saturday night of the Olympics when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all won Gold medals.  Although I watched all the events later, I was actually at a party that evening.  To be precise – I was at a Nigerian party.

I Specify that it was a Nigerian party as although I originate from Nigeria and I’ve actually lived there before I very rarely go to Nigerian parties.

I therefore found myself sitting and observing – fascinated.  It was a 70th birthday party and I was fascinated by all the people dressed in different styles of dress all in the same material – brought and sewn especially to support the celebrant.

I was fascinated by the rich variety of Nigerian food inclusive of a range of rice and yam dishes with different soups and sauces.  The variety of Nigerian snacks inclusive of meat pies which are actually very meaty in comparison to the British meat pies or Cornish pasty.

I was fascinated when a variety of gifts inclusive of bags, waste paper bins and saucepans were distributed to the guests.

In addition, in recent years Nigeria seems to have developed a new style of music which is characterised by African beats with singing in English often interjected with some singing in a Nigerian language.

So as I sat contemplating my environment with fascination a song started playing with a chorus “ Who am I, Who am I”.  Even more fascinated I found myself contemplating for the first time in a long while – really and truly, Who am I in the context of Nigeria?!

Selah ?

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

December 11th, 2011

The Power of an Idea

Did you know…
£5 provides water for a family for a week?
£10 pays for a rural health care worker for a week?
£25 feeds a family of six for a month?
£50 pays for a sewing machine?
£100 empowers a widow to set up in business?
The Akabusi Charitable Trust Literature

If for no other reason, if you watched the 4 by 400m relay at the 1991 World Championships at Tokyo you will have heard of Kriss Akabusi.  Since the end of his athletics career you may have seen him on television on programmes such as Record Breakers, heard him on the radio or had the privilege to hear him give a motivational talk at an event.  Even if you do know all of this, you may not be aware that he additionally Chair’s a Charity, “The Akabusi Charitable Trust”, that works to promote the social and economic development of communities in poverty in Nigeria.

I say he Chair’s the Charity, but he’s role doesn’t stop there – amongst other things he is actively involved in fundraising for the Charity and in 2010 he led on a Charity Bike Ride from Edinburgh to London aimed at raising funds for the Charity.  Having done what I could to support Kriss on the Bike Ride, a few months later, I received some information which outlined the difference that various amounts of money could make, starting from £5 to the impact that a £100 could have on the life of a widow.

£100 could enable a widow to set up a business I read. I’d like to do that I thought i.e. have the privilege of helping to transform someone’s life. It was just another one of the many ideas that I develop.  More often than not, I think of things that I could do that might be great ideas, but just put them aside. I don’t know if you’re anything like that too?  The only thing is that with this particular idea, the next time I went into the office of the Charity I took my cheque book with me.

“I’d like to sponsor a widow”, I announced. Everyone looked at me. “Your literature mentions that £100 can transform the life of a widow” I stated.  “Find me a widow to support” I went on to demand as I wrote out a cheque for £100. Obediently the next time Kriss and another trustee went to Nigeria to monitor the work of the Charity, they identified a struggling widow and through one of the Charity’s partner organisations supported her in setting up a small business which enabled her to support her family and ensure that her children went to school.  Her life, her prospects and that of her children were transformed.

As a result, the Charity decided to set up a project  – Woman2Woman; to enable women in the UK to support women in rural Nigerian communities.  It’s early days yet, but already there are a growing number of women whose lives are being transformed through this project. I’m humbled by the knowledge that this project developed because I did something with a simple idea that I had.

I’m therefore writing this for two reasons. In the first instance you may have one or two ‘simple’ ideas of you’re own that you’re sitting on. I would like to encourage you to go for it, put yourself out there – you just don’t know what will happen.

Secondly, a seed has been planted, i.e the idea of transforming lives of Nigerian widows and those of their families through donations of £100. In my head, the idea is beginning to develop that this could actually become something phenomenal that transforms whole villages and I was just wondering if you would be interested in being a part of this?


© Susan Popoola MA CIPD FRSA
Conning Towers Ltd
Leveraging the Power of People