“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” — Winston Churchill
The Olympics. FIFA World Cup. UEFA Champions League. What comes to mind as I mention all these? — a long journey to a big trophy and of course, the heat that comes along with them. Something hotter than all these is also coming, and it isn’t summer. It is a battle, not of swords but of words, and I write to heighten your expectations for Jaw war, the war which only just began.
Among many reasons tied to ‘the best’ position acclaimed to this great university, one that stands out is the intellectual acumen and oratorical dexterity of her students. In the Students’ Information Handbook of the University of Ibadan (2012/13) as revised (Page 157), it is written that “Unlike other societies in the university, which embrace only a fraction of the population of students, the Literary and Debating Society embraces all students.” Jaw war is famed as the biggest public speaking event in Sub-Saharan Africa and is hosted by the University of Ibadan. Holds annually and usually in the second semester, it continually enforces the fact that UI unarguably has the best aggregate of intellectuals.
Now, it becomes noteworthy that the jaw is a powerful instrument that has an evidential importance that transcends chewing. It goes beyond a tool for mastication, but an enforcement of authority and articulation. The Faculty of Dentistry is well renowned with the jaw as it is an insignia of their profession while the Faculty of Law also claim kingship over oratory and argument, a demand of the legal trade — and so we expect that these two constituencies command the going-ons in this craft. Nay!, this is only an ideal reality as it is never about the name or the fame, but the game. This warfare we speak of sees all the faculties and halls of residence in the institution — Alexander Brown Hall located in UCH inclusive — where they exercise their rhetorics over predetermined debate topics.
Great minds clash, sharp swords cling, the mighty fall and metals bend at the sight of superiority. Wits dominate over eloquence and dark logic takes the forefront. Trenchard Hall or The New Faculty Lecture Theatre becomes the temple. Yes, the temple where soldiers without their armoury of words are slain and blood flows like a river on the altar of defeat. No one is too small an opponent as there is always a cry for the blood of the unskilled. Rookies do not falter to displace queens, knights and even kings on this chess board. Of jaw-dropping punchlines, rebuttals, refutations and the right response of tapped fingers from the banter-thirsty audience.
Prior to the commencement of each year’s edition, you would find students exercise their bragging rights and bantering skills in mild rivalry. Open predictions, heresies and shafts of sarcasm are not left out as they proudly wear the banner of their constituencies in unalloyed support. Notable among many, is the false claim that no hall that bears a Nigerian name ever wins the trophy. As well, someone that comes readily to mind is Temmy Gista, son of Aeschylus; an old comrade of renown (the name is not foreign amongst those who have been on this soil for a while) who gives his predictions by the hungry gods of wits to stir the waters ahead of the events. The publicity and awareness that goes ahead of Jaw war rivals that of a national election.
I await the rise of some constituencies who have been named as ‘underdogs’ and the intellectual display of the seventeen faculties participating. Blue-blooded Bellites, Green-eyed Katangites, Mystified Mellanbites whose jaws are powerful enough to bite, and the fear of Awo which is the beginning of wisdom. Hail Lord Tedder and Queen Elizabeth! “No victor, no vanquished” they say, but we all know how it ends.
The final rounds are usually legendary. It is like compressing the previous rounds into one. Well-researched content and crazy logic. Oh dear! You would occasionally see the Chief Judge bow his head to the speakers in ceremonial capitulation. I can’t be too sure some medical students do not stab lectures. And for this year’s edition, it becomes more hostile. Firstly, because there was a one-year hiatus in 2020 due to the advent of COVID-19 and also, because the frontiers of the competition extends beyond the confines of the host university.
September 29 is upon us, the fixtures are set and it is with glee and merry I present you the king of all public speaking events in Nigeria’s premier university. Behold, Jaw war. I have done enough, and talk they say, is cheap. May the man with the strongest jaw crack this hard bone. Till then, please learn the anthem of this great university, get your Twitter hashtags ready and most importantly, some nose masks.