Faruq Mojeed-Sanni is a third year Engineering student of Admiralty University of Nigeria, and Founder of Ikorodu Chess Club. In this interview with BlackBox Nigeria, the 20-year-old talks about his passion for chess, works of his organisation and future plans.
Describe your journey into chess.
Actually, I learnt how to play chess from my uncle, Mr. Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni. I recall when I was in senior secondary school one (SS1), he bought a film for us to watch at home. In the movie entitled “Queen of Katwe”, a girl named Phiona had her entire life changed after she met a chess coach, Robert Katende who teaches her the game. Under Katende’s guidance, Phiona becomes a top player and sees an opportunity to escape from a life of poverty.
After watching the movie, I started developing interest in chess. Then one day, we saw a chess while en route to the market. Excitedly, I drew my uncle’s attention to it and we bought it. He would go on to teach me and my cousin brother, Rahman Fasasi how to play chess. Interestingly, I always lost to my brother but somehow managed to beat my uncle.
What motivated you to create the Ikorodu Chess Club?
Last year, I participated in my first ever competition where I was cheated and the entire organisation was very flawed. The organizers claimed the competition was for participants aged 15 to 24, but when I arrived the venue, I saw primary school kids. They also stated that the competition would begin at 9am, but it didn’t begin until 3pm, and they had no equipment. In fact, they bought the chess board on the day of the competition. They couldn’t also provide a chess clock.
Not only that, they cheated me in a very ridiculous manner. During the competition, I played 5 games, won 4 and drew my last one. None of my competitors came close. But to my greatest shock, when the results were announced, the organizers said I didn’t qualify for the final—not even third position. Then I asked the coordinator how they reached the decision, he said I was too good for my competitors — who were majorly kids. I wondered how that was my fault. Anyway, the bad experience motivated to start my own club so I can organize standard competitions.
What makes chess different from other games?
To me, chess isn’t just a game, it is a sport which helps exercises the brain. Chess helps you develop the ability to see from someone else’s perspective and elevate your creativity. And most importantly, it’s a mind game which I see mostly as a battleground where I have to be ready to take chances for the greater good. If you say chess is life, you won’t be wrong.
Tell us about your focus and works at Ikorodu Chess Club.
At Ikorodu Chess Club, we focus on developing the interest of the young people of Ikorodu in chess. We equally teach them to understand the rules of the game as well as promoting critical thinking and analysis of the tactics of the games. Part of our goals is to organize standard chess competitions across different communities in Ikorodu Division.
You must have heard of Tunde Onakoya of Chess In Slums, were you inspired by him?
Yes, Chess Master Tunde Onakoya also inspired me to create Ikorodu Chess Club. I saw the life-changing works he did with the ‘area boys’ in Oshodi, and aspire to replicate the same in Ikorodu.
How do you intend to empower young people and drive social change in Ikorodu through chess?
We intend to stage chess competitions which will foster unity among different communities in Ikorodu. Personally, I believe with chess, we would discourage Ikorodu youths from cultism and make them engaged in productive ventures. After all, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
You mentioned that you want to fight cultism in Ikorodu through chess, how do you intend to pull that off?
As we all know, particularly in Ikorodu, the majority of children who join cults are students in secondary schools. To combat this, we have been visiting schools in and around Ikorodu to start chess clubs. By doing this, we can hijack and divert students’ attention away from cultism and direct it into chess, so they can learn and play the game to represent their schools in our upcoming competitions or any other chess tournaments. The idea is to drive their energy towards positive endeavours.
What plans do you have to grow the project?
My plans for the project is to make it a force to reckon with, and for Ikorodu Chess Club to get both state and national recognition for our works. We also hope to be able to organise internationally recognised competitions. Speaking about growth, myself and my team cannot do it alone, so we are in dire need of sponsorship and possible partnerships.
Talking of partnership, speak about your collaboration with School In The Street in reaching out to street-connected kids.
We are currently in partnership with School In The Street (SITS), a nonprofit school offering basic education, vocational training and life skills to children and young people living and/or working on the street (dumpsites) around Ikorodu and Lagos.
We have begun to train some of the students on chess, and the majority of them are now growing better at the game. We are also doing everything we can to pique their interest in the game, show them the different opportunities that chess offers, and steer their young minds away from any negative social conduct.
What social integration plans do you have for your chess club, especially in light of the increased use of social media among young people your age?
The majority of young people in my age range are distracted by social media and online games, so we want to introduce chess to them through different social media platforms. We’ll also organize a training session where we will teach them how to play chess online, and get rewards for their participation.