I had a very interesting conversation with Maria from Ukraine on the walk to the session, which was both saddening and heart warming at the same time. We talked so much about the difficulties both our countries are facing, and I won’t forget the really big hug she gave me.

 

What did we talk about? Loads of things – the unrest in both our countries, Nigeria may be a bit more severe (and multi-buffeted) – including the hopelessness that accompanies ‘international claims/offers for help’.

 

Look at the Nigerian example. More than a month after the American, British, and French governments (and the Israelis I think) came into the country to help with the search and rescue of the 219 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on the 14th of April, nothing. Like sometimes, it’s even hard to believe that any of them showed up.

 

Moving on.

 

I sat in on a lot more sessions today, starting with the keynote given by the Federal Foreign Minister, in German. Translators ( you know those little devices?) always amuse me. I was reminded of just how much when I used this one.

You won’t believe what happened on this day I’d been counting down to for the past three months! One, my monthly visitor came (without any warning, smh), and second, the night before I couldn’t sleep (AT ALL) and so about 4am, my head started pounding.

By 5am I found sleep, and regardless of the alarm I set for 7am, I didn’t stir till 8.30amm, and I think it was only because my dad rang! I don’t think I’ve gotten ready any faster than I did that morning, and I caught a taxi to the venue (non-refundable expense) because my sense of geography is terrible and I know that because I was panicked that I was late, it would be even worse!

Made it there, and somehow, I was still on time – somehow. Sorted myself, grabbed a cuppa, and after I had been briefed by Janusz, the business of the day began! My brief? Get people who ordinarily would not have met each other to interact, and on camera! Want to see the end result?

We’d drawn up a list of questions and given our respondents to answer in front of our cameras.

Some other teams came up with #MeetMe, and that simply was – a person with a board saying their name, what they do, and links to their work and other online presence. Again, want to see mine?

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That’s Dominick in the back!!

 

I listened in on a couple of sessions (was a little out of it – I can imagine I was grumpy) and then it was lunchtime.

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Lunch was beef kebab in peppers and veggies, potato gratin and chicken, and a strawberry chocolate mousse. The potatoes were out of this world! What!!! I would have asked for the recipe but I just felt like it was so good it had to be unhealthy! Dang!

Lunch was beef kebab in peppers and veggies, potato gratin and chicken, and a strawberry chocolate mousse. The potatoes were out of this world! What!!! I would have asked for the recipe but I just felt like it was so good it had to be unhealthy! Dang!

 

It was also really lovely to see Ole Wintermann again (we were on a panel together at Social Media Week Hamburg in February), and I met Mario Sorgalla for the first time! Mario is one of the bosses at Future Challenges, and it was really nice to talk. Great conversation, new ideas, and I’m super glad Mario has dropped the crutches!

It was also really lovely to see Ole Wintermann again (we were on a panel together at Social Media Week Hamburg in February), and I met Mario Sorgalla for the first time! Mario is one of the bosses at Future Challenges, and it was really nice to talk. Great conversation, new ideas, and I’m super glad Mario has dropped the crutches! 

Messed about with Salim at the end of the day, and then Ruth and I pushed off to the market, I mean a girl has to shop! Yes we took more pictures!

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Got home, cramps in full swing, and I still cooked dinner! Wanna see? Of course you do!

 

Tortelini with chicken and an avocado salad. Yum!

Tortellini with chicken and an avocado salad. Yum!

Tumbled into bed, and glory be to God who always causes us to triumph over insomnia, I fell asleep almost immediately!

 

 

 

 

 

I interrupt my #ChroniclesFromBonn series to tell you what I did on Monday, and the person I met!

Monday was a super interesting day, even though I did quite a bit of running around. Actually, the day started out kinda funny. As is my custom every once in a while, I couldn’t sleep the night before. Not sleeping late, but I couldn’t sleep at all. And not because I had a nap in the afternoon either. I just couldn’t sleep, guess my enemies were working overtime. Shame to bad people!

So, by the time my eyes agreed to close on Monday morning about 6.40am, I knew the rest of my day would be distorted by no small measure. And I resigned myself to that.

So I was up at 10am, had a bit of a lie-in till 10.20, and then it was time to get out and start my day. Top on the list, shopping for JT, my new baby, meeting up with Olamide Craig and his lady (whoop), and then meeting up with Lizzie’s (fellow owner of my blog, lol).

Digress a bit? I remember the first time Lizzie got in touch – she’d read my blog from the very first post I put up so when she was telling me about myself I almost freaked out. Ok maybe I freaked out a little bit, but Lizzie’s good peoples. Lol.

Anyway, so lunch with Craig and the Mrs to be over (of course there’s a food picture, patience is a virtue jor), and then my ever faithful Cabbie drove to where we picked Lizzie and then did a bit of a drive around looking for the perfect JT. Lizzie I’m sure you know what JT is now, don’t tell anyone biko, it’s our ‘lirrul sekweet’ (‘little secret’ for people who don’t understand baby speak)

 

Starch and banga soup...food of the Gods!

Starch and banga soup…food of the Gods!

Anyway, search for JT over, we ended up at Salamander, one of the favourite chill spots for me in Abuja. Never mind that I’d had a few words with their manager just a few days ago cos the salmon they served with my couscous (priced at a princely N4500) was one miserly piece.

Anyway, so we went to Salamander, and we had drinks. Well I had two bottles of water (I was parched), and Lizzie had something to eat.

It was just really lovely to meet Lizzie, and absolutely hilarious to see that our meeting was the source of discussion with people including… (dunno if I should mention their names, don’t have their permission). Just know that at different times in the next 40 days, I should meet both of you, barring any unforeseen circumstances. So get ready to pepper her back!

From work, to careers, to potential studies in the future, to my sharing the testimony of a ‘mentee’ friend of mine (mentee used quite loosely) who I encouraged to write an exam and follow her dreams of higher level studies. She called me from her school! Whoop! So excited! I’ve promised to visit next time I’m close by, which is soon!

And then we (Lizzie and I) took selfies (which I was super proud of) but Lizzie wanted regular photos (boooooring). So, you get to pick which ones are better; just know that if you pick hers I won’t talk to you again. Note that this is a free and fair election regardless *straight face*

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Selfie one (don’t forget to vote wisely)

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Selfie two!!

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Photo one…

Photo two...

Photo two…

Nice to meet you babes, let’s do this again sometime!

I woke up a bit of in a panic around 4am, and I’ll tell you why.

So I watched an account of the EMAB bomb blast on the 24th of June the night before, and because our minds process in our unconsciousness the things we expose ourselves to when we are conscious, I didn’t sleep very well.

Hindsight? Was really silly of me to watch that.

I kept on asking myself; what have we become? How have we Nigerians become people who are so inured to the devastation by Boko Haram that we can carry on with our lives like nothing happened? Why isn’t there more outrage about the daily massacre going on in the north? How are we able to just pick up and carry on like nothing happened? Is our resilience a bigger curse than it is a blessing?

Anyway, so I didn’t sleep well. At all. Still had to be up and about though because Joojo (Ghanians are awesome I tell you) had offered to take me to a super market, and because my geography is not of this world, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of someone taking me there. Breakfast was basic but lovely, and I pretty much had the same thing everyday till I left.

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Selfie, anyone? Don’t ask why my head was bent abeg…

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Wheat/nut bread, cheese, salami, an egg, and wonderful fruit tea… God is a good God!! #Foodie

 

It was about a 30 minute walk or more but the weather was lovely, and we eventually found Reve, and I was so on point with my shopping!

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Told myself I wouldn’t do more than €20 in the store, and my bill came to €19.82. Boss!!

Serious business now.

Our meet with Digital Participation Camp team was slated for 2pm, so by 1.30pm, we all met up in the lobby and started off to Deutsche Welle. We got there ok, and after a few minutes of waiting the session started!

We love our devices!

 

Here’s a bit about everyone in the group and the ‘we’ I will be referring to for most of the trip:

  • Ruth Aine is Ugandan, a freelance journalist, multiple award/grant winner, a bit more about the fabulous things she gets up to are here
  • Aya Chebbi – She’s a Pan-Africanist, Tunisian blogger at Proudly Tunisian , columnist at openDemocracy and contributor to Foresight for Development – Africa D+C Development and Cooperation and Your Middle East
  • Nyi Lynn Seck from Myanmar (Burma), a documentary film maker andProduction Manager at a commercial TV company. He is also a pro blogger and is building something to rival Wiki!
  • Jason Muloongo – is a social entrepreneur creating mobile applications for the academic and social development of educators and learners globally. I co-founded Funda and our aim is empower all people through technology by taking learning beyond the classroom.
  • Joojo Solomon Cobbinah – Ghanaian, a television news producer, documentary maker and a human rights advocate.
  • Abbas Adel – With a team, founded Zabaّtak- ظَبَطّك ياحرامى, a crowd-sourcing initiative for crime and corruption using Ushahidi platform. Then they built the Morsi Meter – مرسي ميتر which tracked the promises of previous Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in his first 100 days.
  • Janusz Hamerski – media trainer and video producer, and one of the brains behindwww.easy-languages.org.
  • Momal Mushtaq – Mo is the founder of The Freedom Traveller, an advocacy organization campaigning for (amongst other things), the realization of women’s right to mobility, anywhere in the world. Incredible stuff!
  • Maria Nasedkina – Ukranian, founder of (translated to English) ‘Amazing’ which encourages (and works with) young people in her country to respect public spaces, keep them clean and tidy for the next person, great work!
  • Carina Schmid- is the manager of a non-profit organization called The Global Experience; a youth media network creating youth media and regularly organizing international school and youth exchange programs, including the Digital Participation Camp & Summit.
  • Mathias Haas – multiple award winner, Facebook Guru (was blown away by his knowledge about Facebook)… more about him here
  • Salim
  • Dominick Schmengler – is the Founder and CEO of department of tomorrow and designer of easyGo – easyCome

Mathias took us on a journey through Facebook, and I daresay it was the most expository/eye-opening/1/2/3 (fill in other adjectives as you please).

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Really like this quote!!

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That’s Mathias teaching! Hard core!

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It was a really cool meeting, learning about each other (and the work we’re all involved with), learning about social media, and planning for the opening day of Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum!!

Intense learning session over, we went into the Forum arena, and of course, we goofed around. Photos below.

Bonn

What if we all fell asleep during the conference? Lol!!

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P:S – There was two days of training so don’t freak out that I’m wearing two different outfits… :)

And there was cake!! Sweet baby Jesus Germans have mastery when it comes to pastry!

And there was cake!! Sweet baby Jesus Germans have mastery when it comes to pastry! It was so much!! DW really hosted us…

So DW held a reception for us scholars, and we got to meet quite a few people from different parts of the world! Really cool!

So DW held a reception for us scholars, and we got to meet quite a few people from different parts of the world! Really cool!

Next post? Opening day!

The #ChroniclesfromBonn Series was written at the end of June/beginning of July, when I spent time in Bonn for Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum – I was invited (all expenses paid, yaas) as a DW Scholar – privilege I’m super grateful for! Don’t ask why I’m just blogging about the trip ok (pretty please with icing on top), just enjoy it!

You already know I’m in Bonn, Germany – if you don’t know you need to subscribe to chiomachuka.com as soon as you can!

Another reason to do that is because all the pieces off Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum will be chronicled there, while the sights, sounds and tastes belong here!

We start as always, with the trip!

On the day I was to fly, I spent the morning doing my laundry, cleaning out boxes, and working with my tailor to ready all the pieces I wanted to take on the trip – #TeamAnkara

I also had a proposal to edit, emails to respond to, and CC Consulting Services to run! Na wa.

Somehow I made it to the airport on time. I say that because as with every trip I cut it really close and so when we were held up for about 20 minutes because President Goodluck Jonathan was going to pass by I nearly died of panic. Apparently he had cut short his trip to some African country because of the unfortunate EMAB Plaza bombing (gives you an idea of the day I traveled – 26th June). Why Mr President still hasn’t visited Chibok (200 + girls missing for over 100 days) is beyond me, but let’s move on.

Got to the airport, checked in, there was a bit of drama (isn’t there always) with some people clearing security. Didn’t do tatafo so I don’t have a story for you. Sorry!

Got past immigration and the officials who told me in several ways that I was beautiful and didn’t understand why I wasn’t grinning from ear to ear. (I said thank you o, I was just too tired to encourage the discussion, and I know that’s not a crime anywhere).

Boarded after crazy tweeting a big advert for #31Days31Writers, and after trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to watch Winter’s Tale with Colin Farell, Will Smith and co, I slept. Lord I was exhausted!

Woke up to a lovely dinner of mash and beef, and promptly went back to sleep!

Got into Frankfurt ok, and first thing I was reminded of was that the Germans always outdo themselves with WIFI! Free WIFI from Starbucks, from Telekom, everyone was offering free WIFI!

Caught a train to Bonn (let’s not talk about my spending €75 on a ticket that I found out later had already been purchased for me, choi), and I fell asleep as soon as I sat down – almost worried I’d been bitten by some bug!

Got into Bonn, hungry as a waif, and after sorting out a sim card I waltzed into a MacDonald’s and had the tastiest burger ever, complete with chorizo, peppers, and chili! Incredible! I didn’t take a picture though, I was that hungry!

Started reading a book there too – ‘Of Love and Other Demons’ written by Gabriel García Márquezy (a Nobel Prize Winner), and then I caught two trams and a bus to arrive at Bonnox Hotel and Boarding House, my home for the next seven days!

To be honest, when I saw ‘boarding house’, I was a little worried but the place (and my room) were gorgeous! Took a few pictures!

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Something a whole ‘cow’ theme at the place, but I really liked it!

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That’s my kitchen, peek of the ladies, and a selfie!

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Green, well done can be really calming… I promise you!

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As if I knew, my green bag came with me!

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Selfie gang! Did I mention I wore ankara everyday on this trip? #TeamNigeria

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Loved this bed. Not sure what I loved more, the bed or the bed!

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Another view of the exterior…

 

I can’t wait to cook!!

Totally grateful to God for a safe, uneventful trip (Lord knows I was too tired for any drama), and a super thank you to Joojo for pointing me in the direction of our lodgings and taking me to Vapiano (a fabulous Italian restaurant).

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All black has always been the easiest outfit to put together… This mirror must be missing me, I took a selfie every other minute!

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So at Vapiano, you order and the chef makes it while you stand and wait… everything takes less than 6 minutes, and is incredibly tasty!

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Don’t remember what I ordered, but that’s one of the chefs making it!

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End product!! Sun dried tomatoes are a blessing! Yum!

 

Our meal was fabulous! Got back to my room and after speaking to my folks, you guessed right, I slept!

So on the 15th of October I attended the Diplomatic Dialogue Series organized by the Nigerian Leadership Initiative and hosted by the US Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle. The event was/is themed “where foreign policy meets business”.

Originally slated for 12.30pm, the event started by 1pm, and Taiwo Oyedele from PriceWaterCooper got us going with a brief background on America and Nigeria, and the history of both countries trading with each other. A few interesting things I learned, and will now share (some you might already know, so just skip).

  • Nigeria with a population of 170 million people, produces (at its best) 3 million barrels of oil per day. The US, with 320 milion people, produces 9 million barrels of oil per day. Mr Oyedele said that at the rate they’re going they will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the largest exit producer in the world.
  • The US is the largest oil importer from Nigeria, even though they more than double our production. Why? They consume so much! If we were half as developed as we should be, our energy needs will surpass our consumption.
  • America’s the world’s largest economy, and the 3rd most populous nation (so we can stop asking why they keep playing Big Brother/Class Prefect to the world). Nigeria on the other hand is the most populous country in Africa and 7th in the world.

Mr Taiwo talked through potentials and opportunities for more trade between both countries and ended with a quote by Benjamin Franklin from 1778 -”I think that a young state, like a young virgin, should modestly stay at home, and wait the application of suitors for an alliance with her; and not run about offering her amity to all the world; and hazarding their refusal…. Our virgin is a jolly one; and tho at present not very rich, will in time be a great fortune, and where she has a favorable predisposition, it seems to me well worth cultivating.”

Spoke to me in more ways than one, that one. 

Then it was time to listen to the Ambassador, who started by saying his favourite quote by Benjamin Franklin said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”. Funnily, in putting this together, here are a few sites that say that this quote is misattributed to Franklin.

One.

Two.

Three. 

Moving on, the Ambassador was quite charismatic, and I really enjoyed his presentation. He talked about the things he’d learned in Nigeria; including “all protocols observed”, and how every wife of a dignitary was “the amiable wife of…” Lol.

Entwistle, in talking about terrorism said America has learned (the hard way) that the civilian population must first feel like the government/military forces are on their side and actually mean to protect them.

He moved on to politics, saying that in 4 months, Nigeria will hold elections and he was sure Nigeria’s electoral commission had learned quite a few lessons leading up to February.

Entwistle said that he’s called (and is still calling) on politicians to take the ‘No-Violence’ pledge. He said he spoke to media moguls earlier in the day and told them about the resonating effect that would be had if politicians had to take the No-Violence pledge before they spoke, said anything at all.

Here are a few other things he said.

  • Defeating terrorism goes beyond military power/prowess by itself. A big part of it is keeping the circular population safe. At whatever/all costs.
  • America cannot lead on any intervention as far as Nigeria (or any other country for that matter) is concerned. The best they can do is SUPPORT. Really instructive.
  • The US has pledged $15million to support free, fair, and successful elections. Again, the word there is support.

It was a really interesting afternoon, of course I chuckled when, during the interactive segment people were asked to pose questions and a particular guy who had ‘hustled’ for the microphone said, “mine is not a question, but a comment”. Lol… Why do we always do this? Always amuses me!

Reminds me of the social media and governance conference in 2012 that held in Abuja. I think we were down to the last question for Professor Jega (or someone super important like him), and there were so many hands up! The moderator picked out a lady, admonished her to keep her question short and to the point, and then she said, “I don’t really have a question, but a comment”. When I stopped laughing, I rolled my eyes till she sat down. SMH.

Anyway, so that was my 15th spent at the Metropolitan Club in VI, Lagos. Afterwards I went to Terra Kulture, where I met Tolu.

:)

 

 

 

 

 

Social media is a funny thing. It’s like a playground these days, and everyone’s invited. Compelled almost, if you like. It has become possible to have a living, breathing relationship (work or otherwise) with a person you have never met (watch out for the catfish though) totally enabled by the various technologies around. Exciting stuff!

Found a blog almost a year ago now, and it was Tolu’s, this young man who’d returned to Nigeria (IJGB) and was documenting (daily) what it was like settling into work (he runs his own company), living in Lagos, all of that good stuff. Of course the tales were hilarious, and after a while I would find myself looking forward to his next piece. I would leave a comment every now and then too, and sometimes they’d become full blown conversations.

We narrowly missed the chance of meeting sometime in September; I’d been invited to an event in Lagos but I was in England and since the invite didn’t come with any attachment with the subject ‘British Airways’, I sent my regrets. However, I was really interested in the event (and I said so to the organizers) so after it held, I saw a link to a video of the proceedings, and so I watched.

And then I saw Tolu! And I’m like “no way”!! Apparently he’d also been invited, and was one of the key speakers or something like that. So I messaged him on Twitter (hello social media) to say we narrowly missed each other, and the conversation ended with a plan to meet when next I was in the country.

So… Had a really good first half of the day yesterday at the Diplomatically Dialogue series organized by NLI, hosting the US Ambassador (more gist about that in my next post) and then it was off to Terra Kulture to work, eat, and see if Tolu would be able to make it down.

He did! Right in the middle of me burning up (because in my ‘wisdom’ I’d sat by the window so the sun was in my face), my Mac charger packed up and I don’t know my way around Lagos so even after I’d been told on Twitter where I could get a new one, I was still obviously helpless. Tolu be sincere, I was whining those first few minutes abi?

Tolu laughed at me first (Smh at that first impression) and I daresay he laughed all the way to his car just under 3 hours later!

From airport to dim sum spots stories, to the ones about computer charges and incomplete information, to the 21 questions (rolling my eyes at the interrogation), I had a fabulous, fun, really laid back evening!

And I’m grateful for that, for good fun, good conversation, and wait for it… Chicken wings!!

So we ordered smoothies and chicken wings (team FitFam), and we shared them equally, even though Tolu tried to shame/bully me into eating less than my share. Yet he was off to a party where he’d have a proper dinner o… *Rolling my eyes again* In fact, you be the judge – who do think owns which pile of bones?

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Count carefully!!!

And there was the last wing, the lonely last wing that we boy formed we wouldn’t eat… For several reasons…

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I wonder what happened to this last wing… Where does a solitary chicken wing go?

Notice we left the fries alone? Team fitfam dot com!!

I had a really good time Tolu… Thank you. Send your email address, so I can send you that idea biko. Hope you enjoyed the party!

PS – what did you do yesterday evening? Yes, you reading this! Share!

Now this piece was originally written for (and published by)  Future Challenges, and I’ve been writing for them since late 2012. Brilliant editors (I miss Paul Morland) criticise our work to perfection, and ensure that what we publish can stand anywhere. Great learning too.

I explored several angles to a Mid Term briefing the minister for water resources did, and I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

:)

If we got paid for all the times we heard ‘water is life’, we probably would not need it anymore; we’d be drinking, bathing, and doing everything else with gold – that’s how wealthy we’d be.

How important is this most vital of natural resources? On the 28th of July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water through Resolution 64/292; acknowledging that access to clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to every other human right.

There are several other charters passed by different international organizations that dictate what levels of access to water around the world are acceptable, and what countries should aspire to. They all agree that water should be sufficient (for personal and domestic use), safe (free from germs and harmful substances), acceptable (should look and taste a certain way), must be accessible (within 1000 meters of the home according to the World Health Organization), and it should be affordable.

So, what’s the story in Nigeria? How close are we to any of this?

According to Water Aid, about 97, 000 children die in Nigeria every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, and 63.2 million people do not have access to safe water.

Water Aid works in 100 communities across six states in Nigeria so it might be tempting to dismiss their statistics as over-zealous prospecting. Closer to reality however is NOI Polls Access to Clean Water Snap Poll done in February 2014 that sampled 1,072 people above 18. Their report shows that 83% of Nigerians source their drinking water privately, and 47% of Nigerians find clean water a major challenge.

In January 2011, the Federal Government launched the ‘Nigeria Water Sector Roadmap’ a document that details the government’s plans for providing safe and clean water up to 2025, and says that 75% of the country will have access by 2015. Question is, how far have we come with that?

Water is doubly, maybe even triply, important in Nigeria because our electricity depends on it to a very large extent, because it supports our agriculture (more like it creates an enabling environment for it), and also because it supplements the efforts of the Ministry of Health.

What then has been done?

Recently, the Minister for Water Resources, Sarah Ochekpe presented a report detailing the scope of work, achievements and pending tasks of the ministry in the last four years.

According to the report, 37 dams have been completed, 10 were rehabilitated, and there are 149 currently under construction. Of the completed dams, 16 have hydropower potentials capable of generating over 135 megawatts of electricity. With current generation and distribution numbers at 3700MW on average for approximately 170 million people, we obviously need all the wattage we can get.

We can only hope due diligence was taken with the construction and rehabilitation; we cannot afford a repeat of a dam failure that the residents of Gusau in Zamfara state suffered in September 2006.

On to irrigation, the Ministry boasts of 385 formal and informal projects since 2010. When all have been completed (there are 185 in various stages of construction), it will produce 397, 060 hectares of irrigable land, thereby increasing opportunities for subsistence and commercial farmers.

Photo Credit: Federal Ministry of Water Resources

Access to clean water has grown from 58 to 67% according to the Honorable Minister, and the National Water Supply Sector Reform programme initiated by the ministry in collaboration with development partners like the World Ban project impacting the lives of another 30 million positively.

There are several other campaigns the ministry of water resources is plugging into; the End-Open Defecation and Global Handwashing Campaigns championed by the United Nations, the G-WIN (Girls and Women in Nigeria) project with the Ministry of Finance, among others, including trans-boundary water initiatives and agreements.

It appears that the Ministry appreciates the relationship between clean, accessible water and the social/economic development of Nigerians; they have also taken the initiative with the Ministry of Power to work with the private sector to put hydroelectric turbines into dams in the country. It must now double its efforts to ensure it closes the gaps standing between Nigerians and this basic right.

 

PS: My profile on Future Challenges is here.

PPS: I like to guest write, so get in touch if you want something written.

PPPS: 85% of my writing is paid for. The other 15% depends on who/what/why. Get in touch first!

This was actually the first piece I wrote for Foresight for Development (originally published on their site), and I guess it was just me reacting to the ‘give me, give me’ attitude that we young people parade all over the place like we are entitled to certain things just because we are ‘young’. 

Enjoy!

If every young person had a pound each time we heard we deserved this, and that just because we make up a huge percentage of the population in Africa, we would all be very rich. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last very long.

We would head right back to penury in a few weeks because a proverb says, “poverty, like palm oil, cannot help but soil every finger”. Another one says: “It is difficult to remain rich in the midst of poverty”. If the clamoring isn’t rising from the bottom to the top and if it is not all-inclusive, it won’t be very effective.
The calls for inclusion in decision-making in Africa, for the most part, are abstract. It is akin to seeking to fly where one has not first learned to walk steadily.

The rigor is largely misdirected. There are more people saying “give us” rather than people showing they are ready to ‘take it’. Even better people should be asking, “What can we do to help you give us”?

Truth is, young people (aged 15-25) make up a fifth of the world’s population, 20% more in developing countries than the 13% in developed countries. So, one would think that the demographic would not be ignored. But it is ignored, and for a number of reasons, including the age for electoral participation and political representation, a lack of capacity and knowledge about political laws and processes.  Consider all of this before we start talking about the widely touted issues around financing, youth being seen as the problem rather than the solution, compulsory youth quotas, etc.

“A youth-friendly legal system is an important component of an environment that enables youth political participation. Among the most important elements are the minimum voting age to vote but also to run in elections” (Enhancing Youth Political Participation, UNDP 2012).

Now, I believe that while we must be grateful for the African Youth Charter, note that there are 54 individual countries that make up Africa. Individual here meaning that there are different languages, levels of literacy and Internet saturation, religions, socio-economic indices, policies and realities, and traditional/tribal leadership structures that affect the way young people see themselves. The way we see ourselves is a much bigger discussion that preceeds or should preceed the one about inclusion in the national/international decision-making process.

Africa can therefore not be seen as a homogenous unit. Therefore the African Union Commission would be stronger and more effective as an advocacy/pseudo-lobbying group, by pressing African governments to consider/adopt laws/charters developed by their young people.

Bringing this home to Nigeria, young people must therefore know their laws before demanding things the constitution does not provide for. For example, demanding (especially online) for a certain percentage of leadership is foolhardy, because the constitution stipulates the ages of 40, 35, and 30 if a person aspires to be president, senator, house of representatives/state house of assembly member, respectively.

This means that as a first step there must be an agreement on the definition of ‘youth’. Advocacy in this instance should then naturally focus on lowering the age of eligibility, rather than using social media for the blanket demand, #30percent or nothing.

Youth must also reject tokenism or quasi-representation without any influence. We must reject being used for photo opportunities or for the sake of participation but instead challenge our laws to provide significant quotas for youth and women representation.

To be able to do these, young people have to do a few things:

  • We must come together and realize that chopping off an oak tree doesn’t start from celebrating a few branches that were knocked off by the wind. And so we must seek knowledge. We must show ourselves faithful in whatever little corners we find ourselves in; we must develop ourselves socially and intellectually.
  • Youth (and youth organizations) must see themselves as complimentary units of one body rather than competition, and seek opportunities to harness the power of our numbers.
  • We must see social media as a means to an end and not the end in itself, especially because of the circumstances surrounding Internet rates in Africa. We cannot base our campaigns solely online, like youth in Singapore with its national Internet and mobile penetration percentages of 84 and 137 respectively, can afford to do. What are we doing in our communities? How are we reaching the digitally excluded? Ben Rattray, founder and CEO of Change.org, said in a 2013 interview with NBC that, “when you marry petitions with social media, making petitions really personal and local, they have the incredible capacity to make a difference.” Our activism must go beyond signatures online and twiddling thumbs to actual influence in our local communities, if we want to be taken seriously.

Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations said: “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline; it is condemned to bleed itself to death”.

We, in whose hands the future is to be entrusted, must be equipped and ready to cater for it.

P:S – I like guest writing. Let me know if you want me to write something for you/your organisation.

PPS – 85% of my external writing is paid for. The other 15% is free, depending on who/what it is for.

Before you get on to this post, guess the newest guest writer for Foresight For Development? You guessed right, moi!! So grateful for another opportunity to stretch my imagine, hone this gift I have.

So, the theme this month was on the future of gender equality, and my thoughts are below. Originally published here, on FFD’s blog. Check out my profile, and my thoughts on futuristic thinking too!

Enjoy.

Everything I wanted to do as a child, my parents encouraged and pushed me to achieve – every single thing, without question. From tumbling about with the boys, to drawing, to entertaining talks about my ambitions that ranged from being a surgeon, to being a builder (I’ve always been fascinated with the way mortar takes shape), to being a truck driver. Anything I wanted to be, I was told I could be.
As I grew older, my ambitions changed dramatically, but it was not until university that I fully grasped that there might be things I wouldn’t be able to do because I was female. Obviously, growing up I was aware of cultural divisions of roles, where women tend to the home and the men provide, where women are forbidden to eat certain parts of animals (example, gizzard in chicken) because it was reserved for men – those kinds of things.

In 300 level at university, departmental student representatives were going to be elected, and I felt I had a good chance of getting elected. That is, until I was called aside by a lecturer I really admired and told I could contest the vice-presidential slot, because the presidency was ordinarily reserved for males. They said that I would expose myself to unnecessary attention if I went for the number one spot. I was shocked, confused, and upset (in that order), and I ended up shelving the idea. Why? Because I didn’t understand why I should come off second best to a man.

Almost ten years later, following thousands of gender equality conferences, models, and books, women are still subtly (or outright) being told (or shown) they have to work almost twice as hard to maintain their number two spots, let alone going for number one. As Beyoncé said, “we need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality – it isn’t a reality yet”.

The third of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) is to promote gender equality and empower women. Why? Because equality in itself is a human right, the right to not be discriminated against on grounds of gender.

Closer home, at least 49% of the 170 million people in Nigeria is female. Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution also provides that no one shall be discriminated against. Yet, the disparity in empowerment is as stark as it is unfortunate. Violent crimes (rape, abuse); child marriage; playing second fiddle to boys concerning education; widowhood practices; and limitations on property and rights to inheritance, culture and traditions, all work hard to erode this right.

What’s the way forward?

Politically, there is the 35% women affirmative action plan, based on the 2006 National Gender Policy that dictates that 35% of government posts should be filled by women. President Goodluck Jonathan in the Midterm Report of the Transformation Agenda (May 2011 – May2013) says his government has achieved 33%. This is a good first step but it is more surface covering than addressing the real roots of this problem. Women are still largely underrepresented, considering that only 25 of the 360 members of the National Assembly are female.

Our government must take a strong stand against laws that infringe on the liberties of women, not by saying they are taking a stand, but by commissioning research into the Constitution and abolishing sections that do not protect women. For example, according to Section 282(2) of the Penal Code, “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape, if she has attained puberty”.

The government must also enforce the laws against child marriages, especially in the North where it is most prevalent; as well as consider the 2003 Child Rights Act that criminalizes marriage below the age of 18, which it has not yet adopted. Politics (and the need to remain popular) must give way to morality and the rule of law.

The Nigerian government must also harmonize efforts to empower women across the 36 states of the country. It should concentrate more on the rural areas where “54 million of Nigeria’s 80.2 million women live and work, and constitute 60-705 of the rural workforce”, according to the 2012 DFID Gender report on Nigeria.

Education as we all know gives everyone a better chance in life, and as the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon notes, educating women is the “smartest global investment”.

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan echoed that in May when he met with Girl Child Education campaigner, Malala Yousafzai. He said, “I personally believe that since about 50% of our population are female, we will be depriving ourselves of half of our available human resources if we fail to educate our girls adequately or suppress their ambitions in any way. We are therefore taking steps to curb all forms of discrimination against girls and women, and have also undertaken many affirmative actions on their behalf.”

The government must now go beyond lip service and half-measures to actually provide education of great quality to females – great education devoid of tutors who tell young girls not to dream and aspire for positions because of their gender.