Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

Good morning! I slept very well thank you, woke up feeling very rested. There’s something about the way I’ve slept in the last couple days that’s made me sleep a bit better. Maybe go to Lagos a bit more often perhaps?

Woke up, caught the end of a cartoon while I got ready, and then I went for breakfast. Again, thoroughly disappointed. This time though, I complained. Didn’t just mean to whinge (and I wasn’t the only one who complained), but I’m now taking medication to clear this week-old flu and for the amount of mental exertion I see in the offing, the least I expect is a decent breakfast! Besides, I’m a growing child…lol…

Thankful to our Care Manager (that’s what I called Ghida in my head) who’d gone over and beyond with the provisions she’d laid out in our kitchenette. Cereal, chocolate, biscuits, fruits, unending supplies of tea and coffee, she even brought medication (we’ll get to that bit soon). I ended up having Special K every morning till we left – thank you Ghida!!!

Breakfast over, we piled into the conference room, our work space for the next few days, and Barbara introduced officially what a Book Sprint was, and all of that information is here. She told us how ours would work (it’s a secret, wait for the book), and then we went round the room with short introductions. Here’s a bit about everyone, all eight of us!

Rafeeat Aliyu () - Blogger, writer of fiction and non-fiction, history nerd. http://www.eccentricyoruba.wordpress.com

Elnathan John () - A full-time writer. http://www.elnathanjohn.blogspot.com

Yas Niger () - Blogger, writer (of a self-published book). http://www.yasniger.wordpress.com

Pearl Osibu () - Blogger, writer, designer. http://www.pearlosibu.wordpress.com

Chioma Agwuegbo () - Blogger, writer, aunty to the cutest baby on earth. http://www.chiomachuka.com

Kalu Aja () - Financial planner and coach. http://www.kalus20pounds.blogspot.com

Azeenarh Mohammed () - Noisemaker, privacy enthusiast, digital security trainer. http://www.azeenarh.wordpress.com

Fola Lawal ( ) - Publisher. http://www.shecrownlita.com

And then our facilitators!

Barbara Ruhling () - Book Sprint facilitator, filmmaker. http://www.booksprints.net

Simone Poutnik ()- Multi-stakeholders collaboration facilitator. http://www.natural-innovation.net

Yep, that’s us!

Then we talked a lot about our book what we wanted it to be – fiction or not, narrated or not, dialogue or full on prose, on and on and on.

I really liked the exercises (I must say), even though the next event saddened me. We wrote out on post-its all the issues we wanted to see represented in our book, and then we grouped them under broader headings like religion, state structure, corruption, etc. That exercise was almost emotional for me cos it was like unpacking a bag full of bad memories, hanging them out, and just reliving them again.

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And this was just one sheet of the things we listed!!

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Figuring out what issue would work under what was a task and half!

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Stop and think…

What was interesting though, was seeing that all our issues are so interwoven! So, here’s a random example – if we fixed the judiciary, stiffer sentences for crimes would ensure a deterrent, and the society would be a tad safer/easier to live and do business in. However, the executive and legislative have to ‘put down self’ to empower the judiciary. Easy right? But when you consider that half the people who should be in jail for one crime or the other are in the E and L, it becomes a bit more tricky. Even trickier is the mindset of the ‘common man’ who lambasts the E, L, and J but sees nothing wrong in bribing his way out of stuff. Do you expect integrity from that kind of person when/if they get into a position of power? If you are dishonest with a pound, you will be dishonest with a thousand pounds. Round and round this mulberry bush, ladies and gentlemen. Sigh.

It was about evening this time (notice I didn’t dignify lunch with a mention), and people were wired! All that talk and writing! So we all took a walk, laughed all the way – to the politician amongst us paying for the fruits we wanted, to seeing a private house with traffic lights (Nigerians are the best walai) – we laughed all the day! Of course I took a picture. What!!??!!

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Ah ha! Before I forget, our lodgings are around the house of the Inspector General of Police. Guess what? We weren’t allowed to walk on his side of the road (where his home is). “For security reasons”, his people said. Was hilarious, the banter we had with the mobile policemen but when you think of it, how much sadder can we get?

I would be embarrassed to live there to be honest – tank parked outside, mortar barriers, floodlights, and mobile policemen perpetually at the ready. Why? Whatever happened to protect and serve? Are they protecting the Nigerian people like this? Why is it normal for one person to be guarded this way, when our brothers and sisters are sitting ducks for Boko Haram in the North East?

Bleh.

Dinner was manageable, nothing I remember. We did a bit more writing, and day one was officially over! Four days to go!

A bit of a background to the series starting today. I was recruited by Heinrich Boll to participate in something called a Book Sprint. It involved 8 writers, five days in seclusion, two facilitators, and one film maker to produce a book. All we had? A potential book title. Everything else? We’d have to figure out in the five days.

This Book Sprint ran from the 8th of November (exactly one week today) to the 12th. Over the next few days, I will chronicle the days spent at our lodgings. Ready? Here’s day one!!

So I woke up, feeling just a bit better than the day before. Do you remember what my yesterday was? Of course you do! If you don’t, read this (BrandiQ and All Souls Church – A day in the life of a strategist!). you’re welcome!

So, back to the 7th, I ate my leftover lunch from yesterday (beans and catfish and plantain), Terra Kulture is the truth!

There was the incident with me getting locked in (and yours truly only noticed when I was at the door and didn’t have the key) but thankfully, I made my flight. Thank you Arik! And big thank you to the hostesses who gave me all the water I needed on the flight, I was totally dehydrated.

Cabin pressure aggravated my inflamed tonsils and blocked nostrils – not a very sexy me getting off the plane sniffing, I can imagine people gave me just a little more space than normal.

Met Pearl and Kalu and we jumped in the car waiting to take us to our lodgings Driver? Funny guy. He was driving us and carrying on this really long conversation on the phone – yes, I told him to please not talk on the phone (never mind it is dangerous, his voice was so loud)!

Got to Dullion Suites, and first off I was disappointed there wasn’t a pool. Yep, I was upset there wasn’t a pool. Anyway, I settled in, and then I had to push off to my sister’s to exchange the things I had in my suitcase for clean, fresh clothes and things. Also, needed to pick up some documents and get JT. Want to see my room?

Do you like my ankara shorts? Love em! Comfortable as anything!

Do you like my ankara shorts? Love em! Comfortable as anything!

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Decent… Amen to white sheets, and not making my bed myself for the next few days!

Got home, there was no power (electricity in Nigeria is one big unfortunate joke), and there was another incident with my car keys so I was stuck.

Bg thank you to my sister who dropped me back at our lodgings. Was nice to meet everyone (details about them tomorrow), and then it was dinner time.

To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with it; don’t think any of us were. At all. I didn’t even take a picture (and y’all know I photograph just about everything I eat). Fatush salad was good, but that was it.

Went out with Elnathan, hung out with a few people. Good, interesting conversation about our darling Nigeria, with all its proclivities and current troubles.

Got back to the hotel, all plans for #TurnUp trumped by a lingering headache and exhaustion, I was in bed and asleep by midnight. Work begins tomorrow. Good night!

In the final post from the #ChroniclesFromBonn series, you’re invited to catch up on the previous stories. You can find them below

1. #ChroniclesFromBonn – The trip!

2. #ChroniclesFromBonn –Welcome to school, meet the team!

3. #ChroniclesFromBonn – Opening Day

Ah ha! Now that you’re up to speed, welcome to the most incredible of the days!

I had a very interesting conversation with Maria from Ukraine on the walk to the session, which was both saddening and heartwarming 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.

So 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’. The fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, each country stands alone. There might be some fraternization on the basis of prevailing interests at the time, but at the end of the day, you’re alone as alone can be. Or is it plausible that a country will love your country more than they love themselves? No!

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. *Remember this trip was at the end of June* 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. At some point I was listening to both the translator and the Minister, trying to match the words with the translations. Funny only when you take into cognisance that the only German words I know are ‘good morning’, ‘thank you’, and ‘please’. :)

Anyway, so I attended a session that really spoke to me, one about activism and citizen uprisings et al in Africa. It was one I really enjoyed, but one that also annoyed me on several levels. What makes people feel that because a certain form of citizen disobedience worked in country A it will work in country B? I was so amused/impressed/annoyed by the discussion that I wrote this Africa’s Revolution: The Inaccuracy of Labels, thankful to Future Challenges for publishing it.

We (Digital Participation Camp) held our fishbowl session today too, and even though I HATED the idea of balloons (I have a living, breathing fear of them, and the sound they make when they burst), everyone else loved the balloons, the format of our session, and how interactive/fun it was! So, it didn’t bother me a lot.

Then, it was time for the boat ride! Whoop! I ran back to Bonnox, changed into a small white dress, and then I was river ready!

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Gorgeous, simply gorgeous!!

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Party time! Whoop!!

We got on the boat, and it was really lovely! The view, the music from the band on the upper deck where we were for most of the evening, and the food! There was a barbecue going on, so chicken, sausages, potatoes, and a really lovely salad! Then, Aya and I saw an ice cream tray floating around, and we followed it to the lower deck, only to find there was a full on buffet down there, including the amazing potato gratin I had a few days ago!

 

We had a bit, wandered around the ship for a bit, and then went back up upstairs, where it was really lovely to meet Isabel from Irrepressible Voices, and Eva from Tea after Twelve! I first met Eva in February in Hamburg during Social Media Week, and that meeting culminated in this post for their magazine - http://www.tea-after-twelve.com/all-issues/issue-01/issue-01-overview/chapter2/welcome-to-lagos/ – Lagos is truly the greatest city in the world!

I also met this lovely, really tall guy who goofed around with me! I remember staring and saying, “you’re very tall”, and then he said, “are you sure you’re not taller than I am?” Lol! Bless him!

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Wow… I take back every time I’ve ever said I was tall!

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…because life is too short not to have a laugh when you can!

 

Then, it was time for the party!! Whoop! We all went back down to the lower deck, and the GoodFellas played the entire time we sailed to (Sepideh where did we go again?) and back! Incredible music, 2000+ people on the ship dancing and having a really fun evening. Ready to see some videos? Cos I made some!

 

 

 

We docked about 12.30am, and I was so wired from excitement and exhaustion! The girls (Ruth, Aya) and I walked back to Bonnox, not before missing a turn that translated a 15 minutes work into an hour’s trek!

But, we got home ok, and everyone tumbled into bed immediately!!

Next day, the conference ended with speeches and a few other sessions, and the next day after that, it was off to Frankfurt to catch a flight back to Abuja, Nigeria. Bring on GMF2015 already!

PS – I blogged about GMF 2014 for Deutsche Welle, published by Future Challenges – a condensed version of this series. Find that here.

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!

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.

So I’m in Bromsgrove, Birmingham for the weekend; it’s the 3rd installment of the Women and Leadership residency programme for us 14 African women resident in various parts of the United Kingdom.

Yeah? First off, it was great to meet up with everyone last night, see all the ladies again, catch up on what we’ve all been up to since the last time we saw each other in May, and all of that! The weekends away are an absolute blessing, a time to reflect/take care of myself, build my leadership and community interaction skills, and enjoy fabulously prepared food!

The Center is set on a sprawling estate – loads of green, peace and quiet, and because the farmers and butchers are local, all the food we’re served is fresh, organic, authentic, and so full of flavor!

So, first night we had baby potatoes and chicken wrapped in bacon and cheese. Incredible. I brought my own veg (anyone say team #FitFam), and I truly enjoyed the meal. Dessert however was toffee cake in a lovely toffee pudding (did you see my weight loss plans jump out of the window)?

Dinner over, we did an interesting exercise which was to randomly list things that influence our values on a flipchart (so things like society, environment, other people, education, religion, etc.), and then we did drawings depicting our life’s journeys and talking through them in groups. Very nice to do that, basically plot our life’s graphs and explore how different things that happened to/for/around us have shaped who we are and how we do certain things.

After all of that happened, I retired to my room to try to connect to the WIFI in the place. And then Amanda came over, and it was really nice to have a ‘catch up’ type conversation, a little more in-depth than what happened in the group. We were up till 1.20am (yes I checked) and then I went to sleep.

I woke up laughing about 5am because of some hilarious dream I was having (involving PSquare), and heavy as my eyes were, soon as my phone beeped to tell me I’d connected to the internet, I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep. We are currently expecting the same miracle for my computer.

Decided to go for a run about 7am and I was reminded that I’m such a wuss! Walked for like 7minutes, and then it dawned on me that no one knew I’d left the building. Remember the entire gist about green and farms? Here’s a look!

2014-09-21 13.31.57

Beautiful, serene… I could live here forever! (Long as they give us wifi jor…)

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And then I thought, hian! What if something/someone comes out of nowhere and grabs me? Think ‘Criminal Minds’, ‘CSI New York, Miami, Aba, Oshogbo (since it seems there’s a different CSI for every city)’, or my recent favorite, ‘Person of Interest’ (which I started watching because of something Gbenga Sesan said at a training I attended in August).

And so ladies and gentlemen, I started running, and back to the Center building! You can say what you will, laugh all you want; I’m not listening! Lol!

That’s it really. I showered, had breakfast, and joined the morning session, where I wrote this.

*Written on the 19th of September.