Baby Fever! I’m a god mommy!

Posted: November 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

This month two people very close to me have birthed gorgeous, healthy children; a boy and a girl. Well, one person on the 31st of October and the second born on the 2nd of November. I’m excited I’m a god mother to both of them and for the honour of filling out the birth certificate for my bestie’s son!

I’m also happy to not be doubly pregnant anymore (lol) because, believe me, I joined in incubating both babies, more emotionally and spiritually than physically but just as demanding trust me!

Can we take a minute to think about how great God is? Like nothing says we couldn’t have been able to pick our children off shelves at a supermarket or mould them from sand just like Adam and his babe were made. Nothing also says we couldn’t have had to be pregnant for two years like , or five days like … It’s just really amazing, this whole birthing process, and I’m so grateful that two cycles started and completed without incident, and without any evil reports. Not because we’re extra righteous or deserving, but because He’s a good God and forever in the business of finishing what He starts. Glory!

I remember when I got the call about both of them being preggers. Both times I was reduced to mush (because I have excess tears I’ve been told), both times my heart was bursting with joy and pride (believe me, I understand that pride is a weird emotion to feel here but allow me enjoy it thank you very much). Both times I imagined what they would birth, but being an aunt to the most gorgeous nephew and niece, I knew I would be grateful for whatever sex we were given. Long as they were healthy, happy, and chubby (I have a thing for chubby babies – my late aunty Pat used to say it was harder for them to cry because of all the weight, lol).

Anyway.

So, babies are here, and a new phase opens for everyone. The parents (including Godparents thank you very much), the families (nuclear and extended), and indeed our society. I look forward to spoiling them, lots of kisses and cuddles, and watching them grow. I also look forward to sending them on tons of errands o, we’re not African for nothing!

Here’s to you my latest prince and princess, welcome. God bless you today, tomorrow, and always. You will not disappoint destiny, you will not bring sorrow to your parents; you will excel in everything your hands find to do. We will not bury you, you will live long, healthy lives and be everything God has destined you to be. I love you two, loads! Hurry back!

So the US election campaigns started about 18 months ago, and I’ll be honest and say I was largely uninterested in the debates, rallies, etc. until very recently. Of course there were the very many days the world was jolted by any of the inappropriate (inappropriate here also meaning scary, unacceptable, criminal, etc.) utterances from Republican Candidate Donald Trump either during rallies, interviews, in the locker room, pretty much everywhere. On those days I would be forced to catch up on the outrage, but that would be all.
Not because I don’t care who the next leader of the free world is, not because I don’t see the incredible importance and leap it would be for a woman to become the next president of the United States, but because my people say that “when a man’s house is on fire he does not bother about the fufu he had on the stove.” There was (still is) just too much “what on earth is going on with my Nigeria” going on to focus on what’s happening in the pond an entire continent away.
TV ads forced me to care. Stickers, posters, heck even conversations a little too animated forced me to join the US Election frenzy. With or without my consent, I’ve had to actively follow.
So, I’ve been in the US for the past 4 weeks now and the excitement/apprehension/tension is palpable. Not the Nigerian flavor of ‘we’re voting for x and y not because we know what they will offer but because our leader says to’, but the ‘we’ve listened to both (major) candidates, know their history and believe overwhelmingly that x is better than y’. Or maybe even that x is the lesser of the two evils, whatever personal reasons.  
It reinforced a thought that led to this tweet“Dear #Nigeria, when we’re done climaxing over the #USElection rallies, our candidates MUST debate in 2019. Anything else is unacceptable.”
I believe that tweet with all my heart, and I hope you, Nigerian, tax-paying, voter card-wielding, pledge-reciting, daughter or son of the soil who has followed the US Elections has been reacquainted with a love for oratory, a respect for facts and figures, an appreciation for the media (and the 2016 expression of the Social Responsibility and Hypodermic Needle theories), and a renewed belief in yourself as a citizen whose vote is worth more than screaming rallies without any substance.
Anything less than debates with concrete plans, economic policies that can be argued for or against, and interventions that directly impact the lives of Nigerians is unacceptable. No more platitudes, no more empty promises, no more roaring rhetoric. 
Our state and national representatives must clearly articulate their plans for us, the people they represent. We cannot applaud the levels of transparency we’ve seen in this election and be content with declarations of assets that end up being as vague as they are untrue.
We must elect representatives who will not subvert but uphold the Constitution, and indeed open up the black hole that the National Assembly budget currently is!
Sigh. Deep breath Chioma. Moving on.
I’ve also thought very deliberately about how technology has been deployed for these elections. I’m not referring to diaspora voting which ensures citizens all over the world are not disenfranchised, and sounds like a brilliant idea till you remember that Nigeria has not come close to perfecting our local, physical processes yet. We cannot guarantee votes cast by human beings we can see and touch (’see and touch’ excluding the era when we had Jamie Foxx and Michael Jackson on the list of accredited voters); yet we’re currently fascinated with diaspora votes. Maybe add that to the things we will blame next for inconclusive elections?
Anyway, I was referring to citizen-centered technology. Technology deployed to make voter education and the voting process as seamless and inclusive as possible. First from the government with the listings/helplines on social and traditional media, to parties and politicians constantly reminding the electorate why, how, and where to vote;  broadcast media and state-specific voting information, to the digital titans deploying doodles, stickers, and other ‘make it cool to vote’ paraphernalia for the electorate to perform their civic duty. No stomach infrastructure, sharing of rice, or bread, or corn; no ridiculous photos where fancy wristwatches meet extreme poverty, none of that mess. 
Anyway, it all ends in the next 24 hours. Those who didn’t already vote have until 8pm to get counted, with a collation and announcement devoid of candlelight, midnight miracles, meme-worthy drama, or any funny business. Governance should also start in earnest immediately after the swearing-in, not 9 months after. 
Quite frankly, these elections rank high on the list of things Americans should be ashamed of – the blatant mudslinging, disrespect for candidates/American History/the American people; the divisive nature of the campaign, the hate it’s inspired, ugh. Shameful.
However, for us, there is a lot to be learned, and I hope we’ve all been taking notes. 2019 is coming. 
PS: Originally published on Huffington Post

My heart is full. Very full. Everyday I am reminded of how blessed I am, how privileged I am to be who/where I am and the countless opportunities I have to do and be better.

Today I am particularly thankful for TechHer, and all the joints that supplied, keep supplying and future suppliers.

In the past one year of ‘babysitting’ TechHer, I’ve met so many women at different levels of proficiency with technology, listened to so many stories and started on a truly exciting journey that culminated in our first anniversary event on Friday the 30th of September.

I’ve also learned a lot of stuff, from managing people all the way to realizing when I’m crumbling under work and in need of help or support.

It’s been an interesting year, a truly interesting year. From coding classes taught by the good people at LearnCode and TechNigeria, web development classes led by Damilola Olawale, our super legal counsel Nana Nwachukwu, and the other actors who have ensured we have done pretty much everything we set out to do, my heart is so full!

Post the event on Friday, it is very important I thank everyone who helped make yesterday successful, all the people who worked tirelessly to ensure we had a great outing. First to my team, especially Andy Madaki, friend, brother, business partner. Thank you for being the voice of reason, thank you for the ideas, thank you for always showing up or sharing off your knowledge and experience at our event. We are so grateful!

To the wonderful people at Andela, thank you. Starting from Iyin Aboyeji who midwifed the idea and never more than a DM or text message away, to Chioma Uzo-Kalu who hopped on a plane to be with us after exchanging emails, despite her busy schedule! Thank you so much.

To the best spiritual family anyone could belong to, HolyHill Church and Pastor Sunday Ogidigbo.  Thank you, Sir, for taking TechHer as your own, for the unfettered access we have to technical equipment and the expertise of staff, thank you for listening, for encouraging us, for always being there for us. Thank you.

A very big thank you to our partners who have been in our corner from the first day we opened the doors to our community. Jackie Farris of the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Center, Tolu of PlayHouse Communication, HolyHill Church, iblend Services, Social Good Nigeria, and the Swedish Embassy. Thank you for believing, for taking a chance on us.

To the great people at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) led by Udo Jude Ilo, thank you for coming through for us and the lessons on budget reconciliation. Thank you!

Hello Intel West Africa and the She Will Connect Programme, you guys rock, absolutely! Thank you for standing by us!

In planning our anniversary event we were introduced to a member of partners to collaborate with and receive support from. And here’s a big thank you to Aniedi and Mercy at Google Africa and the entire Women TechMakers community for their love, trust, guidance, and support.

To British Council for access to and the use of your space, thank you, thank, thank. And a big thank you to Ojoma!

To Mr Ojobo, Director of Public Affairs at the Nigerian Communication Commission, thank you for your support.

To the people who matter the most – our community of smart, exciting, hardworking women. Thank you for trusting us with your stories, your needs, your insecurities. Thank you for being patient with us, for learning and growing with us. We couldn’t exist without you.

As we go back to the drawing board and unveil our activities for the new year, I invite you to come with us. How can we help you be better? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp (@TechHerNG) or e-mail us -hello@techherng.com.

Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

I think I’ve written about vulnerable people and metrics for giving alms etc.; how I’m more disposed to women with babies and people with disabilities over people who look ‘okay’ at first glance. I’m also more likely to give food /edible items to younger children instead of money. Just my thinking and how I feel those things should happen.

What do you do when someone shows up at your office though? Yes, there’s a story here.

Two Fridays ago, about evening time I was trying to finish up an application, write an article and send a couple emails; talk about being super busy! My team had just come back from facilitating a step-down training in conjunction with Women Advocates for Vaccine Access (WAVA) and were putting away their things possibly to start heading home.

I was on the phone to Tata, when one of them came to say someone was waiting to see me. I recorded off the call and asked that she be ushered in.

Frail didn’t capture the woman wrapped from head to toe who entered my office and asked if she could sit. She did, and I asked how I could help. She said she came from Nasarawa State because hospitals were on strike and she couldn’t get her anti-retroviral medication. So she came to Abuja and after going to a few hospitals, got two months’ worth of medicines, and for free. She paused long enough to remind me that ARV are free from government hospitals once you have ‘your number’. I didn’t bother asking what the number was.

Anyway, bottom line was she had spent the money she had moving about and buying food and didn’t have any money to get home. She said she couldn’t beg on the streets and that God told her to walk and somehow she got to where our office is situated. How much was she looking for? N1500 only (less than 4 dollars).

I gave her the money, got my people to give her a pastry and drink from what was left over from their training and her smile is something I will remember for a while! Big, warm, and stretching from ear to hear. Then she prayed for us and left. Ah, she took my number too, said “so I can tell my daughter Chioma when I’ve reached home”. I haven’t heard from her since then, and I really hope she got home okay.

Now she could have just schemed me out of N1500, or she could really have been directed by God to seek help at our office. Either way it felt really good to be there for her and to not have had a plan or standard for that kind of request. May God wanted to disrupt this process of mine.

I dunno. And I think sometimes it’s okay not to.

So it’s been a little while since I reproduced my notes from church, not because I haven’t been attending, but because… *sheepish grin* I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re here though because today’s sermon you cannot afford to miss!

I attend HolyHill Church, and if you’re regular here you know I’m always talking about how I enjoy worshiping there, the choir ministrations, the Word of God that feeds my spirit, and the focus on charity the church has using HolyHill Relief Foundation. I love it! 

On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot about Pastor Poju Oyemade; a number of my friends swear by his messages, and I keep hearing great stories about him. Interestingly, I’ve never listened to any of his teachings, and even though I’m in Lagos a lot, somehow I’ve never been to his church.

Then it was announced that Pastor Poju would be at church on Thursday and for some reason I was super excited in my spirit. I knew I would attend.

Fast forward to Thursday evening, I was in church (EARLY), and a really intense worship session, after which Pastor Sunday Ogidigbo introduced Pastor Poju. Cue my thumping, really expectant heart.

The rest of this post is my reproduction of the notes I took during the sermon. Ready? May God bless the entrance of His words into our hearts, amen.

Title: The Economy of Faith – God’s Economic System

Exodus 6:3

El-Shaddai – God of the field. When God revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He introduced Himself as the one who causes fields to produce in abundance… as the God of the marketplace. God is the God of the fields, the one that teaches our hands to profit.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (Amplified Version) “And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity.”

Such a powerful scripture! (There and then I downloaded the Amplified Bible onto my iPad; no time!)

Deuteronomy 11:10, 8:17, 28:11

When you refuse to work at all, there is nothing for God’s rain to fall on. You’re not in the game. Joseph was working in jail and God met him there.

The mystery is, how can anything good come out of Nazareth? Mark 4:30

Give God something to work with – He needs a seed in the ground for His rain to fall on. Even if working for free is the way to get in, do it. Get in the game.

The History of Money

Barter system – French Opera singer (there was a story here about the barter system starting to fail and this singer who was paid in sheep, goats, pigs, and thousands of coconuts and then had the problem of transporting her pay home, lolololol) – value system for products and services. Money moves when products and services of value are exchanged.

Entrepreneurship – using your skill to open the doors for business. Offering – giving a gift without expecting anything in return.

Wisdom creates labor-saving devices. We, as Christians should be full of this wisdom which is a product of the rain of heaven.

Warren Buffet said, “Acquire skills that no one else has, or invest in those who have these skills”.

The ideas God wants to give to me will be too much for me so I will start to trade in them – consultancy/strategy.

The value is not in the ground but in the idea applied to the product in the ground. For example, crude oil. It was just this black, gooey substance in the ground till someone figured out that refined it could do all the things that earned it the name, ‘black gold’.

The starting point to operating God’s economy is this…

  • When we start doing anything, whatever we make from it is not the point. Whatever we are given, whenever we are given, take God’s part and give to Him. Then He will pour out A Blessing that we won’t have room to contain.

But we need to start doing something first. The strategy of the church is (and should be) “…wherever the soles of our feet tread upon…” Where are your feet going/treading?

  • No matter what we’re doing, praise God there. Give thanks – the earth is waiting to yield increases for us when we praise.
  • Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. John 15: 5 God is the husbandman though, John 15:1, and the scriptures say the husbandman is the first partaker of the fruit. So why do we deny him the first fruits?

Anything I release of my own freewill without any demands on the recipient (implied or not) God rewards by Himself. Prosperity is not in material things but the next big idea God drops in your heart.

It was Daniel, it was Joseph, it was Jacob; God is quicker to put His people as right hand, influential men/advisers rather than kings.

Final word: Get to the office excited tomorrow and pray down God’s rain on your place of business. Glory to God!!

And that was it, the message ended while I was still on the edge of my seat, waiting to drink just a bit more. Argh!! Ah well, means I’m hooked on his messages now jor. Totally!

Good news; the message is available for download on our church website, and you’re welcome to fellowship with us in person or online.

God bless you!

 

 

When I started TechHer in August 2015, more than anything I was interested in some sort of convergence point for women working in or around or with technology. In the same way that the ‘boys club’ exists and men grab drinks after work and that’s where the proverbial big decisions are taken etc., I wanted a community where women would feel safe to ask anything, say anything, and feel confident to be (or at least dream of being) anything.

By the way, if you’re female, working in technology, interested in enhancing whatever it is you’re working on via digital, please find us online – @TechHerNG (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or visit our website – http://www.techherng.com and stay in touch with us! Alternatively, you can join our whatsapp group; send a text to 09083041940 and someone will sort you out. Okay?

Back to the story. In the course of running TechHer I’ve been privileged to meet all sorts of women running similar or different initiatives all geared towards increasing digital literacy amongst women or enhancing already existing skills. I’ve been privileged to meet, chat with, sometimes share a stage with people like Oreoluwa Somolu-Lesi of W.TEC, Helen Anatogu of iDEA Hub, Aisha Bello of Jango Girls, Titilope Sonuga, Ambassador for the Intel She Will Connect programme, Simi Olusola of Abocoders, the wonderful crew at Women TechMakers, etc. I’m always excited to meet new people, listen to their stories, understand why and how they do the things they do, figure out how we can collaborate, and learn what mistakes they’ve made I can avoid.

One person I’ve been really fascinated by is Simi of AboCoders. Simi is a freelance project management consultant. AboCoders empowers young women from low-income families in Northern Nigeria with software development skills. They set up a training centre in Minna from which they have trained 23 girls and out of which they are training the next set of beneficiaries (40 ladies between 18 and 30), all on coding. They have also set up collaborations with 5 schools in Minna to establish and run coding clubs for girls in their schools. Exciting stuff!

Even more exciting is their Camp AboCoders, a one-week residential coding camp for girls that held in Abuja recently. It’s the camp I want to talk about though.

I was invited, with four other ladies to the closing day of their camp last Friday, and it was really nice to meet the 16 young ladies, wide-eyed, excited, and very interested in what we had to say. Something else I really enjoyed was the speed geeking session (which is the same thing as speed dating once you exchange geek for date).

So, I spoke to the ladies in different batches about TechHer, what we do, what the opportunities are, how they can fit into our community (after they cross 18, lol), and then all of us speakers had a panel session where we shared on our experiences from choosing careers, support (or not) from our parents/family for our work, to things we did we wouldn’t do again if we had the chance to go back in time.

I asked the ladies what they wanted to do with themselves post secondary/university education, and their responses were as diverse as they were interesting. I even learned something; someone wants to study mechatronics (be honest, did you know about that before now?) and she knew exactly why she wanted to do that.

Here’s the thing. Of the sixteen of them, only four have access to computers, and very indirect access at that. Whether it’s from business centers, their relatives, etc. I thought about it long and hard, and decided I would try to do something about it. Maybe not I, but we.

Here’s what we can do.

We can buy them computers. All 16 of them. We’ve searched, and a decent second-hand computer costs N50, 000. TechHer has committed to buying one, leaves us with 15 to purchase. Who’s in? Can we do this in 30 days? Please contact Simi (email – simi at abocoders dot org dot ng, Twitter – @SimiOlusola) and help us buy computers for these young girls. Please. We would hate to cater to some and not cater to the others.

My pledge on this:

I will do one update blog post when the money for the 16 laptops is complete, or when the 30 days are up (whichever comes first). I will also do a blog post when they’re handed over to the girls. One of the updates will include a receipt for the laptops purchased, photos of the devices, and photos of the handover.

Thank you for joining us on this. We’re so thankful!

ARIK: Shaking my head.

Posted: August 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

So, the first part of this post published a few days ago talked about me going to Lagos for #TechPlus2016 and all the interesting things around that abi? That post is here if you missed it (you’re welcome).

I remember saying that the journey back home was a different story in itself, and I am here now to share it! Ready? Let’s do it!

So, we had been so well treated by the organisers, so well taken care of, I was fresh from church and that really lovely message by Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, and I was looking forward to returning to Abuja, excited and refreshed and getting back into the arms of family and loved ones. Sounds simple abi? Lol… I don’t think I’ve been more mistaken in my life!

Our flight was for 3pm, we left for the airport at noon. Got there about 1.15pm and we sashayed to the Business Class check-in counter. To be fair, I noticed there was a crowd and wondered aloud about the efficiency of the staff and why people weren’t getting catered to quickly. Only for us to be told at the Arik counter that they weren’t checking anyone in, and that we should wait.

Huh? I made the mistake of mentioning to the staff that we were flying Business and then she said, “And I’m telling you that no flights to Abuja from Lagos have left here today; there is no aviation fuel”. My heart sank so quickly I felt it would take my stomach with it. Brethren, that was the beginning of what I will now call ‘drama in the highest’.

Nana and I took ourselves to a restaurant within the check-in area to get a seat, apparently seats were only given to paying customers. So we bought the most ridiculously priced jollof rice we’ve ever had, and we got seats. After we’d spent an hour there, we got in touch with the organizers for #TechPlus2016 and they said they’d send a car for us, and we’d just fly back to Abuja the next day. Bless them.

We decided to go to the other terminal to see if we’d catch a flight back (you can tell how eager we were to get back home abi) and it was even worse there. Airlines were pulling flights off their websites, touts were reselling tickets for passengers who couldn’t wait hopelessly for hours on end; it was a hot mess.

Funny story. One guy bought a ticket for a 5.10pm flight and then called his friend (maybe in the next terminal) to come get a seat on that flight. Friend rushes in and goes to the counter where he is told there’s no flight for that time. His friend comes to the counter and asks how that is possible seeing as he’s just purchased a ticket for that flight and then he’s told to hand over the ticket and get his money back, that there’s no flight at that time. Lol! Funny but not funny at all I tell you.

We spent another hour at this terminal and after turning down the touts who wanted us to buy economy tickets for about N45, 000 each and we wouldn’t fly with our names but the names on the tickets, we decided it was time to take our hosts up on the offer to stay in a hotel close to the airport and try to fly early the next morning.

By this time my spirit and soul was ruffled; I was tired and the fact that all of the discomfort we’d endured hadn’t produced a flight was even more frustrating.

We jumped in the car and headed out of the airport when we got a call that two Arik flights had just landed from Abuja and they’d be going back. Whattttt? We sped back to our original terminal and circa 40 minutes of pushing, pulling and shoving later, had our boarding passes. Phew!

Then the queuing began. I stood on a queue for about 50 minutes straight, brought us to about 7pm or so, and then it was time for everyone to board. Arik officials suddenly said they would board folks from the 11am and 1pm flights. God bless the two young men who insisted that they board all their flights or none of them. The simple question was, how do you ignore the folks who’ve been waiting from 7am and pick and choose who gets to fly?

That argument took another 30 minutes or so and plenty more pushing and pulling. There was a woman with a little baby who started screaming about wanting to get home; apparently she had been stuck in the airport since the wee hours of the morning (or was it the day before) because there was no flight to PortHarcourt. I heard she’d just come into the Lagos from having the baby in South Africa and had gotten stuck there. No showers, nothing. My heart went out to her.

We finally took off about 8.10pm, and touched down in Abuja past 9pm. God is a great and merciful God. And Arik is an absolutely rubbish airline.

PS: Did I mention they had threatened to call security because we were being ‘unruly’? Lololol. Jokers.

First off, two fingers in the air for period pain if you’re a lady reading this; it’s 4.40am and I’ve been up now for close to an hour because my belly is talking to me in ways I’m sure can be nicer and definitely less painful! In fact, can I get two fingers in the air from the guys as well, for obvious reasons? Done? Thank you very much.

Now that I’m awake, I started reflecting on a lot of things and first off is my round ups should be a lot more frequent! So I’ll work on that. A quick second is that I am blessed. Like, God has really crowned my year with good things, things money can buy, and the things money cannot buy. Especially the things money cannot buy! So grateful.

My niece turned six months old yesterday, and she’s an absolute beauty. Gosh! Just watching her grow, all the developments we’ve seen and continue to see, and her smiles. Sweet baby Jesus my niece’s smile can melt ice! Thank you God for such a gorgeous, healthy, happy baby!

In other baby news, our flu has cleared! So for three weeks or more Talia and I were coughing, runny noses, etc. Like cough syrup after cough syrup, one antibiotics course after the other, the flu refused to clear. At some point it occurred to me we were probably just re-infecting ourselves, lol. Glad to announce that we’re both fine now (the devil is put to shame once again, whoop)!

At the end of July I was invited to #TechPlus2016 to speak; had been pencilled down for two panels – one on cyberbullying, internet security in the age of social media, and the other one on increasing digital literacy for women. Both panels featured very interesting panelists, and I enjoyed speaking about TechHer, things we do, lessons we’ve learned and how they intersect with the topics.

So my friend Nana was a panelist as well, and so we were in Lagos together. I’ll attempt to chronicle the trip.

First off, that morning our flight was scheduled for 9.30am, and I had a prior engagement for 7.15am on NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) to talk about social media, entrepreneurship, etc. As you can imagine I had to be up really early to pack, head to the station to say my piece, and then sped off to the airport… Found a really nice, safe, but quick cabbie to drive me, and of course we’d detailed one of our friends working at the airport to check us in.

He calls and says that our tickets were for the 22nd of August, not the 22nd of July. W-H-A-T? And so the calls began to the organizers, they called the travel agents who booked the flight, we spoke to the airline, plenty talk. From no seats on any flight that day, to none for our class of ticket, to rescheduling us to a 10am flight that got delayed till 1pm.

We went into a restaurant to wait and encountered a very rude, uncouth man. Fathers and mothers, train your sons. Some things are unacceptable, including raising your voice or trading insults. Am I perfect? No, but in the last few days I’ve met some very uncultured young men. It is shameful.

Anyway, we finally took off about 1pm, and got into Lagos safely (praise God for that). Soon as we touched down, we were in the able hands and care of the #TechPlus2016 team, and I must take a full moment to appreciate the warmth and stellar logistics ground team they had in place to cater to us.

Got to the hotel, checked in, and barely had enough time to freshen up and head to my first panel. Interesting, intimate, just the way I liked it. Was nice to bump into my brother Chude on the way in…always a joy to see that man.

Panel done, we explored the exhibition area and I was so impressed! As a child of God planning an exhibition for TechHer myself, there was so much to be impressed by! We will get there, and very soon! I copped a ring, some bangles, and some gorgeous fabric, and I can’t wait to see what my designer #NitazCouture does with it! Been a long time since a designer/seamstress/tailor excited me, and it’s so refreshing that Francesca, head honcho at #Nitaz not only knows her craft, she knows my body and what works. So great!

Next day was easy. My session was about 4pm but we went to Nana’s session at 2pm and wandered off into the exhibition area again. We attended a few other sessions, including one with Teju Ajani, Frank Donga, and a few other people. Interesting how content is so dynamic but totally reliant on the principle of relatability. Can people relate with what you’re going to put out as a producer or curator? If it’s a yes, you’re on the road to doing well!

Sunday morning I worshipped with Pastor Ituah Ighodalo’s church, Trinity House. Amazing! It was the sixth anniversary of the church, and I remember the prayer his wife led, both in thanksgiving and committing the rest of the year into God’s hands. God is amazing I tell you. I had a great time, and I must visit again. By the way, their choir is amazing! Something the choir sang resonated with me so much, “my status is changing, no more decline, I’m on my way to better days”. In Jesus name!

Then, it was a dash back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. Airline? Arik. And that means that is a totally different article by itself. I’ll write it!

How’s everyone doing?

Good weekend? Ready for the week? This is going to be one of my busiest but I thought I’d take a few minutes and say a big hello to everyone, play catch up a bit.

So my niece and nephew were ill, one had malaria and a tummy bug, and the other one had a cold that stretched at least two weeks, and she still had it after she gave it to me. We spent small time in the hospital, and that’s where the story about blood donation came from (I published that recently).

I’ve also done a bit of local travel, looking forward to when I can take a proper holiday… I owe myself two – one for my birthday and the other because life is short and we should take time off to rest and be quiet when we can. Amen?

God dey.

Work is alright… Moved into a new office in June and we’re getting settled in really nicely. Really thankful to God for that, and the immediate possibilities I see for expansion.

Still on work, got two interesting referrals recently, a stark reminder that clients, no matter how little, matter and an excited client post your custom might make a difference as much as 24 months after. I’m really thankful for the referrals, and now just need God’s help to ensure that we beat the standards we’re being held to. Amen?

On Saturday I was privileged to speak at my church’s business/entrepreneur summit, and I drew my topic/talk from some work I’d done for a client recently. I spoke on minding the gaps and facing the direction of travel. Corny I know but it was a good opportunity to fuse my love for trains with my experiences as a student, an employee, and now an employer. It was interesting for me to talk about some of the lessons I’ve learned, and how each step leads to the next, and the next, and the next. It was also very instructive to talk about the place of God in business, and the mistakes I’ve made simply because I ignored the still small voice telling me no. I had a good time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

What else? I’m happy. Sweet baby Jesus this daughter of God is happy. I am joy-like-a-river, peace-like-a-fountain, love-like-an-ocean brand of happy. Such a beautiful feeling. Everything in my life; experiences, joy, sadness, mistakes, successes; everything that I have seen has prepared me for where I am now, and I am thankful to God for His many blessings and precious gifts. There’s a new mercy every single day! And I’m loving it!

Finally, I need to get back in the gym. Don’t know why I’m typing this instead of renewing my membership but yeah, this child needs to be back in that place where more calories are burnt than piled on. Yep. This week is out of the question sha, and I’m not bothered in the least what you think! *sticks tongue out*

Finally finally, lol. My nephew moves to reception next school session! Whoop! He’s officially a big boy now! Interestingly, he’s slowly outgrowing the millions of hugs and kisses I drown him in, and he’s only four! I thought they didn’t start all of that till much later? Arrrrrghhhh! Bring back my baby! *sad face*

Finally finally finally, I got a birthday gift yesterday… I know o, this is still for the birthday that passed in May. Is the Lord laying it on your heart to send me a pressie? Harden not your heart biko!

How have you been? Are you keeping okay? Are you doing well? Want to share? Please do!

Mwah!

PS: A song in the back of my mind for a few days now has been “we are h-a-p-p-y, we are h-a-p-p-y, we know we are we are sure we are, we are h-a-p-p-y!” (If you went to primary school in Nigeria this should ring a bell… or two… or three… or four… I’ll stop here)!

In March, social media woke up to a really startling story: a young girl, a 13-year-old child that had been kidnapped from Bayelsa, taken to Kano state, rechristened Aisha in an apparent conversion to Islam, and married off to a young man. The girl? Ese Oruru. The man? Yunusa Dahiru, aka Yellow.

The contradictory reports in the media were as frustrating as they were ridiculous. First, it was said that she was eighteen, despite her family’s cries to the press to the contrary. Then the poor child was demonized, something about her dating the man, writing him love letters, and being in love with him, like the word of a child on those matters should be acknowledged. Then it was back to the arguments about her age again, and how she was 14 years old and not 13. On and on and on, splashing her face in the papers, in the hearts and minds of Nigerians that choose, very conveniently what to forget, and what to remember and stigmatize others by.

Interestingly, while this was going on, a number of other parents cried out about their teenage daughters getting abducted, married off and raped. Yes, rape because that is what this is. Non-consensual intercourse is rape, compounded in these cases by abduction, and of minors.

Back to Ese Oruru, we were confused with the back and forth that freeing the girl and returning her to her parents threw up. A lot of conversation between her not getting released till HRH, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi gave instructions to that effect because she was in his custody, the Royal’s swift denial, convoluted messaging from the police, on and on.

Amidst hashtags, commentary in the press and extreme pressure on the consciences and sensibilities of people involved in the matter, Ese Oruru was finally returned to her parents in Bayelsa in March 2016; seven months after her abduction, and recently gave birth to a baby girl. A baby birthing a baby, rife with the risk of VVF, and the total disruption of her life as we know it.

Yunusa Dahiru was charged to court too, a five-court charge of criminal abduction, inducing by the use of deception and coercion, illicit sex, sexual exploitation and unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor.

We woke up to reports on the 11th of July that Yunusa, with expensive legal representation, has been released on bail and whisked back to Kano. The news story was garnished with a photo of this abductor and rapist at the airport. The end, literally.

Screenshot 2016-07-11 16.41.23

Some responses came back on how long it took for the alleged abduction and rapist to get bail, the constitution and laws being the problem, rape being a bailable offence, the quality of our laws and the attendant handicap of the judiciary etc.

There were also less sane responses about Ese’s case not being a peculiarity because underage girls get abducted and raped daily, it took three months to secure bail, and then of course the ultimate expressions of ignorance couched as insults or the representation of the matter based on ethnic sentiments.

Both sets of responses ignore the fact that we’re talking about a child. Both sets of responses ignore the fact this case already stinks to high heaven. They ignore the fact that by not speedily prosecuting this case, securing a watertight conviction, and dispensing punishment that is a deterrent to potential offenders, we have lost yet another opportunity to protect our children. We keep failing them.

I have written about child molestation, rape and other crimes against minors before, taking time to narrate not just the horrors the children have faced, but the helplessness the parent feel, and the stark failures of our systems to mete justice.

We have a Child Right Acts that took 12 years (1991 – 2003 after Nigeria signed the convention on the Rights of the child with UNICEF support) to go through the National Assembly, and more than 10 years after that, only 24 states have passed and given gubernatorial assent to the law in their states. That means that our children, the most vulnerable in our society, left unprotected and we do not feel any sense of urgency. Implementation aside, it means that the appropriate legal framework for the protection of the rights of our little ones is still a pipe dream. There is no urgency from the Judiciary or the Legislature whose job is it to empower the courts.

Unfortunately, this sad story probably ends here, and this statement is based entirely on precedent. No rehabilitation for Ese, no clear deterrents for the society because we don’t protect our children. No justice because we have a National Assembly that is filled with self-serving paedophiles who do not agree that people under 18 are children and so will scuttle privately and in public any plans to protect them. A National Assembly with officials who will uphold anything other than the laws they were elected to (and swore to) protect.

While Gambia and Tanzania ban child marriages, Ghana considers raising the age for marriage for girls from 18 to 23; we have popular commentary in Nigeria that posits that child marriage is the preferable, dignified and honourable alternative to child prostitution. The Giant of Africa lagging behind where it matters the most.

We can do better. We must do better. This 8th National Assembly has the opportunity to write its name in the annals of history, and we hope they take it.

First published on Premium Times, and on Future Challenges.