Like every other Nigerian desirous of movement between two states with airports, I bought Arik Air tickets to Asaba for the 23rd of April, paid for them online.

That morning I rang our friend at the airport to get my boarding pass only to be told the airline had issues and wouldn’t be flying at all that day. I saw in the papers later that day that they were owing airport authorities over a billion naira and so were stopped from flying. The shameful thing is they were still selling tickets, with no plans in place to cater to customers with disrupted flights apart from “we apologize for the inconveniences caused!” Why?

Anyway, since Aero unceremoniously stopped flying to Asaba about two weeks to this date (their site said no flights till the second week of May – again for no reason at all), my only option was to go by road and get a refund from Arik. Suffice to say, one full month plus after I’m still talking to Arik about this refund – it’s incredible.

Road trip abi? I haven’t done this in a loooong time so I was excited, very curious too. The entire gist about roads getting fixed, etc, I was more than eager to see. I was also curious about the rest stops on the way, like has anything about them changed from the time my main means of interstate transportation was by road? Would I sleep as soundly as I do on planes? Would I have a neighbor who wouldn’t shut up? Questions, questions, questions.

Friday morning I got to Dunamis Motors (a long distance car service) where I would have just taken a car by myself, and they said all their cars had been chartered. No surprises there at all.

I went to Delta Line, and there were only buses, the cars had left. Ok. I decided to buy up a row of seats so I would be comfortable/by myself/undisturbed. I explained to the lady selling them said she had two seats on the row I wanted and then one at the back of the bus. I explained (like the 3rd time) that I was the only one travelling so single, scattered seats all through the buses wouldn’t profit me much.

When she offered me the same two seats on a row and then one of the seats in front with the driver, I quietly paid for the two I already had and went to sit down.

When it was our turn we boarded the bus, and I made sure to tell the older gentleman beside me I paid for the two seats because I wanted space, and then I started arranging my bag to fall asleep. A loud voice (coming from a very elderly lady) totally cussing out the driver delayed the sleep; apparently she’d seen him smoking something and asked him if he was the driver. He said no. Then he gets in the driver’s seat and she proceeds to rain curses that reminded me why I should never piss off an elder. She cursed him, his generation, on and on and on till people started begging her, that the guy she was heaping all these curses on was going to drive us (including her) to Asaba. Then she chilled.

Two minutes after the door was shut, THE SAME LADY said we should “commit the journey AND THE DRIVER into the hand of Master Jeses” I started laughing. Hilarity. The same driver you just cursed out? Ahn Ahn!

No jokes o, this old lady started singing and invited us ‘children of the Most High God’ to join her in worshipping the Lord. So from ‘in the morning’, to ‘all glory glory glory’, ‘we are gathering together’, brethren in Christ, we sang. I was so amused!

Songs and prayers over, the driver drove into a petrol station, where we spent the next 50 minutes waiting to buy fuel. I nearly lost my mind. How do you pack all of us into this kind of rubbish movement? What happened to getting fuel BEFORE picking us?

It gets worse. For the hour we spent on the queue, guess how much fuel we bought? N1870. The princely sum of one thousand, eight hundred and seventy naira, including the 10-litre gallon he said he would need (which of course we ended up not needing). Kai. I haven’t been that angry in a while.

Well, we set off, finally, and I can count at least 6 times we nearly hit another car, a pole, ran into the bush, flew over a speed breaker, or some other avoidable incident. At a point I wondered if it wasn’t the curses working a little quickly.

We got to the rest stop (I promise I don’t remember where it was again), and I went to pee. The young girl manning the place nearly followed me inside the cubicle in the name of calling me ‘ma’. When I was leaving I tipped her, and then had to ask her to stop following me. Even if I had a child and didn’t know, SMH.

Got back outside and the bus and driver had disappeared. Hian!! At first I thought I’d taken too long and the bus had left me till I saw a cluster of the other passengers talking at the top of their voices, asking for our driver dearest. I started laughing, and checking that I had WIFI so I could tweet and ask for anyone in the area to come get me. Moved closer to the passengers and someone said the driver went to fix his brakes, that they were bad.

What!!! Bad brakes and we’d come all this way? Sigh. The things we do beggar belief walai. And he couldn’t even tell anyone, it was the lady he bought water from who told us!!

He came back, didn’t apologize to anyone (matter of fact started raking that we should be lucky he noticed the brakes were dodgy). Of course that meant I didn’t sleep from there to Asaba, we were all driving with the guy.

God being most merciful, we got into Asaba ok. A lot later than we should have, but we got in ok. And Momma came to get me from the park, so I promptly forgot the driver. Till I was searching through my bad for aspirin (naughty headache that’s refused to go away) and I saw the ticket for that trip.

And I had a good laugh. And then I chronicled the trip for you.

PS – Written on the 23rd of April.

Do you know what the ‘veil of ignorance’ is?

It’s a theory advanced by Philosopher John Rawls that strives for fairness, justice, and absolute neutrality in governance.

Rawls ‘Theory of Justice’, now one of the primary texts in political philosophy says, “no one knows his place in society, his class, position or social status, nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like”.

Big grammar to the side, imagine you had to create laws for Nigeria, like create a new social contract we’d all have to abide by. Applying the theory of the veil of ignorance means that you would remove (or at least try to remove) all your personal prejudices – no knowledge of your sex, race, nationality, individual tastes and leanings – meaning that your laws/contract will be for a class of people who are all free, rational, and morally equal.

Ignorance of self, however difficult, is essential, and every good leader must remove himself from the equation when making laws, presiding over issues, or meting out punishments for wrongdoing otherwise our natural biases kick in, and we… make a mess of things.

This was one of the theories we had to get through in this workshop, and it made me think, a lot!

Away from the serious stuff, here are a few other things I learned on this trip. So, here, I don’t I opened doors more than thrice or so. There’s always someone (a guy) to open a door! And it wasn’t just workers at the hotel or anything, pretty much everywhere we went, guys just opened doors, and held them open! Was really nice to see. Chivalry isn’t dead now, is it?

Another thing? French. I mean it’s like duh, what else would be spoken in a francophone country but dang! There’s pretty much nothing else! I learned French in 2007 (actually have a diploma in the language), and I have a darling mother who is fluent (actually worked as a translator for a church a while ago) but somehow, English swallowed it up, and all my plans to take an intensive course have remained plans.

Anyway, the morning of our first session, I needed to iron a blouse so I rang reception and asked for laundry service. The voice on the other end said, “d’accord”, which is ‘okay’ and so I thought someone would show up. Twenty minutes later, I rang back and regurgitating all the French I remembered, said I needed to iron my blouse. Someone was at my door in two minutes!

Therefore, throughout the time I was there, it was French o. Like, my mom would have been proud, and thoroughly amused. I remember when she used to speak French to me; I’d reply in English and she’d say I wasn’t helping myself. Well!!

And then the guys fluent in both languages? Sexy. Seriously, I’m going to take a class (or classes), and bring myself up to speed biko. It’s a matter of national importance at this point!

How could I forget that the day we went to the market we had boiled corn and it was incredible? Oh so incredible that we had to take pictures of ourselves eating it in the streets!!

From left to right, there's Gambia, Liberia, South Africa, and Nigeria represented in the corn fest! Love it!

From left to right, there’s Gambia, Liberia, South Africa, and Nigeria represented in the corn fest! Love it!

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See my side eye with the corn… Lol…

What else? There are eggs in pretty much every meal, and on sale in every shop. For example, when we went to the little market there were guys selling airtime, and eggs. Who does that? Lol. But you have to give it to them with their foods though, top of the line! Go easy on their chili though, they don’t play!

Currency. The naira is of greater value than the CFA, and the best way for me to describe it was I withdrew 60, 000CFA using my GTB card, and just about N22, 000 was taken from my account (including charges). Of course a dollar is circa 500CFA.

What else? Ahh! So when I went for the Nigerian Leadership Initiative FLS (Future Leaders Seminar) at the end of May, my roomie said she lived in Abidjan! So, I got in touch, and she came with tow of her colleagues to take me out!

We ended up at a Reggae lounge in the heart of town… Great, live music, and incredible energy. It was a mix of ‘bougie’, expatriates, and locals, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Ivoirians party/hang out a bit differently like Nigerians, especially in their spending habits on outings. For instance, you can buy a half bottle of spirits, wines, or aperitifs. It was so nice to see, cause in Nigeria, what!! You must spend your life’s savings (and maybe even take a loan) to keep up with the Joneses when you hang out, and apparently in most places you can’t take out any bottles of their extremely over priced drinks! Thank you roomie for a great evening!

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Selfie this, selfie that!! I love this shirt! So much history, so much love in it!

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Roomie!!! I have to come back, and soon!!

And then, the morning we were going to leave, the lot of us on the first trip to the airport took tons of photos! Want to see? (not like you have a choice, lol)

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Ndole (green), chili (orangey), lamb, duck, rice (white)

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From left to right – Nigeria, Togo, Djibouti, Benin Republic, moi, and Senegal!

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Ah well, good things come to an end, and I’m writing this from the comfort and familiarity of my room, after eating lunch and playing with my darling nephew. I’m grateful as always for safe travels, for strength (trust me sometimes travelling isn’t the easiest thing), and of course, God’s great favor/grace that qualifies me for these trips/events.

Abidjan was real. Too real! Guess where I’m going next?

**wink**

PS: The links to the first three in this series are here, here, and here!

 

Day started ok; I woke up a bit earlier than others and got in some work out of the way (hello entrepreneur), and then I smiled through a very encouraging email from a former colleague. I also danced my way into 3000 steps before our first session. Can I just mention here that I’ve been on a fitness high since the 29th of April this year, and I can’t wait to show before and after photos of my work as soon as I hit my weight target? Whoop!

Back to the day, looking online there was news about Boko Haram continuing what seems to be a renewed onslaught in the North East. It seems to me like there has been one incident or the other since the 29th of May, like these insurgents are baiting, testing the President’s hand, want to see what he will do. I can’t wait for a reaction myself. One too many people have perished. One too many to be honest

Like I didn’t have enough trouble, my monthly visitor came through this morning, with the attendant cramps, irritation, turning me into the perfect grouch. Sigh.

We did something really fun in the session today though, simulated the postponement of the Nigerian elections. The class was divided into civil society, the press, party agents, and the general public, each group playing a different role. I was cast as Professor Jega, and had two guys as principal officers of the commission.

Before I even went through half of my arranged speech, my own ‘Orubebe’ surfaced, and didn’t stop disrupting proceedings periodically. Different questions kept on coming, I could barely take one before another came, my team was swamped, it was incredible. It was hilarious too, but very stressful, even though everyone knew we were just role-playing. It gave me brand new respect for Professor Jega and all the pressure he withstood during the elections. I also learned a few things from the feedback session afterwards

  1. Make more allies than enemies.
  2. Added to the three points from Mr Kaberuka, there’s a fourth leadership quality. And it is to let the people you’re leading know you care about them.
  3. Appearances in the face of challenges are everything. The more ruffled you appear, the easier it will be for people to have a go at you.
  4. Stay on the message. Focus. Pleasant or not, never forget why you’re in a place/doing something/passing a message.

We also talked about elections erroneously being referred to (and treated as) a periodically occurring event (like Christmas) instead of a never-ending process. Think about it for a second. It’s more process than an event right?

Let’s backtrack a bit and I’ll tell you about the gala held in our honor yesterday.

First we had Kie traditional dancers, a troupe that has been in existence for over 30 years and produced renowned artistes famous around the world. Their energy was everything! I made two videos. Sorry, three.

Then there was this young lady, beautiful singer with an incredibly powerful voice. Only snag was I couldn’t tell when she was singing in French, in English, or when she didn’t just know the lyrics to the songs!

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Then it was food time, and the only thing I got from the menu as it was read out to us was ‘ndole’ which is a Cameroonian dish that tastes like egusi with ground nuts without palm oil. It would have been lovely if it didn’t have so many onions! There was also something that looked like couscous but is made from cassava. Not the best for this #FitFam life… Sigh.

I ended up with a bit of duck, a bit of lamb, ndole, cured meats, rice, and some chili. Of course I ate the rice and little else.

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And then we danced!! Boy! I really enjoyed that! Music from across the region, in English and every other language, so much fun! I was sweating like I’d been in a steam bath by the time I got back to my room, but, I’d achieved over 10k steps so yippie!

Got into bed, and I was out like a light!

So, today was day one of the Regional Training Workshop in Civic Education on elections and governance organized by MINDS.

I started an abs challenge this morning, bestie and I; sides are burning seriously but I see cropped tops in my future so werk! As in near future!

I forgot to mention that yesterday; we went to a little market in the town. For me, it was absolutely necessary, for a number of reasons. One, I needed cash and two, I needed an adapter! Let’s start with needing money. Before I left Abuja, I thought the dollars I had in a bag were ‘reasonable’, it was the morning I was supposed to leave I realized it was like $150, and then lots of $1 bills! And of course there was too much going on with the yellow card I was looking for, etc. to hazard going to the bank to get some more.

Then I got to Addis and because they’ve buried my umbilical cord in the perfumes section of their Duty Free stores, I spent all but $9 there! Why I didn’t pay with my card I still cannot explain satisfactorily to myself, but bottom line is I got to Abidjan with the princely sum of $9! About the adapter, I have like three of the Cote D’Ivoire friendly ones back in Abuja, I remember reading the logistics note that specified what adapters to bring, but in my wisdom and uniqueness, I had to bring the one from South Africa! Sigh. I can’t be any more special.

By the way, I feel like ‘okrika’ (second hand clothing) is big business here; either that or this market had a healthy helping of sellers. we bought some delicious boiled corn too, and we took incredible pictures eating corn on the streets of Abidjan! Can’t find the photos now, still looking!

Here’s something else – the time difference yesterday was crazy sha! In Addis I was two hours behind Nigeria, in Cotonu it was one hour ahead of Addis, and here in Abidjan it’s one hour behind Nigeria. I’ve given up on my devices giving me different times and am now content with just asking when I need to know the time.

Back to today, their tea cups in this hotel are an aberration. Kai! What is this?

Look at the size of the tea cup compared to a tumbler or bottle... Sigh...

Look at the size of the tea-cup compared to a tumbler or bottle… Sigh…

And they’re not just for espressos or anything, this is what we had for tea as well! For people like me who love a nice brew of like three teas, it was just super frustrating. Arrgh!

On to happier things! We were told they had a surprise guest for us, and interestingly, first place my mind went to was that Nelson Mandela was coming through (he founded this), then I remembered he’d passed, and then I wasn’t really excited about whoever it was. Till the facilitator, Cecile (that’s a very nice name by the way) said we had to stand up when the person came in, she was really excited, etc.

Turned out our surprise guest was Mr Donald Kabureka, former Finance Minister in Rwanda and outgoing Africa Development Bank boss. He sat opposite us in a swivel chair (interesting point to note because as he answered questions he would sway from side to side, lol) and the question and answer session started.

Here are a few things he said

* Being young doesn’t confer on us any special legitimacy or entitlements but responsibilities based on the very things we use to feel entitled; age, strength, and numbers.

*Young people the world over have reversed John F. Kennedy’s saying – it is all about what the country/world can put into our hands rather than what we can do for our countries/the world.

*Technology means that whether it is a discussion about climate change, terrorism, agriculture, etc, young people no longer think in the context of their countries alone anymore. Thoughts and intending actions are global.

*Youth participation in politics must not necessarily be about electing/appointing young people into positions of power; there’s a lot more to it.

Interesting fact from the discussion about economies in Africa and leadership – 92% of Tunisians own their own homes. So, only 8% are renting. Incredible!!

Personal thoughts about the man? Obviously after 10 years of leading Africa’s premier bank and interacting/negotiating with Heads of States on a daily, you must have pretty much seen everything there is to see, right? Perhaps that was the reason for the hint of a little too much confidence he wore, I don’t know.

In answer to a question about ADB creating jobs for young Africans (I swear I cringed as this person was mouthing the very words), Mr Kabureka said, “jobs are not created by the ADB, or the EU, or any of those bodies. They are created by the public/private sector, with the government providing the enabling environment for those businesses to thrive.”

The 'Anglophone group' working on a class task... Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone represented!

The ‘Anglophone group’ working on a class task… Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone represented!

Then he talked about the Africa Guarantee Fund Bank which provides funding for entrepreneurs with better rates than regular banks. He also said the ADB had periodic grants people could access, details on their website.

Back to his thoughts on leadership, he said there were three qualities any leader had to have.

1. They must have abilities (not necessarily acquired through formal education, but an expandable mind is everything)

2. A set of values.

3. Moral courage to make ‘hard’ decisions.

Of course there was time to talk about his achievements as ADB boss in the past ten years :) and he mentioned the bank had spent $27bn in 10 years on infrastructure on the continent. This figure according to him is 40 times more than had been spent on infrastructure before his time.

Then he mentioned that in a meeting with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2005, Mr Blair described Africa as “the scar on the conscience of the world”.

In 2014 however, in another meeting, the same Blair said, Africa was “the most exciting continent in the world because of the opportunities available”.

K.

We took photos, Mr Kabureka left, and then it was time for tea, or lunch. Don’t really remember which. But I’m going for whatever it is, and I can’t write there!

PS: Come back for part three tomorrow.

 

Do you remember one of the songs Donkey in Shrek 1 sang? The one he was singing and when Shrek said not to, he asked if he could whistle, then hum?

If you didn’t see Shrek (why on earth), or you’ve forgotten, or you still can’t place which song I’m talking about, it’s ‘on the road again’… And it’s my special way of announcing that I’m on the road again! Not literally though, cos there are at least 3 flights on this trip.

I’m off to Abidjan to attend a workshop organized by the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) and because putting your trust in some carriers is akin only to fetching water in a basket, I’m flying Ethiopian Airlines. Yes that means another overnight stopover in Addis Ababa, and hopefully more pleasant tales than last time.

So, as always, we start with the night before, and I didn’t get home till a few minutes to midnight because I was chasing a client who was chasing his peers so they wouldn’t change their minds about things, and people.

Nice time to segue into the inauguration of Nigeria’s 8th National Assembly on the 9th of June and the almost magical happenings that heralded the emergence of the leaders of both the upper and lower chambers.

We start from Senate President, Bukola Saraki who went from not even being in the running one night to getting elected unopposed the next morning. Let’s not forget the mysterious meeting 51 of the senators supposed to vote went to attend (which didn’t hold & now no one knows who called it)…

Then we go to the lower chambers where Femi Gbajabiamila who was already receiving congratulatory messages (everyone was that sure) lost the Speakership to Yakubu Dogara. 189 votes to 174. So close, yet didn’t happen.

Ok, we’ve digressed enough. By 8.30am, I still wasn’t sure what I’d be taking with me, and then to compound issues I didn’t remember where I dropped my Yellow Card. Hian! I panicked, I kid you not. I was so worried!

Just when I was searching my mind for anyone who worked in the ministry of health, God had mercy on me and I remembered where I left it from my March Jo’Burg trip. Thank you Lord!

Rushed through my packing, shower, and breakfast, then it was off to the airport. Made good time, and checked in without any issues.

Really? No issues Fairy GodSister? Lol… Like that was possible! So, it’s interesting but it appears our airport officials don’t know which countries we need visas for or not. Here’s why: so one of them asked me where I was headed, and I told him Addis Ababa enroute Abidjan. Then, flipping through my passport he goes “where are the visas?” Truth? I’ve done the Addis layover a couple times so I know I don’t need a visa for that. Never been to Cote d’Ivoire though, and it just hit me then that I didn’t know.

Next thing the official says I won’t be able to fly, I don’t have the visa I need, etc. Again, inner panic, outward, ‘I’m not even going to act bothered’ look. Again, it occurred to me I could Google (had to be the voice of God rescuing his silly daughter) and so I did, confirmed I didn’t need one, and promptly shut the official up. *big, wide smile*

Permit a little digression please. There’s something about knowing our rights both as a Christian and people resident on this planet. Otherwise, we will miss out on/get robbed of/be denied so much!!

Ok, so we boarded and glory be to God, my entire row was empty! Yaaaaaass! So I ate, drank the only can of coke I’m allowed, and watched Taken 3, and the modern remake of Annie.

So Taken 3 was lovely (as always) but fingers crossed this is the last in the series biko. Except they want to become the next Empire, or Scandal, and just tell us what days it will air.

I loved Annie too, can’t wait to lay my hands on the soundtrack. Can’t wait!

Got into Addis Ababa ok, and it was off to Empire Addis, a fabulous hotel not too far from the airport. Took the stairs to and from my room on the 5th floor because #FitFam, and after a bit of dinner, it was trying to get my brain to shut down so I could sleep. That didn’t happen till 2am. Sigh.

Out of the hotel and back at the airport by 8am for the onward leg to Abidjan, which is like going from Abuja to Lagos, then heading to Kaduna. Yes. But no flight from Abuja.

Ahhh. My inner lioness escaped today inside the duty free store. Everyone was queuing to pay (Addis has amazing deals on fragrances) and then this guy bounces to the front of the line. The attendants start putting his things through so I ask if the rest of us had nothing else to do. Then he says, “don’t speak to me like that, you don’t know me”. Loooool… Let’s just say, he was pleading by the time I was done defining queues and how they help us maintain order in this world.

And then I boarded. And we took off. And seven hours later, we touched down in Abidjan, where I’ve met folks from The Gambia, Liberia, South Africa, Cameroon, etc. Promises to be an exciting 48 hours of brainstorming strategies around civic engagement, participation in the electoral process, and citizens taking charge of governance. Can’t wait!

Now this was one interview that I enjoyed, but took the longest time to sort out! And it’s my fault… The process of getting an entrepreneur, scheduling and having the interview, and then writing up can be a lot but nope, not making excuses. Just trying to get you to temper justice with understanding!

Right! We’re bringing this interview right after the one with the King of Interns with a personal friend and all-round gorgeous lady, Adetola Taylor. Now Detola is a mom, a Dentist ( the prettier ones are usually put in Dentistry she says *wink*) who graduated from the University of Lagos and has a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Warwick.

She’s also the brain behind MsNella products. The range currently features hair and body butters made from a Shea butter base.

Let’s get into it already!

FGS: Let’s start with the number 3 – if you were told everything you had would be taken from you and you could only keep three things, what would they be?
DETOLA: Hmm, do these three things include people or just inanimate objects?
FGS: Any three… you decide if you want to mix them or not!
DETOLA: My wedding rings, my family, my memory
DETOLA: Phew! Never had to answer that question before. Definitely a difficult one.
FGS: Love your answer! Let’s talk a bit about your work – how does a doctor dabble into hair and body butters?
DETOLA: Haha! I’ve always been fashionable I guess. I repressed it cause I thought I needed to be taken seriously. And spending all that time in medical school never really leaves room for much else.
DETOLA: I stumbled on the hair butter by accident. I had just had a baby and while I have been blessed with good hair all my life, I realised I was losing hair because the pregnancy hormones were slowly leaving my body. My hair was coming out in tufts. So I decided to give my hair a breather from relaxers (I usually used to apply relaxers twice a year prior to baby)
DETOLA: While on the break from relaxers, I started researching into products that would help me restore my hair and nurse it back if you will, to former status and that’s how the hair butter came to be.

Detola 1

FGS: You must have hit gold with your research because you now produce the hair butter and distribute across continents! How easy was it going commercial?
DETOLA: Not very easy, because now that I am no longer selling to friends and family I have to put systems in place.
DETOLA: I now have to register the business, get a NAFDAC number and think about an advertising budget and distribution.

FGS: Do you have that locked down now? Can I apply to join your sales team?
DETOLA: Ha ha! I wouldn’t say I do. You see money answereth all things. I am working on raising capital to execute it all though.

FGS: How does your family feel about their doctor mom/wife/daughter’s side hustle?
DETOLA: Very supportive (well except my dad who doesn’t know that I have a beauty side hustle). In actual fact, they believe producing these products are way better suited to me than being a doctor. Oops!
FGS: Two things that make you keep on whenever you feel like giving up?
DETOLA: 1. Testimonials from customers. It humbles me to have a product that someone actually wants. 2. My husband. His total belief in this business leaves me no room to throw a pity party.
FGS: How do you juggle the home, school, and your business?
DETOLA: Hmmm!
DETOLA: Honestly? I don’t know
DETOLA: Sometimes I think I’m mad
DETOLA: Ha ha. My friends have called me mad
DETOLA: But I grew up tough and I think that has helped shape my perspective of life. Someone out there is doing this and has not died so why can’t I?

Detola 2
FGS: Lol… What would you tell a young potential entrepreneur to watch out for?
DETOLA: Hmmm… Amass a war chest.
DETOLA: I’m no entrepreneur honestly. I just found a business doing stuff I like. Hard-core entrepreneurs go all out. I just believe I have been lucky and even I don’t believe in luck :)
FGS: But surely you have done a few things right to be where you are today…
DETOLA: I must have ☺. Knowledge is not overrated. If you’re going to do something, know it in and out. If there is a part of your business you believe you will need help with, get the best help you can find. I am totally poor when it comes to doing the books but I get help with these things.

FGS: And I have to ask, how do you source your ingredients? Locally (Nigerian) or from international locations?
DETOLA: Since I’m currently in the UK, I source from here. Back when I was in Nigeria, I used Nigerian sources. Either way, I find the cheaper source and keep my products affordable.

Because I was rounding up my masters, I put the business on hold. Attending a cosmetics course in the summer and relaunching with new packages. Keep an eye out!
FGS: Ok. Finally, one thing you’ve done that you’d do again, again, and again…
DETOLA: Not see the whole staircase but take the first step.
FGS : That’s it!
FGS : You’re amazing Detola. Thank you!
DETOLA: No, thank you! Thank you!!

And that's my gorgeous friend and brain behind Ms Nella, Detola!  PS: Her efo riro is not even of this world! Dang!

And that’s my gorgeous friend and brain behind Ms Nella, Detola!
PS: Her efo riro is not even of this world! Dang!

All MsNella products can be purchased from the online store msnella.me or physically from SocialLagos-94 Awolowo road Ikoyi. You can also find MsNella products on Konga.

No, this isn’t a ‘Dear President-elect letter’; trust me I am as exhausted with them as the next man. I am not exhausted with the trekking (and cycling, and swimming, etc.) though, young men and women traversing between states on in various ways in honor of their preferred leader, whether outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan or incoming Muhammadu Buhari. I worry about them, exposing themselves to the elements, the very real security implications of walking our highways, the health implications ( I don’t want to bet but I would be very surprised if any of the trekkers did any form of practice – in the way athletes do – before pounding the pavement). I wonder about hygiene (showers, potty time), I wonder about food and drink and their safety/security (I mentioned this again on purpose), but no, I’m not exhausted with it. I salute their courage in fact.

This is a ‘Dear Nigerians’ letter; one that we should all write ourselves, and our parents, and our children, and our friends and our enemies. It’s a letter to the man selling beef in the market, a letter to the female executive, and a letter to the chairman of a conglomerate.

The resounding rhetoric is we (or the people who voted/rigged for either party) used the ballot to demand better than what we’ve got currently, to unseat an incumbent; that all will be well because we have a new president whose unique selling point is an abhorrence for corruption. He will make everything ok. Perfect. People are starting to warn others that “Buhari is coming, better behave”, and the words ‘Buhari’ and ‘change’ are literally interchangeable. Sweet.

Who will this Messiah be working with however? The local government chairman who caters to his community in ABC state from the Federal Capital Territory, the man in charge of electricity for a region who owns controlling shares in a generator company; the woman who redirects money meant for youth corps members to her private account, the one who colludes with the bank to withhold teachers salaries for months on end so there is interest to share.

Our Mr. Incorruptible will be working alongside young people who think that a few important names in their phones or cheesy photos with high-profile people make them invincible, with people who think full spellings of the simplest words are too much work. He will work with law enforcement who are so gifted they can tell which drivers will give them ‘something for the weekend’ from a mile off, with religious leaders whose words of prophecy are dictated/inspired by the gift offered, with Nigerians who have been so deprived everyone sets out every morning determined to get one better over the next man.

Guess what? In four years we will be back here. In this place of frustration, of pain, hunger, of extreme queues for fuel and no electricity (at the time of writing this there hasn’t been power in my area for SIX days), of dwindling oil prices that determine the mood of our economy because fancy words and presentations and half term/end of year reports aside, we’re living off sod else.

We will be even more broken, and disappointed, and braying for this Messiah’s head, when we should be tightening the noose around ours for not being the citizens we elected in our President. We would be broken because the ‘office of the citizen’ we created/became aware of was more for the optics than an actual reorientation of our minds and consequently, our actions.re

This word ‘change’?

Starts from you and I. As we begin this journey today as a country to where we want/dream/hope to be, it has to start, and end with us.

Aristotle in discussing the three types of people who exist said “the common run of people betray utter slavishness in their preference for a life suitable to cattle…” To put that very simply, if we do not elevate our existence and actions from pleasing self alone to honor derivative from the happiness/growth/development of others, Nigeria will fail. Buhari will try, but he will fail.

Final word? Congratulations, fellow citizens of Nigeria on our election into the house of change. Let’s be guided accordingly, and God bless Nigeria.

I am an associate member of the Royal Commonwealth Society, have been for just under a year now. It is such an honor and a privilege to belong/be inducted into/volunteer with/ be called to be part of these prestigious organizations and I keep praying that I live up to the expectations my membership of these bodies bring.

So, I was informed by the headquarters that there was a commemorative lecture organized by the Nigerian arm of the Society (interesting because I didn’t know there was one) and I said I would attend.

Incidentally it was to hold on my birthday so I hoped it would be worth my while. The event slated for 10.30am eventually started an hour later but my minor upset was wiped away with the rendition of the national anthem. I don’t know about you but there is such a joy/deep-seated pride I feel whenever I hear/sing the national anthem. Is it the same for you? Sometimes it leaves me teary-eyed, other times I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have been born Nigerian (warts and all), and then I get teary-eyed again. Lol. My prayer everyday for this country is that our dark nights turn into truly sunny mornings. In Jesus name, amen.

Back to the event, I won’t speak about the parts of the events before the keynote address/lecture because Momma said to shush if it won’t be nice. Can I just say though that we really need to agree on the age for youth in this country? I don’t see how people who can casually have drinks with my dad and uncles are classed as youth or leaders of youth.

The theme of the event was ‘Democracy and good governance’ and the rest of this post is dedicated to snippets from the guest lecture delivered by first chaplain to the State House, Rev. Prof. Amb. Yusufu Ameh Obaje.

Fun fact about the former chaplain: the entire time he served under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he refused a salary the entire time he was there.

Fun fact 2: He wants to be governor of Kogi; matter of fact it is a calling from God for him.

*Nigeria has left the practice of democracy and has been practicing a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich for a while now.

Obstacles to good governance include:

  1. Spiritual blindness: there can’t be good governance if the leaders do not pay sincere attention to their spirituality, denying them any cognizance of the relationship between God and man, and man and man.
  2. The tripartite evil of wickedness, poverty, and ignorance. The former chaplain told the story of some young men he saw in 1982 in Ilorin, Kwara state breaking the pavement because their money fell inside. How much? What is this sum that will make you destroy infrastructure provided by the government for your use/enjoyment? N50.

He also talked about this evil we perpetuate when we drive – someone is driving slowly (most likely on the speed lane) and then when you try to overtake them and they can see an oncoming vehicle, they start to speed. Has it happened to you before? Have you done it to someone before?

  1. Misplaced priorities. Nigeria has no national ideology or strategic objective. What is that one thing that makes us inspired, makes us dream, or makes us do the things we do, not for self, but for the development of our country? Nothing.

In 1946, the North, West, and the East merged with the ideologies that political power, education, and material wealth (respectively) was the key to power/domination/all things. How many coups and elections after, the three zones still think the same way, and so we are where we are.

The professor, who has over 50 publications to his name also talked about the five things humans originally have/had no control over – gender, place of birth, ethnicity, complexion, and religion. Why then discriminate and fight with the next man over things you had no control over at birth?

Of course advancements in science can tweak two on this list… lol.

He rounded up with a bit of talk about what good governance looks/feels like, saying that the fear of God at the center of leadership gives it all the weight/responsibility it should carry.

Corruption first takes root and is bred in the mind before it manifests as viament, theft, misappropriation, etc. If a leader is strong in mind, it will be next to impossible to get him to soil his hands.

He ended by saying religion and politics are two sides of the same coin; religion being the spirit of politics, while politics is the body of religion; and that regardless of how we try, we cannot separate the two.

I really enjoyed listening to the Professor, especially since he chided the organizers for making noise outside the hall and then they would make the same mistakes the crop of rulers we have now are making/have made because they couldn’t suspend their discussions to listen to a lecture they organized! Choi!

Anyway, that was my morning. I left immediately he was done, and the rest of my birthday story is here.

Greetings from my lodgings in Earls Court, where I am holed up for a few days, trying to collect my thoughts, sleep uninterrupted (by my thoughts) for a few days, and just breathe air that isn’t disturbed by fuel scarcity, PHCN, or expensive data.

I went to church on Sunday, and guess who the Minister for the day was? Pastor Brian Houston! The man himself! No way! I was ecstatic! The title of his message is the title of this post (centered on temptation), and I hope it brings hope, light, and encouragement to you like it did for me!

James 1: 12-15 (and we read The Message version)

12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

13-15 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.

There is no shortage of ways we can or are tempted for the sole reason that we are human. For every temptation, there is a pain/pleasure route that presents as options and determines if we have pleasure or pain at the end.

1 John 2: 16

Hebrews 4:5

12 things about temptation

  1. Temptation is a control freak and a manipulator. Romans 7: 18 – 20
  2. Temptation targets our weaknesses and our most vulnerable seasons
  3. Temptation reasons like a seasoned academic or an articulate debater. That’s why there will always be a ‘justification’ for sin. 2 Corinthians 3. Our thoughts lead to Imaginations, which lead to High things (or arguments in favor of the sin) which lead to it taking a Stronghold.
  4. Temptation rationalizes the irrational and defends the indefensible
  5. Temptation’s seduction is as masterful as its abandonment is stunning.
  6. Temptation promises like a friend and disappoints like an enemy.
  7. It is overwhelmingly self-indulgent and has no regard/thought for the people you love and respect
  8. Temptation is a mocker – mocking God’s plans and desires for us
  9. Temptation will inevitably come round for another round
  • Temptation magnifies the immediate and clouds the permanent or the eternal.
  • Temptation blinds you to wisdom and opens us up to folly. Proverbs chapters 1 through 9.

James 1:5

Here’s the thing though – we cannot beat temptation through fear but by the love of Christ. Understanding God’s love for us and His sacrifice on our behalf and living our lives to show Him our love is a great tool to triumph over temptations.

1 John 5:2

Temptations are rooted in our desires or passions but the truth is not all desires/passions are bad. So how about not killing them but repurposing/refocusing them? How about consciously focusing on God and things of God? There won’t be much room for anything else.

So, a few things

  1. Don’t go there in your mind.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of our friends on us – sometimes we need to cut some people out of our lives because they help create a conducive environment for sin to thrive.

I was thoroughly blessed by that word, and it is my hope that this has encouraged you. Another thing during the service that touched me was the encouragement we got before we gave our offerings and I will attempt to share that with you.

The pastor read from Luke 15 (the story of the prodigal son) and talked through how sometimes it is our sacrifices in church that pave the way for others. So, the Prodigal Son had stuff to come back to because others continuously labored. So, when next you’re putting an offering in church, cleaning, or serving in some unit or the other, have it at the back of your mind that your service is preparing the way for someone else to come to Jesus.

 

Have a fabulous rest of the week (fuel, electricity scarcity notwithstanding)!

Light, love, and God’s many blessings!

*Written on the 10th of May.

It’s been a while since we had an interview with an entrepreneur and so it is with great pride and excitement that I introduce ‘Kayode Ajayi-Smith! He is a Social Entrepreneur with over 7 years cognitive experience in the third sector; and  currently leads a youth-led Non-Governmental Organization called Joint Initiative for Development (JID), famous for its Internship Connect Programme. So far, they’ve placed over 100 graduates on internships in Lagos and Abuja and in organizations like Dafinone Consulting, SHI, NOI Polls, CSR-In-Action, Goge Africa, and a host of other reputable organizations.

FGS: Hi Kayode! Very simply, the 3, 2, 1 series talks to entrepreneurs to capture the real life situations/experience of starting/building a business. The aim is not only to showcase their work but also to see that the next young person is spared the errors these entrepreneurs made because they now know how to get around them.

Kayode:  okay, let’s do it!

FGS:  Awesome… First off, what are three things you are most afraid of?

Kayode:  Number 1 would be not fulfilling my purpose according to God’s plan, 2 would be being a bad influence to the younger generation, and third would be marrying a wrong wife and partner but I am sure that has been taken care of.

FGS:  Ok, just to jump on your third point, are you already married or you’ve popped the question somewhere?

Kayode:  Yes I have popped the question; we’ll send invitations soon.

FGS:  Whoop! Congratulations!

Kayode:  Thanks

FGS:  Now, tell us about yourself, what gets you out of bed every morning?

Kayode:  I would say, it’s the need to make our communities a better place

I know I am engaged in other activities that all lead to that same goal of making our communities a better place. I guess that was why I chose to follow a career in the Third Sector (Non-Profits).

FGS:  And are you happy here in the Third Sector?

Kayode:  I am but it can be better.

FGS:  How?

Kayode:  Well, I think the sector needs a lot of accountability and legitimization; accounting and making the credibility of what we say we do visible. We also need to think sustainability especially in terms of ensuring that funding does not only come from donor sources but also from sustainable initiatives driven by collaborations with the organized private sector.

FGS:  What led you to grooming interns? Tell us about Joint Initiative for Development…

Kayode:  Okay, Joint Initiative for Development is a Youth-led Non-Profit Organization whose key goal is to increase citizens’ participation in the development of their communities. We are also keen on ensuring that more young people are involved in the development of their communities thus the reason the organization is led by young people between the ages of 18 and 35 years old. We have reached over 3,000 young people through our programmes, supported over 300 MSMEs and mobilized over 10 million Naira worth of donations to public schools.

 Kayode Ajayi-Smith

FGS:  How old is this business?

Kayode:  4years

FGS:  Wow! That’s a while… How many interns have passed through your organization?

Kayode:  The Internship Connect programme started a little over 2years ago. We commenced with a Pilot called Volunteer Training Scheme where we placed 27 interns in Abuja and scaled up into a full social business in August 2013. Today we have almost 150 interns placed in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.

FGS:  What are two things that would make you change careers in a heartbeat?

Kayode:  God and the sustenance of my family.

FGS:  Ok. Back to the internship connect. What challenges have you faced with it?

Kayode:  Hmm, the recipients, and funding. By recipients I meant unemployed graduates. You see, our motive for starting the Internship Connect programme came from the rising unemployment figure in the country with youths being the worst hit. Private organizations’ constant lamentation of the poor quality of graduates from our tertiary institutions led us to find out what they really want and that helped us to develop our 2-day Employability and Competency skill training which helps unemployed graduates understand what the 21st century workplace requires.

I however think there’s a huge need to change the orientation of our youths and that of their parents.

FGS:  Hmmm. Explain please?

Kayode:  Okay, a lot of our graduates have a funny get-rich-quick or small work-huge-pay mind-set. This mentality has played out in all our interactions. We also observed that a lot of our young graduates are very lazy

FGS:  Tell me about that!

Kayode:  I will actually tell you. We started with collecting CVs from interns to submit to organizations; we observed that a lot of our graduates do not know how to prepare CVs. 8 out of 10 CV’s were rejected on average so we decided to organize the competency training.

After soliciting funds from individuals to cover the cost of the training so that lots of young people can benefit from it, they were surprisingly lackadaisical towards it! Some of them arrived 2 hours into the training

Sometimes, the facilitators (who work for other organizations and are around because we pleaded with them to give hours of their time) would have to wait for them to arrive.

We decided to charge a fee for the training sessions, and to our surprise (again) they started showing up, and on time too.

FGS:  Ahh! So you’ve learned something!

Kayode:  I must say that we have had quite a number of very good interns but we have had a lot of very terrible ones too. We once had an intern who we called a day to the interview (because the host organizations determine when and where interviews take place) and she said she couldn’t attend simply because we can’t give her just a day’s notice. Even when we informed her that it was at the employers’ request, she declined in an impolite manner and ended the conversation.

FGS:  Oh wow. Since you’re actively engaged with young people seeking employment, what is one thing you believe they should know/do/be?

Kayode:  I think for young unemployed graduates, the one thing they should know is, Service comes first if you must penetrate any system. I am and I still am, a product of service.

FGS:  That’s very nice

Kayode:  when I graduated I went to work for free and I walked my way into full-time employment. I have stories of several young people around the world and it ended the same way and even sometimes better. When you don’t have a job, I think it is best to be prepared to go work for free. It not only helps you to sharpen your skills but also helps you acquire new ones. It also helps you build a huge professional network, one that you will not get seating at home.

FGS:  Thank you very much Kayode for taking the time to chat with me today, for all the insights you’ve shared. Most grateful!

Kayode:  I was glad I could share. Thank you.

Kayode

 

Find more information about JID and internship connect here: http://www.ji4d.org/index.php/about-us and http://www.internshipconnect.net/whatwedo.html