Posts Tagged ‘Boko Haram’

This is the second instalment of my Maiduguri trip tale. MTT. Sounds nice. Dope abbreviation. Sounds like something serious. This is serious biko. As serious as serious can get. But I digress. Part one is here. Let’s get on with it.

So! One of the first things that hit you once the announcement about the descent into Maiduguri is made and you look out the window might be that there is the Maiduguri we all hear of and the Maiduguri you meet (in person). Perfect opposition, especially if you’re besotted with foreign media reports.

It’s the red roofs and cream-colored buildings, the wide expanse of uninhabited land; it is the land itself. Green and luscious one minute, dry and scorched the next. This contrast presents itself throughout the duration of this trip exaggerated many times over by the insurgency.

Immediate thoughts on sights at the airport?

  1. Maiduguri international airport, like several international airports in Nigeria, is, unfortunately, international only in name. The absence of an arrival lounge reduced hopes for a carousel or conveyor belt to mischievous thinking. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for our bags, and it was off to our lodgings in a convoy dotted with an armed security truck in the front and at the rear.
  2. Decrepit buildings, chipped away at some corners, time, negligence, and incompetence ensuring that even the lettering on the building announcing the airport was barely visible. I confirmed the airport had never been attacked. What was the excuse for this eyesore then?

The second thing I noticed (or that hit me) was the heat. Dry, prickly heat, and yours truly was wrapped in a jalabia and head scarf. I genuinely thought I was going to have heat stroke.

So, we got into our cars and drove in a convoy to our lodgings, a place called Lake Lale Guest Inn. Here’s an idea of the sight I became accustomed to for the rest of the trip.

military

The first room I was given had bad locks and because I didn’t want any how stories starting from “while she was sleeping…” I asked and was given another room which was cleaned while I was there. Tut tut tut.

We were to have a team debrief at 8:30 pm. I had been warned that the restaurant was a bit slow but I forgot meaning that the chicken and chips I ordered weren’t ready before our meeting. By the time the meeting was done, I got back to my room and asked for the food. It was brought and the rest I captured on twitter.

borno-2016

Anyway, I ate it like that, spoke to Tata and my folks, and slept off, grateful for safety, a roof over my head, and the privilege to be on the delegation to a place I had only heard about. A few mosquitoes, but nothing the airconditioning wouldn’t handle. Or so I thought.

The evening and the morning, the first day. Tomorrow? Bama.

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I was born in Kano, and raised (amongst other cities in Nigeria) in Kaduna and in Abuja. My mother says we spoke Hausa fluently at some point, and having lived in some western cities at some other times, we spoke Yoruba too. Matter of fact I vividly remember acting in Yoruba plays in primary school and coming top of the class in Yoruba. My parents are (still) fluent in three Nigerian languages, while I currently struggle with all three. Life isn’t fair.

Like every good student, I know the states and capitals and having the privilege growing up in at least thirteen locations in Nigeria cutting across most of the geopolitical zones, I have a fairly intimate understanding how people in these parts behave. Except the North Eastern part of Nigeria though – Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba, Borno, and Gombe. My parents were never transferred there, and my travels as an adult never ventured there either.

From 2009, we heard bits of the North being famous for things other than agriculture, vehicles, fabric, or even cattle. Religious extremism (in various parts of the country), like a pot silently boiling over, peaked. Not the brand Kano, Kaduna, Benue, Nassarawa, and even Plateau had seen, a new wave challenging the tenets of Islam and more importantly, condemning everything Western, especially education. Say hello to Boko Haram.

With this sect came a wave of devastation and destruction I dare say Nigeria had not seen before, ravaging whole states, especially Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa.

Fast forward to 2016, my work with a client focused on the reconstruction of the devastated areas, and therefore an assessment trip to Borno.

At first, I had said no as the trip coincided with another trip I was to make outside Nigeria. Fluctuating forex policies/restrictions, an agent with an interesting attitude, and a lot of back and forth communication after, it was obvious to me I wouldn’t make my flight date, at least not without spending approximately #150,000 more than the ridiculous amount I had already spent. I decided I couldn’t afford it, retrieved what I had already paid, and said yes to Borno. Note that three months after I made that trip out of Nigeria at about half the cost of the original ticket I initially turned down.

The next few pieces chronicle the trip with all the accompanying visuals; I hope it comes just as alive for you as it was for me.

DAY ONE: The Trip.

We start as always, with movement. I woke up on Thursday morning, first off smarting that I didn’t wake up in Frankfort connecting to Houston and then suddenly afraid of what Borno might have in store. I had read the briefing notes and known we would be going to Maiduguri and then to Bama, using the same route the UNICEF workers had been ambushed on a few weeks prior. Apparently, we were scheduled to visit twice: cue apprehension.

I cleared my movement with my family (sans my mum, lol),  and my dad’s excitement helped me feel a lot more positive about the trip. And then there was the dash to the market to get a jalabiya (outer, over-all type garment commonly worn in the North) and a veil. The plan was to blend in as much as I could.

Quick stop at TATA’s for Brunch, some goofiness and emergency Hausa lessons(lol) and it was off to the airport to catch 1.30pm flight which didn’t leave till 3pm. We will skip that point and talk about my intense feeling of nakedness when I met the rest of the team.

I had assumed (erroneously of course) that I only needed to don my extras on the way to Bama. The other females (mostly northerners) on the team, however, were dressed to the neck with veils, hijabs etc. – one person was even wearing socks. Yours truly was blissfully sporting my favourite pair of jeans, my sister’s pink and grey tee, and my favourite slippers. Guess who had to dig through her checked in luggage, retrieve her jalabiya and veil and become culture/religion complaint before we touched down in Maiduguri? Yup! Me!

As we took off I prayed a few prayers, especially for safety, strength (both physically and mentally), and the presence of mind to be able to get solid work done/think through creative solutions for my clients. I wanted to have an interesting tip too, something to write about.  And then I prayed for safety just a bit more.

One hour five minutes later, we touched down , Maiduguri International Airport. Nothing remotely international (or even national) about it, but we’ll discuss this and more tomorrow morning when the next instalment is up. Tomorrow.

Awwww, I really like Tony! I remember meeting him at church once (House on The Rock The Refuge), but I don’t remember if that was the first time we met or if we’d met before. I also know he called me on my birthday this year, whoop! And he has a brother in the Army, who is on the frontlines of this fight against Boko Haram. Kai, I don’t know if I would be able to sleep at night ever if my brother was in the Army… then if he was in the Army and actually fighting! My poor heart. I’m just grateful his brother is fine, and ask that we all keep him in our prayers please?

Tony’s entry is lovely, really lovely, and then it’s so powerful, like punchline after punchline! It resonates with me in a lot of ways and encourages me in a lot of ways, and I know it will do just that for you too.

My name is Tony Atambi. I’m Nigerian (proudly so). I’m a lawyer who currently lives and works in Abuja; also a Christian gentleman.

As with every other person, at the beginning of the year 2015, I was all pumped up and ready to go. Felt like new vistas had been opened up to me and I was just going to cruise through. You know that feeling I speak about.

Errrm…Let’s just say as the year went on, motivation waned far too many times, I felt like I was stuck in a rut far too many times, not knowing with the slightest precision what to do next with my life. And so there were quite a number of times where, as a result of the worry arising from life not being in motion, I slid into depression.

Flowing from the above is the first major lesson I learnt in 2015;

  • Motion doesn’t equate progress. If you have ever tied motion (being up and about for up and about sake) with progress, you might wanna discard that thought. It is not valid. Being busy is simply what it is – Busy. Busy doesn’t necessarily mean progress. The guy trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean is busy but he will never make any progress.

On closer examination of my thoughts, I realized that I just wanted to be busy, regardless of whether it was productive or not. It pays sometimes to take a break and ask if you’re just running around or getting productive.

  • I learnt that my fears are not necessarily valid. In fact, I dare say fears are not valid. The fact that you fear something doesn’t confer it with the capacity to happen. There is no truth about fear. You fear what may or could happen. Yet it is never certain. So I find that sometimes, the things we fear are things we should really confront.

I’m immediately reminded of my brother who is fighting the insurgents in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. I used to be so afraid for his life, especially when we are inundated daily with stories of soldiers who are either missing or dead. But I realized that each time I call him, he’s always available to take my calls. So the fact that I feared that something could happen to him doesn’t mean it did happen. Discard your fears. They are not valid.

Plus, nobody became a great success because they feared, anyway.

  • Most importantly, I learnt to be thankful to The One who has the master plan and to trust in that master plan. I’m a firm believer in the plan that God has for our lives. I didn’t see clearly, everything He has planned out. But this year, I took my trust in God a notch higher.

There are an array of things I’m grateful for. But here are a few.

  • Peace of mind. The outgoing year brought along a few storms but in the midst of it all, I had the peace that could only have come from a supernatural place. God, actually. And so even when it seemed like the world was going to come crashing down on me, peace flooded my heart like a river.
  • I’m grateful for the beauty of falling in love (yeah, this is my emotional side) and being loved in return. 2015 brought along to me, a certain amazing lady and Lord knows, I’m in love. Baby, if you can see this, you know I love you to tiny little bits.
  • I’m grateful for second chances to start again. God has given me far too many of them. I wouldn’t give me that much grace if I was God. LOL.
  • I’m grateful for the grace to always speak a word in season that blesses someone. Every now and then, I put out tweets that serve to minister to and encourage people. I get very positive feedback all the time. In my little corner, God has used me to bring His word to people. He takes all the glory.

One thing I’d undo in 2015 is stalling the execution of a few plans. But hey…2016 is right around the corner and I hope to reach for higher accomplishments. We can now clink glasses and drink to an even more amazing 2016!

tony atambi

What a gentleman! Unfortunately ladies, this one here’s taken! Here’s to an amazing 2016 Tony, please invite us to eat jollof rice next year o, God bless you!

When did I even meet Azeenarh? I don’t remember to be honest. What do I remember about her though? Frank conversations, laughter, real talk, dinners at her place (babes remember the ‘after birthday party’ you threw for me this year with lots of cake)? @Xeenarh’s a real person; what you see is what you get. No airs, no high shoulders, nothing. One way we’re alike? She loves to travel! Dang! Like, you can grab a bite with Azeenarh today, and tomorrow you call to pick up, I don’t know, a pencil you forgot in her bag and she says she’s just touched down in some European country! Girl can move! 

We did some work together last year, first time I’d ever done that so I was really excited – it was a Book Sprint for Heinrich Boll, and I chronicled the 7 days we were holed up in a house in Maitama here https://fairygodsister.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/13th-all-in-a-days-work-the-day-after-the-day-after/.

So, give it up for my gorgeous, skinny (yes I’m beefing) friend, Azeenarh!

I’m Azeenarh Mohammed, Nigerian, resident in airports and tech conferences, happily unemployed.

The first thing I am grateful for is that 2015 is ending. Yeah, I said it! Despite recording a couple of good things (Nigeria eradicating polio, a peaceful democratic transition, passage of Violence Against Persons Act) the year was also all round shitty. Boko Haram continued to wreak havoc in the land, we passed a very vague and harmful Cyber Crime Prohibition Act which is being used to silence bloggers and journalists, and we switched a clueless government for another one that seems just as insensitive. But let me step away from that (deep breath) and focus on some not so bad stuff…

One thing I learned this year; it is a gift to be able to say I love you. To ourselves, to our parents, to our family, our friends, our partners and even many other people in our lives. So many people go through life not hearing these words said to them and I feel this is one of the tragedies of our times. One thing we can never do too much of is say and show people how much we love them. Life is too short to feel awkward. So go ahead, look at yourself in the mirror and gift yourself the words; I love you. Don’t be shy to tell your parents, your friends, your personal persons, your baby sister, how much they mean to you and how grateful you are that they are still here with you. Then before ringing off, tell them you love them. I promise it gets easier after the third time 🙂

The one thing I would undo in 2015 is everything that happened on 19th January 2015. I wish I had called my sister to tell her I loved her. I wish I had called her to check on her. I wish I had taught her how to use Circle of 6. I wish I had been more present in her life. I wish I knew more about her last moments. I wish I could have hugged her. I wish I could turn back the hands of time. I wish. I wish. I wish…

But sadly, life doesn’t work that way.

Things I would do all over again; quit my job. We are brought up to ‘go to school, get a degree, find a partner, find a job, settle down and live happily ever after’. This puts so much pressure on individuals that we never really get a chance to find ourselves and follow our passions. If there is a gift I could give to everyone, it would be 1 year of paid unemployment. So we can all learn to breathe deeply, live simply, listen/sleep consistently, find/confirm our true calling and most importantly, center ourselves. But since I cannot gift you that, I encourage you to save hard so that you would be able to take anything from six months to 1 year off work and life. We need to be able to pause, to heal, to grow, to marinate in ourselves and our emotions.

I wish that the gains humanity recorded in 2015 are surpassed, that we start to look past our perceived differences and learn to live together in peace. I hope that we learn to dream, to actualize those dreams, and to allow others the freedom to dream big and actualise their dreams. I desire joy, happiness, good health and contentment for myself and my loved ones. And I wish the same for all of you too! See you in 2016.

Love, @xeenarh.

I love you baby girl, and again I’m truly, really sorry about January. Here’s to a 2016 without any bad news or evil occurrence, full of God’s great joy, peace, and very many blessings!

I’ve known Andy for just under nine years now, and we’ve gone from being acquaintances to business partners, to great friends. Whether it’s sitting on the road in Wales waiting for pizza to be delivered, or brainstorming for hours on end for clients, or agreeing to pray about something that’s proving difficult, Andy is the kind of friend you want in your corner.

He’s quiet, is a good listener, has learnt to forgive (thank you Jesus), and is one of the most versatile entrepreneurs I’ve met. And I’m happy he’s my friend.

It isn’t necessarily foolish to make a mistake twice you know? It could also be that risk taking sometimes becomes addictive. Not the bungee jumping type, but the type when you decide to stay on a job for XYZ period then up and leave because you know you have paid your dues… This was me in 2013, that was me in 2015 and hey, I love being able to make decisions without feeling I will die if things change.

I left a steady 8am -5:30pm job as a Chief Technology Officer in an ePayment and IT solutions firm exactly two years after leaving the role of a Senior Cyber Threat Analyst in the UK. For most people I seemed crazy, to others, unserious. What was the next plan? Well, the next plan had started almost ten years ago and kept me as busy as all my other steady jobs did, surprisingly that even paid better. Eight months later, I wake up every day filled with the peace of mind knowing that the hustle is up to me; I broke free of the chains called corporate slavery and went full-time into being an entrepreneur and an innovator which is what I have always been passionate about. I actually started a pre-book taxi service which has in turn created several employment opportunities for some young Nigerians.

I am thankful for so many things, knowing that I can survive through the month without salary coming from one source has driven me to do better and has even helped me prioritize and have peace of mind. I got closer to God and learnt the real art of giving. I did that for a bit and realized that when we give expecting to receive, we actually do receive but hardly ever in the way we expected. The gift of life, health, family and little things are the rewards which can hardly been quantified. The best blessings are the blessings unseen.

While thinking of reasons to be thankful, I had a real-time experience that shaped my thinking and sense of experience on the 29th of November. A thief/armed robber jumped into my moving car and tried wrestling the car from me, of course it was late at night. Years of working out finally paid off as I foolishly fought till he fell out of the car and I drove off Nollywood style. I would have been stabbed or shot but I am here today. That means more than money.

I work with an amazing group of young people, the Abuja hub of the Global Shapers Community (the youth arm of the World Economic Forum), who are leaders in their own right and passionate about having an impact on the society. Less than 10 days after the Nyanya and Kuje bomb blasts by Boko Haram in Abuja, we started a project called #AGSDrive where the good people of Abuja contributed cash and several items for the people affected by the bomb blasts. This renewed my belief in good people who are able to have an impact even without waiting for government.

I am thankful for bottled water. I visited a community called Wukara were their main source of water can not even be called a stream. Where they had to sieve out spirogyra from the same water they drink, bath and wash with. Thankfully the Global Shapers, Selfless For Africa and The Project Drink Live teams sunk a borehole for them.

It is another December and I’m still unmarried, said several people. But that does not define me or you, it does not put a benchmark on achievement or success. I have learnt that the real resources crucial in life is people and not money, the right network and how you cultivate relationships with individual and clients is what sets you aside from the next man. It is okay to be upset at things around you as long as you are creating a solution. Finally, find something to believe in; for me it isn’t a pastor or Church but I believe in God and that has helped me find some sense in a lot of nonsense in 2015.

Andy Madaki is a Partner at iBlend Services, CEO SmartDropNg, an information security analyst, a public speaker and part-time geek. He stays in Abuja, Nigeria.

Ahhh!! See Posh Kid! Please I'm auctioning Andy jor! Private bids only...

Ahhh!! See Posh Kid! Please I’m auctioning Andy jor! Private bids only…

See what I said? All-round correct guy! Thank you for sending in your entry, and for being on my blog again! Here’s to a fabulous 2016!

Sometime in 1994, we lived in Abuja and I was a pupil at All Saints Nursery and Primary School. Just so you know I attended at least five pre-secondary schools but that’s a story for another day!

Anyway, at this school I had a friend called Aniekan Bassey. She had hair like she was mixed race (I have bad hair- I know), and we were very good friends. Really good friends.

My mom had explicitly stated that I was never to leave the school (I think I remember her saying something like “nothing should ever take you near the gate”) without adult permission, supervision, and accompaniment. And all my time in that school leading up to the incident that inspired this blogpost, I’d done well with that.

Till one day, Aniekan came to me during break period and said we should go greet her mom in her office, which was a government establishment in a very tall building (now that I think of it, I was under 10 so anything would have been ‘tall’). Anyway so I said no, and she asked if I’d been in that building before, and something about getting in their elevator. And I’m sure I’d been in an elevator before (you don’t crave what you don’t know) but I guess like Adam, “the woman deceived me”. Lol.

I don’t remember how we passed the school gate (this is an official indictment on the security guards we slipped past), and after crossing a road or two, we were at her mom’s office! Yippie!

Now, because I’m not a foolish person, I knew I was disobeying my mom. But, elevator! Lunch with her mom! So, I decided I wouldn’t let anyone see me. Right? Now if that had worked you wouldn’t be reading this.

Not only did it not work, it must have been my day cos I ruined my plan all by myself! How? I saw a friend of my mom’s who I found out later didn’t even work in that building but had come for some business. Before I knew it, I’d shouted “hello aunty” and run towards her. Sigh. I only remembered my ‘don’t get seen plan’ after hugging her. If she was surprised to see me, she didn’t really show it so I figured I was fine. We saw Aniekan’s mom, had a bite to eat, went up and down the elevator a couple times, and ran back to school.

The end.

You wish! Of course mom’s friend mentioned it casually to her that she saw me at so and so office with my friend, mom asked me and because I believed my mother had magical powers (tell me you didn’t believe yours had too) there was no point lying. I’ll save you the chastisement bit; you get the idea if you’re Nigerian. If you’re not, ask one!

I don’t know if Aniekan (with the lovely hair) and I were still close friends after that…

Where am I going with this? When I was younger, most of the times I got into trouble were because I was hanging out with people I wasn’t supposed to hang with. Was that the story for you too? Is that still the story?

I was in church last week (I’ve fallen in love with HolyHill Church – you should come) and the pastor talked about a number of things, slipping in ‘vicarious liability’, and it really struck me. What does it mean? Wikipedia says “a situation where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. In a workplace context, an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees, provided it can be shown that they took place in the course of their employment.” So technically, your company becomes a weakness, your undoing. He talked about us spending our time ‘keeping up with the Kardashian’s’ yet not spending anytime with God and wondering how we expect any intimacy with Him, how we expected to renew our minds, live out our purpose here on earth, and even away from that, how we expect to use our time profitably.

Really made me think, even though I’m not a fan of that show or family anymore. Haven’t been in a while actually, it’s like the real life version of the Adam’s family!

Away from church sef, drug users, criminals, etc. If only they said no to ‘chilling’, to ‘hanging out’. If only that person on death row in an Asian country said nah, I won’t carry this substance. If only the politician said no to the meeting with buddies where they’d plunder collective resources. If only.

I’m still figuring stuff out everyday, but I just wanted to share this with you. Sometimes a little ‘no’ today is the difference between a super tomorrow and one filled with sorrow and gnashing of teeth (a tad dramatic but you get the idea).

Any tales (past or present) along these lines you’d like to share?

2015-08-21 11.04.12Have you seen this before? Or maybe I should start with, what’s your attitude to beggars, destitute, and people in difficult places?

It’s manifold for me, and I’ll try to explain. First off, there’s the anger that arises from the ‘yet we have a government and there’s a stark difference between the rich and poor, and inequality, etc.’ part of me.

There’s also the ‘why is this person with this ailment/this old/this young on the streets begging’ part, because I wonder where their families are, etc.

There’s the outrage when I see a young person with two hands, two legs, speaking (English or whatever language), doing nothing but begging. It really annoys me. Why? Blue, white, pink, or even orange collared, there must be something… I broke off on that sentence because sometimes I’m not really sure. Truth is there are no jobs readily available anywhere, but even more in Nigeria. And things like electricity, access to seed funding, etc. mean that entrepreneurs don’t really have it easy, except your daddy is a billionaire. I agree. I still however believe there must be something someone can do. I don’t know, what do you think?

While you’re thinking, here’s what happened to me a few days ago. I had one of the longest days, planning an event. Was running to and fro with my staff buying stuff, getting things ready. And then in the market we see a young man pushing an elderly man in a wheelchair, brandishing hospital papers that were barely legible. I did try to read it from the car but I couldn’t. I noticed a little child in their company though, carrying a walking stick taller than him. I gave them a little token, and we moved on.

After I dropped off my staff, I had to stop to get a new SIM, and to switch between two networks. When I came out of the store, a young man walked up to me, begging. To be honest I thought he wanted to rob me and I was already doing a quick recap of the boxing techniques I picked up recently. Then I figured he was begging and I just shook my head, got into my car, and drove off.

About two minutes from where I left, a very young boy came up to clean my windscreen, and I said no. Normally the next thing they do is beg for money, but this one just walked off really quickly to the next car. And immediately I asked myself a few questions, including what a child that young was doing on the streets past 8pm in the name of hustling.

And then I desperately wanted to give him the groundnuts I’d bought, and a bit of money. Problem, how to get his attention cos he wasn’t looking my way, didn’t turn when I honked, and there was gridlock traffic so I couldn’t move. I finally got to him, and gave him both. His smile (big, wide, pure, with his stained teeth), made me tear up. From my side mirror I watched him look in the wrap I gave him, then start shouting.

Paranoid me, I couldn’t make out what he was saying so I started panicking, especially since I saw a bigger boy running towards him. But that one got to him, and my little friend gave him some of the groundnuts and both of them started eating. And then I started crying.

And then I drove off.

I don’t know… I just don’t know…

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!

IMG_7092

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.

2015-06-11 22.49.09

2015-06-11 22.59.28

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.

 

Sometime in February I got an email from someone representing some people I’ve been writing for for a little while, inviting me to a Roundtable Discussion in March. First off, I didn’t see the time to attend (was that busy I promise you). Second, I wasn’t sure if it was a hoax. So I clicked ‘maybe’ on the calendar invite and let it go.

Two days to the day when we were supposed to indicate by I got a reminder and then I read the email properly! Somehow I just said I’d like to attend. And then boom, invitation letter, choosing a flight path, any dietary requirements, all of that started to happen.

This is the chronicle of my first ever trip to South Africa, noting of course the trip (to and fro), the people, the food, the event itself, and any other business. Ready for it? Let’s start with,

The Prep!

So, I went to VFS to drop off my application, and there I found that my Yellow Card was expired (last time I needed it was in 2010) so I had to run off to the Ministry of Health, navigate the treacherous area (no thanks to road blocks and road diversions because of Boko Haram) and dash to get a new one. Dashed back to the Application Center and was told the processing would take 45 days. Lol… Even if I was trying to get into heaven! Let’s not even talk about the meeting being like 16 days away.

I got home, spoke to a friend who spoke to a friend, and I had my passport and visa back in 4 days. Boom. Thank you Lord!

Easy bit done.

The Trip!

The night before (Friday), I was at work till 9.45pm. Sigh (some days are like that). I got home, started packing, and dozed off (thankfully it was my little suitcase otherwise I’m sure I would have slept inside! Lol. I woke up at 1.50am to pee, and then changed my nail polish, finished my packing, went back to sleep.

At 9am, I joined Ismail and Seye to conduct interviews for a potential intern for the Abuja Hub of the Global Shapers. Very interesting time, even though I was shocked on many levels; that story is here.

Interview done, I dashed back home, flung my things in the cab, and dashed to the airport. VIKO car services need to up their response time walai. I’ve written about them before so I won’t waste space complaining but there’s no point saving 1000 or 2000 but gain high blood pressure because I’m trying to reach them or their driver! Final warning guys, SMH.

Brethren, do you know it’s easier to go to Europe than it is to travel to South Africa? Hian! First off, they looked through my passport, asked for my invitation, return ticket, hotel booking, etc., and then let me go check in (that’s never been done for me, ever). While all of this was going on (I had to get the hotel reservation I was sent off my laptop), some guy walks up to me and starts mumbling about needing my help. I asked what the issue was and he said his BTA wasn’t enough. When it clicked that BTA = money I was like huh? Then he says if I don’t give him money to make up his BTA he wouldn’t be able to travel, that he needed a thousand dollars. Lol. I smiled, and just walked away.

Later, I spoke to an official who told me that South African Immigration are famous for deporting people, and the cost is borne by the home country, plus a fine, all in dollars. So, it’s only natural that they are extra vigilant with people headed there. Especially for people who aren’t frequent fliers. So they wouldn’t be letting that guy fly. Eh ya.

Finished checking in, and went upstairs. Now, my time in SA was literally for 48 hours so all I had was my hand luggage which I didn’t check in. The lady searching my box in the departure lounge had whispered about ‘something for the weekend’ but I didn’t smile or acknowledge that in any way. Then she says I need to drop my perfumes etc, and what can WE do about it. Lol. I asked her to close my box, quietly went downstairs, checked it in, and came back. This time, she wasn’t smiling. Lol. SMH.

Now, I’d asked that my flight be booked through Addis Ababa each way, only because I wanted a richer story. Other options were to go to Lagos and fly direct via South African Airlines but that didn’t sound as interesting.

Then we boarded. My neighbour wouldn’t keep quiet, even after I put my headphones on. Why do people do this? He would tap me to say something, I’d reply, put my headphones back on, only for him to tap me again! Sigh.

Ahh. The butter was sexy. I remember it as I type; shame I didn’t note the name or anything. Want to see a photo?

Now that I look at it, the salad was lovely too!

Now that I look at it, the salad was lovely too!

So that’s one! Let’s look to parts two and three and four!