Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

Hope is a currency more valuable than the dollar, more desirable than the pound, and yet the most easily dispersed, if you’re in prison.

I visited Kuje Medium Security Prison on Friday the 22nd of April 2016, my first time ever in a prison, home and/or abroad. I had heard of prison visits by charities and fellows given to philanthropy in the past, but a chance meeting with Big Mo of Wazobia FM and I was off to ‘The Committee’ to tell them we needed to contribute towards the visit.

The trip to the prison was moved a few times due to high security alerts issued by the authorities, and the calibre of people housed in the prison and at some point I lost hope that the visit would happen. But, on Wednesday I was informed that we had received the all-clear and Friday was the day.

Thanks to monies graciously approved by The Committee, I drove to the assembly point, back seat full of toiletries – toothpaste, petroleum jelly, bathing soap, washing soap, dettol, sanitary towels, and bleach – and I had to change into something totally hiding my figure. Yep, I had been warned that the less *insert a word of your choosing* females look when they visit prisons, the less excitable the men will get.

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Me, in my sister’s maternity kaftan!

And then we set off to Kuje, which is a right turn off the stretch from the city to the airport, and transforms from urban to underdeveloped with each kilometre. Unfortunately, there is a stark difference between state capitals and satellite towns around them; stark differences in what we present to outsiders, and what we really are.

The entire drive, my mind was racing, almost crashing into itself with all the emotions I was feeling and the stories of prison visits I’d heard. Would they pee on me, would anyone be really injured? Would they be hungry, angry or just stoic? I tried to distract myself with music, with very little success.

As we turned onto the dirt road leading to the prison, the butterflies in my belly doubled, trying to keep up with the increasing military presence we encountered. I was reminded of the absolute power of celebrity and the media (read as radio) when we were stopped at one of the checkpoints and told to go somewhere far to park. Then Big Mo introduced himself and it was magical how all the soldiers started hailing him. Fist bumps, laughs, the once tense mood melted into camaraderie because the soldiers matched a face with a voice they listened to maybe everyday.

We got into the prison reception, and the ladies were taken into a room to be searched. I’ve been body searched on three continents and I tell you, none have been as embarrassing and almost invasive as this search. The body search in America comes close, but these guys take the cake abeg.

We were led to a courtyard where there were at least 100 inmates sitting under canopies and laughing as one of us cracked jokes. And there was more laughter, raucous laughter as comedians thrilled the inmates. It got better, there were comedians drawn from the inmates themselves. Hilarity!

Beyond the laughter though, I was bawling like a baby at different points. One of them? One of the comedians was told he could only do one joke. He finished it, and when the mic was going to be taken from him, he said he’d been locked up for 8 years and he didn’t know when next he’d hold a microphone. Cue my wiping my eyes furiously.

When each performer finished, he would give out a tube of toothpaste, a bar of soap, or any of the little household items we had. The joy on their faces as they received the items, the look of longing on the faces of their peers, cue my wiping my eyes furiously.

Sometimes it was easy to forget we were actually amongst inmates. The thunderous laughter, hailing their own performers or ours, and the clapping would have been great joy to a politician at a rally. Each time an official asked them to move back, or sit down though? I remembered, all over again.

I wondered what crimes they might have committed to get there, wondered about their friends and family and if they were missed, if some of them had families waiting for them to get out, or if they had moved on. I was told of people who were locked up (for years) because they couldn’t afford bail of N5000.

A pastor from House on The Rock The Refuge gave a brief exhortation, and he led us in the song ‘Everything written about you is great’ by Steve Crown before that. Watching the prisoners standing, waving their hands in worship? Kai. Pastor TJ preached hope, courage, and Jesus being able to turn their lives around.

We danced too, even me! The performers all danced with the inmates, the prison officials danced with themselves, and then us females (two of us) were asked to come out to dance. Took all of me not to cry all over again as they hailed us to the ‘stage’; couldn’t manage beyond shuffling from side to side.

And it was a teary Chioma who gave soaps and toothpaste to the inmates, including one really old, frail man as afternoon turned to evening and we had to leave.

I was turning everything we’d experienced in my mind as we walked to the reception to be processed out. Only to see prison officials whipping one really rough-looking man so quickly it seemed like every step I took coincided with a swish of the whip. I started begging the official to stop, tears flying down my face. One of the officials told me not to waste tears on the man; apparently he’d been released from this prison after spending four years for raping a female; he had just been arrested, caught in the act of raping a four-year old boy. Yes. A four-year old. A boy.

I left.

PS: A very big thank you to Big Mo, Chuks D General, Willy Willy (all of Wazobia FM and who have organised these prison visits for a number of years), all the comedians and entertainment guys who came along on this visit. You guys are awesome.

ADVANCE WARNING: This is going to be a bit all over the place, like my mind is at the moment. Ready? Cool.

Have you ever been lied to? From the so-called little lies where you say you’re on the way but you’re just about to jump into the shower, to the yes you’ll buy one but you know you can’t afford it and you were just trying to save face, to the fibs told to save yourself from trouble, on to the intentional half-truths or outright falsehood that rips hearts and minds apart.

Before we all jump on our sanctimonious horses with tales of the evildoers around us, have we lied to others too? It’s easy for everyone to talk about how they’ve been hurt or wronged, but do we remember we might have wronged others too? Hope this explains that this post is as much for me as it is for you.

So I’ve just found out a friend has been lying to me for a bit, and I’m gutted, and on a number of levels too. First because I’m not innocent and there’s that bit about coming to equity with clean hands (I think it should be changed to a clean heart though). Second because sometimes I’m as trusting as a child who’s told to go inside the room to get her slippers so she can go out with mommy. Even though I know I’ll get left at home (again), I still trust that this time it won’t happen. But it does, and I’m crushed all over again.

Away from me, there’s the lie by omission which involves leaving out facts so that a different narrative other than the truth or true representation of things is formed. It is also refusing/neglecting/deciding to leave existing misconceptions as they are.

Exaggerations are also lies. So you have nine pencils yet you say you have 300. Do you have pencils? Yes. Do you have 300 though? Sigh. In the same vein, under representation is the family of falsehood too. Very simply, you say you have 9 pencils, but you really have 300. Why lie?

What other forms of lies do you know of? Which ones are you guilty of? Are you a habitual, compulsive, or pathological liar? Is it as natural as the air you breathe? Do you feel bad about it? Trying to stop or slow down on them?

I found this poem by Isaac Watts here, thought it was apt.

O ’tis a lovely thing for youth
To early walk in wisdom’s way;
To fear a lie, to speak the truth,
That we may trust to all they say!

But liars we can never trust,
Even when they say what is true.
And he who does one fault at first
And lies to hide it, makes it two.

Have we not known, nor heard, nor read
How God does hate deceit and wrong?
How Ananias was struck dead,
Caught with a lie upon his tongue?

So did his wife Sapphira die,
When she came in, and grew so bold
As to confirm that wicked lie,
Which just before her husband told.

The Lord delights in them that speak
The words of truth; but every liar
Must have his portion in the lake
That burns with brimstone and with fire.

Before anyone comes at me for making it a religious matter (why anyone would think to separate the spiritual from the physical is a totally different matter for another day), here’s a little reminder about the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Simple.

Before you tell that next untruth, think about how you would feel if someone said it to you. I’m going to do that too.

Hey you!

Hope you had a good week… Mine was great. Could have been better, maybe I would have done some things differently, but I have no regrets. I went to Lagos for a meeting and got back into Abuja the next day, and as always I’m grateful for traveling mercies. Very grateful.

Beyond sharing ideas and knowledge for a company I sit on the board of at the meeting, it was a time of great learning and reflection, and that’s what this post is about.

Where do you learn? Are you one of those professional, it must be in a class/board room setting, with set objectives and goals type of people? And that’s fine, we’re all wired differently. Or, are you one of those ‘we see life lessons in the sun, moon and stars’ kind of people who pick tips and tricks from everything?

I think I’m becoming more of the latter, while fully retaining the former part of me that does very well with formal learning situations. I have a friend, Adebola Williams, Co-Founder of Red Media Africa who makes me feel like I should have a Moleskine and a pen whenever I’m around him. It’s in the little things he does; the way he greets people, how he manages to make people (even strangers) feel noticed and special, the natural thought about optics and how things will be perceived or not, how he thinks so quickly about everything before it’s done, I could go on and on and on.

I have another friend, Francesca, who believes there’s a lesson in everything, and therefore will never let me give in to dreary situations, who always looks for the silver lining even in pitch darkness, who has a positive outlook on life that will put motivational speakers to shame. And so from her I learn to put my melancholic bits under control.

Errr, it’s just occurred to me that mentioning some and not mentioning others might start a fight (lol) so let’s generalize for the rest of this please.

There are a number of them of who send me things to read because they know these pieces will be useful to me, who push me with questions like “what new thing have you learned today, what book have you read, what’s new with you (that has nothing to do with boys or fashion, lol), etc.”  There are some who will tease me endlessly when I mispronounce a word, one who has tapped my head even (sigh), but who push me to continuously ‘upgrade’ my knowledge.

Do you have those kinds of people? Don’t have to do exactly what my friends do (like hit my head) but I think everyone should have someone (or some people) who are ‘devoted’ to their improvement, and we should be that for others too. Only fair abi?

Now, to my crush. Whoosh! I’m so in love! It’s the twinkle in their eye as they talk about rising from adversity and uncertainty to becoming (Francesca’s favorite word and I know she’s going to have my head on a platter for this, lol). It’s the calculated defiance, the refusal to be boxed in, hindered by limitations that were hitherto acceptable by everyone else. It’s their being able to stand in the face of grief and loss, and still be so awesome my heart is leaping within my chest just because I’m typing about them.

My new crush is Dame Stephanie Shirley. She’s only got space for one ‘crusher’, my honorable self so please, move back! The Telegraph said of her “If there is a constant thread running through the life of Dame Stephanie Shirley it is the refusal to let difficulty and disaster stand in her way”.

Such an inspiration! Big thank you to Tolu for sending the link to her TedTalk to me. I am a good person so I’m sharing it with you. I took out two things (actually I took out a lot of things but here are two I tweeted).

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And these below, are her keys to success. She says there are only two.

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She’s incredible. She has so far given away over £100million to both the development of technology (including being the Founding Donor to the Oxford Internet Institute) and especially to research around autism and management of people who are autistic. Why she gives away that much? She said, “The fact that I almost died in the Holocaust means that I’m motivated to make sure that each day is worth living, that my life was worth saving. I do it because of my personal history; I need to justify the fact that my life was saved.”

I have now found a much longer video which I will watch as soon as I can get some free time from my nephew, which is an hour-long speech she made at Gresham College which traces her life growing up, coming to the United Kingdom via Kindertransport, her career and breaking several glass ceilings, her son and his autism, etc. It’s like her biography, only in the flesh. Excited, and I haven’t even watched it yet!

I’m off now, have tons of work to get through this morning.

Have a brilliant Saturday (and weekend), and never stop learning.

Children of God!

How’s everyone doing? Good? I know, I’ve been absent, not unavoidably, but I promise I couldn’t help it. I need you to understand how hard I tried! God is faithful sha, the year’s shaping up really nicely, and I can’t but be thankful. Where do I start from? I have a brand new, gorgeous niece! Like, when I held her like an hour after she popped out (literally, lol), I felt like my heart would explode! Very thankful!

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Take a minute to admire my gorgeous head, will you?

So, what I’ve been up to? Or do we just look at the things I said I’ve learned and then they incorporate bits of what I’ve been up to? Yep, I prefer the second option, let’s do that.

  1. Sometimes you need to let people go. Like cut them off, and uprooting whatever stumps they attempt to leave behind because they’re cancerous and you don’t want any reappearances. And sometimes that can be difficult. And that’s ok, because we’re human, flesh and blood, etc. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do sometimes!
  2. Prayer is a direct line to God. Like D-I-R-E-C-T. So in February my inner lights of my car stopped working, and I’m afraid of my mechanic cos every time he fixes something it’s never what it used to be. So it works, but I just know the general equilibrium of the car has been messed with. Anyway, so that night I prayed and said to God that He could fix my car and save me from using potential tithe or offering money to fix it (I know, I’m such a spoiled Jesus baby). Guess what? Next night I drove the car, guess whose inner lights came on? Whoop! Thank you God!
  3. Mechanics, tailors, carpenters, electricians, all artisans are cut from the same cloth. Like I cannot deal! I was going to learn tailoring (and I know a friend who picked up the skill recently and is doing great) but am I going to learn all the others too? Sigh.
  4. Babies are work, a lot of work! My niece has the loudest voice I’ve ever heard on a baby… my God! Like when she’s upset, she can raise the dead! To be honest I don’t remember if my nephew was this loud or if we’ve forgotten because he’s a bit older (3 going on 300, lol). Either way my little princess has lungs! Dang! She will join a choir biko, we won’t waste this talent.
  5. Children say the darndest things, no really they do. So, my nephew is three, our little majesty. He’s awesome, and I’m excited at how much he’s growing up, and how he’s learned that Chioma’s iPad needs something called internet if he’s going to watch Dora the Explorer on it. Lol. So, where it would have been “Chioma can I use your iPad?” it’s become “Chioma do you have internet?” Lol. Cuteness overload when he wakes up in the morning and first thing he asks me is if I have internet. Uncle say good morning jor!
  6. I miss my aunt, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop talking about her. So my mom’s been around for just under a month now, and we were all gisting yesterday when it occurred to us that we talk about my aunty maybe everyday! Sometimes more than once in a day. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. You bastard.
  7. I haven’t read as much as I planned to do this year. I said I would do a minimum of three books a month, I’m almost rolling my eyes at how far away from that I am! Sigh. Who has a reading plan or something like that I can TRY to follow? I just feel a little inadequate when I’m not amassing titles and going through them.
  8. I haven’t been out of Nigeria since January, and outside Africa since October. Have you looked at the exchange rates recently? Cough.
  9. 30 isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. It’s the big 3-0 in a few months, and I have a whole lineup of activities I’m working on, across a number of continents (yes Boo), and involving a few crazy heights! Yeesss!! I c-a-n-n-o-t wait! Bucket list of life and destiny! Now looking up to God and showing him the total for the trip, and smiling, because God likes it when I smile. Lol…
  10. I fasted in January with my church, HolyHill Church in Wuse 2. 21 days (20 for me because I missed one day). It was quite the experience, and I look forward to being able to do that and just focus on God without it being a congregational activity. There’s nothing like activating a direct line to God walai… I cannot explain!

There you have it, 10 things I’ve been opened up to from the beginning of this year till now.

11. And here’s a nice little number 11 because it’s my blog, and I can – I’m a fine girl! Whoosh!!! Ok, I didn’t just figure that out, lol, but this is more like your point to ponder, reflect on, and dance to! Lol!

PS: I almost had an accident yesterday night… I was headed to Shoprite to buy chicken (lol, bestie says I wasn’t even going anywhere ‘serious’) and suddenly this guy in a Toyota Camry just comes out of literally nowhere. I’m over 100km/hr and so I call the name above every other name and step on the brakes – the one oyibo people call ‘jam the brakes’ – and I’ve never heard screeching that loud. My God! I didn’t hit it (ram into it would have been a more accurate description). My hands were steady, I didn’t swerve or endanger anyone, and interestingly, even though the guy sped forward just a little bit (when he heard the screeching I guess), the space between us wasn’t that much when my car stopped. Phew!

Praise God with me!

The end of 2015. The end of the #31Days31Writers series.

I’m here. I’m still here. In April God delivered my family from a great evil, I was very ill at different times; on the 18th of October I was aboard a flight so turbulent I was walking ‘towards the light’ in my head, yet I’m here. I’m still here. God is merciful.

You know, if for some reason that’s all I could write, it would be more than enough. There’s more though.

My father was consecrated Bishop this year – was the first time ever I saw him cry. Like really cry. He fought tears at my sister’s wedding in 2010, maybe a few tears slipped through, but August 8th? Dang. I’m so proud of him and grateful to God for this lifting and fulfilment of prophecy that looked like we wouldn’t see it.

TechHer was born this year too, my pride and joy, and gift from God. From a ‘how do I plug this hole’ moment of frustration, to a community of women passionate/curious about technology in its hundreds, and growing too!

My sister passed an international exam this year, and I remember the joy, the tears, the celebration. So proud of you Mama na, we all are! You are a gem, and I love you, fiercely. Big hug to you and your amazing husband for housing me this year. My family is everything, and I’m grateful for them everyday.

What else? This was the year of leaning on, and getting leaned on. Brethren, pray for friends who can ‘cover your shame’, who are not just there when it’s time to ‘turn up’. More important, pray that you are the person the people you call friends can come to and find peace, quiet, a word of encouragement, action that leads to a solution, you get the point. Wunmi, my best friend, is a blessing; she’s my gift from God. Francesca saw through my bullshit one afternoon when I wouldn’t stop saying I was fine, yet I was crumbling under a feeling of inadequacy I can only trace to the pit of hell now that I think of it. My personal chekeleke!

Here’s a big hug to The Committee, friends who have become family in more ways than one. You guys rock!

This was the year I took a decision about my weight, and though I’m still on a journey to the numbers I want to see, I love where I am! I feel incredible too!

Also, I cut my hair! Not the ‘big chop’, big scrape, for simple reasons that included the unbearable heat, and me wanting to see what my head looked like! Love it, love it, love it! Looking forward to experimenting with it a lot in the New Year.

I hired staff this year, and I’m excited that 7 months on, I see growth that makes me proud. Thank you guys!the

What would I undo this year? Nothing. Maybe make more practical financial plans and not believe that people will fulfil their obligations (read as pay their bloody debts) so it doesn’t skew my programmes, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I learned a few things too:

  1. God loves me. Even in my most unfaithful, most unlovable moments, He loves me. And He shows it.
  2. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I heard that like a million times this year (SMH at everyone who told me :))
  3. Human beings are inherently selfish. A complete understanding of this (and I’m still learning) helped me get through the year.
  4. It’s ok to stop (shut down, turn off, whatever you want to call it) and breathe sometimes. I learned the importance of stopping to rest as my body (and mind) demanded it.
  5. Everyone needs a nephew! I cannot explain this, just go and ask your siblings to ‘bring’ you one! My nephew is my numero uno (next to God jor, walk away)
  6. Read! I didn’t read all I planned to, but I read this year, and I believe I’m better for it.
  7. It’s okay if things don’t work out, even after you’ve done everything you were supposed to do, prayed, worked hard, etc. It’s okay, really.

I had a good year. This was one of my busiest travel-wise, and each time a plane I was in took off, it landed. Not taking that for granted at all. I have this blog, and all you wonderful people who read and like and share and comment – thank you. To everyone who contributed to the #31Days31Writers series, you’re awesome! To those who said they’d send in an entry and didn’t/couldn’t, there’s next time.

Here’s to a big 2016, enlargement on every side (not my girth though, God no), advancement, and God’s great blessings.

Look at that beautiful head...

Look at that beautiful head…

Nigerian Blogger

Happy New Year folks! Mwah!

 

This particular person? I don’t remember how we met. Like I tried to search my brain this morning, no luck. But, she’s one of God’s greatest gifts to me. Francesca is the angel God sent from heaven to save me from myself, yank me out of self-pity, stress, fear, you name it. Fran is the person who will listen to me complaining about something and in the middle of my well-prepared speech will go, “but Chisco I reject this feeling of sadness in the mighty name of Jesus!” I either start laughing (I think it’s something with the way she pronounces ‘Jesus’ when she’s trying to shut me up), or I start crying because I’m overwhelmed. But she never leaves me there. She will sit with me (even if over the phone), and be quiet with me till I’m better, or till she decides she’s had enough then she’ll go back to bullying me!!

Lol. I love her. Few females I really love (or love at all), and she’s one of them. Everyone needs a friend like her. Someone who you can be silly with, who accepts you the way you are (and loves you intensely), who prays for/with you, who is real. That’s it, Onomarie (and I can never say this name right) is real.

2015 was the year I learned not to be afraid. Pause.

That’s not entirely true. Let me rephrase that.

2015 was the year I learnt to face my fears, confront AND overcome them.

You see, I’d often viewed “facing fear” as something soft or abstract – not overly ground-shifting or life-altering. The loss of a job maybe, a bad breakup, or an uncomfortable confrontation; you know, difficult things, but not really life and death.

Well. Let’s just say life happened.

I lost my father on the 2nd of January 2015, and in many ways it is still a shock, almost unbelievable actually. That swift, sudden, brutal and absolutely painful event shattered every single thing in my life. I hated God, life, my immediate family, my late father (God rest his soul), and everybody else I came in contact with. I was seething with this volcanic-like rage; just bitter, angry, lost, grieving and waiting to erupt. I wanted to colour the world black, because that is how my soul felt – dark and odious. Like Job said in the Bible, “the thing I feared most had come upon me.”

But fear (and grief) are heavy burdens to carry; they poison everything they come in contact with. So I had to make a (hard) decision – to keep moving, or to let my grief (and fear) consume me. My father may have died, but I was still living. I owed it to his memory, and more importantly, to myself, to live wholesomely and completely. As long as I had breath in my lungs, dreams in my heart, and yearning in my spirit, I would keep living, and by God, I would keep moving forward.

So I reset myself – my soul, my mind, and my spirit – not an easy task to do by the way. I cried when I had to, (still do that sometimes). I learned to share my grief, my questions, my angst, my concerns, with my friends and burden-helpers, those who upheld me like pillars, people who fought tirelessly to move me out of the funk. Those who gave me tough love by saying “Okay, that’s enough, no more now.” Those who sent messages of hope, encouragement and humour, those who stood in the gap for me, who prayed, sent me food, or just sat with me.

It’s been an incredible year really. I lost my father, but I gained an incredible perspective on life. I learned that family is less and less those who bear the same surname with you, but much more about those who share your grief and your triumphs. I learned that putting someone you love in the ground, is one of the worst things that can happen to you, but maybe also the most important, because you value more, those you have with you. I’ve learned to be less patient with time-wasters; people who take and take from you – your time, your energy, your resources, your emotions, – without giving back. I’ve learned to immerse myself fully in life, to laugh, to learn, to travel, to love, by God, to live!! I’ve learned to live this life honestly, completely, fully, but also intentionally. Never before, have I been this desperate to accomplish God’s call and purpose for my life. Never before have I cared less about “haters” or “enemies” what are those? Only distractions. Only pesky scarecrows in my rich field of wheat and barley.

I have learned that fear is there to be overcome; you must not let it rule you. Fear is not of God, it’s from the devil. I have learned to look fear in the eye and say “ehen, you’ve hit me with your best shot, now fuck off!.” I have learned to stand. Oh! to stand and keep standing. I have learned to stand victoriously. I have learned focus and the beauty of rising up from ashes.

I have learned that my scars are my greatest assets; that instead of reminding me of the past and filling me with regret, that they point me towards the future, towards the woman I am meant to be, towards the woman I am becoming. I have learned love – that it is ABSOLUTELY about giving – anything less than that, is jive. I have found God again, anew, different, deeper. I am listening for Him more, involving Him with everything – from the mundane to the important. Oh! And I am still fighting fear, daily – in my work, in my mind, in my spirit, but I am winning, because I am of God’s I CANNOT lose.

I don’t know exactly what 2016 has in store for me, but I imagine that it will be a year of achieving big goals and dreams. I’m standing ready. As the Yoruba proverb goes: “there is nothing coming from the sky that the earth cannot handle.” That is me, standing ready, standing prepared, because the earth is mine and the fullness thereof. Bring it on 2016!

My gorgeous friend...

My gorgeous friend…

I love you chekeleke. My sister-girl!

Ahh! I’ve missed blogging! Like, I love the #31Days31Writers series (really, really love it), but the entire month I feel like everything I publish that’s not a part of the series detracts from it.

But, I feel like I need to share details of this trip, and I’ll catch up on my trip to Rwanda earlier in the New Year. Ready?

So, Monday night was amazing (and that’s all I’m going to say about that), and somehow, my night wound up about 1am with me buying an Aero Contractors ticket headed to Port Harcourt that same morning. By 7.15am (I know, I’m crazy, but there’s a thing about friendship that will make me turn my plans on their head to be there for someone).

Of course seeing as the decision to fly was taken a few hours before while I was out with my nephew (gorgeous, adorable kiddo), I was unpacked, no idea what I even wanted to take on the trip, and cashless. Cashless because of my nephew actually; we’d gone to Silverbird Entertainment Center’s arcade. The End. One game after the other, till my purse emptied! And the ATM’s weren’t dispensing (of course, SMH). But it was a wonderful evening out, and Boo Boo was so happy with this wings and magic wand (which I didn’t plan to buy, but bought, lol)!

Back to me in my room, smiling like a Cheshire cat (for reasons y’all don’t need to know except you already know then you don’t need to ask or need to be told… lol, I’m rambling I know) but trying to figure out how to get to the airport in time for my flight, what to pack, etc. Managed to throw some things in my little suitcase, and then I settled in to sleep.

Woke up (with a start) at 5.30am, showered, zipped my box, and knew I wouldn’t find a taxi. So, I drove! Not going to tell you how quick I got there (‘Lewisa Hamilton’ in the building ladies and gentlemen), but I got in, then rang my cabbie to come pick up the car.

Boarded, and can I take a minute just give a big thumbs up to Aero Contractors? On their website they apologized, saying some flights might be delayed because of the weather and poor visibility sometimes. I thought it was really thoughtful of them to say that. But, we were in the air at 7.17am! Not waiting for a passenger, not even taxiing; we were airborne! I was so tripped!

So, got to Port Harcourt about 8.30am, and had to wait for my hosts to come to get me. So I sat down, and ‘people-watched’ for a bit (I like to do that sometimes).

Can I take another minute to discuss the horror that is that airport? God forbid. Absolute disgrace. Like, all shades and levels of shameful.

Anyway, so I sat down, waited, started working on some documents (we must s-l-a-y financially in 2016 biko), and then this lady with a dirty but super short, clingy pink dress comes in. So short her crotch was almost on display. Not my business really, what got my goat however was how dirty the dress was; imagine lots of streaks (maybe from fingers), wet patches, that kind of thing. I sneaked a photo but I’ve since deleted it *re-adjusts halo*

Long, unnecessary story about the long wait for my hosts so let’s just say that I ended up in GRA, at Genesis Cinema where I had a meal, and saw a movie. #SpoilerAlert It was ‘Point Break’, a film about some people who were doing some outrageous, extreme stuff in the name of connecting with Mother Earth, fulfilling the dictates of some leader, etc. It was nice to watch but I would have been happier spending that time on a cartoon. Thank you Kevin for being a great, great host!

Met up with my friend, and we started the trip to Umuahia, which was lovely but a few things stood out.

  • The Port Harcourt/Umuahia expressway is a mess.
  • Aba is filthy. Like ‘turn up your nose at it’ kind of filthy.
  • In Aba there were a number of cars sporting the Biafran flag. I hope they know Nnamdi Kanu has a Nigerian and British passport, ha n’ezuzu ifa.
  • Pretty much everyone was driving in the middle of the road, and it wasn’t about avoiding bad roads. So frustrating!

Long story short, we got into Umuahia and then my friend’s village in one piece, safe (despite the communal clash my friend and the driver stumbled on in Rivers State), and we met everyone at hers hale and hearty! Thank you Jesus! Bed time now!

Looking forward to the return leg of this trip (not sure of the date yet), because I get to use another airport I haven’t used in more than ten years! I really do love travelling!

I’ve got family on the blog today! Whoop!!

Ejike is one of my older cousins, married to a really lovely lady, and they have two children with the best names (he didn’t share so I won’t… we don’t want you people to copy our names biko)!

His father is one of my favorite uncles and is super close to my dad, and I have very fond memories of hanging out at their house in the village when we were much younger. Not just my siblings and I, all the cousins! I remember bathing behind a massive metal tank in their compound (don’t judge, we were kids) with my female cousins, and all of us trooping out on Christmas Day to visit extended family to ‘tax them’, eat, play, and then move on. Most times we’d end up back at their house for dinner (which we would funnily end up eating outside, gisting as loudly as children can be), bathing (girls first, then the boys), then trooping to another uncle’s (or not) to sleep.

Memories I hope we can recreate with our own children. Dunno how yet, but I know it’s possible, even if it’s summer holidays or something like that. 

Maybe one of the next time I run the series I will feature only Agwuegbo’s, maybe call it ‘One day one Agwuegbo’, or An Agwuegbo a day’, I don’t know but I’m loving the idea already! And there’s enough of us to really pull this off!

Here’s my cousin Ejike everyone!

I’m Ejike Agwuegbo, Ibo descent, raised in Lagos. I’m married to an amazing wife and have 2 lovely children as part of the marriage benefits. I am a Fish Farmer by profession.

As the year 2015 winds down, one philosophy that keeps me going is “No man should measure his success by comparing with another man but by comparison with where he’s coming from”.

I am grateful for my immediate and extended family. The year has brought unimaginable joy into my home. In October we welcomed our son into world without complications. My 3 years old daughter is excelling in her studies. My amazing wife who has been my rock in all circumstances waxed stronger all through the year churning out different business ideas. Most importantly, we didn’t spend our resources in the hospital. Those who know me will testify that I’ve got the best siblings in the world and they made 2015 rock.

Having left the banking industry after 6 years of service to set up my Fish Farm in 2014, I must say the journey hasn’t been easy (as is the case with most start-ups) but in 2015 we achieved some expansion, modified our processes and have recorded greater returns.

I’m grateful for my close circle of friends who I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world. While the world is on a melt down, there’s virtually no month that goes by without something to celebrate.

Things I wish to undo;

Reneging on my vow to draw closer to God and His Word. Sunday sermons are just not enough.

As 2016 draws closer, I ask for the grace to help more people in need than I did this year and believe that more business ideas will be actualized.

Thank you Chioma for this opportunity to express myself.

 

Big bro!

Big bro!

Whoop! You’re welcome AGK, thank you for honoring my blog! Here’s to bigger successes in 2016 and many more reasons to celebrate!

PS: I have to come eat fish at yours soonest!

Fola (@LitaofLagos) is one of my favourite people online, and late last year we had the good fortune of meeting and working together on a project for Heinrich Boll, the first Book Sprint in Nigeria. Basically we were holed up in a house/hotel somewhere in Maitama, and in seven days went from nothing, to a full book, printed! It was a most amazing experience, and a privilege for me to share time, space, and energy with the wonderful people I worked with on that project.

Fola is lovely, loads of fun, and very REAL. Yep, she’s one of those people I know who are without airs, and what you see is literally what you get! I’m more than thankful she got the all-clear, and I hope you enjoy her entry!

My name is Fola Lawal, and friends call me Lita. I live in Doha by day and Lagos at night. I work as a Senior Project Analyst at my Qatar organization; I also run a personal business as a social media brand-integration marketer and manager for companies and individuals, helping to design effective social media campaigns. Also, I manage a book-publishing business while also developing ideas for, and encouraging my social media folks in, saving the world—one tweet at a time.

2015 started slowly note for me, but picked up pace gradually. I had to decide, with my partner (who, on the other hand, was resigning from the corporate legal sector), whether to go back into paid employment after my few months as a full-time entrepreneur. Eventually, I was able to secure a paying job that still allowed me time to focus on my businesses.

But I was to have a more worrisome time in the course of the year. During a routine medical checkup, my doctor advised me to go for an immediate mammogram as she could feel lumps in both my breasts. Although the scan results were reassuring, my experience during that scary period improved my attitude to, and outlook on, life.

I spent a part of 2015 sulking at how my world didn’t seem to appreciate my merits; and fuming at the challenges that prevented my plans from materializing. I was also faced with the challenges of settling into a new work environment and, sometimes all of these piled on hard on my psyche—but the Egba woman in me stayed relentless.

And so, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful for my partner, Ayo: who is always there through thick and thin, to share battles and celebrate wins.

I’m grateful for my family: because I couldn’t have had a better support system.

I’m grateful for my friends: all of whom came through when I least expected.

What did I learn in 2015?

  • I learned that, in Nigeria, hard work is not enough to strategically position me for success.
  • I learned that what will be sometimes, will never be.
  • I learned to be unapologetically ME, that no matter how much I try to please others, people are wired to see what they want to see.
  • I learned that some people, trips, lies, books, or parties aren’t just worth their stress value.
  • And I learned that the key to material success is selfishness.

And what will I do in 2016?

  • Sleep less.
  • Love more.
  • Worry less.
  • Communicate better.
My baby girl!

My baby girl!

Yes o! I’m totally with you on communicating better, it’s something I have to learn; very necessary! Here’s to living the baby girl life in 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every now and then you meet someone (even if virtually) who is such an encourager they act like they’re not on this same earth with all the attendant issues. That’s Eloho. From the first time she popped up on my timeline (I don’t know how) I’ve never seen her say an unkind word or anything that doesn’t uplift a spirit.

And she loves Jesus. Icing on the cake, or maybe the cake itself!

It’s so magical though, the way she is. And I’m sure you’ll love her entry as much as I did! She’s super special, and that’s why she’s up today, Christmas Day! Merry Christmas to you, and you, and you!

My name is Eloho, I am a financial analyst in Lagos, Nigeria and when I’m not doing that, I love to sing, read and just live life one day at a time experiencing God’s ‘stupendous grace.’ I also love kids, and love to see people happy and walking in purpose.

What did I learn? Let’s say I learned a whole lot. Let’s go

  • I learned that God IS!!! He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Like a pancake, seems like God turned me over just as I turned light brown to give me this assurance.
  • I learned that what we know will be tested and we had better be ready. 2015 tested my faith, my resolve and trust in God deeper than the most recent years. But I learned that God’s grace is sufficient, He doesn’t allow more than we can bear.
  • I learned about perspective and timing. It’s a new day at midnight, you know. But the only reason I can celebrate the new day is because I have knowledge and a clock. It’s the same thing with life. My attitude and response to the darkness is a function of my perspective.
  • I learned from my 6-year-old cousin, that ‘nice is different than good…’ Doing what is right and good doesn’t always feel nice but it is the proper thing to do. I’m still learning not to let the fact that the right decision might hurt someone stop me from going ahead to make it.
  • I learned that wisdom is greater than weapons of war. Not every time fight, sometimes just apply wisdom.
  • I learned that ‘Peace is a radar’, far above anything. It is the compass for my life’s journey. Constantly in my face is the image of boiling water and the lack of a reflection therein. Peace is all I need for clarity and if anything ceases to bring me peace, it has to go.
  • I learned that when we think we are infallible in a certain area, we set ourselves up to fail because we are least prepared in that area. Let Him who thinks He stands take heed lest he fall became very literal for me.
  • I learned that we cannot by an act of the flesh bring the promise to pass. Desperation and listening to people may make us feel as though waiting on God is not enough. But I learned by my own Sarah type experience to ‘lean in.’
  • I learned to appreciate the small moments. I lost a friend, Hammed Ajiboye this year. I miss him and wish I made some more time for him.

These lessons didn’t come easy. But I’m grateful that as painful as the experiences that birthed them might have been, I AM better.

Adjusts mic to an appropriate height at the award podium, smiles and pulls out a tiny sheet of paper.

  • I am most grateful for my stupendous wealth in family and my friends. I could go on and on here. God brought amazing people into my life as well. I was NEVER alone.
  • I’m grateful for favor. God continues to surround me with favor everywhere I go.
  • I am most grateful for revelation and clarity. Slowly and steadily, I am gaining a better understanding of what I am here for.
  • I am grateful for ‘discontentment’ and how it’s pushing me out of my ‘comfort zone.’
  • Grateful for my journey so far. Not the script I would have written but it has strengthened me and left me in awe of God’s sovereignty.
  • I’m grateful for service and the opportunity to give back. I derived so much joy from a lot of those moments.

To what I would do differently if I could? I would be a little easier on myself. Gosh, I was quite hard on myself for the mistakes I made but now I have resolved to fail forward and trust that everything is working out for good.

I would also imagine some more. Think I got jaded at some point and just existed. But no, God is able to do far more than I can ask or IMAGINE. So it is time to imagine wildly and boldly and LIVE again.

31 days of gratitude

She’s such a gorgeous soul! I can’t wait to meet you, has to happen in 2016! Merry Christmas @Eloxie (That’s her on Twitter, I say follow her, you’ll be glad she did!)