Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

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

 

Welcome to November! Whoop! Like play, like play, we’ve come to my favorite part of each year, Christmas! Whoop! Even though technically we’re still like 40 days from it, I’m still excited!

Anyway, a bit about the last week of October and the things I got up to –this last week was super interesting, with lots of mixed feelings/emotions. Start from Monday, and of course I had meetings to attend, and general business to take care of. Met up with my mentor/principal, and spent the evening at an event with him and a few others. Good fun, even though I wished it ended at least 30 minutes earlier than it did.

Tuesday I did quite a bit of reading, prepping for classes I would teach on Wednesday and Thursday. See, I’d been invited by Gatefield Learning to facilitate at training for Nonprofits. Of course it had to do with social media, would I have been teaching them aeronautics or neurology? Ha ha ha. Great things in the offing with Gatefield, and I’m looking forward to a consolidation of that working relationship.

On the first day I taught the basics and history of social media, auditing the social media for their organizations and personal vs corporate communication via social. And on the second day, I took the class through a bit about mobilization via digital, focusing on ingredients for a successful campaign.

So, Wednesday morning, bright and early, JT and I pushed off to the venue of the training, and after standing (and talking) for two hours, I had a bit of lunch, watched a bit of Scandal (more like I binged on 3 episodes at once), and then I went home. I can testify to being marvelously helped, and I was on a high, ready for day two!

Screenshot 2015-05-19 14.27.08

Second day my class started at noon so I didn’t have to run out of my house early in the day but if you know me well, you’ll know I still ran. Lol. Got there, delivered my presentation, and had to leave immediately cos I had other things to do. On the way I chatted with a lady, fresh from university and she told me she was always scared of networking, the thought of meeting new people always terrified her cos she was scared of getting snubbed. It was nice to encourage her and tell her of the benefits these meetings offer.

Then, I went off to a 3pm meeting that didn’t start at 3pm because the person wanted to ‘quickly dash somewhere’. Meeting eventually started at 3.45pm, good thing was it was super fruitful. Couldn’t be more pleased.

Dropped a colleague off about 6.27pm, and then I was battling within myself whether to take JT to be bathed and primed, or to buy Indian takeout for dinner with the fam. Somehow the car wash won over the Indian and I went to give JT a good bath at one of my favorite shops in Wuse 2. Did I mention that for some reason, JT who would go from 0-80 in seconds was having trouble picking speed? I felt like it was God getting me to go slower so I didn’t bother.

I drive into the car wash and the attendant motioned frantically for me to get out of the car. I grabbed my laptop (sigh) and jumped out. Apparently, JT was smoking and my royal majesty didn’t notice!

According to them, I was a few minutes from a ‘knocked engine’ or even worse because the temperature dial of the car was hitting the red notes! My dear, the realization of how bad things could have gone pissed me off and made me super grateful at the same time.

After I gave the car dealer an earful, I rang Ace who dispatched a driver to rescue my now shaking self. Where would we be without friends who give life to being literally ‘a call away’?

Anyway, so the next day they fixed whatever upset JT and made her overheat and all of that unpleasantness. And I still grabbed my Indian that night.

I’m just super grateful for the mercies of God that kept me safe and directed my wheels to the car wash over the Indian restaurant (considering that I love food). So grateful.

 

*Written in November 2014

So, have you been following the story?

Part one is here,

and

Part two is here.

You’re welcome!! Now, let’s get on with part three!

Hello Johannesburg! Na wa… First thing? There was a certain coldness I saw with the officials at the airport, seriously. I can’t explain, and I don’t want to sound prejudiced to all the stories I’d heard about the place, but there was that coldness I noticed.

Anyway, so when it got to my turn I walked up to the officer and said why I was in the country and that I was leaving in 48 hours. He asked a few questions about my visa and while I was rolling my eyes (in my mind), I noticed some guy trying to explain away his life to another officer and the officer repeatedly saying, “ I don’ believe you, I don’t believe you will leave.” No the young man wasn’t Nigerian; his accent was from a region (in Africa) I won’t mention because I couldn’t see his passport so I’m not sure.

As I took my passport back and walked away, I wondered if they would bounce him, and what fine his country would have to pay. And then I thought about a world so equal (or close to equal) that people could come and go as they pleased. Sigh.

Got my suitcase and the driver was waiting. His name is/was Max, and he gave us quite the tour as we drove to 20 West, Morningside, somewhere in Sandton. Benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t have changed so much money for a 48 hour trip; now I have to find/squeeze another trip to SA to spend it. I’ll explain this sentence later.

On the way, we listened to radio, and at some point a song came on which I heard for the first time in San Antonio last Christmas. Guess what I did? I rang my cousin Chuma so he could hear the song! Lol! Such a laugh.

20 West is beautiful. Repeat after me, 20 West is beautiful. It’s both a hotel and self-catered apartments, and somehow, because my room was given out by mistake, I was upgraded to a self-catered apartment. Thank Jesus for mistakes that turn out to be blessings. Somebody shout halleluyah!

I went upstairs, and after oohing and aahing over the place, I took pictures! Want to see? Of course you do!

2015-03-22 15.02.08

All of this and I’m just here for two days? Please, amen to another trip already!!

2015-03-22 14.58.36

I gushed about the view so much I forgot to take a picture! Lol…

2015-03-22 15.01.29

Err, my photography skills were not up to the point of getting everything in this room. I missed the shower (left the toilet bowl out intentionally though, nothing special there biko)

2015-03-22 14.58.24

Then I hid my #FitFam uniform in a closet and ordered the juiciest burger I’ve had in a bit, complete with an extra helping of avocado. And a hot chocolate ( I know, I can’t be helped). And then I went to sleep. Peaceful sleep.

2015-03-22 15.45.21

Look at all that cheese… get in there!!

 

Woke up a couple hours later, caught up with Ruth Aine (who I first met in Germany in july 0f 2014), and after I spoke to friends and family, had a shower, watched a bit of TV, it was dinner time.

All about the Braai

Truth is, I would have passed up on dinner if Ruth didn’t mention we were having a “braai”which is the local name for a barbecue of sorts of different types of meats. So if I said, ‘I want to braai it’, I could easily have said ‘I want to barbecue it’.

Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed. The meats weren’t super tender/exciting, and there weren’t enough options for it to really qualify.

Even the potatoes weren't all that...

Even the potatoes weren’t all that… Ah. Sausage was lovely…

But, the corn was super tasty ( we had a lot of corn), and Benjamin Mipanghi, the Food and Bar Supervisor said yes to our request for fresh custard for our brownies. That was lovely!!

You can never go wrong with fresh custard!

You can never go wrong with fresh custard!

He also told me about a local dish I know I’m going to try when next I’m in South Africa; it’s called papa and mogudu, which is a maize meal and beef/tripe/offals stew. Even though I’m not one for offals (you’ll never find me in line for ‘assorted’ meat), I’m looking forward to trying this one. Really looking forward.

Dinner over, it was back in the room for a bit more work, a bit more TV, and then bed. Not before I took this incredible picture (if I must say so myself) of the view of the pool from my floor. Incredible.

Incredible.

Incredible.

Good night everyone, come back for part four soon!!

I was at Winners Chapel, Dartford on Sunday the 23rd of September 2014, first time in almost 4 months… was good for me to have attended, because the sermon was brilliant! I enjoyed it so much I want to share it with you. And I pray it does for you what it was intended to, bless, uplift, and inspire.

Bibles out everyone!

The topic was, ‘loose him and let him go’, and the focus was on faith. The pastor started by saying; “there is no excuse tangible enough for you to remain under hurt and oppression”.

According to 1 Corinthians 10:13, we have the God-given capacity to triumph over every challenge we ever face; every time we refuse to take up a challenge it’s because of laziness, not an inability to surmount it. So says Proverbs 22:13.

3rd John 1:2. Ephesians 1:20-22; 2:5-6

Now, Luke 10:19 says there’s a provision for us to triumph, and hurt-free at that. Not pyrrhic victories as in the case of boxers where their battered bodies tell the tale of their wins.

Isaiah 11: 9

Psalm 91:1-7. Technically, our enemies would have to hit God to get to us; possibility of that? Nil. How do we get into that hurt-free zone though? We get there on the platform of our faith; violent faith. Matthew 9:29

Ephesians 1:3. Galatians 3:14. Faith is the only instrument that translates what God says to what we see; it changes the ‘promise’ to an ‘experience’.

Habakkuk 2:4. Know that we are not at the mercy of the devil, we’re at the mercy of our faith.

 

How To Operate Violent Faith

  1. We must get a word from God
  2. We must believe without doubt
  3. We must confront fear. Job 33:25

Hebrews 2:14-15. Every time I am afraid, it is a sign of distrust in God

So let’s say you’re trusting God for, let’s say a raise at work, and you’ve found a scripture where it says that the path of the just is like a shining light shining brighter and brighter unto a perfect day. You believe the word, appropriate it to your situation in prayer, and confront the doubt in your mind that no one in your office has been given a raise in two years because you know your case is different. Right?

Let’s move on.

Acts 14:3 – Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

2Timothy 1:12

Daniel 11:32 – When we realize our backing, we won’t be wavered by anything because we enter a strange realm of dominion. We need to wake up to our backing!!

Isaiah 53: 5

  1. Make declarations. Psalm 8:10. 2 Corinthians 4:13 faith that does not speak is fake!
  2. Engage the spirit of just men made perfect: taking advantage of the hand of God working in the lives of his servants. 2 Kings 2:12-15

So, back to our desire for a raise, now we start to declare that word, in secret or in the presence of other believers (because wisdom must be spoken to the wise). We can also key into testimonies of others (in the Bible, at church, through messages, etc.) to shore up our faith that God is able to do the impossible.

It is possible to see the transference of the workings of God from one person to the other, long as faith is in place.

How To Remain In The Violent Faith

  1. Be obedient. 1 Peter 3:13. Be committed to obeying God.
  2. A life of prayer ensures a steady hurt-free zone because then we keep hearing God, and that shores us up, makes us unbeatable! Ezekiel 9: 1-6

Do I already hear a prayer for the strengthening of our faith? I’m standing with you in prayer dearies!

Have a great rest of the week!

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!

I remember Monday the 14th of April 2014 like it was yesterday, waking up to the horrible news about yet another bomb blast, this time in the super busy Nyanya Motor Park. The explosion went off inside a car about 6.55am, the period with the highest traffic in the area as commuters from satellite towns and neighbouring states board vehicles headed into the city center.

While the government, international agencies and witnesses argued on the body count, families grieved as they shuttled between the many hospitals and the morgues in search of their people. Some of them would eventually settle for empty caskets, or a body part or two. That was the intensity of the blast.

I remember the outrage, and the confirmation that Boko Haram was not just one religion against the other, but a sect of murderers who had twisted their religion to justify mayhem against the entire country/region.

Screenshot 2015-04-16 18.31.24

Screenshot 2015-04-16 18.31.45

Far away in Chibok, in a Borno already ravaged by Boko Haram, over 300 girls drawn from secondary schools (closed because of security concerns) around the state, went to bed in hostels at Government Secondary School after a day of writing WAEC exams.

Not for long though. Insurgents invaded the school that same night, and carted away 279 girls aged 14 – 18 in one fell swoop. In one of the #BringBackOurGirls rallies I attended, I learned one parent was missing three family members (two daughters and a niece).

The government’s first reaction to the news of the abduction was denial. First denial that any girls were taken, then the arrest of some of the teachers and a parent by First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, then the accusation and counter accusations between the two major political parties on who was behind the kidnapping began, and then the unforgivable slip from the military that they had been found. All fingers pointed and to this day still point towards Sambisa Forest, with different people giving different accounts of its density/porosity being the reason why an onslaught against the kidnappers has not resulted in the rescue of the girls.

The first #BringBackOurGirls protest was on the 30th of April, 2014, led by Hadiza Bala Usman, Aisha Yesufu, and Obiageli Ezekwesili. I remember getting drenched as we marched, as we sang, as we rallied support and demanded answers from the National Assembly.

Hashtag activism brought to life, fueled by anger at the brazenness of the abduction, the reaction by government, and most important, the desire to reunite these children with the parents and families. And it exploded, all around the world. From parents, to school children, politicians (including First Lady Michelle Obama), celebrities, artists, people all over the world stood still for the campaign.

President Goodluck Jonathan first addressed the nation about the girls on the 4th of May, promising to do all in his power to ensure their rescue. Soon after, the Safe Schools Initiative by the Federal Government in collaboration with the international community was launched to ensure that children in the three least educationally developed states (Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno) got an education in a safe, terror-free environment. Activists including Malala Yousafzai also came to Nigeria to advocate for the speedy rescue of the girls.

More than 365 days after that abduction, the girls are still missing. A total of 57 have escaped at various times, and a number of them (purportedly taken from Chibok) were confirmed pregnant. Some parents of the girls have passed on from sorrow, and Boko Haram is still targeting schools. Over 48 children were killed when a bomb exploded on the assembly ground of Government Technical School, Potiskum, in Yobe State. Some of children killed were only 11 years old.

14th April 2015 was the anniversary of the abduction. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said,”Over the past 12 months, Boko Haram intensified its brutal attacks on boys and girls in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Hundreds of thousands of children have been displaced from their homes, and deprived of their rights to live and grow up in safety, dignity and peace. Boko Haram’s killing, abduction and recruitment of children, including the use of girls as ‘suicide bombers’, is abhorrent.”

In Nigeria, there was a commemorative march by the Bring Back Our Girls Community, silent, with red tape over their mouths. Co-Ordinator Oby Ezekwesili said, “We decided that we have spoken so often about this that we’re just going to try to show the people what it feels like … when your voice is taken from you, which is what the terrorists have done to our daughters.” Candles were lit later that evening to renew hope and faith that the girls would be rescued and reunited with their parents.

I agree and lend my voice to Malala Yousafzai’s letter to the missing girls – “I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you and celebrate your freedom with your families. Until then, stay strong and never lose hope. You are my heroes.”

In a Northern Nigeria where only 5% of the girls go to school, they are indeed.

PS: Originally published on Future Challenges here.

Over the last few days I’ve trained my eyes to tell distances from my fuel gauge, no thanks to the scarcity that means cars congregate on fuel stations like they’re sharing something else there. Of course I went to fewer places as the dial danced closer to the ‘E’, and then last night, I knew I had to humble myself and queue.

Why use the word humble? Well, I braved a black market purchase the last time there was a queue. It not only cost me double the normal thing, but the fuel was bad so there was the cost of changing the injector and something else when the car refused to run properly the next morning.

So this time my darlings? I finished all the work I had to do, and at 9.30pm, I joined the queue at Forte Oil, opposite Transcorp Hilton. While I was there, I started tweeting a few things I’ve had on my mind for a few days, starting all the tweets with ‘shout out to…’. Did you catch them? Lol…

About 10.15pm, it was my turn, and typical me, I started chatting with the attendant. Apparently, the station is open 24 hours, and they run shifts. Which sounded nice till the guy said he resumed at 4pm and wouldn’t get off till 5am the next day!

What!! That’s 11 or 12 hours! So, two shifts, and these attendants are on their feet the entire time. And this is a very busy period, because very few stations have fuel, and so the lines are like the never-ending lists we tale before God. Daily.

It gets even more interesting. Guess how much these guys earn? Attendants – N10, 000 per month. Not per shift, or per week. Every 30 days. No wonder they’re trying to fleece everyone every chance they get. No wonder they connive with their managers to fiddle with the meters and sell you N500 fuel even though you pay N1000. Am I excusing theft? No. Stealing is wrong. All shapes, forms, and sizes. Even the Bible says a thief who stole bread because he was hungry should still be punished. However, the same Bible says that if eating meat (or paying a deplorable salary) will cause your neighbour (or staff) to sin, don’t do it.

How do you pay a man (or a woman) N10, 000 in Abuja where everything is triple the price? Not in any of the really cheap states where money goes further? How are their bosses able to sleep at night? In their million dollar houses and bourgeois lives? What are their staff supposed to do with N10, 000?

I didn’t bother asking if they had health insurance or a pension contribution from their management – didn’t want to waste my time. Or his.

Interestingly though, he was very excited with this job because it was hard to get, and it was only because his brother knew someone who knew one of the managers that he got it. So, I also didn’t talk about leaving this or applying for any other jobs. Again, I didn’t want to waste his time. Or mine.

It’s like one multi-millionaire I used to know… who would owe his staff for months on end (and he was paying the exact definition of chicken change) yet they would see him flaunt his wealth on his children and associates. And expected loyalty and honesty, feigning surprise that they were pinching sums whenever/wherever they could.

Again, for absolute clarity, theft/fraud/misappropriation/add other synonyms in all forms is wrong. Wrong, and should be punished.

However… Think about it. What are you paying your hired help? Not saying you should pay beyond what you can afford, but would you accept that with joy and gladness if the positions were reversed? Even if you had no option and the job in itself was a favour?

To paraphrase a saying I’ve heard several times about racism and slavery… there is the bad thing the government has done to its citizens, but there is also the bad thing that citizens have done to themselves.

This thing about the golden rule sha…

 

PS: I got home a few minutes to 11pm. Exhausted, but with high spirits. I have fuel!

Welcome to the end of March! Have you had a good month? I know I have!

Much earlier in the month, I was invited to Warri to facilitate at training for some officials from various organizations working in the Niger Delta. And I was excited, for a number of reasons. Since I ran a couple sessions late last year I discovered that training is something I really enjoy plus I hadn’t been in Warri since 199something and so I was really excited about the trip.

Flight was uneventful except I must mention that Arik Air thrive in the midst of confusion. It’s incredible! So my flight was for 8am, and I was at the airport before 7am. There was a rapidly lengthening queue, Arik Air officials doing what the Lord alone can explain because there wasn’t any progress.

And then of course people started jostling about and getting rowdy because their flights were getting announced. Guess what? They delayed the flight. Lol…

Anyway, we finally boarded the miniature plane, and off we went. Landed in Benin, and then did the 45+ minutes drive to Warri. I was taken to my lodgings, a place called Denaj Hotels. I was a little concerned when I saw these two signs but I said I’d be a good girl and not make a fuss about anything.

2015-03-08 16.47.01

This was at the bar.

2015-03-09 18.13.54

This was at the gate.

Have you noticed that when we say we’re not going to do something bad it seems like all the devils in hell relocate to our ends just to make us renege on that promise?

Children of God, the sheets had funny stains on them – not even going to hazard a guess around that. Then the toilet seat looked like there’s been a pissing contest for blindfolded guys.

2015-03-08 16.26.29-1

2015-03-08 16.26.29

2015-03-08 16.27.01

2015-03-08 16.27.17

I was confused. There was no menu in the room either, and I was starving.

I called for someone to clean the bathroom (not change the room – remember, no fuss), and then I ordered jollof rice, plantain and chicken. Food came on a tray without cutlery, and the cleaner still hadn’t come.

So I went downstairs, and had to get cutlery myself, and pried a lady attendant from her phone and argument with the receptionist about her not being the person to clean my room. I ate (don’t ask any questions – I was starving), and then had a meeting where I complained to the heavens about the entire situation (by this time chill had departed), and then I spread my mom’s wrapper on the sheets, and slept. The evening, the morning, and it was time to prep for the first day of training.

First off, I woke up with some sort of itch on my arms and feet. There was no hot water. I’d finished my water and I didn’t even feel okay buying water. So, no shower, and I settled for gargling with my mouth wash.

Was I grumpy or what!! Hian! I mean it was lovely to meet the class, 21 bright-eyed people who I was supposed to be useful to, but I couldn’t shake the itch and it was all so disorienting, two mugs of my favorite brew didn’t help.

We were moved to Protea that evening, and guess what I did first? Phew… Thank you Jesus! I had a proper dinner as well, three-course type of business. Talmabout getting my groove back!

So what did I teach the class? We did an introduction to social media, tools and platforms, what their organizations might need (or not), and the personal vs corporate communication. We also learned about keeping ourselves safe online, hyperlinks, infographics, blogging, and developing articles for their organizations. Of course there were lots of things we tried our hands at (internet permitting), and I ended up creating a WordPress blog for one organization, a Facebook page for another, and personal Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for members of the class.

I also met Samson Idoko, a very brilliant young man and co-facilitator who taught Microsoft Office in a way I’ve never seen/heard it taught before. Tips, shortcuts, tricks across Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, and it was a free class for me!! I learned so much!

There was also Frank, a staff of the organization who ensured we were always overfed! God bless him, one afternoon I said I wanted fish and a salad for lunch, and here’s the fish I got! I shared mine with Samson and we gave his out – walai I would have dozed if I ate that alone!

2015-03-13 13.04.41

There was James who drove us around, and had this hilarious bad eye he would give other people who were driving dangerously. Thank you for making me smile everyday!

And the icing on the cake? The feedback from the class! I grabbed a bit of it, and then there was the email from one of the attendees, which was the sweetest thing I’ve read in a while. Sweetest.

I learned lessons about myself, about people, and about social media on this trip. Start from confirming that Lagos, Abuja are on one level with social media, and the rest of the country on a totally different level. Totally different ladies and gentlemen. It might not mean much till you juxtapose that with political communication, numbers and expectations for these elections.

And now for a shameless plug: want a social media trainer for your organization? Get in touch, already!

Warri was great, I love the class, and it was my privilege to share my skill/knowledge; massive thanks to the organizers and technical adviser for the opportunity, and for ensuring that we were comfortable. Let’s do it again!

A little intro before you read this. First off, I didn’t write it, my friend @ElohoOmame did. And boy, was it refreshing to read something overflowing with common sense, devoid of the hate young people (on all sides of the divide) are peddling in the name of voter education, calls to participation, etc. This was refreshing, and is a bigger incentive to vote than the tiresome rhetoric I’m now consciously blocking out of my mind.

Eloho is brilliant with this, simple, convincing logic, sentence after sentence. And I join my voice with hers, asking that you go out on the 28th of March and the 11th of April to vote the candidate of your choice.

Still ‘Undecided’? Here’s What I’d Like You To Know

Undecided isn’t good enough. Millions of us are counting on you. Please spend the next few days deciding whom you will vote for and be bold enough to see it through. Your vote is important, your vote is strategic and it would be silly not to use it. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll tell you why.

First off, if you are one of the lucky 56 million people with PVCs, give yourself a pat on the back. You are a guardian of the welfare of two other Nigerians that will not have a say in how our country is run for at least another four years. Think of yourself as ‘standing in the gap’ for two of your children, employees, friends or neighbours. To stand in the gap is a good thing; it means you speak on our behalf.

Remember also that there 17 million or so, like me, who live abroad for different reasons, but have left their hearts in Nigeria. There is no provision for us to vote. We add the burden of another half a person to each load. Think of us often. Remember you speak for three and a half people, including yourself.

But, if the last two presidential elections are anything to go by, the disappointing reality is that not all of you that who are able to vote will come through for us on March 28. My guess is that around 38 million people – 55% of the 68 million registered by INEC – will actually cast a vote. That means about 20% of Nigerians will speak for the 100%, because 18 million of you with PVCs will do nothing. You will forget the hard slog of getting the card in the first place and ignore its power.

Some of you will mean to vote, but be put off by the simplest inconveniences, like predictably poor logistics or the inevitable heat of the sun. The rest will give us three reasons.

The first group will say their votes don’t matter, “one vote won’t decide the outcome in the end”. And they would be right. If there could ever be an argument for apathy that I respected, this would be it. It makes rational, economic sense. The voting process is individually costly but not individually beneficial since the chance that any one person will cast the single deciding vote is close to zero. It would be silly to respond to this group then with statements like “what if we all didn’t vote?” That’s a close to zero probability event. Thankfully, 38 million people will.

Others will say that the process is likely to be rigged anyway, “it doesn’t matter what I want, the result has been fixed.” These are the classic free riders, and it’s tough to respect that. They are not happy with the status quo and are probably voters for the opposition (or they wouldn’t care if the process were rigged in the first place), but they will abdicate their responsibility. I am not saying that I believe Nigeria is now at the point where elections are entirely free and fair, but I am saying this group should give the process a chance. They are potentially very powerful as a unit but would rather sit at home speculating and sulking.

The last group will tell us that they are truly undecided, and so have no choice but to abstain. They are afraid to take a chance on an outcome that they cannot foresee; they don’t want to vote for a losing candidate, and are probably most in favour of those challengers with an outside chance. These people should spend more time with the most rational of the non-voters. If they did, they would take comfort in the fact that their individual votes will not by themselves change the outcome, and they might have the courage to back their convictions. With any luck, they’d come to understand that voting is not a lottery – it is not about guessing the winner – and that by staying away, they weaken the quality of our democratic discourse.

To the 18 million I say this: you have grown weary too easily. You forget that our democracy is barely 16 years old; the journey has not begun. You want to be inspired, to be rewarded with good leadership and good governance, but until then, you will not join us in the drab modalities of a democracy. Sadly, the promise we all want will continue to be delayed for as long as too few people are involved in deciding how nearly 200 million people are governed. We need many more to be invested in this process. We need you to do your part. We want to be inspired too.

So please vote, and vote wisely. The issues before us are clear and the choice is not easy. Ironically, the campaign slogans of both the PDP and the APC agree that the status quo is unsatisfactory. We debate the semantics of ‘transformation’ vs. ‘change’ and I am reliably informed that one is a point in time occurrence and the other is an impressive process. Politics aside, I understand enough to know that in either scenario the promise is the same – today does not look like yesterday and tomorrow will not look like today.

But, in reality today does not look different enough to where we were four years ago, so given half a chance, I’d give my vote to General Buhari’s government. For no reason other than it is time to go back to the drawing board. The Chinese say ‘if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading’.

But, ultimately, I won’t have a say in what happens on Saturday. If you have a PVC, you can. Whichever way you lean, remember that your vote sends a message, you are luckier than millions of us with no voice and you stand in the gap for 2 and a half people.

You could use your voice to make a show of confidence in President Jonathan, to deliver a message of support for General Buhari or to give a word of encouragement to the phenomenal Remi Sonaiya. That’s your prerogative. Just go out and vote.

On the 14th of January I attended a parley between 36 young people and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), organized by the Abuja Hub of the Global Shapers Community. The event, which doubled up as the launch of the AMANA Initiative and the Abuja Dialogue Series, was hosted by the U.S. Embassy Abuja. The Commissioner of Police (CP) for the FCT, Wilson Inalegwu, came through with the force PRO, and some other members of his team.

The Cultural Affairs Officer at the Embassy, Bob Kerr, received us, and soon after the introductions were done, the question and answer session began. I made note of things that really stood out for me, and I’ve reproduced that below.

Q: What’s the relationship between the NPF and young people in Abuja?

A: Quite cordial except when they get involved in unwholesome behavior. Apprehension and arrests are never pleasurable events.

On the elections, the CP said the NPF was more than ready to ensure people across the country could go out and cast their votes without fear or concern for their safety. He said we would have noticed, “Already, motorized, static and mobile policing has been increased around the country”.

He also talked about the collaborative nature of the work between all the security agencies, giving an example with the relocation of Internally Displaced Persons  (IDPs) affected by the insurgency in the North East to camps in Abuja. He said the Department of State Security (DSS), military, police, civil defence, etc. worked together to register people so that fleeing combatants and terrorists wouldn’t be able to infiltrate the camps.

The Commissioner admonished young people to eschew (and I hate to sound like I’m writing for a Nigerian newspaper) political thuggery, drugs, and bad behavior.

In response to a question about the time it takes the police to show up when they are called, the police boss said community policing meant it was everyone’s responsibility to secure their areas, and be vigilant. Why? Simple reason is because the police cannot be everywhere at the same time. There are less than 16, 000 officers covering Abuja (morning/working population of about 4.5 million people, reducing in the night-time when people have returned to their homes within and outside the territory). For the entire country, there’s about 387, 000.

What else? Yes, on killings of civilians vs. killings of police officers, the CP said, “the NPF does not condone extra-judicial killings. It is their duty to apprehend, link the accused with the crime, and charge them to court, or let them go. They are only allowed and empowered by law to defend themselves to the full extent.” He also talked about various checks and balances in place to curb excesses and urged us to use the available helplines, Human Rights Desks within the police stations, and the Public Relations Officers to air our grievances.

One of the questions thrown at the Police Commissioner was about the welfare packages of force men who died while carrying out their duties. He said their families would receive N100, 000 towards burial costs, a minimum of five hundred thousand naira minimum insurance, and death gratuity. He also mentioned schemes like Police Officers Wives Association (POWA), and the Police Reward scheme that cater to the family of deceased officers. He acknowledged it wasn’t enough but said like other things that needed fixing, this was being reviewed.

Out of the tons of questions he had to cater to, the commissioner mentioned that they were in talks with Microsoft to develop an app that using geo-tagging, would enable residents reach the police in an emergency, pinpointing their exact location and therefore reducing reaction time. Nice! Amen to development, even though I remember saying he didn’t need to go all the way to Microsoft. Nigeria has more than enough developers to deliver on that!

Finally, the CP shared the helpline numbers for the police (08061581938, 08028940883, 08032003913) pending when they sort out their short code numbers. Store them, and even though the general hope/idea is you don’t have an emergency, there’s nothing as comforting as knowing you have the police close by if you do!

PS: Originally written for and posted on the Global Shapers Website.