Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then I drove off.

I don’t know… I just don’t know…

Good people of the Fairy GodSister’s blog!

How many times do you feel like everything isn’t working? Like maybe business isn’t going great, deals aren’t coming in, your relationship isn’t worthy to be used as an example talk less of as a goal, and you’re spits away from quitting?

There are days like that, and it’s okay to feel that way (I guess). What I don’t think we should do, is dwell in the feelings of self-pity, sadness, discontent, whatever. Why?

Because (and I know we shouldn’t start sentences with ‘because’) we have it better than most! There is so much suffering in the world (all you need to do is open your eyes and look around you), but we are not them. Whatever it is we are going through, there are folk who are not only passing through worse, but have no hope of stuff getting better anytime soon (or ever).

I did some thinking recently, and these were the tweets those thoughts produced…Screenshot 2015-08-15 16.20.36

I was traveling between Abuja and Asaba – one of the four or six times I’ve been this year (gist about that will come later) – and I went by road. The car made a comfort stop at an eatery in Lokoja and I needed to wee. So I went to the bathroom and the lady there would always let me use a toilet she otherwise left locked up. So, I would always tip her.

On this trip though, she wasn’t there but the other lady looked at the way I scrunched my nose at the open ones and asked me to come use that locked one. I used it, and left. When I bought stuff we were going to eat in the car, I felt a strong urge to go and give her my change. So I went back, gave her N150 (less than £1 and $1 these days), and her knees hit the floor so fast with the thank yous gushing I gave her an extra N200 (total now just over a pound and a dollar) and literally disappeared.Screenshot 2015-08-15 16.20.51

No jokes. No jobs, and homeboy needed a job desperately. So he now works as a driver. After graduating from university, with a good grade.

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To put it in context, N500 is less than $3 and under £2. That is ‘plenty money’ to some. Are we just bit more appreciative of our circumstances?

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Ahhh, this was a crazy day I will never forget. How do you get to the point where you attempt to strangle your 11 month old baby to death because there’s no money to feed her? https://fairygodsister.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/bringbackourgirls-my-account-of-the-abuja-protests-30-04-2014/

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Are we in agreement? Are we a bit more grateful? Things will get better, I promise you; just keep working at it. But till they do, let’s be grateful for where we are, what we have, and what we’ve been delivered from.

Love, light, and God’s great blessings!

PS: I’m updating this post to clarify a few things based on the feedback I got on social media the day it was published. Was I rejoicing that I have it better than others? No. Was I writing to say I was grateful I had it better than others? God no. The thrust of this post was contentment, and gratitude. Why? Because (and I know I shouldn’t start a sentence with the word but whatever) a few incidents had happened back-to-back that made me chide myself for complaining that stuff I was expecting to happen hadn’t happened. The morning I wrote this, I actually felt a little silly for complaining and complaining when I hadn’t been grateful for what I’ve been privileged to receive and have/own and just wanted to encourage everyone to be a bit more grateful, but keep working to change whatever we feel isn’t where it is/should be yet.

Hope this helps clarify things. If it doesn’t, I tried.

So I heard about this Nigerian tour group called NaijaTreks from my friend and co-member of the Wanderlust club, Yejide!Aparently they organize trips to different scenic sites in Nigeria, and there was one scheduled for the 4th of July to Badagry! How exciting!

By the way, Yejide is brain behind NaijaNomads, and if you love traveling you should totally subscribe to her site! They’re on Instagram and Twitter with the same name as well. Check em out, especially on Instagram!

Now, I’d never been to Badagry, and my dreams to conquer Kilimanjaro in June with the Truppr team were cut short by my really bum knee. Sigh #OldPeopleProblems So I said I would come along for this one, and after booking tickets to and from Lagos and paying the N8000 fee, I started packing! I’ll be honest, I think I packed the morning of the trip, and in my normal style, I dashed to the airport and was the last person to board. Would have been swell just that my knee gave me hell the entire flight!

To be honest, the weekend spent in Lagos was literally spent in traffic. I met up with ace developer and friend Samson somewhere on the Island as soon as I got in, and after we put in some good hours working and grabbing lunch, it was off to the bestie’s in Ojodu, which I didn’t get to till close to midnight. Sigh. Lagos isn’t working (argue with your inner witness biko). I can’t live here!

Next morning we set out to the rendezvous point near Marina House. Got there about 6.45am, settled in and the bus set off like 30 minutes later. Long story short, we didn’t get to Badagry before noon, simply because the roads are horrible, a living death trap, and there was construction going on without any alternative routes. Sigh.

Once we got there though, the fun began! And the picture taking started!! I’ll spend the rest of this in photos if you don’t mind..

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Built in 1863!! Really cooool!

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Slave coast – Benin republic and Nigeria Gold Coast – Ghana Ivory Coast – Cote D’Ivoire

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Out of every 10 slaves, Nigeria and Benin Republic brought 6.

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My mother said her father always said, “there is the thing that the oyibo man did to Africa which was/is bad, but there is the thing which Africans did to Africa which was/is worse”

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Muzzle, for human beings. Sigh.

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Slave auction… For fear of mutiny, families were always separated, sent to different countries.

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Announcements for auction… Negroes for sale… Sigh

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All sorts of clasps, including ankle clasps, and the big padlock was for the exceptionally naughty slaves…to padlock their mouths.

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Note that the horse is the first prize…ranking higher than the mulatto girl… negroes weren’t really considered as prizes back then.

Wow… Ready for a bit more?

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No first or business class flights for these ones, the slaves were transported by ship, taking up the lower deck, having to sleep one on top of the other. The sick or dying/dead were simply cast overboard. #HumansToHumans

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This is a really deep drinking pot, filled once a day. Slaves, bound hand and foot, would struggle to get here and drink at the same time. The edges of the pot were jagged enough to mean that sometimes they were drinking water and blood from their cut skin.

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Errant slaves were punished in different ways, sometimes by setting dogs on them while bound and unable to flee/defend themselves.

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No extra words needed.

By this time I’d just about had it with the history class. I decided to wander off on my own, and discovered like a lot of things in Nigeria, the management of this place is piss poor at best, shameful at worst. Dang!! Everywhere else this place would be a protected site, secure, maintained, etc. But no… it must look like rubbish. Because Nigeria. SMH.

Of course... I'm sure it's the slaves who threw the stones that broke these windows so they've been left as a memorial...

Of course… I’m sure it’s the slaves who threw the stones that broke these windows so they’ve been left as a memorial…

No one has thought to repaint this? Since 1863? Really? Really?

No one has thought to repaint this? Or fix the piping problem that caused it?  Since 1863? Really? Really?

Just so you see I'm not just whining...

Just so you see I’m not just whining…

Anyway, rejoined the group and we set off for the next spot.

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Cheeky monkey!!!

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Of the 40 slave cells in this enclosure, 2 have been preserved by the Lagos State Government for tourism purposes, while the rest are occupied by people. 70% of them are direct descendants of Alhaji Seriki Faremi Williams Abass.

A barracoon was like a holding loft where the slaves were kept waiting for the ships to take them.

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This broom is over 170 years old and was one of the items the slavers would give to the African chiefs as currency for the slaves. 40 slaves to one small gun or umbrella 10 slaves to one bottle of gin or ceramic bowl 100 slaves to one big cannon gun Na wa!!

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This gin bottle dates back to the 1800’s… don’t remember what date we were told…

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That’s Yejide and my royal excitedness!! Behind us are more of the items used as currency during the slave trade era…

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This is where Chief SWA was buried when he died in June 1919… he had 128 wives and 144 children. His last child died in 1987…

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Yup, I had to take a closer look at his (SWA’s) final resting place. Interestingly, his names are derived from his slavers (which was common at the time). He was orginally known as ‘Ifaremilekun’; he was from Ogun state.

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Well, built in 1847. Incredible stuff! Did I mention that each slave cell housed 40 slaves? They would sleep standing up cos there was no room to lie down.

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Ah! How could I forget this well? Evil, evil well. It wasn’t the oyibo guys who did this o! It was chiefs and local slavers to their brethren!

 

This well? Apparently it had been 'jazzed' (voodoo, witchcraft, whatever else you want to call it) so that the slaves who drank from it would forget their homelands and not pine for home.

This well? Apparently it had been ‘jazzed’ (voodoo, witchcraft, whatever else you want to call it) so that the slaves who drank from it would forget their homelands and not pine for home.

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It was said that from this ‘point of no return’, slaves had no hope of ever getting back home. They were either shipped off, or if unsold, were killed and used for rituals because the slavers didn’t want them returning home and telling.

And then, it was time for the beach!! Now I’d worn leggings all morning cos it was a little chilly but by now the sun had come out so we had to bring the legs out! Yes!!

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I think I climbed everything possible!!

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Beautiful… water is everything…

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Getting ready to push off…

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Once we got to the beach, I had to do this!! Right before a giant wave washed it away!! SMH!

The beach was so much fun!! We played games, I made a video, and then guess what, I climbed a tree!!

I climbed a tree!! I know, I'm crazy... but I climbed it with a rope!! Didn't get to the point of plucking a coconut but I was high enough!

I climbed a tree!! I know, I’m crazy… but I climbed it with a rope!! Didn’t get to the point of plucking a coconut but I was high enough, considering it was my first time ever of doing this!

I made a video even!

Oh yes, I made another video, not a very nice one though.

The beach was filthy!! Lord Jesus I haven’t seen a dirtier beach in my entire life! Nylons, animal dung, rotten food, yuck, yuck, yuck!

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Selfie time!! Blessing time! This was on the way to Topo Beach… I just love water…

 

The boat driver decided to show off his skills on our ride back to shore... This is how fast we were going!

The boat driver decided to show off his skills on our ride back to shore… This is how fast we were going!

I was the official DJ on the ride back to town, thanks to my Bose travel speakers and playlist on my itouch. Turn up!! It made the long drive back a little more bearable, and thankfully the traffic wasn’t as bad.

Now, I had a truly incredible day!! Met so many lovely people, had lots of laughs, and it was a truly fantastic day!

Next morning however, I discovered someone had taken $100 out of my purse. Meaning that the trip had now cost me return tickets and local transportation, cost of entry, cost of refreshments, and an extra $100. Shame. Didn’t ruin my memories, but I will probably think twice before I join another tour.

So in April I woke up one Sunday morning and felt I wanted to attend a church I’d never been in before. And pronto, HolyHill Church came to my mind, so I had a shower, got ready, and went.

I got there a little late, and so I slipped into a seat at the back. And after a little bit, it was time for the word, title of which forms the first half of the title of this post. Seven killer emotions. Before we pray, can you hazard a guess what they are? Yeah?

Maybe I should digress a bit before we pray – Pastor Sunday Ogidigbo is a good friend of mine; one of the people who define what running a church should be in my opinion. The church has an arm called Holy Hill Relief Foundation which not only caters to the fees and educational needs of indigent children in the FCT, but also has a team of volunteer teachers who give an hour of their time each week teaching subjects like English, Mathematics, Literature, etc. Brilliant stuff, affecting the community beyond messages of prosperity, hell, or holiness. That’s what church/religion should be. They’re on Twitter as @HRelieff, and you can contact them via hrelieff.org

Digression done, let us pray. Dear Lord, let this post bless someone today; let it take them from where they are now, to where they should be in/with You, amen. Bibles and note pads out; ready? Let’s do it!

Most of the things that happen to or around us start from the inside and then manifest in everything we do.

Our emotions affect everything we do, a Chinese proverb says”he who does not smile should not keep shop”.

Pastor Sunday also said some people who purport to help you when you embark on something are just there to document your failure, others are there because they care, others are there because they are afraid. Very few truly buy into and believe your vision. Remember Gideon and the 300 in the Bible, book of Judges?

It’s not not what people do/say to you, it’s the mind and the interpretation I ascribe to those things that give them power over me or not.

So what are these emotions?

1. Fear: reacting to real or perceived threats and assuming erroneously that God cannot help you

2. Anxiety: looking at tomorrow and not believing that God is there and will come through for you

3. Pride: convincing yourself and acting like you lifted yourself by your own hand

4. Anger: An intense, emotional response to real or perceived violation of trust/interests/boundaries. Anger has a way of limiting the intelligence of your actions. Remember Ecclesiastes says anger resides in the belly of fools.

5. Bitterness: anger not dealt with leads to unforgiveness and that in turn leads to bitterness.

6. Malice: a dangerous, deep-seated desire to uplift injury/harm or to see a person suffer (loss) because of anger, the need for vengeance, or just because of wickedness.

The interesting about malice is that it doesn’t need a cause – sometimes events around you that seem nasty might just be the bestiality of the devil, not because the person suffering did anything.

*The existence of a bright light does not extinguish yours. Why not think, “the more, the merrier?”

7. Envy: hating on a person (sometimes more deserving) because they have something you don’t, or something you wish to have. So you wish they lose it, just like Joseph’s brothers in the book of Genesis.

Hian! Are you a devil? (Pastor didn’t say this, this line is all me, but super valid!)

Pastor however advised us to share our ideas with wisdom. Your innocent excitement about a project you’re working on, a blessing you’ve just received, or some progress you’ve made can inspire envy.

I loved the service, talk about my steps being ordered by God to go there that wonderful morning in April! It was so relatable, such a ‘live in 2015’ sermon, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed the read.

We prayed a prayer to close the service, and it was “Father give me the grace/wisdom not to be negative and to operate with the right set of emotions, amen.

Have a fabulous week! God’s got you!

Light, love, and God’s great blessings,

FGS.

Children of God!!

How have you been? Good? How’s work, your family, your life?

Greetings from Leamington Spa, green, quiet, quaint, serene, providing such a connection to my spirit.

Nope, I’m not going to apologise for not being here for a bit. I needed the time away. The past few weeks have been difficult, and I decided that instead of masking the things I was going through with activities (like climbing trees, lol… that story will be told soon), I wanted to drop everything, go away, think, cry, pray, workout, jump (happening soon); everything to bring myself back to myself, if you know what I mean.

In a few days it’d be another anniversary of my aunt’s death. My darling aunt, who we still talk about everyday, who I still feel very close to. Puts to shame all the ‘time heals all wounds’ talk people say, except two years isn’t classed as time. I miss her. Yesterday, today, everyday. Some days are hard, some others are harder, some days are a damn blur.

Keep resting aunty. I love you so much. So damn much!

So I woke up about 4am this morning, couldn’t sleep anymore. Maybe cos I left the curtains open and summer means the sun rises about 3.50am, maybe my eyes were tired of sleep (like my aunt would say, lol), dunno. I just couldn’t sleep.

Anyway, so I started catching up on emails, articles, all those kinds of things, and then I remembered two songs I heard in like 1995, maybe I even danced to one of them in a group, don’t really remember. And so far I’ve played both of them back to back like 10 times each, and they’re so uplifting I thought I’d share with anyone going through a rough time/patch.

This is from an era when music was truly uplifting, not the rubbish we have to endure now. Sigh. This is ‘Count it all joy’ by The Winans.

And then there’s this one by Sound of Blackness called ‘Hold On’. Fun, really great song. Check on it!

I’m talking to myself as I say this. You will feel better. That pain will pass. You will want to get up and work again. Your morning will come. That heaviness will lift, hard times will pass. Just keep holding on, keep working at it, hanging in there, keep looking up, to the One who has our manuals and the perfect story of our lives.

Today’s a great day, whether you like it or not! God’s got you!

Light, love, and God’s great blessings,

FGS!

PS 1 – God bless Ruona for me today. Not tomorrow. Today.

PS 2 – I stumbled on this website yesterday, and I haven’t been able to close it. Such a profound story, such a representation of the absolute love and mercies of God. Have a look, you’re welcome! http://www.heatherllindsey.com/?m=1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS – Written on the 23rd of April.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See my side eye with the corn… Lol…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**wink**

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few things he said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. A set of values.

3. Moral courage to make ‘hard’ decisions.

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

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

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

K.

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

PS: Come back for part three tomorrow.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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