Posts Tagged ‘Nigerians’

So the US election campaigns started about 18 months ago, and I’ll be honest and say I was largely uninterested in the debates, rallies, etc. until very recently. Of course there were the very many days the world was jolted by any of the inappropriate (inappropriate here also meaning scary, unacceptable, criminal, etc.) utterances from Republican Candidate Donald Trump either during rallies, interviews, in the locker room, pretty much everywhere. On those days I would be forced to catch up on the outrage, but that would be all.
Not because I don’t care who the next leader of the free world is, not because I don’t see the incredible importance and leap it would be for a woman to become the next president of the United States, but because my people say that “when a man’s house is on fire he does not bother about the fufu he had on the stove.” There was (still is) just too much “what on earth is going on with my Nigeria” going on to focus on what’s happening in the pond an entire continent away.
TV ads forced me to care. Stickers, posters, heck even conversations a little too animated forced me to join the US Election frenzy. With or without my consent, I’ve had to actively follow.
So, I’ve been in the US for the past 4 weeks now and the excitement/apprehension/tension is palpable. Not the Nigerian flavor of ‘we’re voting for x and y not because we know what they will offer but because our leader says to’, but the ‘we’ve listened to both (major) candidates, know their history and believe overwhelmingly that x is better than y’. Or maybe even that x is the lesser of the two evils, whatever personal reasons.  
It reinforced a thought that led to this tweet“Dear #Nigeria, when we’re done climaxing over the #USElection rallies, our candidates MUST debate in 2019. Anything else is unacceptable.”
I believe that tweet with all my heart, and I hope you, Nigerian, tax-paying, voter card-wielding, pledge-reciting, daughter or son of the soil who has followed the US Elections has been reacquainted with a love for oratory, a respect for facts and figures, an appreciation for the media (and the 2016 expression of the Social Responsibility and Hypodermic Needle theories), and a renewed belief in yourself as a citizen whose vote is worth more than screaming rallies without any substance.
Anything less than debates with concrete plans, economic policies that can be argued for or against, and interventions that directly impact the lives of Nigerians is unacceptable. No more platitudes, no more empty promises, no more roaring rhetoric. 
Our state and national representatives must clearly articulate their plans for us, the people they represent. We cannot applaud the levels of transparency we’ve seen in this election and be content with declarations of assets that end up being as vague as they are untrue.
We must elect representatives who will not subvert but uphold the Constitution, and indeed open up the black hole that the National Assembly budget currently is!
Sigh. Deep breath Chioma. Moving on.
I’ve also thought very deliberately about how technology has been deployed for these elections. I’m not referring to diaspora voting which ensures citizens all over the world are not disenfranchised, and sounds like a brilliant idea till you remember that Nigeria has not come close to perfecting our local, physical processes yet. We cannot guarantee votes cast by human beings we can see and touch (’see and touch’ excluding the era when we had Jamie Foxx and Michael Jackson on the list of accredited voters); yet we’re currently fascinated with diaspora votes. Maybe add that to the things we will blame next for inconclusive elections?
Anyway, I was referring to citizen-centered technology. Technology deployed to make voter education and the voting process as seamless and inclusive as possible. First from the government with the listings/helplines on social and traditional media, to parties and politicians constantly reminding the electorate why, how, and where to vote;  broadcast media and state-specific voting information, to the digital titans deploying doodles, stickers, and other ‘make it cool to vote’ paraphernalia for the electorate to perform their civic duty. No stomach infrastructure, sharing of rice, or bread, or corn; no ridiculous photos where fancy wristwatches meet extreme poverty, none of that mess. 
Anyway, it all ends in the next 24 hours. Those who didn’t already vote have until 8pm to get counted, with a collation and announcement devoid of candlelight, midnight miracles, meme-worthy drama, or any funny business. Governance should also start in earnest immediately after the swearing-in, not 9 months after. 
Quite frankly, these elections rank high on the list of things Americans should be ashamed of – the blatant mudslinging, disrespect for candidates/American History/the American people; the divisive nature of the campaign, the hate it’s inspired, ugh. Shameful.
However, for us, there is a lot to be learned, and I hope we’ve all been taking notes. 2019 is coming. 
PS: Originally published on Huffington Post
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How’s everyone doing?

Good weekend? Ready for the week? This is going to be one of my busiest but I thought I’d take a few minutes and say a big hello to everyone, play catch up a bit.

So my niece and nephew were ill, one had malaria and a tummy bug, and the other one had a cold that stretched at least two weeks, and she still had it after she gave it to me. We spent small time in the hospital, and that’s where the story about blood donation came from (I published that recently).

I’ve also done a bit of local travel, looking forward to when I can take a proper holiday… I owe myself two – one for my birthday and the other because life is short and we should take time off to rest and be quiet when we can. Amen?

God dey.

Work is alright… Moved into a new office in June and we’re getting settled in really nicely. Really thankful to God for that, and the immediate possibilities I see for expansion.

Still on work, got two interesting referrals recently, a stark reminder that clients, no matter how little, matter and an excited client post your custom might make a difference as much as 24 months after. I’m really thankful for the referrals, and now just need God’s help to ensure that we beat the standards we’re being held to. Amen?

On Saturday I was privileged to speak at my church’s business/entrepreneur summit, and I drew my topic/talk from some work I’d done for a client recently. I spoke on minding the gaps and facing the direction of travel. Corny I know but it was a good opportunity to fuse my love for trains with my experiences as a student, an employee, and now an employer. It was interesting for me to talk about some of the lessons I’ve learned, and how each step leads to the next, and the next, and the next. It was also very instructive to talk about the place of God in business, and the mistakes I’ve made simply because I ignored the still small voice telling me no. I had a good time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

What else? I’m happy. Sweet baby Jesus this daughter of God is happy. I am joy-like-a-river, peace-like-a-fountain, love-like-an-ocean brand of happy. Such a beautiful feeling. Everything in my life; experiences, joy, sadness, mistakes, successes; everything that I have seen has prepared me for where I am now, and I am thankful to God for His many blessings and precious gifts. There’s a new mercy every single day! And I’m loving it!

Finally, I need to get back in the gym. Don’t know why I’m typing this instead of renewing my membership but yeah, this child needs to be back in that place where more calories are burnt than piled on. Yep. This week is out of the question sha, and I’m not bothered in the least what you think! *sticks tongue out*

Finally finally, lol. My nephew moves to reception next school session! Whoop! He’s officially a big boy now! Interestingly, he’s slowly outgrowing the millions of hugs and kisses I drown him in, and he’s only four! I thought they didn’t start all of that till much later? Arrrrrghhhh! Bring back my baby! *sad face*

Finally finally finally, I got a birthday gift yesterday… I know o, this is still for the birthday that passed in May. Is the Lord laying it on your heart to send me a pressie? Harden not your heart biko!

How have you been? Are you keeping okay? Are you doing well? Want to share? Please do!

Mwah!

PS: A song in the back of my mind for a few days now has been “we are h-a-p-p-y, we are h-a-p-p-y, we know we are we are sure we are, we are h-a-p-p-y!” (If you went to primary school in Nigeria this should ring a bell… or two… or three… or four… I’ll stop here)!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well. Let’s just say life happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My gorgeous friend...

My gorgeous friend…

I love you chekeleke. My sister-girl!

Yes!! One male, one female! That’s what I’m trying to achieve this year with the #31Days31Writers series… Love it! The different voices, the diversity in our experiences, I love it! Again I’m humbled when people I don’t know/don’t really know reach out to offer entries for this series… Thank you for considering my blog worthy of your time, effort, and experiences!

Say hello to our entry for today, Oladayo!

2015. Oh 2015, you gave me quite a scare at some point but trust God to make everything beautiful in His time.Yes!

My name is Oladayo and 2015 has been the year. Started routinely, life going as usual, then came the bump in the road. However, it only helped me find myself in God and made me a better, stronger man. And like any good movie, the end of the year is much better. All bumps were navigated and multiple lessons were learned. Will share a few:

I have learned to lean totally on God and avoid self-help especially when He’s promised to sort me out. You can never underestimate the leading of God in life.

I learned how to overcome my fears and reduce my tendency to worry. If I really can’t help it, why worry? Better to commit to God and wait on Him to show up.

I have learned the importance of building one’s faith in advance so that when great faith is needed, it can be tapped into. I have learned the power of organic growth and the futility of comparing oneself with others. Trust me, we all have our challenges. Grow at your pace and run your own race. There is space for us all to thrive.

I have many things to be thankful for:

1. My wife – my rock, the soft-spoken, gentle tower of strength beside me.

2. Friends who show up for me, giving what I ask for without asking why I need. Nothing is too much to ask friends. I needed a loan for a project and my bank took months to say no. It took my friend less than a day to give the funds needed when I asked.

3. Many minute, day-to-day blessings that tally up to very big miracles. I ventured into projects that normally would look scary and I am coming out unscathed through God’s Grace.

4. Nigeria – thankful that we still have a country. With all its flaws, we are still standing. The turn of the year brought a lot of fear and even now when I see Syria, I am thankful for the relative peace we enjoy in Nigeria

5. Safe travels – been another intense travel year, rate of over 1 flight a week. I see all the issues in aviation worldwide and I can’t but be thankful for safe and eventless flights.

All in all, I am looking forward to 2016 with the assurance that it’s going to be a much better year on all fronts. I believe I will be reaching new frontiers, all by God’s Grace.

Thank you Oladayo! Here’s a big amen to all your prayers, for you and your family, and all the readers on this blog! Someone said recently on Twitter that beneath all the smart quips and laughs on Twitter, some of us struggled this year, and she prayed that the joys of 2016 would make us forget everything that hurt/stung. 

Come back tomorrow everyone!

The thing I love best about the #31Days31Writers series is the diversity it stirs up, from people I probably would never have heard before! And there is so much knowledge and insight in the world we miss out when we don’t listen to others! Halimah has such a powerful post, and it is my pleasure to present this beautiful writer on the 3rd day of our series!

My name is Halimah Tauheed and I am Congolese-Nigerian, a fact I have hidden for so long because I was afraid of the reactions of people. I stay in Minna and people there are still not quite receptive of “mixed “nationals like me. I teach at the Federal University there and I also volunteer at the campus radio. I love continental dishes, especially Indian. I am constantly fiddling with my phone, not because I am chatting, but because I am learning new (and sometimes weird) stuff.

Forgive me for not following the order in which we were asked to write. Hence, I will start with what I have learned this year. I have learned to take my own advice. I present an inspirational program every Sunday where I dole out words that would hopefully uplift people’s spirits and souls but the funny thing is I often go home after each show empty. I learned that it is okay for me not to be the most amazing person in the room. It is okay to be just me. I learned that it is okay to love and not be loved in return. I learned that love cannot be bought, forced, cajoled or manipulated.

For as long as I can remember, people, including some so-called friends, described me as “awkward”, “misplaced” and “weird.” I realised I was not understood and did almost everything to change that perception. I have learned it is ok to be misunderstood and “out- of- place” in society. I have learned to believe that I matter too and I am learning to love myself. I have learned that people are human and will hurt you, sometimes not of their own volition and that I must forgive them for my own good. I learned that I am also deserving of my forgiveness. I learned that certain “important” people would walk away from you and life would go on. I have learned not to squirm when I look at myself in the mirror and to love my imperfectly perfect body. I have learned that life is like the roads in Nigeria where some parts are good, others bad and the rest horrible. I have learned to be less judgemental of people. Everyone is fighting a battle, some that would give u shivers down your spine. I have learned that there is still hope, even in the face of depression, tears, and fears.

I am grateful to The Almighty for the opportunity at another chance to do right by myself, do right by others, to say sorry, to motivate someone or anyone, to help a person whether friend or stranger. I am grateful for family and friends who love me unconditionally. I am grateful for the boy who calls me “Mummy” even though I am not. I am grateful for the gifts I have been given and the ability to use some if not all of them.

If you ask me what I would undo this year, the first thought would be not to be so emotional. But on a second thought, why would I want to turn off part of my humanity? It is part of what makes me unique, makes me “me”. I realize now that it is a gift. So I would undo all the excuses I made up, the procrastinations and most of the pity parties. I would have been nicer to strangers, not lost my temper so often, and been more patient.

To you, it is not too late to make 2015 worthwhile and have an amazing 2016.

Boom!! I enjoyed reading this so much, it felt like Halimah was writing to me personally! As a matter of fact, when I received her entry my reply was “I think you have a gorgeous heart, and I really enjoyed reading this. I can’t wait to share with everyone!”

This was for me. Really. Come back tomorrow!

Welcome to the #31Days31Writers Series!! I’m so excited it’s here, and grateful that two years after the first one, we’re back here again!

2015 has been an incredible year full of stories, near misses, mistakes, joys, etc. But, I’m excited we’re winding down, and looking forward to a most inspirational 31 days with all our writers sharing their lives and experiences with us!

We start with the gorgeous Adenike, who I met in Lagos in October in the company of a very good friend of mine, Francesca. My spirit loved her as soon as we met, and she strikes me as someone who loves God passionately, but won’t shove Him down anyone’s throat because she’s such a joy you want to know what’s she’s high on all the time! I can’t wait to meet her again, and very soon!

I messaged her about the series, and her post is below. She kicks off our first day of the series with, “

Adenike Oyetunde is my name, a Nigerian, resident in Lagos State, Nigeria. I am a media personality, specifically with Radio now.

Reaching out to complete strangers in 2015, will always be a part of my story, and one I shall be continually be grateful for. Such an exhilarating experience, taking up the causes of people who had no hope; and ensuring their immediate needs were met. The excitement in the renewed belief of the united spirit in Nigeria is just unexplainable! Imagine that a little, three-year old friend of mine needed at least N1,500,000 to undergo a medical procedure, and we put the word out. In no time, Nigerians flung into action. I remember vividly, his mum calling and weeping, because she in her words, “had never had people rally round her, being an only child herself.”

My year started out with one of my friends buying me a ticket to go on vacation; I sure knew it was going to be a beautiful, expense paid year indeed *wink* (who no like awoof)!

Very recently, someone sent a picture to me with “family isn’t only blood, but those who stood by you in your trying moments.” It struck a chord in my heart, particularly because there are many more qualified, and better equipped (in all ramifications) persons; but I made myself available to be used in helping these people. Family.

I will forever remain grateful for the realization that because I lived through 2015, families had a cause to be joyous. I grew up with just my immediate family (no siblings, just mum, dad and myself), and didn’t understand it whenever people spoke of having ‘random strangers stand by them, closer than family’. 2015 re-emphasised that.

In this year, like never before, I have understood and re-learnt what ‘live your life purposefully’, means. Losing three people to cancer , with three others still fighting on, you would agree with me, ‘no  be beans’. I also learnt to get things done as soon as they pop in my head. The last person I lost had promised to call me back, that clearly never happened.

Yes, some say regrets; others say things they would love to undo; I think the closest experience in this regard would have to be with matters of the heart. For whatever it’s worth, I strongly believe, if for any reason I didn’t learn anything, I learnt to ‘guard my heart oh’!

The roller coaster, emotional quagmire in 2015 *phew, thank goodness, I made it*, the tough decision of not settling to being second fiddle, re-affirming my worth and then standing my ground?

Finally, in 2015, I have learnt to be grateful for each day like never before. Of what use is the money, car, house, etc. when I am dead and gone?

Cheers.
Adenike.
IMG-20151023-WA0006.jpg

She’s gorgeous, and always smiling! Such a glorious lady!

Ha ha! There you have it! Can I say Adenike, that when I read this post and I saw ‘Cheers’ at the end, I felt like it was one of those ‘drops mic’ scenarios? Love it, and thank you for writing in! Mwah!
Everyone, come back tomorrow for day two!

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!

 

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

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

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

Let’s get into it already!

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

Detola 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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