Women in tech, young people in business, whatever

Who has noticed I’ve got my groove back? Whoop!!

Very recently I wrote about being almost subsumed by work, stress, and so many emotions that made it difficult to write. Guess what? I’m back! Whoop! Slowly catching up with most of my writing commitments, and oh what a joy!

Thank you Jesus!

So let’s talk about something that happened recently which I’m very concerned by, especially since it has happened before. Before I start though, quick question: what’s the most important thing for you when you apply for a position/job/project/whatever?

For me, it’s knowing all I can about the people hiring. It’s like dating ( by the way, I refer to relationships so much these days I think an Agony Aunt column is in my future) and if you don’t get to know your partner, how can you please them (or at least try)?

Agreed? Not saying that’s all you need to look out for but believe me when I say it’s important. Very important.

Second thing for me is that I need to care enough/want it bad enough, otherwise there is no point. I won’t get it. To be clear, I haven’t been accepted everywhere I applied for a job, matter of fact there was a research project I put in for a couple weeks ago with a team, and we didn’t get chosen. We did get great feedback though, on what we did right and wrong, so much as I really wanted us to win the tender, I’m not beating myself up at all.

Anyway, back to talking about other people. Lol.

For about two years I’ve recruited ad hoc or full-time staff for myself and for clients, and so I’ve gone through a number of CV’s. And that’s what this post is about. The entire gamut around securing a job, from sending a CV to the interview, to negotiating your pay, to whatever comes after. I know we all talk about the scarcity of jobs, and the difficulties around women finding and being in work but have we thought about employability?

A month ago I needed two researchers and so I asked on Twitter – and most times I will tweet about positions I need to fill – that people send CV’s and a link to anything they had written to an email address.

I got the weirdest responses. From the guy who addressed me as “Hi Chi” (forget the inappropriateness of the salutation, anyone who knows me knows any adaptations of ‘Chioma’ never work with me), to the person who sent me her social network names for me to ‘check her out’, then the guy who sent me a CV which had more errors than correct sentences, phew! Then there was the lady who sent me a nice CV, but then an article that was full of ‘lols’, ‘smhes’, and ‘rmes’. How do you send that as a writing sample for a research position? Who does that? Hian!

About 72 hours ago I joined a panel to interview some people for an internship position. Three guys, two ladies, and somehow the guys went first. First guy was alright, second guy maybe just a bit more qualified, and the third guy sounded like the perfect ‘bullshitter‘ (forgive that word please, I’ll explain). We asked him how he would solve a problem in our organization (which he claimed he was well aware of, and then he said he wouldn’t be able to give us an answer till he had “researched into the foundation of the issue because everything takes root at the foundation then starts to grow”. What??? You know how people just go round and round the mulberry bush because they don’t have an answer? This guy.

Anyway, it was the ladies who worried me. Greatly. The first one knew next to nothing about the organization, kept on smiling in a ‘I-don’t-know-as-much-as-I-should-but-I’m-hoping-my smile-makes-up-for-it’ kind of way, and said she didn’t use social media but had a Facebook and Twitter account. Haba!!! When social media management for the organization was there as one of the tasks? Did I mention she wore jeans and hot pink lipstick? And generally gave off a very unserious vibe?

The second lady did just a bit better but all the interviewers knew the race for the position was between the guys. The ladies were (to my mind) just there to make up the numbers.

And so it is to the sisters I write today. Do we not care enough? Is the problem that we are not aware of what we should do when we’re job-hunting or we don’t want these jobs bad enough? I don’t know. It was distressing though, super distressing. And then we’ll go to our places of worship to pray for favor when we put in ZERO effort. I don’t know…

Thoughts, anyone?

PS: Written on the 21st of March, 2015.

The ‘whole truth’ about women in the work place

A few weeks ago I sat with some friends in one of my favorite places in Lagos (Terra Kulture) and we talked about everything, ending somewhere between relationships, entrepreneurs, that kind of thing.

How did it even start? I know there was a statement made about the scarcity of good men and after both males and females argued a little bit about generalizations, we talked about the difficulties young people face in relationships, either in starting or keeping them.

I totally forgot about that conversation till I was going to blog about Social Media Week Lagos and as I was noting talking points, I remembered the session on ‘Women in Tech’ and how disappointed my friends and I were at the gloss that was slathered on the entire discussion.

Matter of fact, my friend Saratu asked a question that echoed all my sentiments. She wanted to know why none of the speakers spoke about the challenges they’d faced in building their businesses, why no one was telling the real stories behind whatever successes they were currently standing on.

Here’s a personal experience. In 2012 I was in a bank, frustrated with my account officer because they’d said I could get pounds from the branch and then I drove all the way to Area 11 and I don’t remember what excuse they’d given but I was pissed off.

While I was discussing with the said account officer, a much older man asks to borrow my pen. I give it to him and when he’s done, he says I’m pretty and he wants my number. Now, if you read my blog you’ll know the day before I travel is normally the crazy day where I have 1000 things to do, I’m literally running/speeding everywhere and even 26 hours wouldn’t do. Plus, I was ticked off at the bank so a much older man asking for my number was the last thing I was in the mood for. I refused with the last bit of respect I had and after he asked why I was sweating and in a foul mood, I mentioned I still had a client’s office to visit, I had a trip to get ready for etc.

Long story short, we exchanged cards, he wanted me to prepare a social media strategy for the ministry in which he was a director of finance or something. I did, adapted one I’d written for another client, and emailed it that night.

My quote was at least 60% cheaper than the other proposals he had received (he’d given them to me when I swung by to collect a brief) and with the elaborate document I handed in, to my mind it was a matter of when.

I called a few times from Blighty and he said they didn’t have ‘network’ in the office for him to read it, and one day he talked about him coming over so I could explain it to him. A director of a ministry flying (all the way) to England so a prospective strategist could explain her proposal? Lol.

Let’s end the story quickly. I refused to play nice, so he stopped taking my calls and one day told me he was going on a one-year course and not/never to call him again. And that was that. I remember ranting on Twitter, and Ruona Meyer encouraging me in my DMs. I won’t forget that.

So, back to the discussion at Terra Kulture, I said something about unconsciously putting up walls whenever I interacted with men partly because of work and how the slightest smile is misconstrued as ‘consent’ and then a ‘no’ becomes a problem because you led them along (by smiling). I talked about how it was easier (and better) for me to be first seen as mean/hard looking and then soften up (maybe) as the work takes off properly instead of being taken for a ride from day one.

I mentioned how those walls then become a problem when you’re with your special someone because they might feel like you’re not completely open with them but it’s just you forgetting that you can take a break from protecting yourself because relationships should be safe spaces. It’s just you transferring your protective shell/demeanor to a space where you can/should be vulnerable. And that causes problems.

That’s just one challenge.

How many women have to work twice as hard while the rest of the world preaches ‘ empowerment/inclusion’ and ‘giving women a place on the table’? How many women become who they are politically only because they are married to or are children of the Old Boy’s Club? How many of us are frustrated day in day out with the weakest links around our projects?

Here’s another reason why I feel like women should be just a bit more ‘open’ with these conversations. We have these events and everything sounds like a piece of chocolate cake, freely handed out to us because we’re ‘whoever we say we are’. And so the young women listening press forward, maybe even decide to switch careers because we have it so good here.

Then they come and are buffeted with all sorts of challenges they didn’t imagine were possible or are prepared for in the slightest. And then they run away. Or they give in to whatever pressures they have find they have to (furthering the ugly stereotype). Very few will dig their heels in, and fight to get that place on the table.

At the next gathering of women we’ll lament that there are very few entrepreneurs. There will be, because they’re not ready!

It’s the same thing for relationships to be honest, but that’s a totally different discussion for another day.

Final word – can we be a bit more honest with these things? Sure. So let’s do/be that.

BrandiQ and All Souls Church – A day in the life of a strategist!

The 6th of November was a truly special day, one of those days that can truly be described as ‘full’, and I’m about to tell you how it went down! Or up, because it ended on such a high!

So, I’d flown into Lagos the night before after spending a few days with my darling parents, was truly a gift to have been with them, and I can’t stop thanking both of them for the sacrifices they make to keep me comfortable anytime I’m around!

Anyway, so I woke up that morning, chest tight, nostrils blocked, the leftover of a bad case of flu that refused to leave me alone. Show must go on abi? So I got ready, and headed to Civic Center where I’d been billed to speak alongside some very renowned speakers at the BrandiQ Symposium. My topic? Politics, social media, and young people – Tolu Ogunlesi had put me forward as a panelist cos he thought he wouldn’t be in the country and then when he found he would be around, he just came to support me. Hallelujah for friends/colleagues like him!

Keynote speaker was former UK High Commissioner Christopher Kolade, special guest of honor was the most lovely older gentleman Apostle Hayford Allile, and there were academics, other top-notch people like that. I was on the stage with people like Martins Oloja (Editor, The Guardian), and to be honest by the time he was done with his speech, the first thing I said when I took the mic was “how do you top a talk like that”? Thanks however be to God who always causes us to do brilliantly, and not shame Him, our families or our friends!

So, what did I talk about? I started with definitions of some key words in the Symposium theme, (participation, stakeholder, tokenism, and young person) and then I asked two questions:

  • How many people in the room have voter cards?
  • How many of us know the heads of our local government areas  (appointed or elected)?

How do we then (as young people) claim to be stakeholders in a thing we cannot participate in because we’re not registered? Really, how? Aren’t we tired of clicktivism? When do we move on to action, in this case enforcing our thoughts/ideologies with our votes?

Then it was off to stats on voting patterns, how social media is a means to an end but must not be misconstrued as the end in itself, and all of that good business. Event was great, I had a really good time! Potential client and writing gig in the offing too! Whoop!

It ended about 3pm, and then it was off to Terra Kulture for a quick lunch, dress change, and then flying down to All Souls Anglican Church in Lekki, where I’d been billed to speak on social media for play or business, from a Godly perspective.

IMG-20141004-WA0001My date was moved to the 6th because I signed up to something (which I have readied a series for) that would start on the 7th.

So I got to the venue late because I grossly underestimated the traffic and side note? Dear Lagosians, Lagos is not working! Your roads are horrible, even in the so-called posh areas. Yuck. Thankful for my Cabbie Abubakar who lives in Ajah and so knew all the hidden routes to take to avoid the traffic. Na wa!

Anyway, got there in one piece, and after the worship session, I was up! It was a small, intimate crowd, and it was structured a bit like this.

I started with 1 Corinthians 10:31 which I paraphrased as “whether you eat or drink, or tweet or Facebook, do it to the glory of God”. The rest of it is below…

  • About me
  • What is social media
  • How do you use social media – Proverbs 27: 17, Hebrews 10:24-25
  • How not to use social media – 1 Corinthians 15:33, Matthew 5:29
  • Careers in/around social media – Matthew 5:16

Pretty simple/straightforward right? The interesting thing really was introducing the word of God to the different points above. I had a marvellous time! I loved the question and answer session, and I have since made a blogpost off a quick consult I did following that event! Something to do with how we use LinkedIn, you should see it.

It gets even better – they gave me a plaque! I was so emotional, it means so much to have received this! And the prayers, aww, kiss of my life!

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Super grateful to JT for dinner, and then it was bedtime, and out of Lagos the next day to join the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Book Sprint in Abuja!

Crazy, crazy, schedule, but I love it!

xx

#ChroniclesFromBonn – Opening Day

You won’t believe what happened on this day I’d been counting down to for the past three months! One, my monthly visitor came (without any warning, smh), and second, the night before I couldn’t sleep (AT ALL) and so about 4am, my head started pounding.

By 5am I found sleep, and regardless of the alarm I set for 7am, I didn’t stir till 8.30amm, and I think it was only because my dad rang! I don’t think I’ve gotten ready any faster than I did that morning, and I caught a taxi to the venue (non-refundable expense) because my sense of geography is terrible and I know that because I was panicked that I was late, it would be even worse!

Made it there, and somehow, I was still on time – somehow. Sorted myself, grabbed a cuppa, and after I had been briefed by Janusz, the business of the day began! My brief? Get people who ordinarily would not have met each other to interact, and on camera! Want to see the end result?

We’d drawn up a list of questions and given our respondents to answer in front of our cameras.

Some other teams came up with #MeetMe, and that simply was – a person with a board saying their name, what they do, and links to their work and other online presence. Again, want to see mine?

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That’s Dominick in the back!!

 

I listened in on a couple of sessions (was a little out of it – I can imagine I was grumpy) and then it was lunchtime.

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Lunch was beef kebab in peppers and veggies, potato gratin and chicken, and a strawberry chocolate mousse. The potatoes were out of this world! What!!! I would have asked for the recipe but I just felt like it was so good it had to be unhealthy! Dang!

Lunch was beef kebab in peppers and veggies, potato gratin and chicken, and a strawberry chocolate mousse. The potatoes were out of this world! What!!! I would have asked for the recipe but I just felt like it was so good it had to be unhealthy! Dang!

 

It was also really lovely to see Ole Wintermann again (we were on a panel together at Social Media Week Hamburg in February), and I met Mario Sorgalla for the first time! Mario is one of the bosses at Future Challenges, and it was really nice to talk. Great conversation, new ideas, and I’m super glad Mario has dropped the crutches!

It was also really lovely to see Ole Wintermann again (we were on a panel together at Social Media Week Hamburg in February), and I met Mario Sorgalla for the first time! Mario is one of the bosses at Future Challenges, and it was really nice to talk. Great conversation, new ideas, and I’m super glad Mario has dropped the crutches! 

Messed about with Salim at the end of the day, and then Ruth and I pushed off to the market, I mean a girl has to shop! Yes we took more pictures!

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Got home, cramps in full swing, and I still cooked dinner! Wanna see? Of course you do!

 

Tortelini with chicken and an avocado salad. Yum!

Tortellini with chicken and an avocado salad. Yum!

Tumbled into bed, and glory be to God who always causes us to triumph over insomnia, I fell asleep almost immediately!

 

 

 

 

 

Of laughter and chicken wings

Social media is a funny thing. It’s like a playground these days, and everyone’s invited. Compelled almost, if you like. It has become possible to have a living, breathing relationship (work or otherwise) with a person you have never met (watch out for the catfish though) totally enabled by the various technologies around. Exciting stuff!

Found a blog almost a year ago now, and it was Tolu’s, this young man who’d returned to Nigeria (IJGB) and was documenting (daily) what it was like settling into work (he runs his own company), living in Lagos, all of that good stuff. Of course the tales were hilarious, and after a while I would find myself looking forward to his next piece. I would leave a comment every now and then too, and sometimes they’d become full blown conversations.

We narrowly missed the chance of meeting sometime in September; I’d been invited to an event in Lagos but I was in England and since the invite didn’t come with any attachment with the subject ‘British Airways’, I sent my regrets. However, I was really interested in the event (and I said so to the organizers) so after it held, I saw a link to a video of the proceedings, and so I watched.

And then I saw Tolu! And I’m like “no way”!! Apparently he’d also been invited, and was one of the key speakers or something like that. So I messaged him on Twitter (hello social media) to say we narrowly missed each other, and the conversation ended with a plan to meet when next I was in the country.

So… Had a really good first half of the day yesterday at the Diplomatic Dialogue series organized by NLI, hosting the US Ambassador (more gist about that in my next post) and then it was off to Terra Kulture to work, eat, and see if Tolu would be able to make it down.

He did! Right in the middle of me burning up (because in my ‘wisdom’ I’d sat by the window so the sun was in my face), my Mac charger packed up and I don’t know my way around Lagos so even after I’d been told on Twitter where I could get a new one, I was still obviously helpless. Tolu be sincere, I was whining those first few minutes abi?

Tolu laughed at me first (Smh at that first impression) and I daresay he laughed all the way to his car just under 3 hours later!

From airport to dim sum spots stories, to the ones about computer chargers and incomplete information, to the 21 questions (rolling my eyes at the interrogation), I had a fabulous, fun, really laid back evening!

And I’m grateful for that, for good fun, good conversation, and wait for it… Chicken wings!!

So we ordered smoothies and chicken wings (team FitFam), and we shared them equally, even though Tolu tried to shame/bully me into eating less than my share. Yet he was off to a party where he’d have a proper dinner o… *Rolling my eyes again* In fact, you be the judge – who do think owns which pile of bones?

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Count carefully!!!

And there was the last wing, the lonely last wing that we both formed we wouldn’t eat… For several reasons…

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I wonder what happened to this last wing… Where does a solitary chicken wing go?

Notice we left the fries alone? Team fitfam dot com!!

I had a really good time Tolu… Thank you. Send your email address, so I can send you that idea biko. Hope you enjoyed the party!

PS – what did you do yesterday evening? Yes, you reading this! Share!

Asu Ekiye was in church! And I miss her so much…

I was at House on the Rock The Refuge today the 31st of August, a few hours before the ‘ember months’ broadcasts start flying around on Blackberry, Twitter, and Facebook. Miss me with that nonsense please. God bless you.

I digressed; church was many shades of amazing! To be honest, the only church that compares to HOTR for me is my home church, Hillsong. There’s something about the amount of care and preparation that goes into readying their services that makes it super exciting for me.

I was blessed by the testimonies, especially the lady whose sister God snatched from death, and the guy who now has two flexible, well-paying jobs. There was the single mom whose son has now come to Christ and is now in university and away from his rough friends, and yes, there was the guy who heard a word from Pastor Goodheart in 2001, ‘ran’ with it and has now received a mandate letter from the Federal Government to bring his 9-year-old dream to life! Exciting stuff, God is truly amazing!

And then Asu Ekiye took to the stage, and I couldn’t sit down! Yes! Yes! Yes! From the first song till his team left the stage, I was catapulted to several times in 2013 when my darling aunty Pat and I would play loud music on the days before she fell ill, and then days when she didn’t feel a lot of pain.

Sometimes, I would wake up to Yinka Ayefele, some other times it would be Kefee (of blessed memory), and then of course it would be Asu Ekiye blasting through the roof. How no one ever reported us for disturbance I don’t know, and you know how paper-thin walls can be in England.

It always annoyed me when she did that (because I have the craziest sleep patterns); she’d leave the music on (at its highest), and then open my door just so I’d hear her sing along to it. When I opened my eyes she’d say, “eye no go rotten” or “sleep no be death”. If I frowned, she’d say, “I just came to visit you o, you don’t know if I’m an angel”, and that would make me smile. I miss her to pieces.

And so when Asu Ekiye started to minister, I danced my heart out in honor of God, and in honor of my aunty. I flashed back to the times we’d play these Nigerian traditional tunes, and then I’d dance to show her the steps I’d put on during my traditional marriage (even when I wasn’t dating anyone). I remember asking to check if my bum was shaking or not. Lol!

I miss her. I miss her. Kai.

P:S – At this point I shut my moleskine and concentrated on the service. So I wouldn’t cry too much. :)

Let’s take a trip – welcome to Obosi!

I haven’t been in my village for a good number of years, save the 24 hours I spent in 2010 for my sister’s traditional wedding (there’s got to be a separate chronicle for that someday)!

Anyway, so my cousin was getting married and I told myself that somehow my trip to see Momma would fall within that period. And it did.

The story about the trip to Asaba from Abuja is here; yep it’s the story about the ‘beggi beggi’ woman.

Cue Friday afternoon, and the 25 minutes drive to my village from Asaba; my father believes he’s from a town though, never says he’s from a village. :)

Occurred to us that apart from a 24 hour stint in 2010 when my sister had her traditional wedding – got in from London that morning, road trip to the village, met what I could of the traditional wedding and left the next morning – I’d not been in the village in at least five years so Daddy (Lord bless him) gave a running commentary of pretty much everything that had changed. ‘Changed’ here could mean it’d gotten better or completely gone South by the way.

I ended up tweeting some of the things he said… let’s go grab those off Twitter then.

Screenshot 2014-07-13 21.59.33 Screenshot 2014-07-13 21.59.51 Screenshot 2014-07-13 22.00.03 Screenshot 2014-07-13 22.00.15 Screenshot 2014-07-13 22.00.23Whoop!

Was awesome seeing my uncles and aunts, and super awesome to just take a nice stroll around. People in the villages lead healthier/simpler lives than all of us town folk o, regardless of what privileges we thing we enjoy. For example, I had roasted corn and pear (oka n’ube) and the corn was harvested from a farm near by. Fresh, succulent, and soft!

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Yes Sir!!!

By the way, electricity was also a lot more constant than what we have in Asaba, no jokes. And I hear they are not saddled with bills (fixed or energy charges) that we town folk have to deal with either. Next thing y’all will hear I’ve relocated to my village o!

Before I forget, do you know where bitter kola comes from? So I was strolling with Uncle B (my favorite of all my father’s brothers), and he showed me this tree and told how bitter kola is derived. Plus he has lots of the ‘ugolo’ trees on his land, anyone want to bring us an export proposal?

Screenshot 2014-07-13 21.59.17And you know you’re in the village when your uncle stops a random stranger in the street and introduces you to them because you’re related!!
The evening, the morning, wedding day!

Got up early, did some work and then a bit of reading, and then prepped for my cousin’s wedding. She still didn’t know I was around, he he he.

We got to church and I think the last time I was inside this particular church I was a child. As in child, child. Still looks beautiful though, wonder why we don’t invest in ‘protecting’ all these aged buildings. See potential tourist site o…

Took pictures with my uncles, and a selfie with uncle B!

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Went off to the reception, and things stood out for me so I tweeted (me and Twitter sha)…

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Na wa!

 

Eating, dancing, and gifting over, it was time to head back to Asaba, and I didn’t want to go.

Pertinent note from Daddy as we crossed the Niger Bridge and I wondered why people were risking life and limb to board buses on the bridge going into Asaba.

Apparently, if they board on the bridge, the trip costs N100 because it is classed as ‘local’ (because some people see the bridge as part of Delta) but if they board anywhere in Onitsha (even if it’s just before said bridge), it becomes an out-of-state trip and it goes up to N150, maybe even N200.

And that my darlings, is the story of my trip to the greatest village/town on earth!

 

 

PS – Written on the 11th (and completed on the 11th) of July.

#31Days31Writers: The Monk talks about “the peace we took for granted”

Henry is deep. So deep. I don’t know what else to say. He’s been my friend for like 4, 5 years, and he’s just deep! Does he annoy me? Of course! You need to see us arguing debating stuff on Twitter. But there’s always something to be learned, and what’s a relationship if there’s no growth?

This is one piece in the entire series that resonated so much with me, it made me emotional.

The carnage caused by terrorism so far in 2014 is unprecedented. The insurgents have become even more brazen. They have made it look as if there is nothing security forces will try that will work. It has been harrowing.

While I walked to church this morning, with roads across and adjourning the church premises cordoned off with armed, anxious looking soldiers and policemen standing on guard at the entrances and at strategic positions, my mind did a very quick time travel to what life was about 5 years ago.

Sunday mornings were days of bliss, with everyone out dressed in gay attires, with smiles and expectation of a miracle from their God. There was no need for soldiers to be around, except maybe they came for Armed Forces Remembrance day thanksgiving. Police was around, in very few places, just to maintain law and order. Barricades in front of a church would have been seen as strange. There was peace then, relative peace. A kind of peace we took for granted and would do anything to have now.

We are at war.

The other day after the EMAB bomb blast at the end of June, I came across footage of what actually went down that fateful afternoon. The first thing that caught my eye on the video was a hand, lying lonely on the sidewalk, blown away from the wrist. I saw a girl, a “pure water” hawker. She couldn’t have been anything more than 15 years old. She was dead. Burnt with only her hair remaining. She died face down with her legs blown off. I also saw a man, badly burnt. So badly burnt all you could see was the blackened form of what used to be his body. Both of his legs had been blown off. He laid still. By the time the camera panned back to him, he was moving. He opened his eyes, tried to get up, he couldn’t. He looked down at his legs and collapsed again. He wasn’t dead, but I doubted if he knew where he was. I saw a lot of things I would rather not continue describing.

5 years ago, these kinds of things were alien. People don’t just get blown up by a car that a well dressed man parked in front of a shopping mall and walked away.

2014 has been gruesome.

A guy I used to do some work with, Emmanuel is still in hospital recuperating. He was a victim of the Nyanya bomb blast. He had only just got married 2 weeks earlier. We don’t know if he is ever going to walk again. He is only one of the lucky who are alive to tell their story from the two blasts that rocked Nyanya Motor Park.

The first half of 2014 made it evident that we can’t take peace and life for granted anymore. Every day we are told to avoid crowded places like markets, places of entertainment, places of worship, motor parks and bus stops. Places we didn’t need to think twice before going to in the past.

It is sobering that our lives now have to be remodeled so that we can at least have a chance to remain alive. We don’t know where the next bomb will go off. We don’t know what next the terrorists are planning, we don’t know if all of a sudden a bullet will whizz over our heads and hit the unfortunate man in front of us. We don’t even know if that unfortunate man will be us or our family member.

My name is Henry Okelue, Nigerian and a Public Servant; I miss the peace I used to know. I miss it so, so dearly.

HenryOkelue

#31Days31Writers: “Beauty fades but character is enduring” – Rev Dr Craig!

Olamide is one of those friends that I cannot do without. Does he drive me up the wall? Absolutely. Is he one of the closest friends I have on earth today who I can go to with anything and not feel judged or looked down on? Absolutely. Is he one to uphold his friends in prayer, with words of encouragement, with love, and with physical manifestations of that love? Yes Sir!

I love Olamide (lots and lots), and can I say congratulations on your engagement? She’s a gorgeous lady (in and out), and I wish you both all the joy possible.

I give you @RevDrCraig!

A few days ago I got a surprise call from a friend from school I hadn’t seen in many, many years. That call birthed this piece you now read.

This week I met up with that old acquaintance, a lady whose exceptional beauty back in high school made all the boys go gaga.  She was vacationing in the capital and wanted to know if I could show her around. After picking her up at Euston station, we went to Trafalgar Square, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Madame Tussauds, Westfield Mall, and goofed around like tourists taking pictures of everything and anything that caught our fancy. As we caught up on the 15 years that had gone by, I couldn’t help but wonder where the ‘wow’ factor went. She was still quite good to look at, but the exquisite beauty she once had seemed to have faded away, or at least paled into a less blinding glare. For the first time since I’d known her, I actually saw who she was, talked to her, wasn’t carried away by her looks, and realized that there was more to her than was so obviously apparent. I wondered how many people, like me, had missed out on seeing a wonderful person simply because all we saw was ‘a fine face and a hot body’.

I really enjoyed spending the day with her and as I walked away from the platform at Euston, I pondered at the absurdity of our generation that ubiquitously employs beauty as the foremost yardstick in the selection of a potential mate. This absurdity was first made apparent to me when, after I announced my engagement a few months ago, an associate of mine clapped me jocularly on the back exclaiming, “You’ve done it bro! Congratulations! You have finally found a woman finer than you who has agreed to marry you”. You see, I met my fiancé last year, just when I was coming out of an extended period of deep self-reflection following a string of very bad decisions. For months, I had been acting out of character and ironically chasing after beauty, weaving in and out of fragile relationships with some of the most beautiful women I had ever met; tall, short, curvy, straight, dark and fair. It took falling in love with this one to make it clear to me that the true worth of a woman is vested, not in the beauty of her face, or the curves on her body, but in the depth of her soul.

When pictures of my fiancé and I emerged, the most frequent comments were those praising her beauty and what a beautiful couple we made. One friend asked jokingly, “Did you conduct a beauty pageant and then propose to the winner?” LOL! Sure, most of these comments were made in good faith and were not in the least bit intended to offend nor did it mean that those who made them were shallow or anything of that sort. They were merely commenting on what they saw weren’t they, admiring a beautiful couple that were sure to have a beautiful marriage? Maybe it was all harmless banter, simple admiration, and unveiled praise.

Unfortunately, the reverse might also be the case. I know this because I too was once stuck in that place where deep in my heart I held to a primitive notion that the more beautiful a couple are, the more likely it was that their marriage would succeed. Perhaps the Disney fairy tales of beautiful princesses and handsome princes that ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after had fatally tainted my view of reality?  I know for certain, that a handful of those reading this now also share this view I once held, for it seems to me that the Ovation wedding culture of the past, once the preserve of the super rich has trickled down and has become the BellaNaija wedding culture of today. It is no secret, however, that some of the most celebrated high-profile weddings of the most gorgeous couples do not even last a year!

So to answer Chioma’s question; “What have I learned?”

I have learnt again something that I should never have forgotten. It took talking to a woman whose beauty once mesmerised me to remind me of a truth I used to know; Indeed, Beauty fades but character is enduring.

To all the beautiful girls out there who have character but are only sought after for their looks, I apologize on behalf of all men. But remember, if that’s all you put on the table, then perhaps that’s all we are inclined to see.

My name is Olamide Craig. I am Nigerian.

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This is the year… and my tribute to Komla Dumor

I’m horrible with writing about death, but then I guess everyone is, and at some point or the other in life, we will have to do things we’d much rather we didn’t. Even the death of an enemy leaves a sour taste, talk less of a friend, family member, or in this case, someone I really admired and would have been super privileged to meet.

I watched a TedTalk at the end of 2013 Mr. Dumor gave on reporting stories out of Africa, and he should know, he’s been the face of BBC’s Focus on Africa from the inception of the programme in 2012. Everyday. His talk was so funny! Beyond the laughs, I was totally smitten by his confidence, his eyes, alive with excitement and maybe mischief and I was upset when it ended.

I told myself that I would meet him in the New Year, and even though I didn’t immediately have a plan to do that, I purposed to try.

On the evening of the 17th, I was chatting with a much older friend of mine, and Komla came on. I mentioned I was a massive fan and I wanted to meet him, and this friend said they’d been in the same class at Harvard and sure, he’d facilitate an introduction the next morning. I was super excited, and the only thing that stopped me from insisting on an introduction there and then was the fact that it was a little late, and I was literally on my way home.

And then about midday the next day, I saw on Twitter that Komla Dumor had passed. What??? “Cruel jokers”, I thought, racing to BBC’s website to prove they were wrong. BBC didn’t carry it immediately, but staff were already tweeting condolence messages.

Just like that, he was gone. Aged 41, Komla Dumor passed of a suspected heart attack. One day on TV, gone the next day. The uncertainty that this life is.

I grieved like I had lost a personal friend – because it was yet another reminder that life is short, and we must do whatever we need to do as soon as we can. Grieved all the way to Instagram.

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And so today, exactly six months after, somehow I can now write and bid him farewell, hope he’s in a better place, and tell him he was a shining light for us young uns.

More importantly, I pray for God’s great comfort on his family.

Rest in peace Komla Dumor.

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