Saturday, March 16, 2013
You know us when you see us. Our velvet skin, imported clothes and shoes and original leather accessories perform their intended function of covering the lines of stress, pallor and ajepakoness* which may have been inflicted on us during our childhood days growing up in the suburbs of Lagos or in the smaller towns of the country or any of the villages scattered around.
We are mostly in the employ of the giant telcos, big oil firms, international manufacturers or the rising Nigerian banks. These organisations have helped supply the funds and resources that polished us to our new outlook. Our air conditioned offices, cars and homes ensure we experience limited exposure to the rays of the Saharan sun beaming from above and as such, the production of melanin in our bodies is reduced to a level far below its production capacity.
Our kids try their best not to engage in conversation that will require them to speak their mother tongue so that they can be defined as tutch, oh sorry, I meant refined. Well the kids are not to blame, not with our effort to ensure they don’t attend any self acclaimed Nigerian school. The more the school bears descriptive words signifying non-Nigerian, the merrier for us.
Our annual family trips take us to privileged societies across Europe, U.S.A, South Africa and now even Dubai. When last did we attempt a visit to the village? Oh I forgot, a trip to the village would desecrate and degrade our Facebook status.
Many of our parents were raised in the villages but only few of them if at all any lifted a finger to lift up the standard of living in those villages. We seem to be doing the same today. We’re living better lives but our communities are not. We’re enjoying life’s best but the 36 states of Nigeria and the FCT are not. We have been liberated from the shackles of poverty but the country remains tethered.
Let us not tow the ignoble paths of the generation ahead of us. We can better the lot of our fatherland if we apply our newly refined status and acquired resources to the benefit of the commonwealth of Nigeria and refuse to answer to self only.
*Ajepakoness can be interpreted as being crude
Friday, February 15, 2013
Crucial Leadership Lessons from Coach Stephen Keshi
I watched with keenness as Nigeria won the much coveted AFCON cup and how they were treated to a worthy glorious return. As I mused on these happenings, I could not help but marvel at the excellent personality and leadership effused by Coach Stephen Keshi.
I was able to identify three high level virtues that have helped the coach lift the team, the rest of Nigeria and himself to our present exalted football position and I’ll discuss them below:
Personal Resolve and belief: Life is like a driving where the only person you can control is you. Stephen Keshi controlled himself to retain his personal resolve to win and his belief that the team could do it. If he had done away with this belief, we would not have witnessed Nigeria lifting the cup. We did not win as a result of luck, we won because Nigeria had lifted the cup in Stephen Keshi’s mind before the start of the tournament.
This resolve must have helped him to remain steadfast despite our disappointing start and lack of support from where he would have most expected it. Without a doubt, the team was an obvious hopeless one but they shot past all limitations because the coach must have predefined them to be winners.
For me, this reiterates the fact that what you have formed on your inside, what you strongly believe in can take you far beyond your present outlook.
Patience: Throughout the tournament, Coach Stephen Keshi did not give gossip papers or the grapevine the relish of any outburst or outrage. He patiently waited for the result he believed in and never gave up. I’m sure he did not overwhelm himself with the big picture. He knew his resolve, held on to it but dealt with reality one barrier after the other, one match after the other.
Silence: I will refer to the words of the acclaimed wisest man that lived on earth, King Solomon. He said, “When a fool keeps quiet, he is considered wise.” This is the simple lesson Osaze should have suffered himself to heed.
It is the wisest and smartest people that master the art of silence. In today’s world of instant twitter and Facebook updates, we would think this ancient piece of wisdom had gone mundane but thank God for Coach Stephen keshi who has defied this assumption. He lived away from twitter and Facebook and even when he must have been most pressed to yield to these overtures, he forsook temporary relief and faced his challenge headlong.
He kept quiet when the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) chided him and even threatened to sack him. He kept quiet still when the same NFF shook with fear and reportedly purchased return tickets for the team.
In summation, I will refer again to the words of King Solomon, “A man who conquers his spirit is stronger than the man who conquers a city”. Coach Stephen Keshi is super strong, he has evidently conquered his spirit and he also before our very eyes conquered cities!
Friday, February 08, 2013
Roadmap to Stable Electricity in Nigeria
Our side of the estate had been without electricity for three days and being a responsible citizen, I drove down to the government-owned power company, PHCN to report the situation. Before I continue, I think I should use this opportunity to state that we do enjoy excellent PHCN-customer relations in Gwarinpa, Abuja compared to what obtains in Lagos. I have never had to bribe, coax or induce any PHCN officer since I moved to the area. I remember the first time I went to make a complaint, I simply had to join a line and when it got to my turn, I told the woman at the table that we had been without electricity for 24 hours. Surprisingly, she didn’t insult me in return; she didn’t even have that horrible contour some old female civil servants display on their faces when they are not in the mood to work. She referred me to their engineer who took down the complaint and the situation was properly resolved before midnight.
Back in Lagos, we had to come up with all kinds of tricks to get PHCN, then NEPA to do their job or prevent them from doing what they know to do best - cutting the line from the pole. We sometimes feed them or call our younger cousins to entertain them with dance and my brother should have won the AMAA (African Oscars) for his perfect act of dressing like a ‘big’ man and stomping into their office shouting, where is your oga?
Now back to the story at the beginning of this post. After stating we had been without electricity for three days, I was directed to a Senior Engineer’s office in the back building. When I got into his office, I relayed my complaint again. On hearing what I had to say, he threw his head back, scratched his hair and picked up his phone. He instructed the person on the other end to switch the connection plug from another area to ours (this is my layman’s watered down interpretation of the engineering terms he used).
I was shocked to note that incidents of power cuts were just the handiwork of a man that switched off the supply and it was clear that in between their game of switching on and off, they had forgotten to restore supply to our area.
As I left PHCN’s office that day, I could not stop pondering on the existing arrangement of electricity distribution. So, a man sitting by the switches determines in his mind that Lekki should have electricity, then, he switches Lekki on. Again, he decides Ajegunle should not have electricity, so he switches it off. It’s just a foolish, silly game that has no place in the 21st century. What assumptions, preconditions and considerations do they use to determine which area should have or be without electricity.
I will like to use this medium to recommend that PHCN be mandated to develop a distribution model and make it public. The model should show allocation of power supply to all areas across the country in percentages. This will allow automatic determination of the specific amount due to each area in cases of increase or decrease in power generation. Information on the basis for allocation should also be provided e.g Value X is allocated to Aso Rock because it is the seat of Presidency.
From this model, a timetable can be generated to show the numbers of hours of electricity each area should expect per day and through an interactive platform on PHCN’s website, people can choose the time when they want to enjoy the supply e.g. an area allocated 4hours of power supply per day can decide on 2p.m to 6p.m. The timetable should be displayed on PHCN’s website and any alteration to it should be announced.
I will be glad if you can add your contribution to this proposed recommendation and who knows we might come up with so good a document that we can submit to the Presidency, Ministry of Power and/or PHCN.
Let’s do it! The New Nigeria we seek is within our reach!
Thursday, December 13, 2012
The Beautiful Ones Have Been Born
On my way to the market on the other side of town, I contemplated how best to give out the pile of clothes I had in the house to kids living around there without embarrassing them, their parents or myself. At the end of my internal deliberations, I decided to drop the idea because I did not want to put myself in an uncomfortable position.
After so much price haggling and exchanging cash for products, I completed what I wanted to do at the market and was heading back home when I was stopped by a young lady who asked if I would like to make a donation to an orphanage. Looking at the signature sheet in her hand, I could see that she already had two donors, N500 from the first and N50 from the second. I was ready to let go of the last N50 on me which would mean not being able to board a Keke/Marwa (tricycle) when I heard her say they also collect materials such as clothes. I immediately answered that I had children’s clothes I wanted to give out and asked for the donation process. She said she could follow me home to get them and I replied that I was okay with it.
She then beckoned on her partner and we started the approximately 400m walk to my house.. On the way, they both helped carry my shopping bags and I tried to engage them to find out more about what they were doing.
Rebecca Obadiah, 21 and Florence Omowunmi, 22 told me they just completed their Secondary school education and their church leader, Pastor Most Senior Apostle Prophet M.O. Abraham mobilized about forty of them to help raise funds and receive collections on behalf of an orphanage close to their church in Ushafa, Abuja.
This Pastor grouped the youths in twos and allocated them to different parts of the Abuja metropolis wearing the T-shirts bearing the name of the church, C&S Movement, Ushafa, Abuja and holding signature sheet for donors and a copy of the orphanage’s registration certificate.
Glorious Future for the Less Privileged Children Foundation is owned by Pastor Chinyere Eberechukuwu, Mr. Ikechukwu Mbakwe and Mrs. Uzoamaka Anigala and I don’t think they are members of the C&S Movement. This synergy of a C&S Pastor, forty Secondary School graduates awaiting University admission and four owners of an orphanage tells me the beautiful ones have been born and we only await their showing.
Monday, December 03, 2012
My Friend Lives Here
We were set to attend the weekly Wednesday church service. My husband was rightly seated behind the wheels, I was rightly positioned to give him both necessary and un-called for verbal support in the passenger seat and the baby rested calmly in his car seat behind. The drive was altogether uneventful until we reached the junction leading to the popular Gimbiya Street on Area Eleven, Garki, Abuja. The road had been blocked by police and FRSC vehicles and we were asked to take another route. That would mean going back to join traffic and do another five minute drive when we were just one minute away from our destination. Thinking the reason for this diversion was the presence of a government official in the area, my husband and I shouted, touted, screamed at the top of our voices and honked to register our displeasure using all the Aluta spirit we were privileged to have ‘received’ from our days in Obafemi Awolowo University.
When we refused to move, a kind officer came to explain to us that a house had collapsed in the area and the rescue efforts required they closed the road. At such news, we had no choice but to appropriately apologize for our initial outrage and willingly follow the diversion. As we drove on, I was kind of intrigued that I would have the opportunity to be around a news scene. As a young child, my mum tried to take my siblings and I to wherever it was ‘happening’ in Lagos and I think this flamed my love for being in the middle of events.
As soon as the car parked, I announced that I was going to the site of the collapse. Without looking back lest the matter became another round of marital dispute, I headed for the direction where I could see a crowd gathered. I crossed the street, walked past one house, went through a bend, passed another house; at this point I began to realize that I was familiar with the sequence I was covering and by the time I noticed the last step to get to the scene was to cross, I went hysterical.
I dashed through the crowd shouting, my friend lives here! My friend lives here! As I got to the entrance of the building and meaning to move on in the direction of the truck clearing the rubble, I was held back by some strong arms and as I struggled to get free, I just kept shouting my friend lives here…
Now, a crowd had formed around me and some were shouting, have you tried her phone? I quickly reached for my phone and called her line. I only got the depressing response ‘the number you have called is not available at the moment, please try again later’. I announced to the crowd, her number is not going through. Another person shouted, wetin be her name? I said Mummy Isaac’. In church, we refer to most mothers as Mummy this, Mummy that just to avoid disrespect. Noticing they showed signs of unfamiliarity, I tried other means to describe her. I said, ‘she has a small child called Isaac’, no positive sign still. Then I remembered that the last time I went with some other people from church to visit her, she had showed us her husband’s dry cleaning business. I quickly looked towards the gate but didn’t see the reception area she had humbly taken us round. I then pointed in the direction of the gate and said amid my grueling fears; her husband runs a dry cleaning business. Hearing this, they all went quiet but I could hear a lone voice saying ‘she dey there, she don die’.
I shouted back, God forbid and broke down into tears. The health workers at the site quickly rushed to my side and asked if I came with anyone. I nodded, dialed my husband’s number and in shaken voice announced, the collapsed building is Mummy Isaac’s house. He rushed to scene, held me and we tried to get further information on what actually transpired.
The house, an uncompleted, ill-plastered building with four floors served as shelter to over fifty people who had run to it for refuge from the shackles of unavailable and unaffordable housing in Abuja.
In the very early hours of the morning of that fateful day, some of the occupants on the topmost floor heard creaking sounds from the building and quickly ran down the stairs in order to get out of the building. As they reached the door of Mummy Isaac’s apartment on the ground floor, they racked their door with knocks. The knock alerted her husband who stepped out through the backdoor from their bedroom to see what was happening and luckily escaped death. Mummy Isaac also got up, but ran out through the front door so she could wake the people sleeping in the living room including Isaac. However, the building came crashing down on her before she could make it into the open space ahead of her. Isaac was alive until noon but died when he could no longer breathe under the rubble alongside his aunties and uncles who had lain for a good night sleep the night before.
Before this incident, collapsed buildings were to me, just another news item. Just another hot topic to keep our mouths busy while we keep our hearts out and refer to issues in the country in the third person he, she or they but hardly in the first person I and we.
Now, when I hear unpleasant, tragic news, it is no longer news, it is people. It is adorable Mummy Isaac, charming and utterly pleasant Isaac, his aunties, uncles and my other friends who could be there.