Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Application Result

Sometimes last year, I received a very interesting e-mail indicating an exciting opportunity to participate in a program on Democracy and Development organised by the Stanford Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law to hold at the Stanford Institute for International Studies.

As soon as I saw it, there was an adrenaline surge in my system particularly when I noticed there was even the possibility of sponsorship. I quickly went to the site, scanned through it, downloaded the application form and printed it out.

I read through it studiously as if I was going to write an examination on it and started providing answers to the questions asked in the form. The application took me two weeks to complete as I was taking my time and applying extra care to make sure I was giving brilliant responses.

The application process required me to provide three references and without any delay, I contacted the people in my life that I thought really fitted into the role of referring me so I can take part in the program.

I completed the whole application process and mailed my application form to the center's email address and then ............. I prayed, wished, hoped and eagerly checked my email every morning hoping to see the reply that will make my dream come true. Days and months passed by and finally, this morning I received this email from the center.

March 23, 2006

Dear Applicant,

We regret to inform you that you were not chosen to participate in the Stanford Summer Fellows on Democracy and Development Program to be held at Stanford University in August 2006.

The pool of applicants was extraordinarily competitive and there were many more deserving candidates than we were able to accept. In total, we received more than 700 applications for 25 spaces in the program. The overwhelming majority of applicants were from individuals with outstanding civic and policymaking records It was extremely difficult to reach admissions decisions and we assure you that your application received careful attention by our selection committee.
Once again, we would like to express our appreciation for your interest in the program. We would welcome your application to our program next year.

We will include your contact information on our mailing list and will send you information about future initiatives of the Summer Fellows Program and its sponsoring institution, the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at the Stanford Institute for International Studies.

We wish you success in the much-needed work that you are doing towards better governance and prosperity in your community and your country.

My heart was very heavy and em.. em.... (I didn't cry sha). When the state of my mind came back to its normal analytical state, I thought to myself that all my anxiety on attending a program outside Nigeria (and in the U.S for that matter) might have been generated from my typical Nigerian spirit of wanting to step outside the shores of the country at all cost.

But, to be sincere, I certainly look forward to stepping outside the shores of this country to visit the developed countries and have a feel of what life is like there.

Having missed the opportunity to be on the Stanford Program, I now quietly, patiently, without undue anxiety and stress and with utmost contentment (not satisfaction) in my country, await that beautiful day when I will jet out of Nigeria to a developed country (to visit only!).

There is no place like home.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Census Advocate

Just for once, I made up my mind to be optimistic about our (Nigerians) abilities in planning and preparations. I was all for the Census exercise, so much that I took it upon myself as a self-appointed advocate to answer questions and handle objections from people who had issues with it.

I was very pleased with the efforts of the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Chief Samu’ila Makama when a trial census was conducted between 29th August to 2nd September 2005 to serve as a dress rehearsal for the actual census exercise which was billed to commence March 21 and end March 25, 2006.

So far, I think my hopes in Nigeria are being successfully dashed again with the turns this census exercise is taking since the past weeks till now. First was the rampage by the recruited enumerators, burning properties to protest the non payment of their wages and now, there are more than enough issues that make me, a self-appointed advocate of Census 2006, to be more confused than Chief Makama.

I no longer understand the process of the exercise even though it has been officially flagged off and expected to have started in various states, I can't see any enumerator or NPC vans on the streets and I can't see anybody being counted, not even me, their Advocate.

One of the factors I presume might be responsible for all of these is the lack of clarification of 'where to be' during the period of the census. People like me are not sure whether to stay at home or go to work because in our usual confused state, information was sent, maybe leaked out that there will be a sit-at-home order for the period of the census and I heard this was to be declared by President Obasanjo. Oh, maybe it was still in its proposal stage before Uncle Sege and his media assistants did a bad job of leaking it out, what more do we expect anyway, with people like the loquacious Fani Kayode.

To get full information on how the first day of the census went in most states so you'll know how broken my Advocacy heart was, I leave you to this article from the Guardian Newspapers -

Census in slow start, officials demand pay
By Our Reporters

THE quest for an accurate population figure for Nigeria census began yesterday albeit on a shaky note. And the feeble start was traceable principally, to logistics problems.
Economic and social activities were paralysed in Lagos and Ogun States, where restriction was imposed on human and vehicular movements. But the residents idled away for much of the day because the officials of the National Population Commission (NPC), who were to conduct the exercise, were not noticed until much later in the day.
Up till yesterday evening, census enumerators and supervisors were still bickering with the state NPC officials over the non-payment of their training allowances.
In other states, the census materials arrived late, thereby delaying the deployment of the officers.
It was essentially in the evening, that the officials began to work, giving an indication that the exercise would be smoother today. The headcount ends on Saturday.
In Oshodi/Isolo Local Council of Lagos, counting started late in some Enumeration Areas (EAs) and did not take place in most others.
From as early as 8 a.m. till late in the afternoon, the co-ordinators and supervisors were still collecting the census materials while the enumerators queued for their training allowances.
The co-ordinators and supervisors lamented that the first day of the five-day census exercise was used in the distribution of materials to them. They complained that the distribution ought to have been completed three days before the actual headcount.
While the co-ordinators waited to collect the materials, thousands of enumerators were in long queues to receive their N5,200 training allowance. The payment, which according to some of the enumerators had been going on day and night for the past four days, started about 10 days after the end of the training.
One of the co-ordinators said: "We were supposed to have received the materials three days ago. This is to allow us enough time to distribute the materials to the supervisors, who will then pass them down to the enumerators. The enumerators were also supposed to have concluded the listing of the houses and completed the necessary forms before the actual headcount. Now, they will do the listing with the headcount."
Despite the delay in collecting their allowances, the enumerators had a difficult time finding their supervisors. Most were seen carrying aloft boards inscribed with the names of their supervisors. Others kept reading aloud the names and hoping to run into them.
Decrying the poor logistics, a supervisor at the council said: "This census cannot go on if the enumerators are not paid their allowances. They are the people to do the actual counting, and they are still fighting to collect their allowances on the first day of the census."
It was discovered that some policemen deployed to control the crowd of enumerators opted to benefit from the confusion. They charged the frustrated enumerators between N200 and N500 to enable them jump the queue.
Two days earlier, a pregnant woman on the queue was rushed to the hospital with a threatened abortion. And angry enumerators had also gone on rampage breaking window louvres.
In some places, verification and clearance exercise were still going on till noon for enumerators and supervisors involved in the census. The development made the exercise to take off very late in areas such as Ogba, Agege, Aboru, Surulere, Mushin and Ikorodu areas of the state, where people stayed at home in obedience to the government order.
At Ifako-Ijaiye council area, hundreds of the enumerators were seen milling around as at 1 p.m. yesterday. While some are looking for their supervisors to lead them to their enumeration area, others were seen clutching clearance papers, needed to obtain their identification cards, a requirement for the collection of their training allowance.
One of the enumerators who spoke with The Guardian said many had gone back home frustrated, as they could not get clearance despite having their names on the approved list. He alleged that political parties might have hijacked the exercise as many strange faces that never participated in the training were seen collecting registration materials.
He added that over 40 per cent of officials were yet to collect their training allowance 24 hours after the NPC chairman, Chief Samila Makama's order to the affected banks to effect payment.
But the Lagos State NPC Director, Mr. J. O. Ajayi, told The Guardian that much of the blame for the late take-off of the exercise should be put at the doorstep of the local councils.
According to him: "All materials for the house numbering/household listing, as well as the headcount questionnaires had been dispatched to all local government councils over two weeks ago. What might have got to them today was only the bags, which we collected only yesterday, and started distributing immediately.
He debunked the speculation that the exercise might have been hijacked by political parties, saying that that was absolutely impossible.
Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was delighted yesterday, with the residents' compliance with his stay-at-home-order.
Commercial activities were paralysed throughout the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. period, within which Tinubu insisted that all residents should stay indoor to be counted.
Expectedly, markets, shops, fuel stations, banks and other business outfits were locked while the roads were free of traffic. A trip from Ikotun, a suburb of Lagos to Oshodi took barely 25 minutes, and security operatives were absent on the streets.
While the roads were free of traffic, some stranded passengers were seen at bus stops, apparently praying to be lucky to catch a ride, while a few of them trekked to their destinations.
At the Idimu bus stop however, hoodlums blocked the road, trying to extort money from the few vehicles that were still rushing to get to their destinations before 8 a.m.
The Guardian learnt that counting exercises did not take place in many places in Lagos.
Lack of materials coupled with non-payment of the allowance of enumerators kept the headcount at a low pace in many parts of the Lagos metropolis yesterday. Many residents who were eagerly waiting for the census officials complained that they had not seen the NPC officials.
As at 5 p.m., no official of NPC had shown up in Surulere, Kosofe, Somolu, Mainland and other parts of Lagos.
Tinubu, his wife, Remi, and members of his household were counted at exactly 10 a.m. officially kicking off the exercise in the state.
Apparently determined to ensure the success of the exercise, chairmen of some local governments complemented the efforts of the NPC by paying additional N2,500 for the enumerators. It was after this was done at 5 p.m. that enumerators moved out in droves to different parts of Lagos for the headcount.
Despite the shortcoming of the opening of the exercise, Tinubu and his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake, appealed to residents to stay in their house between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the evening so that they could participate in the exercise.
Tinubu said the exercise was important especially for Lagos State, which he claimed had been cheated in terms of the true number of its population. The exercise, if successfully carried out, Tinubu said, would help in planning and distribution of social amenities in the state. He later went round to monitor the exercise.
While thanking the residents for obeying the stay-at-home order, Alake said it was meant to ensure that everybody in the state had the opportunity to be counted.
Alake restated the decision of the state government to sanction any organisation that went against the order and open its organisation for business.
The headcount did not start yesterday at Alagbado, Meiran, Ijaiye and Abule-Egba areas as census officials did not get there.
Citizens who had eagerly awaited their coming were disappointed at the end of the day when no census official was seen as at 3 p.m.
Policemen at the Meiran Division Police Station who had been placed on alert by the DPO, Mr. Bashir Ade-Ifanola, loitered around their station awaiting the officials, who did not come as at 3 p.m.
A visit to the Agbado/Oke-Odo Local Development Centre, an arm of Alimosho Local Council, revealed deserted offices and premises. The policemen there claimed that they were waiting for census officials from Ikotun headquarters of the local government.
At Ikotun, the payment to the officials was still being sorted out as at 11.30 a.m. with most of them still awaiting their pay. Council officials are finding it hard to cope with the payment, which is apparently very clumsy. Alimosho Local Government is the largest council in Lagos State.
Due to non-availability of working materials, the people of Gwarzo council of Kano State were left out of the nationwide head count.
When The Guardian monitored the exercise at Gwarzo yesterday, it was observed that the headcount was put on hold due to the absence of basic working materials like forms MPC 07 and MPC 07M necessary for the numbering and listing of households in the council.
The development forced scores of NPC supervisors and enumerators to idle away at the council's secretariat complex.
The exercise took off yesterday on a shaky note in Ibadan, Oyo State capital and its environs. Inadequate preparations by officials prevented enumerators from conducting the exercise on the first day while some started work late in some local government areas when officials were seen around 2 p.m. going for duty.
Yesterday's exercise was marred by logistics problems following the inability of the officials of the NPC to pay the training allowances of the ad-hoc workers. Some of the workers insisted on collecting their allowances before going out for the exercise.
Yesterday afternoon when The Guardian visited the Port Harcourt City Council several enumerators were seem there demanding enumeration maps for the areas that they had been assigned to cover.
Some of the enumerators attributed their not being on the field as at 1 p.m. to their inability to collect their transport allowance. Hundreds of enumerators had taken to the streets of Port Harcourt and Emohua to protest against the non-payment of their transport allowances last weekend.
The problem, which persisted till yesterday was however averted in places like Bonny, Andoni and Opobo due to the intervention of the Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili. He released money for the payment of enumerators last Sunday following the refusal of banks to pay that day.
The census took off in Ekiti State yesterday on a shaky note.
A visit to Ado-Ekiti, Ikere, Ikole, Gboyin and Ekiti East Local governments by The Guardian revealed that the exercise was just taking off in some parts of the council areas.
Some of the census officials complained of shortage of materials.
The state governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose and his deputy, Chief Biodun Olujimi, were counted at the Government House at about 11am in the presence of the state Resident Federal Commissioner of NPC, Mohammed Tongo Ahmed.
In Nasarawa State, census officials led by Abdullateef Ejijojo registered the state Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu and his household at noon at the Government House, Lafia.
The governor advised enumerators in the state to simplify questions on the census data forms so as to encourage communication between them and local residents.
The governor made the appeal after he was subjected to various questions about his household and his home.
"You have to find a way of breaking down your questions so that you do not run into problems with the local people. This way, the exercise will go on smoothly. I want to assure you that the state is fully prepared for the exercise", Adamu observed.
Though it took over one hour for the governor alone to complete the registration, he said the stipulated five days was enough to complete the exercise nationwide.
Ebonyi State was calm on the first day of census after the initial confusion that attended the payment of NPC ad hoc staff at Ohaukwu local government area of the state.
Governor Sam Egwu, who declared a two-day public holiday for the census was counted at exactly 10.30 a.m. at his Umuebe country home alongside his wife, Eunice.
Speaking to reporters after the exercise, Egwu, noted that the state was upbeat for a credible headcount, saying that this was the first time the state was getting involved in the population census.
He said: "The exercise is specifically important to our state as we have always relied on estimated population since the creation. We have put all necessary measures in place so as to ensure that all persons in the state get counted".
Meanwhile, most political actors and stakeholders resident in the state capital left for their villages to mobilise their people for the census.
Specifically, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Christopher Omo Isu, in a statement mandated all members of the Assembly to ensure that every member of their constituency was enumerated.
The exercise could not begin yesterday in Kaduna State owing to continued violent demonstrations by enumerators over the non-payment of their N5200 training allowance.
In one instance, the NPC Federal Commissioner for Kaduna State, Dr. Ufot Asibong-Ibe was almost mobbed by angry enumerators protesting in front of the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, the official residence of the state governor.
Asibong-Ibe's convoy of four cars unknowingly ran into the protesters who had blocked the road leading to the Government House despite the presence of a combined team of fully armed security agents.
The protesters carrying leaves and shouting "barayo" (thieves), and "ba' census went wild and pelted stones and other missiles at a convoy of cars conveying the NPC commissioner and other officials.
The NPC however escaped unhurt as drivers of the cars skilfully sped away from the scene of the protest.
In a relaxed atmosphere, officials of the NPC led by the Federal Commissioner, Ondo State, Dr. Timothy Sule, enumerated Governor Olusegun Agagu, and his wife, Olufunke, at the Government House, Akure, yesterday morning.
The governor, spotting a yellow NPC shirt and white fez cap, after performing the civic responsibility, said if the enumerators worked hard based on the number deployed for the exercise, they would accomplish the mission within the time-frame.
Agagu, who urged residents to ensure they were counted, said the reliable data expected at the end of the housing and population census, was important for planning purposes. He said it was necessary so that governments at all levels - federal, states and local governments - could be run in a planned way.
According to him, honest answers to the types of questions asked by the enumerators, will enable the government to know the status of human beings for now and a projected period of time, as this is necessary for their socio-economic growth.
In Abeokuta, apart from late arrival of materials at the co-ordinating centres, the exercise went on without hitches.
The NPC Commissioner in Ogun State, Alhaji Ibrahim Khalil Aliu led a team of enumerators to count the State Governor, Gbenga Daniel and his wife, Olufunke, at the Isale-Igbein Government House. Their children were not around. When the governor was asked his occupation, he replied: "I am the Chief Messenger of Ogun State." When Daniel was again asked whether he was schooling, his answer was: "I am in the school of politics."
In an interview with reporters later, he appealed to the people of the state to stay at home so as to be counted.
"In 1991, the census exercise put the population of our state at 2.3 million. I am hoping that this time around the figure that will be recorded in the state will be acceptable", he said.
Daniel added: "I am hoping that there will not be any controversy over any figure that will be arrived at"
The census kicked off yesterday in Cross River State in a poor note.
As at noon yesterday most of the enumerators in Calabar South and Calabar Municipal were seen in large numbers in different locations without enumeration materials.
In Calabar South, some of the enumerators blocked the streets demanding the payment of their allowances while a set of youths in a blue Kombi bus drove around parts of Calabar saying "no census in Calabar south".
The scene was rowdy as the youths in the Kombi bus encountered the police in a shoot-out at Ekpo Abasi junction near the Cross River State University of Technology (CRUTECH).
However no casualty was recorded.
No major reason was given for the youths calling for no census in Calabar South but sources said this may not be unconnected with the non-payment of enumerators allowances as was the case in Odukpani on Sunday when the Calabar -Itu Highway was blocked and traffic delayed for hours.
By yesterday evening, the exercise was yet to begin in Benue State. NPC officials battled desperately to convince enumerators that their allowances would be paid at the completion of the exercise.
Benue NPC National Commissioner, Mr. Peter Otaigbe told reporters at Makurdi that the delay was due to payment discrepancies which, he claimed, had been sorted out.
He said that top NPC officials from Abuja stormed the state to correct a series of anomalies connected with the authentic enumerators' lists that sparked off protests across the state.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Girls and Pepsi

I remember in my high school days, most times in the third year, many of the boys start to develop sensual feelings for girls and girls for boys and it was always easy for the boys to express their feelings for the girls according to the ancient dictates of the society.

The boy who has feelings for a girl would devise different means to communicate this. One of the popular devise, especially if the boy was in a senior class, is what I named the 'Savior Mechanism'.

With the savior mechanism, the boy would connive with his friend(s) to pick on the girl. This included punishing her for just and unjust causes, including her name in the list of offenders, giving her larger portions of grass to cut during manual labor and harder beatings during the usual once in a week belting, slapping, 'whozzing' or 'raking' (these are some of the forms of corporal punishment that existed in my high school) sessions.

During the girls' travail, the boy suddenly shows up from out of the blues, like a superman pleading on behalf of the girl and even offering to help her with her loads of added responsibility indirectly inflicted by this same boy unknowingly or knowingly to the girl.

After a while (mostly when the boy tells his friends to end the scheme), the friend(s) will claim to be releasing the girl only based on the boy's pleadings and the girl will have to go and say thank you to the boy and I think that automatically puts her in a vulnerable position. Whao!, see the use of psychology by these small boys.

From there, the boy develops an interaction with girl, popping into her class during class hours, afternoon preps and night preps to chat in the course of which he will toast her (ask her out). If the girl accedes and falls in love with this 'Voltron, Defender of her Universe', you will begin to see the duo together always gisting around the school premises if they are innocent and otherwise, around dark corners and class inner rooms doing more than just gisting.

What amuses me most is that this mechanism has been in use by for a long time and girls have never ceased to fall for the method.

Now to the girls' side.

As stated earlier, it has always been easier for a boy to express his feelings for the girl, but going the other way round could be really funny. Like I remember a classmate who had a non-mutual feelings for a guy in our class and she just didn't know how to communicate the feelings, but we would giggle about it among other girlfriends and tease her about the guy.

We would occasionally code our words because none of us could openly agree or discuss having a crush on a guy or falling in love. So, instead of saying crush, which is also the name of a popular branded orange soft drink in Nigeria, we would substitute the word for Pepsi. Which means, if any girl had a crush on a boy, she would say, I have a Pepsi for ........... .

As a teenager, growing up was somewhat a funny experience, i guess this is courtesy of my too serious nature. Whenever, I was asked by my girlfriends if I had a Pepsi for any guy, my natural answer was No (which was the absolute truth), they would try to attach me to a guy they know is probably getting close to me and I would automatically from there cut all strings with the guy and return all of his greetings or pet talks with cold shoulders. This definitely kept the guys at arms length.

Well, in my over twenty-something years of existent, I think my girlfriends can have a good laugh as I can finally accept and say Yes, I have had a Pepsi for a guy and this happened not too long ago.

I am very happy I am experiencing this at my present age because I didn't go the way of my girlfriends at their vulnerable age when they would do anything to be around the guy or connect him to themselves, even going to the extent of saying he is their cousin and this usually made them the laughing stock of the whole school.

As a big girl, I guess I handled my Pepsi perfectly well, since nobody, not even the guy has the slightest clue that I had (or is it have) a Pepsi for him.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Take me to Trust

At every second of the day, there are always so many things running around my mind and brains. I am someone you can describe as analytical. I see deep into situations around me and ponder on them. In the process, sometimes, I come up with poems, write-ups and so on, and at times, I come up with a headache.

I will be sharing some of the outcomes of my pondering sessions. This one came out of pondering on my life plans for the future, my expectations, anxiety and how God would love me to handle situations like this.

I titled it Take me to Trust and it goes thus:

I fluster, shiver, and puzzle
Not sure of what to do
Not sure of where to go
Too many information to process and choose from
Too many advices from well and ill-meaning friends and family
I ask myself, what step should I take
Where will it lead me to?
How should I start?

I wonder if I will be happy or sad
Content or discontent, successful or unsuccessful
I guess there are too many options available
Each bidding, 'come to me'
I wish I can see what lies ahead each of the choices
That it may advise my decision

I look at the people around me
Not sure who to turn to
Who to believe or rely on
Not sure of who they are
Be they sycophants, opportunists, fraudsters or angels
I know not

I looked around for help
Looked north, found none appealing
Looked south, saw none rewarding
Looked east, discovered it wasn't worth looking
Looked west and completely lost hope

I came to a LOST state
Not knowing which way to go or who to turn to
I wandered around a spot
Rivelling in my lost world

While I remained at my lost spot
A word came filtering to my mind
Like a cleansing vapour
Reaching down to my innermost ache

The words remain clear till this day,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding
In all your ways acknowledge him
And He will direct your path”

I absorbed all the words and realised
I can always trust God
To always lead me on the right way
Sensing a release, I said within my soul

Take me to Trust
That I may believe and never question
Any path you take me through
Any turning you lead me to
And any pause you make me experience
Knowing that I am on the path
To a most rewarding and fulfilling life.

Lord I pray, Take me to Trust.

Another Start

I had actually created my first blog earlier in the year, but only posted once in it. I tried to continue from where I had paused today but just can't seem to make any headway so, I decided to start all over again. And now, I have a new blog which I seriously intend to maintain and update regularly with all the tingerings and lingerings that go on in my mind about everything ranging from emotional thots to religious thots to political thots and even money thots.

I intend to have a lovely time writing my posts in this blog as I expect you'd have a lovely time reading them as well.

This is another blog start for me and it will be my best till I have a new one when I join the United Nations (working with the UN is actually my dream job) and then I will blog about working with the UN.

Till then sha, let's maintain this one while I keep up with my dreams.