Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy People

Forget the "Good People, Great Nation" campaign. Ditto the dubious "Heartbeat of Africa" proclamation made by a geriatric ex-president as a sharply-contrasting end to an advert showcasing the nation's beautiful natural resources. The true identity of Nigeria is not really far-fetched. CNN already acquired it for us with their rather popular survey a few years ago. Nigeria is a nation of Happy People. As a matter of fact, we might as well use R Kelly's song of the same name as our tourism anthem, a la the "Malaysia, Truly Asia" style.

Surprised? I must admit I was a bit miffed too when the survey came out to proclaim us "the happiest people on Earth". But the more and more I thought of it, the more sense it made. Why? Because Nigerians have an uncanny propensity to make themselves happy, regardless of whatever circumstances may exist. Facts and Rational Thought are divorced for being too ugly and Happiness is married for her attractiveness, even though she can't cook, clean or be taken for functions because she is a stark illiterate...she's sexy, and that's all that matters.

Take the recent Nigerian World Cup campaign for instance. When the draws were made originally, everybody basically agreed that a group containing Argentina, S.Korea and Greece was gonna be pretty difficult to surmount, and that, given the state of the team and the awful qualifying campaign, we were most certainly not going to be good enough to beat the Argies. Our hopes were really on beating Greece and Korea to progress. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, just before the tourney started. The mood has dramatically changed. Everybody had been going round bandying the phrases like "it's an 11 v 11 game" and "they ain't so special" and "wetin dem wan play sef?". John Fashanu, who I actually used to have some respect for, went on CNN to claim that he was confident of an upset because "a prophet had revealed to him" what the score of the match would be, even though he was not at liberty to disclose what that score was. The mood proved pretty infectious, so much so that even my very pragmatic boss, who before then had been telling all that Nigeria was gonna ship like 10 goals in the match, came to the office one day to proclaim that he just had the feeling that we would draw against Argentina. Not because Nigeria had just thrashed Brazil, or taught Spain a footballing lesson. No. There was no fact to support it. Just a belief. The same belief that we carry to every tourney that we are going to somehow perform well, even if we did not prepare at all; belief borne out of our irrepressible ability to make ourselves happy. The Nigerian trademark philosophy. As we all know it turned out, we lost by a deceptive 1-0 scoreline. Trust Nigerians' ever-optimistic disposition - everybody was "proud" of the team because they "tried", and people went on radio to insist that the result means that Argentina would "probably not qualify from the group" if they could only score one goal. In actual fact, it was like a battered, bruised & bloodied boxer exhibiting pride that only he lost on points in a match where he was actually saved by the bell from knockout at least five times. But such inconsequential facts don't matter to us - we are happy people, like Adewale Ayuba crooned.

It's not completely our fault - we have simply been taught to think that way. In Church, we are urged not to "speak negatively"; Motivational Speakers (or MSPs, as they like to refer to themselves), who really make the big bucks by getting us to pay them through our noses to tell us how they supposedly made the big bucks, tell us that "positive thought" is the key to success; and after watching the government's ultimate propaganda (brainwashing?) machine, NTA, for a couple of hours, you're bound to come away with the illusion that everything in the country was all about justice, reform, development, progress, and a remarkably sensitive & interactive relationship between the government and the people. Moreover, after all, a healthy dose of Africa Magic and Nollywood teaches us that there is an inevitable solution and turnaround somewhere down the don't worry, be happy. And so we have learnt to say a person is "strong" when he is ill, to say "it is well" when it really isn't; to say we have "a lot of money" when we are desperately seeking money; to always believe that big breakthrough is coming somehow, regardless of the little effort we are putting towards it; to borrow with little concrete plans about how to pay back; to have confidence enough to invest in schemes promising ethereal interests because the proponents supposedly "deal in FOREX and oil business"; to leave the shores of the country for another without any plans whatsoever what to do up there; to hope, pray and believe that all the mentally unbalanced people wielding influence and power in this country will one day have a massive heart-attack and die (even though we really wouldn't mind benefitting from their influence if we get the chance to), leaving the positions free to be taken over by supposed God-fearing like us who would do a much finer job, and we would not have to do a damn thing about it ourselves (Abacha, anyone?); to have as many children as possible (they are God's blessings!) with little thought for how they will be catered for (afterall, the popular Yoruba adage makes us understand that it is God - not parents, apparently - that takes care of children); to throw ridiculously lavish and extravagant parties for every event under the sun to the detriment of our finances to give people a good time; to forever believe and hope that one day we will all get married/have children/be millionaires/live happily ever after somehow, regardless of whatever circumstances presently exist or whatever habits we may be cultivating. I tell you, it's great to be a Nigerian!

So, if you are a morose Nigerian out there, what's wrong with you? That is against our identity. Perhaps you have been staying away from home too long. Come join us to smoke what we smoke down here. We'll make you happy. That's a promise.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another wedding

I went for another wedding the other day. Please don't get me wrong - I love weddings, I believe they are wonderful feasts of love that come once in a lifetime (for most people in this part of the world anyway), and an atmosphere of unbridled joy and emotions (more of joy during the wedding, and more of the latter in the aftermath, after the cost implications have fully sunk in). When at a wedding, it is difficult not to be in a perpetual celebratory mood, except perhaps you are part of the catering team.

In any case, this wedding I went for was pretty impressive and lavish. I didn't expect such a spectacle from the unassuming groom I thought I knew well before. The reception was held on two floors of an events hall, with plasma TVs providing aditional audiovisual aid. The idea to take up two floors was a smart one as even that arrangement struggled to cater to the sheer number of guests that attended. Unlike it usually happens in scenarios like this, there was however no problem as regards food and drinks. It was overflowing, and no guest could seriously complain about not getting anything to eat. In all, it was a spectacular occasion - the type that stays long in the memory and I'm certainly glad I witnessed.

I arrived at the reception hopelessly late. I had been having that type of Saturday when laziness holds you by the belt-line and you can't motivate yourself to get up and go somewhere you really ought to go. During this process, your body and mind go through a familiar conversation in this manner:

Mind: Segun, you have a wedding for 10:30.
Body: Yeah I know.
Mind: It's already 8:30. Don't you think it's time you got up and started preparing?
Body: I still have 2 good hours. There's time.
Mind: Oh, ok.

(45 minutes later)

Mind: Segun, you have a wedding for 10:30.
Body: Yeah I know.
Mind: The wedding is in Ikeja, it's 9:15 already, and you haven't even taken your bath.
Body: Relax, I can be done with my preparations in 20 mins flat, and still make it well ahead of time.
Mind: But...
Body: No buts please. I know what I'm doing.
Mind: Oh, ok.

(Another 45 minutes)

Body: Relaaax....I got it covered. I'll just quickly finish this game I'm playing, groom myself in half the time it normally takes me, and get to the venue just like 15 mins late. In any case, they are unlikely to start exactly at 10:30, n'est pas?
Mind: Ok oh! Ok oh!!!

(30 minutes more)

Mind: Segun [you can almost see the narrowed eyes and hear fingers drumming on the table], you had a wedding for 10:30, which a dear colleague was expecting you to treat with utmost importance, and you missed it. You were not there to witness his union. And the poor guy would be thinking you were not there because you had an emergency to attend to, not knowing you were here idling away precious time pointlessly.
Body: That's bad of me o. I can't start going now, can I? It would be insulting.
Mind: You already answered your own question.
Body: Ok, ok. Nothing do me. I'll just simply attend the reception. That's the best part isn't it?...

That was my story until I somehow got out of the house and made it to the reception venue. The reception had been scheduled to start for 1 pm. I got there like 2:45pm. It wasn't entirely my fault. I didn't know the reception hall. But given the fact that I knew the wedding church, and had been assured the reception hall was close by, I got on a bike and unwisely asked the rider to take me to the nearest events hall to the church. Where he dropped me seemed to fit the bill, and after querying a security guard at the gate, whom I unfortunately assumed had a remote awareness of what was going on around him, to ascertain if I was at Mr. A's wedding reception, I walked boldly in. I could've spent a couple of hours dining at the wrong wedding while wondering why I was surrounded by completely strange faces if not for the God-sent usher at the door who informed me that she had never heard of Mr. A before. And so I did what I should've humbly done before - I made a couple of calls, and after some time eventually found out the name of the hall. Another bike did the rest.

I got there to the news that the couple were just about to make their entry. Taking this to presume that the reception was still in its early stages and I wasn't so late after all, I had my illusion shattered when I went inside. There is a clear difference between when a wedding reception is just starting (aka when food has not been served yet) and when it has been on for a while (when a lot of guests have fulfilled their sole aim of attending by eating, and left with the sudden realization that they have other urgent engagements elsewhere). There is hardly any doubt which I prefer - arriving at the latter stages gives the inescapable ugly feeling that you have missed the best and dining on remnants, and there is unclean crockery and wasted food everywhere you turn. Moreover you get to be told that someone you had been dying to meet there had just left, moments after eating. In any case, I was awed by the spectacle I earlier described, and didn't feel too bad, except for the feeling of being a needle in a haystack with all of the crowd there.

Getting a seat was easier than I thought, and getting served food was remarkably easy too, considering some of the experiences I had had in the past with weddings generally. I didn't have to do the polite fixed staring at servants, or slight raising of the hand, or the rude hiss to get some attention. However, I had to do all of that, in addition to marching to the buffet table, all to no avail, when trying to get a clean glass cup for the fruit juice that was on my table. I had started eating and enjoying the well-prepared meal before realizing that all of the glass cups on my table had been previously used. I decided to reduce my eating speed and stylishly wait for a servant to pass by, whom I could make my request known to. However none of the food caterer's servants were forthcoming and the drink caterer's servants were unwilling to help me with my request. I can't say I was particularly surprised by this. The reception was around the point where, after suffering relentless harrassment from guests all day, the food servants generally go deaf, blind and unruly. With pressure building on my oesophagus, I might as well have behaved like a beastly woman I saw at a party once and collected a straw to drink what was obviously placed there for more than one person, but my couth got the better of me. I broke loose of its holds however, when I had walked up to the buffet table in extremis and had been informed that there were somehow no cups available. I calmly walked back to my table, looked around unsuccessfully for a drink servant to get a straw, and, realizing my last option to stay alive, walked outside to drink the juice directly with my mouth. I didn't get so many unsavoury stares from the crowd milling about outside, but I didn't care anyway. They didn't know what I had gone through. Unlike the beastly woman I described earlier however, I couldn't finish the juice.

That done, and some rationale restored, I was feeling good enough to go forward to say congrats to my colleague and take a few pictures as the traditional Flagrant Naira Abuse Session (aka the couple's dance) came on. Saying congrats was easy enough, but taking pictures was another matter entirely. In the first place, some genius had placed one of those bright halogen lamps supposed to aid photography facing the guests, so that taking pictures from a rational perspective by guests was impossible. Going round to take pictures from the other side did not immediately help either, as my view was obscured for several minutes by this woman in mint green, who spent forever abusing both the couple and the naira by pasting them with notes the same colour as her attire. Taking pictures at that moment would not have been very flattering for the couple, so I waited till she was done. But the other guests that replaced her in succession apparently thought it an amusing game to block the view of potential cameramen in their own bid to be seen. After trying from different angles and only coming up with blocked or blurry shots, and almost losing my footing a couple of times, I decided that it wouldn't be the end of the world if I couldn't take pictures, and, as such, shouldn't lead to the end of my life either; I gave up and walked back amongst the guests.

I didn't wait around for long though. My discomfort with the largely unfamiliar crowd around me, coupled with my having eaten and unsuccessful attempts to take pictures, left me with the distinct impression that it was time to leave. I followed my instincts and left, after wishing the couple a really happy married life. If the sumptous party was anything to go by, there really is little doubt about that ringing true.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Back for Good

I am comfortably seated in my house at a quarter to 11pm, typing this on my laptop, and getting a very satisfactory feeling doing so. It is something I have been longing to do - having the freedom to lay out my thoughts in a relaxed mood, without needing to rush myself for any reason at all. Having to type at work is a much different proposition - coherent thoughts have to be somehow stitched together in bits and pieces during intermittent free minutes during work hours, and finished off at the close of work after the brain has undergone intense abuse and morale has been similarly assaulted. That's what this job does over time - it brutally murders artistic creativity. With my laptop back in my possession, I figure I can be more productive blog-wise. If my enthusiasm has not been fatally wounded already, that is.

I'm especially happy to be back with my laptop, after going over 6 months without it. When I had the awful accident I had on the last day of last year, it was in a bag on my back, and somehow survived with only the monitor and the motherboard crocked. Insurance grudgingly agreed to pay for a lion share of the repair cost, but the cost was not the only thing that kept me from my beloved lappie for such a long time - there was also the little fact that the motherboard that was to be acquired to replace the damaged one was unavailable in the market for a while, except perhaps I was willing to pay through my nose for it. While I wouldn't have minded much to do so, so long as I would get my laptop back quickly, I wasn't exactly confident the Insurance company shared my sentiment of urgency, going by the way they had arbitrarily slashed the very considerate figures I presented to them in an invoice. It really pissed me off when I saw what they were eventually offering to pay, and I duly protested. But the brutes refused to increase the offer, telling me they'd happily get it fixed themselves if I was willing to take that option instead. Knowing fully well that that would be like leaving your expensive phone containing irreplaceable information with an annonymous technician in Computer Village, I was of course unwilling to go down that path, and was essentially forced to accept their offer. My friend, who arranged the insurance for me, was also not happy and she tried to placate me by reminding me that I did not suffer a total loss, and that I could still as well make other claims another day, which they would be forced to attend to. She didn't particularly assuage my feeling of being raped, but I found the subsequent claims bit rather interesting, and so it should not come as a complete surprise sometime in the near future if I announce to the world that this laptop has suddenly gone missing. Strange things happen, you know.

As it turned out, the money was not exactly the ticket to the repossession of my laptop. After I got the cheque from the shylocks, I was to wait a considerable amount of time for a motherboard within the price range to pop up in the market. Just when it seemed The Apocalypse was gonna happen first, I was informed that the part had finally arrived, and that I could get my lappie within the week once I made payment. This I happily did, boasting to my colleagues in the office about The Coming of my Long-Lost Laptop. It wasn't quite so straight-forward in actual fact. When the new motherboard had been fixed, I was informed that the Operating System needed to be reinstalled as a final step after I had saved all of my relevant data. Being no technical illiterate as regards computer affairs, I assured the repairers that I was capable of handling it. I was just too glad to have my toy back in my hands again. As you might guess, I of course ended up returning it for them to do their thing. Saving my data, a routine task, turned out to be more tasking than expected. It was difficult getting an external hard disk drive with enough space to accommodate all of my data, and having to briefly borrow one, I could only use it as mule to transport my data to another system in the repairers' shop, so that I could immediately return the hard drive to the generous owner. There was just a little problem - the system I was to copy it to was a 1GB RAM system running on XP, with shaky USB ports. What this really means for an attempt to copy out 40GB+ data from an external storage device is A Slooooow Burn in Hell. After taking a while to place the drive gingerly in a particular position for the system to actually recognize it, I got going, braced for the long wait ahead. It wasn't a smooth ride. A couple of accidental shakes oof the computer table meant that I had to stop and restart more than three times, and frustration was setting in. To make matters worse, there was this joker in the room with me, another customer, who was so eager to test his just-repaired laptop and had been desperately searching for any available socket that could accommodate the two-pin plug of his power-pack; under my careless observation, I had seen him come over to the power point of the system I was copying into. After like 15 minutes of activity, I saw the system suddenly go off. Swearing under my breath, I investigated the situation to find out that my joker companion had ACTUALLY disconnected the system from where it was plugged, so that he could make use of the multi-socket plug it had been connected to, at a point convieniently close to him. I had seen him around the connection point, yes, but never imagined in my wildest dreams that he was going to do that. It's not much different from, say, a person who suddenly jumps into a lake of molten metal - if you had been observing such a person a few minutes before, staring fixedly at the lake, you certainly would not have had the urge to counsel him not to jump; you just would not imagine he'd possibly be that stupid. The same certainly applied here; everybody (or so I thought) knows that flipping a switch or disconnecting a plug naturally has a consequence - something is bound to go off or on. Thus we are careful to trace wires to see what they are connecting to before doing such. Apparently this guy had disconnected his brain from the rest of his body at the time without noticing any effects, and decided to do the same with the socket, expecting the same results. Luckily for the guy I'm not naturally a confrontational person or I might as well have wrung his neck right there and then. Eventually I somehow succeded in my mission (despite yet another interruption when someone walked into the table), after ditching a collection of movies that I could copy elsewhere. I was back two days later to retrieve the laptop, only to find out while testing it that the RAM was incomplete. This led to a tetchy phonecall by my repairers to HP (who had supplied and fitted the restored parts), in which HP insisted on their integrity, but promised to replace the RAM nevertheless, so long as I sent it back again - another delay of at least 24hrs for me before I could use it, and one I wasn't exactly enthusiastic to endure. In desperation, I begged my repairer if he could replace the RAM from his supplies in the shop, and collect the one HP was willing to give me instead. He didn't have, but decided to ask one of his repairers in the workshop if he had any, personally, to spare. Apparently, the boy had, to my joy. I could've kissed him. When I found out moments later that the RAM he gave up was exactly the same RAM that had actually been removed from my laptop, I could've hung him. But I was just glad to get my laptop back, and I let sleeping dogs lie. By the evening of that day however, my homicidal sentiments towards him had returned when I found out that he had fitted the laptop for me with a dud power-pack. The power-pack I had left with them had been perfectly fine, and this one was obviously not mine. I immediately called him up about the issue, demanding that he deliver the correct pack to my office the next morning. He promised to do so, but when I didn't see him even towards the end of the day, I was practically boiling. In the end, I had to rant and rave at his boss, and the poor man apologetically promised to personally deliver it to my house that night. He did, to my utmost relief, and I was able to start this piece in the mood I highlighted at the beginning.

However, as I have come to find out as I round it off some TWO MONTHS later, my beloved writing muse comes and goes when she wishes, regardless of how much comfort and time I have on my hands. Guess it's not all the bloody job's fault then. One thing's for sure though - I really am unrepentantly glad to be finally reunited with my lappie!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One of 'em days!!!...

Saturday morning is not exactly my favourite part of the week. There's no error in that statement...Friday evenings are great, but Saturday mornings not so much so. The reason is simple - I am usually so carefree on Friday nights because I don't need to get up early the next day that I stay well up into the night glued to the TV (I don't club, and night outs usually end by 10 pm at the very latest), after which I usually have to switch off the gen, and then endure a usually hellish night with no light and, of recent, abundant mosquitoes. By the time I wake up the next day, I would have slept very little because of all the factors above, and would be remembering that I do have to get out a bit early because I have a zillion and two things to do, postponed till the weekend because of work. And so I am grouchy, unrefreshed, confused about how to go about completing my tasks, and usually hungry (doing anything that involves concentration till late, even watching TV, actually eats up the food in you if you don't munch something while doing so). Not exactly good feelings.

This past Friday night was pretty terrible, as mosquitoes really tormented me in assistance to their loving brother, heat. For a while, I had come to the deluded belief that I am somewhat immune to mosquito bites - I would sleep without a shirt on, with no light, and while a roommate would be whining the next morning about the evilness of mosquitoes, I would be wondering what he was talking about, because I would've felt hardly any evidence of mosquito activity. My mum always insisted that it was probably just that I couldn't feel them, not that they weren't feeding on me. I certainly have been feeling them recently - and I suspect my cousin, who shares a room with me, caused it. It's not his fault really - he has just recently made it a habit to apply this anti-mosquito cream on himself before he sleeps. The effect this is having is that we are no longer sharing the responsibility of hosting insatiable mosquitoes; they have now focused all their attention on me. For this reason, Saturday morning did not begin very well for me.

There were other annoying factors as well. For one, I was supposed to go for a wedding in which I was to be an impromptu groomsman, but due to the stress of work, I had forgotten to cross-check the address and time before leaving work on Friday evening. So I had asked my colleague, who was to serve in the same function at the wedding, to text the details to me, and he had graciously promosed to do so. However, he somehow forgot to do so, and on Saturday morning, my unease was veering towards panic. I mean, here I was, expected to be a groomsman as a saving favour, with only a faint idea as to the venue, and no idea of the time of the wedding. The situation was not helped by the fact that I couldn't reach my text-sending-fellow-groomsman-colleague on phone, at least not by the number that I had of him. Another sour point for me was the fact that my room was upside down, and I was finding it difficult to find anything. My brother had just left town (he had come in from the US for his wedding), and while he was around, he had been using my room. In his packing, he had left the room in a little mess, and my mum had gotten it rearranged in my absence, in the process changing the position of almost everything. I managed to find the shirt for the wedding with some difficulty (thankfully still smooth), but everything else was proving elusive. I was afraid of the state in which I would find them, considering the absence of electricity at the time (the third sour point), which meant that no ironing or quick-drying would be possible if needed. To cap it up, there was no fuel for the gen to remedy the situation, and little of it in the car I was gonna go with - a cause for worry as regards how I'd fill the tank afterwards.

Altogether, I was sweaty, confused, worried, panicky and restless - altogether pissed. I was basically resolving to lie my ass back on the bed in frustration and go nowhere, wallowing in the guilt of having destoyed a colleague's wedding when, suddenly, I remembered that I had the number of another groomsman, and decided to call him. He was able to give me an (albeit vague) idea of the venue, and informed me to my alarm that the wedding was for 10 am. The time was already past 9, meaning that I had less than an hour to bathe, get dressed and transport myself to the venue. I wasn't helped much by the fact that I spent the next 10, 15 minutes looking for my towel, eventually settling for one that barely covered my ass, and getting into the room afterwards to remember that my shirt was the only item of my clothing already located. Luckily for me when I eventually found the other items after a disoriented searching exercise, they were all in good condition. By the time I was somehow able to finish getting dressed, I was looking like I had just done a sauna session fully clothed, and was going to be pretty late.

I hurried off on my way to the wedding area (not the venue, as my driver couldn't make head or tail of the vague description I had been given), and had to call and ask people along the way repeatedly to get the venue. I finally got there like 10:35, with barely any time before we were to go into the church with the groom. Luckily for me, the groom was not cross with me, only relieved that I had made it. Luckily for him, my dear text-sending-fellow-groomsman-colleague had not yet arrived - I was gonna really spark for him for putting me in limbo. But by the time he came around, we were already in church, and I was feeling much better - the joy of a wedding is always so infectious, even if (as it was in my case) you can't sing along or enjoy the praise-worship much because the person leading them keeps raising very rare and almost tuneless songs in a language foreign to you (Igbo in this case), which everybody else in the church appears to know.

In the end, i enjoyed myself tremendously and didn't regret going for the wedding, despite the start to the day. To make things even better, I learnt that a former classmate had just given birth to a boy. Great news to sweeten the day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Get Paid or Die Trying

Despite the title of this post, it really is not about the money. Really. After all, how much is the money I am talking about? Like 15% of what I earn in a month. But it's a matter of principle. It's my IT money, refused me since participating in the bloody scheme like 4 years ago. My sweat (and boy, it was a lot!); my reward; my money; MINE. And I am not prepared to allow some greedy b*****ds to reap where they did not sow and swallow it. That is the essence of the title I gave this post.

However as I found out to confirm my long-held suspicions, it really appears that Unilag, my dear alma mater, is wholly determined to fulfil the latter part of the blog title while denying me the former. There is no other plausible way to explain the obstacle course that must be navigated along the way. At first glance, there is little wrong with the process: collect a form from the SIWES (Students' Industrial Work Experience Scheme) office, and take it down to your department for appendage, then take it to Students' Accounts department for another signature, then you return the form to the SIWES office for the director's signature, after which you can go ahead and pick up the cash at a nearby bank on Campus. Pretty simple, eh? That's what I thought too, until I discovered there were snags. Lots of snags.

The first, most annoying, and certainly hardest to understand snag I was made to understand firsthand was the fact that the SIWES Director, who does the final signing, only signs on Mondays and Wednesdays. Now, I can't tell if perhaps on the other days of the week he has severe arthritis, or bad eyesight, or perhaps he shares a prosthetic arm with a couple of other people on a day-to-day basis and only has access to it on Mondays and Wednesdays, but for some reason best known to him and his creator, he only signs on Mondays and Wednesdays. And no, it cannot be because of the number of students that come to sign - they only come in small handfuls at a time. What this invariably means is that if you come around on any other day, you can strike that day off your useful days list. Having gone on a Friday, on the back of special disposition to be absent from work in my case, you can imagine I did not find this information in the least bit funny.

In any case, I requested for the form in order to start the process at least and promptly got fleeced of the sum of N500, which I was told in a pleasant smiling manner was their "commission". If I had an inkling of what I was still to face in my odyssey, I doubt if I would have surrendered the money as easily as I did. So in good spirits, I took the form to my Department for their signature. The Departmental SIWES Coordinator, Mr. U, was absent, having gone for a seminar somewhere in the east, meaning that I could not sign until Monday, when he would be back. But then I got a light at the end of a tunnel - I was told that my HOD could sign on Mr U's behalf. But then someone once said that there is a one in six chance that the light at the end of the tunnel might actually be the headlights of an oncoming train. He was damn right, as I was to frustratingly find out in due time.

So I happily got my form signed by my HOD, and with a spring in my step, I headed to Students' Accounts. On getting there, I met a solid locked metal door which yielded no human or physical response to my knocks or pushes. I looked at my watch, and found out the time was around 2:30 pm, meaning that regardless of the general sheer laziness exhibited by civil servants, there should still be people around. I peeped through the window as far as I could see, to be sure that there wasn't someone unconscious, sleeping the sleep of death or even really dead inside the office. What I saw was a big empty office with all its lights and A/Cs on. Believing that someone was at least surely around, and would be returning sometime soon, I unwisely decided to wait around. After like an hour plus of standing and staring pointlessly, I decided that I'd return on Monday to get the bloody thing signed. That was my resolve until I had gotten to the gate at the other end of campus to realize that I had left my umbrella in my huff. And so I had to go all the way back to retrieve it. I got another supposed light at the end of the tunnel when I saw that the obtrusive door which I had glared at for over an hour was actually ajar. Marvelling at God's mysterious ways, I walked inside to ask how and who I was to sign the form with. The man I met there calmly informed me that it was late, and his oga, who was to sign, was not likely to oblige, given the time (past 4 then), and moreover, I needed to make a copy of the form before I brought it to be signed. Encouraging me with a deceptive train headlight, he told me I had a chance if I could do my copy quickly before his oga left. I immediately dashed down to where I could remember from student days was the nearest place to make a copy, but they had closed, and so had the second nearest. I then had to be directed to a place that was considerably further than I was anticipating, where I had to unnecessarily make 3 copies because of the pricing. Armed with my copies, I sped back to the office to present them. By the time I got back there, I was probably looking shaken and harrassed in the suit and tie I was wearing. But with hardly any emotion, I was told that the person to sign had gone home, and so I had to come back on Monday. Close to swearing (and tears), I went on my way, considering the bright side that I had at least done my copy already.

So, after somehow convincing my boss that I had to get to school again on Monday (briefly was what i was thinking), I was back at the Student Accounts' office to re-present my documents, confident that it would be done within 5 minutes flat. The secretary took a look at my forms and told me matter-of-factly that my passport photos on the forms ought to have been stamped across at my department, and, in lieu of it, her oga would certainly not sign it. It is hard to accurately describe the feeling I got hearing these words, especially as the joker I had met there on Friday did not think it important enough to share the very vital info, and neither were the staff in my department competent or observant enough to. Considerably distressed, I trudged away on the journey back to my department, on the other side of campus. I got my photo stamped, and then proceeded to photocopy it, but surprise surprise, there was no electricity. I encouraged myself with the unfounded belief that there would probably be electricity on the other side of campus where I was to submit the form. Getting there I was (surprise, surprise) disappointed to find out that that was not the case, and had to go through the motions I went through on Friday. I asked to make a photocopy and the person in charge, who was sitting a couple of yards away from me, and apparently has a hearing and vision problem, had to be specially informed that someone wanted to make a photocopy. Sluggishly getting up, she started with the perennial opening statement of the lazy Nigerian businessman: "I hope you have change o!"

Delighted to be able to disappoint her, I answered in the affirmative, pulling out a crisp N20 note. With a why-is-this-guy-disturbing-me look, she said she didn't have N10 change (I had been prepared to make 2 unnecessary extra copies like I had done on Friday). Almost lost for words, I asked her in a tone dripping with exasperation to make 6 copies. I somehow managed to do so without inserting "freaking", the other f-word or "bloody" in ideal parts of the sentence.

By the time I returned to Students' Accounts, I was hot and sticky from all the activity in my suit and tie (this time, I was dressed that way based on the delusion that I would still return to the office) and in a pretty bad mood. I was finally allowed to get my form signed, and as I emerged from the man's office was congratulated by the secretary with an unabashed demand for Five Alive. If only she knew how close I was to throwing out all the morals about respect that I had been taught from childhood and screaming belligerently in her face, she might have passed up on the idea. With very measured calmness, I told her I would return to get it for her once I collect my money. When pigs fly.

So finally (or so I thought), I took the form back to the SIWES office for a last signature. I got there to be told that the bloody Director (who only feels good enough to sign on Mondays and Wednesdays) had been out all day, and no-one knew when he would be back. With steely determination, I declared that I would wait for him. Trying to be helpful, his secretary informed me that the Assistant-Director had to sign first anyway, so I could use the time to get his signature. For once, it wasn't a horror-inducing distance away. I walked to the man's office to meet a queue of about 5 people who were there to see him for IT documentation, and given what I had gone through, I had little optimism of spending a short time waiting for my turn. I was right. It took me close to 30 minutes to get to meet him. Through the time, I wasn't even sure it was a him, as the voice I could hear appeared to be either that of a melodramatic woman, or a bush man with a thin voice trying to sound posh by forcing an accent. Considering that the latter example is normally only seen in Nollywood comedies, I really doubted if it was a he, except the person in question is one that cannot be taken seriously. It turned out to be a he, and he didn't make my impression of him any better by asking me what I thought of the events of Ekiti State. I had gone through hell and highwater to get to this stage, walking up and down in the merciless sun, and feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my unfortunate attire in his electricity-less office, and he was calmly sitting there and asking me about something as off-topic as freaking Ekiti State. I politely said I was just glad I wasn't there in the midst of the crisis (what I really felt like saying was something like: "WTF is my business with WTF is effing going on in effing Ekiti State at this effing moment??"). While I was anxiously waiting for him to just pen his signature, he still went on about the fact that I'm a typical Nigerian, it's our kids' futures we're talking about here, I'm like a man whose hair is being cut and does not care how it looks (so what if I'm effing bald-headed?), bla, bla, bla, and I'm just digging deep into reserves of patience by smiling politely instead of giving him a very heavy shut-up-and-sign slap. Eventually he did sign, and I didn't have to be charged with Assault with Intention to Commit Grevious Bodily Harm.

I walked back across to the Director's office to find out that he was still not around. To pass the time, I decided I really needed something really cold to drink to stay active (alive?) and went over to the mini Mr Biggs nearby. There was also of course the automatic shade and A/C that was assured inside. The ice-cold Coke helped, but the A/C i was hoping for was unavailable because - surprise, surprise - there was no electricity, and a whole Mr. Biggs' generator wasn't working. Nevertheless, I was considerably more refreshed when I was leaving the place, after spending just enough time to avoid getting what-is-this-guy-still-doing-here looks from the staff.

The Director was still not around, so I had to wait in the heat afterall. There was nowhere to sit, so it was another session of standing and staring. Finally, the joker arrived around 20 minutes to four, and I, along with like 4 other people with the same agenda, trudged into his office with relief. I had to wait for the other guys before it was my turn, but for the first time in the day, I didn't mind - the finish line was in sight. But I was horrified to find out that there was still at least a lap to go. The Director took one look at my form, and as his pen was poised to sign, he looked up at me and asked: "Whose signature is this??" I told him it was HOD's. Immediately, he pushed the form away at me with a dismissive gesture. "I don't know him...I don't recognize his signature. Go and sign with Mr. U. That's the only person I know. Take your form and go!"

At this point, I really really felt like taking a shotgun and going on a killing spree, a la Arnold Schwazenegger in Terminator, on everyone in the SIWES office, all the way down to my inept Department's staff. Yes, yes, I know I would regret it after like 5 minutes and go to jail and yada, yada, yada, but at that particular moment it would've given me immense satisfaction. I however instead went all the way back to my department to look for the freaking Mr. U to sign the bloody form. I wasn't too surprised to learn that he wasn't back yet from the course he went for. In my desperation, I decided to call him. Afterall, he was supposed to have returned that morning, and I could perhaps convince him to come down. In his heavy Igbo accent, he informed me that he was in far away Onitsha - Onitsha! - repairing his freaking car. Rather than feel disappointed as I had for a better part of the day, I felt nothing but resignation - there was nothing else to do but wait.

As I type this blog, Mr. U still hasn't returned, and the jokers in SIWES are vowing to stop payments at the end of this month - today. But if they think they are gonna stop me from trying what is rightfully mine, then they really must be joking. If need be, I would employ African science to push my way through or, if not possible, swear for all of them and their generations. I'll keep you posted on what happens. To be continued...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Emancipation of Lagos

Love him or hate him, u cannot but agree that Gov. Fashola of Lagos, being a serving politician, has an uncanny ability to surprise. I say uncanny because while I'm very well aware of his counterparts' prowess at constantly and shamelessly shocking the public, I am talking about pleasant surprises.
For once we actually have a person who went into governance with a clear idea of what he wanted to do, and an apparently strong determination to do it. It is obvious he wants to make Lagos a bit more civilized and sane, but what has differentiated him from his predecessors is that he is actually doing it - and the progress that can be quite easily seen is startlingly pleasing to the senses.
I guess the one that got me the most was the look of Lagos during Christmas - I never ever imagined Lagos would look that beautiful before say, 2050. All this while I'd always advocated that Lagos was nothing but a doomed city with too many conceptual mistakes for it to be successfully made sane, let alone beautiful, and here I was last Christmas licking my lips at the possibilities if this man were to remain where he is for the next few terms. The fact that he won't - beyond a second term at least - gives room for worry as regards the possible actions (or perhaps inaction) of whoever his successor would be, given the general uselessness and myopia of our politicians.
The current state of Oshodi has however made the biggest impression on people without a doubt. Oshodi is the place where everyone who remotely knows Lagos identifies as perhaps the worst area in the city. The place is reputed for everything despicable - daylight robbery, street trading, extreme dirtiness, awful smells, trash mountains, overcrowdedness, crazy parking, traffic, and everything illegal under the sun. But when I heard that it had been cleared, I was eager to see with my own eyes how that was possible. I only heard about it because I have made a solemn vow with myself that nothing, absolutely nothing would make me go through the place (along with Cele, Mushin, Okokomaiko, Alakuko and those places that are far from everywhere) except it is of extreme importance, like perhaps my job depends on it. And because of this vow, I have set my ways in such a manner as to never include Oshodi in my journeys. Consequently I only got to see the new Oshodi very recently while I was in a car with friends. I was so excited to see proof that there is a God in Heaven looking after the hell called Lagos...and we had passed it before I knew. That's how good it was looking, that I couldn't recognize it anymore. So much for savouring God's (and Fashola's) spectacular work.
I got another rude shock passing through Yaba the other day. Everyone knows Yaba for pretty much all of the Oshodi characteristics (if only less pronounced), but recent changes are pretty stunning. The first thing I had noticed the previous weekend was that somebody had finally thought that the headless, limbless sitting figure at the roundabout close to the railway (which used to be a proudly standing representation of a Youth Corper) had suffered enough torture in the hands of the elements and vandals, and it was only decent to remove it. The replacement, a statue depicting the cap and glasses of Bola Tinubu, is somewhat uncalled for, but surely a thousand times better than what used to be there. Yesterday as I was passing through on my way back from work (swearing for tanker drivers over and over again in my mind), I saw the area of the railway which used to house countless illegal shops looking very empty. It's not like I didn't have any previous warning - my sister had told me as much as at Sunday when she went through there, but, like Oshodi, I had to see for myself to fully grasp the effect created. The effect was dramatic, especially as some overzealous destructive persons (could as well have been a tornado) obviously carried out the operation. For a couple of seconds I felt I was walking through a set for the upcoming Terminator: Salvation movie. But I could also actually see buildings that for a long time had been obscured by the ramshackle shops. And Yaba was looking new, and saner, and less congested, unlike the obnoxious place I have frequented quite well for close to 20 years of living in its vicinity. I have no doubt that in the coming months, it would look much finer too.
And so, unbelievably, hope springs (even if not necessarily eternal, depending on the next Lagos State Governor) for this jungle city. God alone knows what it would be like now if just a few of Fashola's predecessors thought - and acted - like he is doing now. And I didn't even vote for the guy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I've learnt...

Life, as it is truly said, is a continuous learning process, and each day we are alive, the things that we see and that happen to us help give us a better perspective that influence our future decisions. For every man that chooses to pick out salient points from all his experiences, the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom is limitless, and can be evidenced when some time is taken to list them out. When i did so myself in writing this blog, i was amazed to know that i could put down all the points below, especially considering the fact that as a very (ahem) young man, i still have quite a lot of years of learning to go through, and i know for sure i didn't exhaust the points; i only put down what occured to me at the time.

All of the points were impressed upon me by life's little experiences, some sober, some good, some darkly humorous, and i feel obliged to share them through this blog (which should reflect my thoughts, anyway). They are, of course, not meant to be authoritative statements; just the way i see things based on my experiences. I'm guessing a good number of them might actually be acceptable tho' ;)!

Here goes. In my life, i've learnt that:

...academic brilliance is quite vastly different from general intelligence, and is usually a poor indicator of future success

...things hardly turn out exactly the way we think moment of rash action can lead to several lifetimes of grief

...if you don't take a few minutes to think a decision through now, you may end up thinking about it for the rest of your life

...a listening ear can accommodate the weight of the heaviest of hearts

...the real reward for doing good lies in the feeling you get - there really aren't many feelings that can rival it

...truth indeed does set one free, but then, sometimes truth, like freedom, comes at a heavy price

...the right thing to do is not always the best thing to do

...not forgetting does not necessarily mean not forgiving; It may mean learning.

...the world can be wrong sometimes

...shortcuts are nice, but sometimes they make you miss out on the finer points of life

...every man is in the position he is in by the virtue of God's grace or dictation

...the smartest people got that way because they asked questions

...experts aren't always right amount of salary can beat happiness in your work

...every person has secrets in his life that he's not proud of

...we were all equally created by God as human beings, but we are not all equal human beings, no matter what anyone may want to believe

...the things we learn easiest and are most successful at are in line with our innate nature, so why fight it?

...the best things in life are free, but they are so costly to lose's not worth killing yourself over any issue over which you have no control don't have to be rich, famous, tough or cool to be admired and respected makes sense to do something because you are ready, not because you are expected to

...there really is no blueprint for success and wealth, only opinions, which are not always true

...there's no shame in crying, laughing, being kind and polite, being humble, being generous, loving, having emotions, doing things the right way or generally any of those other things that make us human - it is what makes the world beautiful

...we have no right whatsoever to question God

...the people who love us the most are not necessarily those people who are there all the time, but those people who are there when they are needed most

...we can't stop the rain from falling - we can only get umbrellas doesn't mean that the guy who is already on the stairs will get to the top of the building before you, it may just be that the elevator hasn't arrived yet

...the grass is not always greener on the other side; in fact, most times it is much worse

...image is something, but not everything only makes sense to do things we are comfortable with, regardless of popular opinion really isn't fair, and is not likely to suddenly be; so let's get over the envy and resentment we harbour for people who appear to be doing better than us

...the best indicator of a person's true nature is the content of his heart, and until there is a way to determine that, everyone deserves the right to be treated with an open mind

...some things are just best left unsaid

...there is somebody out there for everybody

...the "smallest" things are usually the most important is much too short to dwell too much on anything

Okay. Guess that is enough for this blog, or else it would start looking like an epistle. I do hope that my humble nuggets of wisdom be worth the while of anyone who reads it.

Till i am stirred up by my writing muse again, i'll sign off for now.