Thursday, November 18, 2010
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 lane...so 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
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
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
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
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.
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.
Monday, March 30, 2009
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
...one 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
...no 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
...it's not worth killing yourself over any issue over which you have no control
...you don't have to be rich, famous, tough or cool to be admired and respected
...it 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
...it 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
...it only makes sense to do things we are comfortable with, regardless of popular opinion
...life 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
...life 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.