Thursday, December 24, 2015

December Randoms:: Life, 2016 Prophecies, Christmas...

It has been a crazy couple of weeks.

I have been very busy and constantly stressed. I frequently skipped breakfast, drove faster than usual, and slept less. I couldn’t be more grateful for this long weekend, as I finally get to spend quality time alone or with family – with the phones turned off.

I got on quite a roll in November and planned to read and write even more in December, but life had other plans. Here goes a few random thoughts I've been wanting to share all day.

**1**


One year ago this morning, I walked away from this – dazed and grateful.

I had a few bruises, nothing major, and recovered the total cost of the car. It turned out to be a great reminder of my mortality, and helped me re-affirm my commitment to live.

I first thought I wouldn’t drive on the Lagos – Ibadan expressway for years, but I have since made the trip multiple times – including one this morning ☺ ☺.

**2**

I spent some time working from and for our office in Nairobi this year, and I think it is a beautiful city. I love that there are lots of natural spaces sprinkled around the city, and it felt quieter and less hurried than Lagos. I also think the people are nice and welcoming, but not as friendly as Nigerians ☺.


I got the chance to discuss politics in Nigeria and Kenya with a brilliant colleague, George Owuor, and came away with the realization that many young Africans want the same thing: public institutions that work and a decent chance at earning a better life through diligence. I also met his family – and maybe I’ll write more about them subsequently.

And – thank you, Oghale, for being such an amazing host. You’re the best!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

#Ikemofepo2015 : For Mofesola and Ikepo Babalola

Who knew Mofe could look this handsome?
I haven’t had so much fun in one weekend since Joseph got married in April.

As we neared Lagos this evening, I turned to my friends in the car and said, “let’s head back to Ife. We’ll tell Mofe and Ikepo we came back to say hello.” While that was a joke, I sure wish I could have lots more weekends like this one.

615 kilometers driven to, from, and inside Ife; one watch damaged and another misplaced; five meals skipped and three kilograms happily lost; and thousands of clumsy dance steps after – Mofesola and Ikepo are married!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My First Condom


I will always remember my first condom.

A primary school classmate, who I will call XYZ, took me to a corner of the school playground and showed me an unusually clear balloon. It was shaped differently than all other balloons I had ever seen, so I was immediately fascinated. I thought it was awkwardly shaped for a balloon, and wondered if it would bounce around after we inflated it.

He started to hand it over, but stopped short of giving it to me. He told me he no longer wanted it, but would sell it to me for five naira. I was devastated. Why would he show me such a nice balloon, but demand my entire allowance for the day to let me play with it? My feelings were hurt. I quickly reminded him of the days when I bought him puff puff and choco milo when he came to school without any money.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Daystar at Twenty: A Love Letter (Part Two)...

Pictures from the Daystar Back to School program...
If you told me in University that I would someday join Daystar Christian Center, I would have laughed at you and walked away.

I thought Pastor Sam was the most boring speaker in history. I disliked his habit of picking words carefully and pausing for emphasis. I thought he talked too slowly, and told everyone who cared to listen. I would often fall asleep while listening to his sermons.

I was sure I could not join the church he pastored.

I was wrong.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On Ben Murray-Bruce and the N5k Social Benefits Scheme...


Ben Murray-Bruce, Federal Senator representing the Bayelsa East Constitutency, recently tweeted this while sharing his ideas to fund a social benefits scheme for unemployed graduates in Nigeria.

I don't agree with his plan and I don't think Nigeria can successfully implement this scheme as things currently stand. Here's why:

1. There is NO confidence that the extra tax will be used for the intended purpose. This may be the most basic issue with taxes in Nigeria. If we disregard the other issues with this proposal for a moment and assume 'salary earners' agree to fund the social benefits scheme from their earnings - it comes down to trust. I, and many other Nigerians, simply don't trust elected officials to manage funds judiciously. And why would we? News media is rife with reports of misappropriated funds. We don't see results of the taxes we already pay!

2. The Social Security Net is a Federal proposal; Personal Income Tax is paid to State Governments. State Governors did not promise N5k for unemployed graduates, the Federal Government did. Except the Nigerian Tax system is overhauled, which opportunity we should frankly seize for more productive ideas, increased Income Taxes simply mean more revenue to the State Governments. States, most of which are already struggling to meet their obligations, would happily jump at the extra income and throw it down the recurrent expenditure drain!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

On ISIS: World At War!

An ISIS execution. Unfortunately, this is not a scene from a movie!
I think the world needs to take a stronger stand on ISIS.

And not just ISIS. I think the world needs to take a stronger stand on ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram, and the many other terrorist organizations that seek to take away our freedom and return us to the dark ages.

It is not enough to ‘contain’ ISIS or any terrorist organization; they have shown what they can do despite being ‘contained’. Terrorists have no interest in cohabiting peacefully with the rest of the world. They have attacked men, women, and children regardless of ethnicity or religion, and have committed heinous crimes against humanity.

Terrorists should not be contained; they should be eliminated.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

#PrayForParis


The Paris attacks were deadly! At least 153 people dead, and lots more wounded. I am heart broken beyond measure, and greatly saddened by this turn of events.

I saw on CNN that ISIS set up a celebratory hashtag on Twitter, and I am shocked even more. What kind of human celebrates terrorist attacks on another human? Is this how divided a planet we have become?

It is unfortunate that the world has allowed the situation with ISIS in Syria to degenerate this far, but firm steps need to be taken quickly. Strengthening national borders is not enough - ISIS will continue to leverage disgruntled citizens for their crazy purposes.

I'm all for Russia's approach to resolving the Syrian conflict and comprehensively dealing with ISIS.

May God be with the friends and family of the 153+ people who lost their lives yesterday.

PS: ISIS did not yet claim responsibility at the time of writing this.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Problem With 'Church' (1/X)


I decided to write this during a discussion with friends yesterday. I know I cannot exhaustively cover the many things I would like to see different in ‘church’ in one post, but I am not willing to commit to a series exploring the subject. Hence I have decided to make this one out of ‘x’ posts; I may, or may not, write other posts – and if I do, I may not write them any time soon.

I have used ‘church’ loosely, to mean different things in different contexts.

Here we go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Terror in Nigeria's Food Basket


You may have noticed that onions, tomatoes, and yams have steadily become more expensive over the past two years. Prices have risen between 225% and 360% since 2013, well ahead of the official inflation rate. The brilliant folks at SBMorgen have dug deep into the situation, and released a report about ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt.

So far in 2015, 2000 people have reportedly been killed in the ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt, a number that rivals annual deaths due to the Boko Haram insurgency. Thousands of people have been displaced, and some farmers have not harvested their fields since 2006!!!
"The picture that our research painted is a grim one, of methodical violence by herdsmen against host communities, and steadily advancing southwards; and of herdsmen facing increasing violence from cattle-rustlers, coupled with a decline in grazing resources. Attitudes towards the Fulani are hardening, and there is evidence of a slow loss of confidence in the ability of the security forces to keep law and order. Both the host communities and the herdsmen have been neglected by the government and have been reduced to self-help." - SBMorgen.
"During a visit to the tomato depot in Ketu, we observed that the prices of tomatoes have increased by at least 225 per cent in the last two years, and in some cases, as high as 360 per cent. The variation in the prices during that time frame can only be described as shocking. A small basket of tomatoes roughly 3kg), which used to sell for between N5,000 and N6,000 in 2013, now sells for N18,000. The big basket (roughly 15kg), which was sold for N12,000 now costs between N26,000 and N27,000 depending on one's bargaining power." - SBMorgen.
The Middle Belt is the food basket of the nation, and food prices will continue to rise if the long-lived tussle between nomadic cattle herders and farmers is not addressed squarely and decisively. Beyond their status as the food basket, the government owes it to every Nigerian to keep them and their property safe - this in itself is the primary responsibility of a government. The large number of displaced people will continue to pose a humanitarian crisis, and provide a festering ground for future insurgencies; idle hands are often diverted to evil purposes.

You may follow the link to read SBMorgen's report on the incident. A 7-page summary of the report can be found here, and the full report (37 pages) here.

So far, the crisis in the North East has received disproportionate focus by the Federal Government. It is now time to shine a light in the direction of the Middle Belt and North Central areas. With concerted effort, Land Use reform, and an overhaul of the Agricultural Sector, we may yet turn this situation around.

A stitch in time saves nine.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What is the Nigerian Dream? (Thoughts on the Importance of a National Vision)


You may have heard of the American Dream. It has powered the aspirations of Americans for generations and fueled America’s rise to world-dominance. It unites Americans in the belief that they can achieve prosperity through hard work, regardless of social class or other limitation. Experts now argue about growing inability to achieve the Dream, but still agree it unites Americans in a shared vision of abundant possibilities.

Shared visions have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to unite people and drive countries to greatness. Neil Armstrong walked the moon in 1969 - only eight years after JFK first sold the goal to Americans. Singapore transformed rapidly under Lee Kuan Yew’s visionary leadership. My Vision, a book chronicling Dubai’s transformation from fishing settlement to foremost tourist destination, has inspired many young Nigerians.

Why then is Nigeria yet to unite behind a common goal for sustainable development and economic growth?
“We have all the attributes of a great nation. We are not there yet because the one commodity we have been unable to exploit to the fullest is unity of purpose. This would have enabled us to achieve not only more orderly political evolution and integration but also continuity and economic progress.” - President Muhammadu Buhari, October 1 2015. 
The President could not be righter on this one: Nigeria has not fully exploited unity of purpose! If anything, the political class has sought to divide us even more for selfish reasons. There are few things that unite Nigerians across social divides, and these things tend to be fleeting - like the Super Eagles contesting in an international tournament.

What then do we need to do?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Nigeria: Why stay here until we die?


I last wrote an Independence Day post in 2009, six years ago. In that emotional piece, I drew on experiences that had brought me to tears - from lives lost in preventable accidents to classmates who had dropped out of school, ending it with a call to act for a better standard of life for the average Nigerian.

In the six years since then, I have started multiple essays but not completed any. Confronted with the magnitude of the challenges we face as a nation, I chose instead to focus on doing what little I could in my own corner. Tonight however, I feel strongly compelled to share the following thoughts. I will adopt the framework and text used by Olusegun Adeniyi, chair of the ThisDay newspaper editorial board and spokesman to former president Musa Yar'Adua, at The Platform earlier today.
3Now there were four men with leprosyd at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? 4If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” - 2nd Kings 7, NIV.
This story from the Bible describes a time of war and famine in Samaria. The King of Aram had besieged Samaria, and food was so scarce that mothers ate their children. It was a bleak situation for the Samarians. They had no choice but to wait it out and hope to defeat the Arameans in battle, or die slowly of hunger after all the young and weak were eaten. Then four men at the city gates, lepers, asked a question that changed everything.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Random Thoughts: On Indiscipline in Nigeria


If indiscipline were human, it would probably be Nigerian. It lives here already.

You see it when bus drivers park indiscriminately on the right lane to pick and discharge passengers, slowing traffic to a crawl as all other drivers are forced to make do with one lane.

You see it when people glance down long queues at banks, airports, or even places of worship - then head straight to the front.

You see it when citizens make unsafe highway crossings right under pedestrian bridges, endangering their entire lives to save a few minutes.

You see it when people openly demand bribes, gifts, and 'settlement' before they do the jobs they are already paid to do.

You see it everywhere, if you look well enough.

*****

Slowly but surely, indiscipline has become the norm here. People are applauded as 'smart' for gaming the system; those who comply with rules are derided as 'dumb'. It is worrisome, and I don't think we should continue like this. There is a lot more we could achieve as a nation, and our overall quality of life would definitely be better for it, if we would be more disciplined.

Seeing as we lack the power to wave a magic wand and change everyone at once, what can you and I do?

First - we can role-model disciplined behaviour. Use pedestrian bridges. Join queues. Do your job without requesting kickbacks. Treat other citizens respectfully. Drive responsibly. Be disciplined! Show people that things can be done without breaking the law.

Bottoms-up change in a society like ours where indiscipline is strongly entrenched is going to be very slow and exceedingly difficult, but it can be done. Of course, things will move along much faster with a few targeted top-down initiatives (like a modernized War Against Indiscipline and an impartial war on corruption).

Two - speak up for disciplined behaviour, and against indisciplined behaviour. Recognize and compliment people who respect the rules and conduct themselves in an orderly manner. Speak up when people don't. You don't have to be aggressive. Gauge the situation, and speak up calmly and respectfully. If you sense you might be in any danger, then just let it slide.

We can make a better nation, together.

Cheers.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Birthday Report: Mind Blown, Thank You!

Yesterday was amazing.

Without doubt, this was my best birthday yet! I stepped into the day excited, looking forward to a good day; I got a great day! I returned home wishing my birthday could last 48 hours so I could experience all the excitement, joy, and celebration again! I can't believe I have to wait another 365 days before it's my birthday again.

I am reminded that God has blessed me with amazing relationships, in my family and with my friends. I appreciate everyone who helped me feel special and loved yesterday. Special thanks to Busola, who made me a cake so lovely I did not want to cut it, went the extra mile to surprise me at the office, and gave me gifts of the variety one keeps for a lifetime. I appreciate my siblings and parents; there is nothing like celebrating your birthday with the people who have always known you.

Who conducts their own birthday song? Me - of course :)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

I’m starting with this picture because I think it is funny. Foluso Ajayi dug it up yesterday, and my Facebook friends seem to think it is funny too. I’m doing a few things in this picture I’ll most likely never do again: striking a hilarious pose, wearing green ‘canvas’, and generally trying hard to look like an Ibadan boy. Apart from highlighting how much I have grown, this picture does not contribute further to this post.
This picture was taken about a year after the first. I had gone up the Old Buka hill at the Obafemi Awolowo University with friends, and I was the designated photographer. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I took it, but I am glad I did. It is one of my favourite pictures of myself. It reminds me of a time that sometimes seems far away, a time when I had few worries, even fewer fears, and when I genuinely believed I could help heal the world.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Transform Your Effectiveness: Tying Up Loose Ends (4/4)


It’s been four weeks since the first post in this series. I struggled to decide which to start with between ‘Eating Healthy’ and ‘Planning’, but chose ‘Eating Healthy’ after concluding the best plans cannot be executed by a sick body. I then shared in the third post how the best plans don’t amount to anything if they’re not excellently executed.

In closing the series today, I intend to tie up some loose ends and answer some of the questions I was asked. For readers who seek a more comprehensive discourse, I strongly recommend the following two books: ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey, and ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen.

*****

Why ‘effectiveness’, instead of ‘efficiency’ or ‘productivity’? These words are similar, but mean slightly different things. Productivity and efficiency define the production of results with minimal waste, but do not measure if these results are the intended ones; effectiveness does. I have spent days analysing data, identifying patterns, and drawing conclusions – to later find that I misunderstood the original requests or business needs. I was productive and probably efficient, but was I effective? No.

I chose ‘effectiveness’ because it incorporates an understanding and alignment of what is really important. Alignment, a clear understanding of the objectives, is really important in the context of work.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Transform Your Effectiveness: Just Do It (3/4)


If I had a dollar for everything I have ever intended to do, I’d be so rich I wouldn't have to work another day. I’d be able to spend my days free-falling from airplanes and touring the world while helping to heal it. Unfortunately for my lazy behind, life does not reward intentions. What counts is what we do, not what we were going to do.

I realized the best laid plans were not enough after I began practicing weekly planning. There were weeks where I struggled to achieve my objectives, despite detailed plans and a structured calendar. I realized it was not enough to determine the important things on Monday; I still had to put them first every day, implement a framework that increased my chances of success, and execute despite varying impulses and moods.

Ensuring my ladder leaned against the right wall was not enough, I still had to climb the ladder.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Transform Your Effectiveness: Thirty Minutes To Rule Them All (2/4)


Picture yourself packing your things on Friday evening. You have just finished a long week of work, and you’re grateful it’s Friday. You look forward to a night out on the town, breakfast in bed, and a relaxing time in the spa. You do not head into this weekend with any reservations; you have given your best and taken significant steps towards achieving your objectives. You have invested in your relationships and helped friends and associates complete their tasks. You have paid your dues.

Does this feel good?

How often do you feel this way on Friday evenings?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Transform Your Effectiveness: You Are What You Eat (1/4)

I thought I’d share some tips on improving effectiveness at work. About a year ago, I became frustrated at the lack of a linear relationship between my effort and the quality of my results; I thought it took me too long to get things done. I was convinced there was a faster and smarter way to work, so I set out to find it. I spoke to people, attended trainings, read books and blogs, and kept a daily journal of what worked and what didn't.

What I found was surprising. The little changes that have made a big difference in my work and life effectiveness are simple, so simple that I doubted their efficacy when I ‘discovered’ them! I already knew about most of these tips before commencing the journey to ‘find’ them; I simply did not practice them.

I now share them in the hope that you will find them useful, but first a disclaimer. These worked for me, but are not necessarily universal. I recommend them based on my experience. You may keep those you like, and discard those you don’t.

Here’s the first one.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Every Story Has An End... Goodbye Casillas


Someone asked yesterday why I love Casillas. For the first time in years, I refrained from my standard response and took a trip down memory lane; back to the early 2000s’, when this affair began.

I played football regularly as a goalkeeper in Junior Secondary School. One game is seared into my memory. I arrived school late after the exams were over, and my class was three goals down in a game. I was substituted on once I got close enough to be spotted, and my class cheered as I got between the sticks (more like stones). I pulled off a few amazing saves to keep the gap from widening, and we got our act together and won the game.


Thursday, July 09, 2015

On Extractive Industries, Societal Development, and The Looting Machine...


I have long argued that the fact that Nigeria's government earns a huge chunk of her income from extractive industries (think oil) and not tax (and other IGR) means the government has less of an incentive to fulfill the social contract with the governed. A government (Federal or State) that relies on taxes for the bulk of its income is incentivized to grow the state's economy by making it easier for citizens to generate wealth (and employment) by doing business. Intellectual and physical property rights, transportation networks that work, security, cheap access to a steady power supply, and other such factors that support business growth will follow naturally when a government actually needs the people to survive.

One of the central themes of Why Nations Fail is that economic prosperity depends above other factors on the inclusiveness of economic and political institutions. Extractive systems tend to lend themselves to autocracies, as a connected few that control the means of extraction can unfairly enrich themselves and setup high barriers to entry for the majority of the population.

I've recently started reading The Looting Machine, and here's how Tom Burgis puts it; more concisely and succinctly I must say.

"...But more often than not, some unpleasant things happen in countries where the extractive industries, as the oil and mining businesses are known, dominate the economy. The rest of the economy becomes distorted, as dollars pour in to buy resources. The revenue that governments receive from their nations' resources is unearned: states simply license foreign companies to pump crude or dig up ores. This kind of income is called 'economic rent' and does not make for good management. It creates a pot of money at the disposal of those who control the state. At extreme levels the contract between rulers and the ruled breaks down because the ruling class does not need to tax the people to fund the government - so it has no need of their consent.
Unbeholden to the people, a resource-fuelled regime tends to spend the national income on things that benefit its own interests: education spending falls as military budgets swell. The resource industry is hardwired for corruption. Kleptocracy, or government by theft, thrives. Once in power, there is little incentive to depart. An economy based on a central pot of resource revenue is a recipe for 'big man' politics... resource rents concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few..." - The Looting Machine.
The Looting Machine is a great read and I may post a few more snippets as I go. Go here to view the book on Amazon.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

I'm Back! + Thoughts on Aloneness...


It has been quite a while since I wrote anything; exactly a month today since the last hurriedly written post on this blog. This state of affairs has not been for want of inspiration, or for want of time to put 'pen to paper'. I have been swamped on all fronts these past few weeks, and for someone who derives energy from being alone - I haven't made enough 'alone moments' recently.

Having realized it was time to come off auto-pilot, I decided this evening to spend quality time doing absolutely nothing. Nothing. Not chatting, not speaking to someone, not listening to music, not scrolling through Quora or Facebook, not seeing a movie, not typing an email, not worrying about someone or something. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The results so far are amazing. I have done nothing, but I feel stronger, have better clarity about which efforts to continue and which to discontinue, and overall feel more in control.

Life can often speed up into a blur. It is very easy to default to routines: wake, pray, work, eat, sleep, socialize, attend services, rinse and repeat. Routines and habits are great; they enable us to respond quickly to external stimuli within a present framework. However, we sometimes default to them so frequently that we stop living consciously.

If this happens do that; if that happens, do this, this and this.

It is very important for us all to take frequent retreats, to review our plans and confirm our ladders are still leaning against the right wall. According to Andy Puddicombe in this brilliant TED video, all it takes is ten mindful minutes a day.

May the road rise to meet you.

Friday, June 05, 2015

...On Friendship (Wesley College Ibadan)

Picture taken with Nasir Halimat at our 2010 reunion  It's the only picture related to memories of Wesley I have in digital format.
"...You'll find it in the deepest friendships. The kind you'll cherish all your life..."
I am playing my Westlife collection as I drift off to sleep tonight. As the music wafts around my room, I am transported ten years back - to beautiful times in Wesley College Ibadan; when life was simpler and cares were fewer.

I listened to a lot of Westlife growing up. What makes a man. Evergreen. Flying without wings. My love. Soledad. Not the words. World of our own. Uptown girl. Fragile heart. Written in the stars. Mandy. I don't wanna fight no more. Walk away.

It hits me tonight how much influence Westlife had on me. It's ten-plus years, but I still "take moments and make them last forever"; I still "forget what we were fighting for"; and I still notice, compliment, and appreciate "every little thing" my friends do.

This one is for all the great friends I made in Wesley. It's for the great relationships we forged. It's for the fun we had, the joy we shared, the seasons in the sun. It's for the one we lost, who now lives only in our memories. Tonight, across the miles, it's funny how far you all are - but how near you seem to be.

Tonight, I miss you. I hope you all dance.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Happy Birthday - Mosimiloluwa


I once dumped the dirtiest and 'stinkiest' sock I could find in a cup of tea, and smiled wickedly as my victim drank it up minutes after. I was an impish eight year old, and the victim was my sister! When she reads this today, she'll be finding out for the first time.

My mother says Simi could make me cry when we were much younger by threatening to beat my wife - never mind that I neither had a wife nor knew what to do with one. I think my mother exaggerates when she says this - but who knows?

What I know is she would often cry for me when I struggled with severe malaria as a young child, she shared her food with me in Primary School, and she was always incredibly loyal to me - except her own interests were at stake.

It's amazing how much she's grown, how far we've come; from childhood memories to adult dreams... When she's not talking about wanting to go into politics, she's droning on and on about Africa; that from the little girl we once chased around the house before she'd agree to bathe and go to school.

I couldn't have asked for a better sister, and I'm happy to see her grow and come into her own.

Happy Birthday, Mosimiloluwa.

Friday, May 29, 2015

To Nigeria, Our Dear Own Native Land...


I woke up today much earlier than I usually do on work-free days. I find it difficult to sleep when I am excited. I am excited this morning; much more than I was when I found out Muhammadu Buhari had won the Presidential elections on March 31.

I am not under any illusions. I do not expect any magic from Buhari and the APC-led government over the next four years. In fact, I know there will be missteps here and there and there will be many things they will do that we will think they ought to do differently. These are challenging times for our country, and a lot of work needs be done to set Nigeria on the right path again.

A billboard I saw during the campaign season rightly sums up my thinking about the next four years. I do not have a picture, but I remember the quote: “Vote for good governance, not good luck”. I have many hopes and my fair share of expectations from Buhari and Osinbajo – but I am confident of one thing: “Nigeria gets off auto-pilot this morning”.
"I have supported Buhari since 2011 because I believe he will combat corruption, re-unite Nigeria, appoint competent aides and Ministers versus rent-seekers, create an enabling environment for our economy and institutions to flourish, and restore our pride before Africa and the world. I now add ‘defeat Boko Haram’ to that list." - me in an earlier post.
President Goodluck Jonathan has my thanks, and the gratitude of many other Nigerians. He could have made things a lot more difficult for Nigeria by contesting the election results, but he chose the honorable path and conceded defeat. History will be kinder to him than many of us think. I do not believe anyone deserves an award for doing the minimum expected of them – and the call by some for a Noble Peace prize is indicative of how low we have historically set the bar for our leaders.

A last word for my friends and a few social commentators earnestly expecting Buhari to fail, so they can grandstand and say they were right all along. It’s our fatherland – not Buhari’s private enterprise. Should he fail, we ALL suffer for it – regardless of tribe, religion, or party inclination. We have proven at the last elections that the office of the citizen is one that must be respected – and we must work together to build the Nigeria of our dreams.

I look forward to four years of growth and prosperity, of security, of institutions that actually work, of increased respect on the continent and the globe, and of increased citizen participation in government.

Grab your glasses, and let’s drink a toast – to Nigeria, our own dear native land.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Thoughts on Decongesting Lagos...


When Chxta Bee identified "decongesting Lagos" as one of the priorities for the incoming Federal and State Governments, I glanced at it casually and moved on. However, I have returned to an earlier post I shared on this subject after experiencing ONE day of Island-Mainland traffic this evening.

In addition to the solutions I proffered in my post of July 2014, I would now like to add that the most sustainable way to "decongest" Lagos is for the other States to attract more businesses and support them to operate profitably and sustainably. In addition to slowing the population drain to Lagos in search of greener pastures, this will develop their economies, grow State government revenue, and grow employment numbers in the formal and informal sectors.

The current model wherein many young Nigerians from across the country (including yours truly) relocate to Lagos because it offers better opportunities is not sustainable over the long run. At this rate, in only a few years - it will be nearly impossible to get anywhere on time in Lagos.

PS: It took me 4 hours to get home from Lekki Phase 1 (and 2 hours to get there in the morning). Some friends who work on the Island (and live on the Mainland) confirm they spend an average of 4 hours a day commuting to and from work. That is 20 hours a work-week, 80 hours a month, and 960 hours (40 days) a year spent in Lagos traffic!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Please Donate to the Nepal Earthquake Response


I find it very difficult to ask people (on Facebook and offline) to give to supposedly faraway causes like this, fully aware that we face our own fair of issues at home that require our giving and action.

So, I'll ask you instead to spare a thought - and maybe a prayer - for the people of Nepal, many of whom have had their lives upended by an earthquake.

And if you can, please give too. For every $ you donate, various corporations including Facebook will match your donation, such that your $1 will become $30 on average.

We are the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Piece for Mama -- Happy Birthday!


At a funeral for a friend’s father a few months ago, I couldn’t hold back tears at the nice epitaphs in the program. I wished he could read the nice things his progeny had written about him, and hoped they’d told him those sweet things when he was alive. I decided that day to frequently write about my parents while they’re still here to read.

This one is for my mother, who is a year older today. If you cannot read it all, please skip through to the end and please leave a comment. I’ll print them all out, and have a ball reading them to her this weekend.

*****
Beautiful is your name;
Wonderful is what you are to me;
It's you I see in my dreams;
Everyday and I pray for you;
Queen of my life;
You're so beautiful mama;
You're beautiful;
Emi n wa mama kan;
Ta lori yeye yen;
Mama mi o roju ri;
And that's why I'm loving you.
*****

I returned home from junior secondary school one day in a rage. My schoolbag had fallen apart the previous day, and left with no option – I carried my books to school in my mother’s handbag. The humiliation was epic! I was taunted everywhere I turned. Two classmates walked behind me as I went home, teasing me as we went. I dashed into our house, murderous, looking for a knife; and ran into my mother. A lecture about murder quickly turned into a discussion about living within your means and ended with us reading from The Richest Man in Babylon. I have since forgotten the students who made me feel so miserable, but the lessons from that discussion will stay with me forever.

Monday, April 20, 2015

On the Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa...


News media is rife with reports of Nigerians and other African immigrants killed in xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The recent outbreak of violence follows comments by Zulu King Zwelithini that foreigners should leave because they are taking jobs from citizens. Other citizens have expanded this by stating immigrants are undermining locally owned businesses. The pictures and videos are horrifying, showing disgruntled citizens driven by an entitlement mentality.

NANS has threatened reprisal attacks and some have called for boycotts of South African owned businesses. Neither course of action is advisable. In this context, boycotts will not achieve anything we cannot more quickly achieve via diplomacy.  They also have the unintended consequence of harming our economy, as these companies employ thousands of Nigerians and pay millions in taxes. Secondly, harming innocent South Africans living in Nigeria is unjust, signals we are no better than those whose actions we condemn, and may lead to an escalation in the violence.

The Nigerian High Commission will begin evacuating Nigerians interested in returning to Nigeria from today. This is a good start, as we must ensure their safety above all. We must do more for them, however. We must communicate clearly to the South African government that we will no longer treat attacks on our citizens and business interests lightly, and we must pressure them into arranging commensurate compensation for businesses destroyed during these attacks.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Bring Back Our Girls --- Please!


Idowu Adebote, my maternal uncle, went missing over 25 years ago. I never met him, and all I know about him is from stories my Mother has told. I am told he was strong, handsome, and wilful. I am also told he walked off into the sunset one evening, never to return. It is 25 years now, and the family continues to search. It is 25 years now, and they still investigate reports of his sighting with all seriousness.

I have two siblings, a sister and a brother, and they mean the world to me. As a first-born “big brother”, I feel extremely responsible for them. We share a common history, forged in shared memories of joys and pains. They have known me longer than most people, and are most likely to stick with me till the end – regardless of what the future holds. I cannot imagine how it would feel if one of them went missing.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

LISTEN: Congratulatory Phone Call from President Jonathan to General Muhammadu Buhari


WOW.

This is the actual congratulatory phone call from President Jonathan to GMB. Sounds absolutely like the two of them. How did a phone call between a sitting President and a President-elect get recorded? And uploaded to Youtube?

Why?

Was this a PR move? If yes - was it well thought out?

If conversations are not secure at that level, then at what level are they secure?

PS: Sharing it is probably hypocritical since I don't think it should be out there...but since it's out there, we might as well listen to it :).

Download here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Now we WIN!!! Congratulations Nigeria! Congratulations General Buhari!!!


I did not plan to write a Blog post today. As expected, I am too emotional to adequately express my thoughts. One moment, tears stream freely from my eyes; the other moment, I break out in screams. I said I would dance on the streets if Buhari won, and I just did. I went out with my gate-man, Mohamed, and we had a good spin near the gates of Ogudu GRA. We took no pictures that may come back to haunt me in future, so don’t ask.

As I sit at my desk again now, I am reminded of the many futile conversations of 2011. I have a horrible fear of embarrassment, but for the first time in my life – I put them aside to speak to people about voting for Buhari. To say that I was washed is an understatement. I was thoroughly embarrassed and chased out of at least two houses in Ibadan. I was blocked on Facebook. Erstwhile friends sent me hate messages and posted hate on my wall. At some point, I was forced to stop people from being able to post on my Facebook wall. Out of the shame of those days, I have kept that setting till now.

I cried then. Buckets.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

You Are Not Your CGPA (Some Advice to Undergrads and Fresh Grads)...


For five years, I have worked with friends to provide pre-employment training in OAU through Beyond Ife. We have gotten amazing results, ranging from my job to the graduates who tell us how Beyond Ife helped chart their course after school. As the sixth season approaches, I wish we could reach more people – so I have decided to share some thoughts publicly.

Here goes.

Care about your CGPA. It may sound unfair, but the world needs a system to classify graduates. Recruiters want to test candidates who are more likely to succeed, so they look to past performance to indicate potential. Business schools and competitive Masters Programs consider CGPA when deciding who to admit, preferring students who have demonstrated ability to manage rigorous academic demands. If you still can, improve your CGPA. Work hard at the courses you dislike. Get the best grades possible. It pays off eventually.

Don’t care about your CGPA. If your graduating CGPA is deemed undesirable by the world of work, disregard it. Your CGPA does not define you. A poor CGPA forces you to creatively consider options outside mainstream employment. You could become specialized at something, seek further education or certifications, or start a small business. Possibilities abound! For example, some of the best and highest earning developers I know graduated at or near the bottom of their class. Think! Create something!


Monday, March 09, 2015

Little Drummer Boy


I am a Christmas junkie. I love, love, love the holiday season. I have loved Christmas for as long as I can remember – even when we did not have new clothes or Christmas chicken. My eyes tear up at the opening bars of White Christmas. Few songs get me moving like Feliz Navidad. But my all-time favourite – is - *drum roll* Little Drummer Boy!
Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum;
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum;
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum;
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum;
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum;
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum;
On my drum?
The remixed version of Little Drummer Boy as performed by the Daystar Choir in 2013 took my love for the song to entirely new levels. Admittedly, it does not inspire me like Immortality, This is Our God, or Savior King – but it reminds me of a warm childhood shared with amazing siblings and devoted parents.

One would expect me to play it more often, given the plethora of warm feelings it engenders, but no – until recently, I only played Little Drummer Boy in December. In my previous definition of normal, Little Drummer Boy was a Christmas song, reserved only for the holiday season. I would sometimes play it infrequently, but never as part of a regular playlist during the year.

Until the accident.

I suddenly realized, screw waiting for December. How are you even sure you’ll be here then?

Little Drummer Boy is just a song, but how often do we act likewise with our deepest desires and dreams? We awaken in the mornings and work hard through the days, postponing the fulfillment of our desires until later. We let people tell us when it is fine to pursue our dreams. We believe the half-truth that we can start bigger, if only we wait a little longer.

These days, I often play Little Drummer Boy in my car – on the ride to and from work, church, and everywhere else. Everyone is surprised the first time they hear it, and a few people sometimes say – “But it is only March”! But inevitably, they join in – and we have a merry singalong.

Why wait until Christmas to be happy?

Life is short. Live.

PS: I couldn't find the Daystar version online, but I'll let you watch my copy of the DVD if you drop by someday *wink wink*

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Any Person May Become Great...


I have been re-reading one of my favorite books, The Science of Being Great (1911) by Wallace D. Wattles, and thought I’d share a few thoughts. You’re welcome to engage with these thoughts and share them with others.

One of my favorite speeches was delivered by Booker T. Washington, an African-American educator, author, and adviser to United States Presidents. In the speech, Washington told about his struggle on the path to a life of influence. Born a slave, he worked at a coalmine and provided domestic help early on, then worked as a janitor to fund his education. Following this, Washington became prominent as a leader of the African-American community, and his thrust for black progress through education and entrepreneurship shaped the early years of the American Civil Rights movement.

I have long thought a strong sense of responsibility for one’s success or failure more important than hereditary advantages in the making of great people, and stories like the above serve to reinforce this worldview. History is replete with examples of people who overcame great odds to rise from humble backgrounds – such as Abraham Lincoln, who was almost entirely self-educated and yet became one of America’s greatest Presidents; Andrew Carnegie, who went from destitute immigrant to industrialist and second-richest man in the world; and Oprah Winfrey, who grew from immense poverty to continuing wealth and influence.

Wallace Wattles writes, “nothing was ever in any man that is not in you; no man ever had more spiritual or mental power than you can attain, or did greater things than you can accomplish. You can become what you want to be… You are not barred from attaining greatness by heredity. No matter who or what your ancestors may have been or how unlearned or lowly their station, the upward way is open for you… Poverty is no bar to greatness, for poverty can always be removed”.

You can become what you want to be.

May the road rise with you.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Randoms:: Car Accident, Balance, and Buhari...

I woke up this morning, and it literally hit me that 2015 is one month down. I am reminded that I have not written in over a month, and this not for want of trying. My computer is strewn with uncompleted posts – abandoned for a variety of reasons. I’d like to return to my writing ways though, so I’m going to force this one.

**1***



I walked away from this car crash, my second accident and the first in which I was driving, on December 24. One moment I was driving, happy, heading to Ibadan to celebrate Christmas with family and friends; the other I was confused, dazed, careening wildly across the road and thinking it was all over.

I was confronted with my own mortality on that cold Wednesday morning. And like I have told everyone who has cared to listen since then, life is short! Very short! I’m happy to still be here, and in retrospect it was a great opportunity to re-affirm the commitment I made on my last birthday to live.

Very importantly, I’m grateful for the incredible support system of colleagues, friends, and family that stood by me and helped me get back on my feet as quickly as possible. I’m also grateful for the strangers that stopped to help, stood by me till friends arrived, and called afterwards to check up on me. God bless you!

**2**

I heard one of the worst things that can happen to a human is to be alive, and not know where your next meal is coming from. The next worst thing would then be to be dead, and to not have spent any of your money.

Think about that for a second.

In Al-Ghazali's words, “what is wanted is a balance between extravagance and miserliness through moderation, with the goal of distance between both extremes”.

When you figure out a strategy for 'operationalizing' a balance between extravagance and miserliness, please come back and share.

**3**

I’d like to state in as few words as possible why I support Buhari to win at the upcoming Nigerian Presidential elections. (I first saw this allegory on Twitter, and unfortunately cannot find the source).

What do you do when you’d like to build a nice house in a jungle? You send in bulldozers, and then the builders come in afterwards and do their work.

Buhari is not a builder per se. He’s a huge, huge bulldozer – with a strong reputation for character and integrity. And thankfully – unlike the current President who has surrounded himself with charlatans and praise-singers, we can expect this bulldozer to roll in with quite a few builders in tow. I think his biggest appeal is that he’ll create an enabling environment for our many technocrats to flourish and create much needed change.

I was a vocal proponent of the Buhari-Bakare ticket in 2011, and I’m convinced the Buhari-Osinbajo ticket is an even stronger one.

Let’s reset Nigeria!

**4**

Happy New Month, and cheers to achieving all the lofty goals you set for this year!

*commences monologue*
Phew! You see Koye - that wasn't so hard... :) :) :)

Friday, January 02, 2015

20 Facts About Me...


It's been a while since I did serious writing, so I decided I'd ease back into writing by doing some "not-so-serious" writing :)

Here goes - 20 random facts about me (with one bonus fact thrown in at the end):

1. I've had just 3 Barbers cut my hair - all my life. One in Ife. One in Ibadan. And now - one in Lagos. I once went six months without a haircut because my Lagos Barber was unavailable.

2. I've had (and still have) just one girlfriend. Well, not counting two 'flings' in Secondary School that lasted eight hours in one case and two days in the other. And yep - not counting the babe that used me to pass WAEC either. UPDATE - March 2017: I married her!

3. I was writing a book on Pornography Addiction, then stopped when I realized I'd have to get addicted to understand firsthand what Porno addicts experience.

4. I love Celine Dion. Immortality is possibly my favorite song of all time. I'd pay through my nose for a chance to take her to dinner.

5. I draw energy from my "alone moments". Except it's one of a very limited number of people, I can't stand chatter-boxes when I'm in the "alone zone".