Monday, June 29, 2020

On Leaving Home

Murtala Muhammad International Airport at night. Picture by me.

This is the longest I have been away from Nigeria at a stretch and it shows. Everything reminds me of home.

This morning, the buzz of a lawnmower and the leafy smell of freshly cut grass remind me of my father and his incessant mowing of our outsize lawn. Ibadan.

Close the door to keep the smell out and the lawnmower’s buzz morphs into something resembling the cacophony of electric generators. Lagos.

Home never leaves you.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

#BlackOutTuesday - Heal The World



The past few days have been challenging and emotionally draining on many levels that form part of my identity as a person.

As a Nigerian man, I have been confronted with news of senseless violence and rape perpetuated by a group of Nigerian men. Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, 22, was attacked while studying in a church, raped, and left for dead.

As someone who calls Lagos home and looks forward to moving back there, I have had to process yet another untimely death at the hands of police officers sworn to protect the people. Tina Ezekwe, 16, died from a gunshot wound that sounds like it was treatable if emergency care had been more effective. She was shot in the left leg and survived two days in the hospital before dying.

As a black person living in a majority-white country, I have seen yet another black person die an undignified death. George Floyd, 59, died under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a policeman. He died begging for his life, pleading for a breath, and calling for his mother.

It is tiring.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A High-Level Plan for Challenging the APC's Dominance in Lagos

Voter turnout in the Lagos State 2019 Gubernatorial Election

Only 1 out of every 7 registered voters in Lagos voted in the 2019 gubernatorial elections . Of the approximately one million people that voted, 739,445 of them voted for the APC, electing Mr. Jide Sanwo-Olu as governor of Lagos State.

Including its previous incarnations as the AD and the ACN, that was the APC’s sixth consecutive victory at the gubernatorial polls in Lagos. Clearly, the APC has built a solid base in the state. But has this unbroken string of victories been good for Lagos? Would the state benefit from the political opposition mounting a stronger electoral challenge?

I couldn't easily find usable data from 2009 and before, but it tells a similar story if my memory serves me right. The APC is firmly in control of Lagos.

I believe Lagos would benefit from a strong challenger to the APC. Healthy competition will benefit the people as parties will be incentivized to seek office by serving or offering to serve the electorate better. That is in contrast to the current situation where the APC’s near-certain hold on power elevates internal kingmakers and party delegates above the wider Lagos electorate. Healthy competition will also yield better transparency, as successive governments from different parties are not incentivized to cover up the previous administration’s misdeeds*.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Thoughts From Lockdown: On Pandemics, Slighted Gods, and Public Policy

Deaths from the 1918 flu pandemic in colonial Nigeria

I recently finished Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider, a book about the 1918 flu pandemic and its impact on the world. I have been thinking about the current pandemic and I wanted to share some of my thoughts. Let’s dive in.

**1**

There will be more pandemics. There are many viruses lurking in reservoirs such as bats, waiting for an opportunity to cross to humans. As more people eat exotic animals and come into closer contact with wildlife, there will be more interactions that open the door to zoonosis.

A zoonosis is a human illness caused by a pathogen that has crossed from nonhuman animals. Ebola is a zoonosis, having crossed over from bats. Lassa fever, the Zika virus, and all influenzas are zoonoses. AIDS has zoonotic origins, crossing from chimps to humans before mutating into a human-only disease.

Monday, March 16, 2020

How to thrive at life and work in the age of COVID-19


You can hardly look anywhere these days without being inundated with news about COVID-19. I wrote one more article related to the virus, but not to spread fear or tell you “what my business is doing to ‘keep you safe’”. I wanted to share a few tips for keeping your head up in the age of COVID-19.

1. Manage your headspace. Do you really need to know right away that one more person in South Africa has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past hour? Except you work in Infectious Diseases or were planning to holiday in South Africa, the answer is likely no. So why are you glued to Twitter or CNN gorging on the latest updates? If you find that you’re constantly stressed as a result of all the news, consider taking a step back. Mute certain keywords and accounts on Twitter, snooze people for 30 days on Facebook, and limit your ‘COVID-19 news’ consumption to key programs and reputable sources for a limited time everyday. Do other fun things that are good for your mind: watch your favorite TV show, read a good book, or play some games!

Friday, January 03, 2020

What is more important than your goals for 2020?


I was recently reading my annual goals going back to 2013 and I began spotting a pattern. The goals I achieved had something in common, same as the goals I did not achieve. Over the past seven years, I was far more likely to have achieved goals that were backed by systems. I was also far less likely to have achieved goals that were not.

For example, my goal to weigh 80kg first showed up in September 2014. It was specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound. I stuck it on my wall. It was in the list I sent to my accountability partner. But nothing happened. Actually – something happened: I added more weight! That goal showed up again in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. I did not achieve it until October 2019.

So, what changed in 2019? Why did I finally achieve this goal after five years? I put a system behind it. I turned exercise into a habit and started counting calories. I achieved the goal within five months of implementing a system!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

List: My books of 2019 / Reading Recommendations for 2020

Some of my hard-copy books from this year and my iPad (iBooks and Kindle)
This was a good year for my reading. I read thirty books this year and memorized two poems! Here’s some commentary on my ten favorite books. The full list is available at the end.

10. Dollars and Sense, Dan Ariely. This helped me understand how our psychology leads us to engage poorly with money. It also includes practical advice on spending better. The Richest Man in Babylon (TRMB) is very popular (I even read it again this year), but this book goes many steps deeper and makes it more likely that you can follow George Clason’s advice in TRMB.

9. Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of Machines, Hannah Fry. This book is well-written and I could not stop till I was done! It describes the algorithms that are shaping our age in a manner that is accessible to everyone. Dr. Fry describes applications ranging from predicting which customers are pregnant to neural networks for machine vision. It provides a toolkit for staying informed as AI becomes more integrated into daily life. I believe we’ll ultimately end up with algorithms and humans that work together in partnership, exploiting each other’s strengths and embracing each other’s flaws. In her words, “in the age of the algorithm, humans have never been more important”.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The scourge of delayed payments in Nigeria


I wrote a quick LinkedIn article about the scourge of delayed payments in Nigeria.

A friend who runs a SME in Nigeria recently told me about their struggle to get paid for work they did for a large corporation. While the service was confirmed satisfactory and invoices were accepted nine months ago, payment has not been made. Understandably, they are reluctant to involve lawyers or otherwise escalate the situation.

I tweeted about it, and an outpouring of comments indicates this is more common in Nigeria than it should be. Many people work for a SME that has had trouble getting paid or know someone who does. If this is indeed that common, it is bad for our economy.


The rest of the article is available on LinkedIn here.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Conversations: an email newsletter with career tips for young Nigerian professionals

Seven years and ~12 kg ago. I can't believe friends from university thought I had put on weight in this picture!

It is now 7+ years since I moved to Lagos to start my first job at P&G. Fresh out of university, I did not know what to expect. I was armed with a few shirts, a fierce determination to succeed, and two gifts from my mum: a pen holder and Richard Templar’s The Rules of Work.

There have been many ups and downs since then. Tough assignments, unexpected promotions, a downsizing, getting married, business school… The list could go on for a while. Through it all, I have learnt a lot about being a successful young professional in (and outside of) Nigeria.

I have always been drawn to sharing what I learn. I spend a lot of time reflecting (I have been told I spend too much time reflecting), reading, and talking to my role-models and mentors about life and career. I enjoy taking all that thinking and advice and condensing it for people who don’t invest as much time or don’t have access to such relationships.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

On Seun Onigbinde; Nigeria's Idealistic Idealism


You have argued for government transparency and judicious spending for years. You believe in these principles so much that you quit your job eight years ago to start a company dedicated to these ideals. You care strongly about your country and have criticized the government for its ineptitude. Then a development agency underwrites a position where you can apply your skills in service of your country. You will not change the entire system – of course, but you believe you might make a small difference.

Would you take the position?

Many Nigerians on Twitter seem to think you shouldn’t. Seun Onigbinde has been criticized strongly for accepting a position as Technical Adviser to the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning. Among other things, he is being criticized because he is critical of the current government and has previously said he would not accept an advisory position if he didn’t believe in the President.

I would make the same choice as Seun if I were in his shoes, so I wanted to spend some time thinking through it.