Friday, December 16, 2011

My Thoughts On The Increments in LASU Fees

As much as I am of the opinion that quality education costs a lot more than currently obtains in Nigeria, I must say that the LASU model is idealistic - so idealistic that it may be termed 'insane'.
Quality education is the only way to truly transform Nigeria over the long run, and it needs to be made as affordable as possible so that we can reach a wider base of people... Think Awo and free education, and how that has put the South West on an educational advantage relative to the rest of the country.
Before you go on and make Universities an elitist institution, there needs to be adequate funding and representation for various technical colleges, polytechnics, and schools of Agriculture - with an attendant rise in the standard of living of graduates of such institutions.
An artisan, such as a Carpenter, should be able to afford a good life - live in a good house, send their kids to a good school etc. As long as Nigerians are of the opinion that it takes a University degree to make anything out of life, there will be an undue strain on the University system.
In this particular case, I think the administration is being too hurried in their drive to revolutionize the school. You cannot take a 'LASU', and expect to turn it into an 'OAU' or a 'UI' in one day, or one year - even when you throw money at it. Achieving lasting greatness takes time.
The fees should have been increased gradually and in small increments. For every increment, students and their parents should be made to see the direct consequences of their paying more. That way, it becomes easier to want to pay the next increment.
Just my thoughts though... I am not the Governor of Lagos State - but if I were...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Last Word From A Class Representative

In retrospect, one of the most important decisions I made in Ife was choose to run for Class Representative.

Over the past three years – since taking over from Henry, I have been privileged to work with and represent some of Ife’s finest – courageous, strong, disciplined, and talented young men and (two) women.

As I write this, memories stream through my mind. The fun we had, the many joys we shared, the seasons in the sun. Different scenarios struggle for first-place in my mind: the mid-night (8pm – 4am) AutoCAD classes in Part Three; shouts of “what did you do, what did you do... you know how to weld?”; “Young man, I’m afraid! want to eat your pounded yam as yam”; “Ah! You must learn all these diagrams fa!”

From the impish behaviour of Shegzy to the seeming care-freeness of La Face (Kunle Aminu); from shouts of “Players wait behind” and diagrams of our 4-3-3 formation by Coach to shouts of “One thousand five hundred naira” by Erons – this class has been a fun place for me – a home of sorts. As I do not believe in coincidence – I would say this was a class assembled in heaven.

Also strong on my mind is the realization that this phase – fun though it was – has come to an end. I will never again ask you to please wait behind after a class, or send you a bulk SMS reminding you of an assignment deadline. There will be no going to ‘Subsidy’, no mass protests against assignments we deem unfair. There will be no classes in MDL, no stories of a certain Ibidun who did not wear makeup and who wore slippers to class – presumably because she had no shoes.


In the long run, these memories will be all we have left of this time – and then even they will fade from constant re-use. We will move on, make new friends where we go, and make the most of our lives – I believe.

In the end – Subsidy, MDL, Whitehouse, Spider – the specifics of what we did in Ife will not matter as much as what we learnt here. Mostly, our day-to-day experiences will not matter as much as the courage, strength, and discipline Ife brought out in us.

I have read many books professing to contain keys to success – some of them one, others as many as 21. However, I have come to learn that achieving success basically comes down to getting out there and ‘just doing it’ – taking care to take along with you the courage to make tough decisions, the strength to stand by them, and the discipline to keep going through difficult times. AND like I said during our last prayer meeting as a class, learning to hear God is the sure way to find out what the ‘it’ is.

I have no doubts that we will do great in life, but I must stress something here. Do not allow yourself to ‘settle down’ into a good life when you can have a great one. We all have the potential to achieve greatness, if only we are willing to go that extra mile that differentiates ‘great’ from ‘good’.

We might never be complete in one place again (even at our convocation, or at my wedding... LOL); we will never experience the thrill of eking out a win over Chemical Engineering’s football team again, and we will never sit down together in CEGLT and laugh at Igwe’s (Falade Oyewale) imitation of a lecturer – but as we go on, we will remember all the times we shared together.

Lastly, I ask that you try to stay in touch – knowing that this will get harder with time. The older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young. Remember MESA/NiMechE, and be nice enough to give them money when they bring proposals for MESA week to your office down the line – because they will. Certain lecturers have touched us and changed our lives – for me, Dr. Koya comes to mind – come back when you can and show some love.

My strength fails, tears fill my eyes. What more can I say?

Congratulations, my colleague and friend.

God be with you till we meet again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Habitual Thought and Greatness

Yesterday, I was at yet another training seminar where the facilitator spoke about "your background not having a right to put your back on the ground".

I have often refrained from joining discussions centered around this statement, for the simple reason that I try to avoid cliches. I do not like to dwell on, or even use, words or statements that have been used so frequently that they seem to have lost their meanings. However, I have decided to write about this - because it is true.

In the 1911 classic, Science of Being Great, Wallace Wattles posits that "habitual thought, and not environment or circumstance has made you what you are". I do not think there is a more fitting way to put it than that.

In fact, I would say that a major difference between someone who comes from a 'rich' background and one who comes from a 'humble' one lies in the difference between their perspectives i.e. habitual thought. Both parties find it natural to adopt the 'thought patterns' and 'mindsets' that created their environments - often shaping their own lives in the same pattern as a result of thinking those thoughts.

Very often, we 'externalize' - attributing the underlying factors and causes for our inadequacies or 'failures' to factors outside of ourselves and beyond our control - a point of view which is easy to take, but which fails to deliver necessary change and growth.

The opposing point of thought would be to 'internalize' - taking responsibility for your actions and their consequences, and engaging in a rigorous improvement process based on feedback from said consequences.

Today, make a decision to be responsible for your thoughts, the actions that arise from them, and their consequences. Make an effort to think certain thoughts consciously. Attract thoughts of greatness, and hold them in your mind; allow them to govern your actions. Refuse to give the lazy excuse of environment, background, or any such external constraint... and watch your life gradually grow and develop.

In the words of Barack Obama, "if we work hard and take responsibility, we will have a chance for a great life".

Let's do this, shall we?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

G2G: Empathy

This morning, I was brought face to face with a reality that I often pay lip-service to, but which has not managed to sink into my heart yet...

Over the course of my short stay on earth, I have found that it is especially easy for humans to be very self-centered... Even when we try to get things from others, we seldom consider what they have to gain (or lose) by granting our desires - and focus only on what we stand to gain...

Also, we find it extremely easy to criticize other's positions, not stopping to think whether we would do better if we were in their shoes... Or stopping to think if we were any better when we were in their shoes in the past...

Bottomline: emphatize, put yourself in other people's shoes... Remember, to criticize is easy - to do better may be difficult...

Saturday, October 01, 2011

For The Love of Nigeria

This is the second year running that I find it impossible to write an Independence Day post...

Sadly (although I'm not exactly sad), I find that I have to resort to the post I wrote back in 2009, when we were 'nacking' 49...

Please find the post here...

Remember to share your thoughts.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Draft Letter on #N30billion #ResourceRape

Heard about the approval of N30billion for a fresh biometric registration exercise?

Well, if you're outraged - follow the link and read Gbenga Sesan's letter to the Honorable Minister of Information and Communication... Then copy and shoot to your Ministers, NASS representatives, etc...

Let's take the bull by the horn people...

"Mr. Labaran Maku
Honourable Minister
Federal Ministry of Information and Communication
Dear Sir,
Thank you for your continued effort towards making Nigeria a better place.
Sir, we read (via the News Agency of Nigeria reports and Channels Television), with surprise, the announcement that the Federal Executive Council Meeting approved, on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, a fresh national identity card exercise that will cost us “over N30 billion”.
Honourable Minister, noting that the Independent National Electoral Commission spentN87.7 billion to gather biometric (and additional) data of 73,528,040 Nigerians during the April 2011 voter registration exercise, and that the Nigerian Communications Commission, with another N6.1 billion, has just completed the registration of over 60 million Nigerians through another collection of biometric data for the SIM card registration exercise, it is surprising that ANOTHER exercise – that could have been built on the earlier efforts – has now been approved..."
Continue reading here...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nigerian Education: As Things Fall Apart...

It has been about two weeks now since the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board reduced the UTME cutoff score for University admission to 180. To put it mildly at best, that is disheartening.

It is sad that JAMB has chosen to institutionalize mediocrity at such a time as this, rather than hold on to a semblance of educational excellence by maintaining the average score of 200.

Time and time again, the correlation between the quality of a country's educational system and the quality of life of her citizenry has been proven. It is even safe to say that we will not experience widespread growth as a nation - until we pay more attention to Education.

At this juncture, the onus lies on the Government to think hard and re-prioritize. It is not enough to clamour for an increased budgetary allocation to Education; the whole system needs a overhaul. Measures must be put in place to check the activities of School Principals and Administrators who do personal work on government time. Teachers who would discuss Nollywood films in their Staff Rooms rather than teach must be found, and punished; those who encourage cheating must be dismissed outrightly. Local Inspectors of Education must be made to take their work more seriously!

The truth remains that Private Schools still require some form of 'public' (Government) supervision. A lot of private schools who charge exorbitantly are understaffed and ill-equipped. Some form of rating Private Schools akin to Hotel ratings needs to be developed and made publicly available. Parents who can afford to pay these fees should be helped to make informed decisions - and get their money's worth.

Lastly, it all rises and falls on the family. Parents must help their children to see the value of qualitative education. They must teach them not to 'facebook' when they should be listening in class. They must evaluate their children's performance, independent of the teachers. They must reward excellence, and kick against mediocrity.

Seeing as children who are not properly taught end up selling their father's houses (Yoruba Proverb) - a qualitative educational system is better insurance for the future than the best managed Sovereign National Fund.

An article is enough for the wise.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Does Nigeria Really Need The NDLEA?

The NDLEA does a GREAT job, no doubt about that... However, I have some questions - one question, really...

On my way from Ife to Ibadan, I got stopped by NDLEA officers who conducted a superficial search of the vehicle - presumably looking for 'drugs'...

As they conducted their search, I began to wonder what exactly is so special about drugs that Babangida had to create an agency separate from the police to enforce 'drug law'. Is it not the constitutional duty of the police to enforce ALL laws? Do we still have need of the NDLEA in this age where everyone is shouting 'smaller' government?

I'm going on a search for answers [:)], but on the interim - read about the NDLEA here (official TEST website)...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Some Advice To a Young Graduate

It has been quite a while since I was here... :(

I've been pretty busy, writing exams and all... Now, they've come and gone and I can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to blogging with a little more consistency...

Y' know, there's this article by Mary Schmidt that is one of my all time favorites... It's an all-time classic, I guess, and I'd like to share it - who knows what someone out there might gain from it...

The following are some classic lines from the article:

"...Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded...

...Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum...

...Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself...

...Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future...

...Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth..."

What do you think? Any other advice for a young graduate?

Read the full article here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Istoria: A Yahoo Boy And His Murano (Part Two)

I did not see him for another FOUR days. When he showed up, he was
wearing a new shirt, and Converse shoes. For him, that was unusual. He
never bought clothes, preferring instead to send the money home. I
pulled him into my room, locked the door – reopened it, and asked him
where he had been all this while.

He suddenly beamed from ear to ear, and for an instant I thought he
had won the Golden Plaza lottery. In what appeared to be the same
instant, I had the sudden fear that he had gone mad – or worse.

He told me excitedly that he had decided to move to Finetouch. I
couldn't have been more shocked than if my biro turned into a snake
and then proceeded to bite off my finger during an examination. He
said he was moving in with one of the 'babas'. They were introducing
him to an internet business, and that they wanted him to start out as
a delivery boy. I probed a little more, and then he opened up and said
they were into 'Yahoo!'

Istoria: A Yahoo Boy And His Murano

I met him on my first day as an undergraduate at the Obafemi Awolowo
University. It was a Sunday, and my parents had just dropped me off.
He walked up to me, and offered to carry my box to my room if I would
buy him dinner.

That sounded odd. I immediately assumed he was not a student. After
all, which student would offer to carry a freshman's box for dinner?

Well, I would have bought him TEN dinners to carry that box for me, so
I agreed – and helped him lift it onto his head without thinking. That
was the second thing that struck me as odd. Seeing as I had not lifted
anything on my head in years, preferring to carry loads twice rather
than stack anything on my 'delicate' neck – I took objection to that.
In a very brash manner, he asked if I wanted the box transported or
not. Of course, I wanted it transported – and really, whose business
was it if he decided to lift it with his ears? I thought no more of
the matter, and led the way to F10 Angola.

We had dinner together, and that was the beginning of a friendship
that would last ALL of two sessions. I found out he was from a 'poor'
family – his father was a carpenter and his mother – well, a full time
mother. He was the first child of seven (is that not always the case?)
and he seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. We
would often go to the Bank together: I to withdraw money my parents
sent me, he to send money to his parents.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Theatre of The Absurd V: Violence, The North and The NYSC

Set up in 1973 in an attempt at reconciling and rebuilding the country after the Civil War, the Nigerian Youth Service Corps stands today as one of the most effective unifying factors in a country split across deep ethno-religious fault lines.

As most Nigerian States tend to have a dominant ethnic group with their attendant tradition and cultural system, most graduates get their first real exposure to other ethnic groups and cultures during the one year period of compulsory Youth Service. Testimonies abound of the success of the scheme at: inculcating discipline; positioning graduates to give back to society; exposing youth to the many colourful cultures that make up the Nigerian nation; and most importantly promoting national unity and integration. Serving Corps members teach in schools, provide primary healthcare, staff offices and even voluntarily form associations in a bid to contribute to the quality of life in their host communities. By many standards, the Nigerian Youth Service Corps scheme has achieved a lot over the past few decades.

Therefore, it is disappointing that serving Corps members frequently fall victim to strife in their host communities – strife which most often arises out of the many differences in culture, religion, ethnicity and perspective they were sent there to bridge in the first place.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Presidential Elections, the past few days have seen irate youth in some parts of the North take to the streets in protest at the loss of their preferred candidate – General Muhammadu Buhari. Reportedly, the Sultan of Sokoto – widely accepted as the spiritual head of Nigerian Muslims – was pelted with sachets’ of water; mosques, churches, government buildings and INEC offices were burnt; even the residences of Vice-President Namadi Sambo and the Emir of Zazzau – among other notable Northern personalities – were also razed. Sadly, serving Corps members were not left out.

The Commissioner of Police in Bauchi State, Mr. John Abakasanga, has confirmed the death of at least four Corps members and maintains that others remain missing as of yet. Information from other Bauchi sources adds that nine other Corps members were gruesomely murdered last night. Only yesterday, 50 Corps members narrowly escaped being burnt to death in the NCCF Secretariat in Minna, Niger State. Other Corps members remain missing at the moment – unsettling parents and guardians across the nation.

A number of motives have been put forward for these protests, chief among which is that it is political in nature. I beg to disagree. From all indications, the uprisings that swept across the North – and which we may not have heard the last of – are not ENTIRELY political, ethnical, or religious in origin.

Despite the fact that people of Northern origin have ruled Nigeria for longer than any other region, the North still remains backward in many ways. Today, teeming masses in the North are: poor, hungry and semi-literate at best; do not have access to quality healthcare or free qualitative education; are held back from progress by rigid traditional institutions, and have no hope in the present or opportunity for the future. Of course, this is a single – but largely true – story of the North.

There is another North. There is the well digger who dug a well for my family thirteen years ago, yet continues to bring us onions from Sokoto every year. There is the beautiful Fulani woman with perfect skin who speaks such perfect English that I believed for most of my childhood that she grew up in Buckingham Palace. There is the Hausa family that protected my Mother and her family back in Makurdi during the pogrom leading to the civil war... Examples abound of the beauty of the North, if we choose to see beyond the more obvious strife and refuse to be caught up in the fallacy of hasty generalization.

In a country where ethnic and regional loyalties run deeper than national allegiance, the masses of the North have been underdeveloped by their regional leaders – and these protests are basically an attempt to overthrow the ‘old order’. As Salisu Suleiman explains, “the protests in northern Nigeria can be viewed as rebellion against a backward and anachronistic feudal system. Karshen Zalunci (End of Oppression) might be an apt description”. Sadly, these protests are hardly coherent – with no clear cut plans for achieving lasting change. The protesting youth have achieved nothing of value by indiscriminately turning on innocent people, particular emphasis laid on Corps members – who are in these areas for the singular purpose of serving the fatherland.

Are these the same Corps members expected to conduct Governorship elections on the 26th April – in these same areas? Are there enough security operatives to guarantee the safety of these Corps members over the next few days, and during the elections in the roughly 60,000 polling units spread across the North? Is it not safer to order their immediate return to their home States – in the greater interests of their safety? Will they not be in the right if they choose to boycott the Governorship elections next Tuesday in protest of these happenings?

Arrests must be made, and deserving punishments meted out. Urgent steps must be taken to ensure the safety and security of these Corps members – many of whom remain in these volatile areas solely because of their commitment to INEC. They are the future of this country, and that future must be preserved in good condition – by all means necessary. There is no point posting Corps members far away from their home States when their safety and security cannot be guaranteed in the new host communities.

Time and chance have conspired to grant President Jonathan a golden opportunity to assert his leadership and craft a new future for the North. May God help him to make the right choices, now and always. AMEN.

Nigeria shall arise!

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Dance With Death II: The Human Side to A Nigerian Policeman

On my way home today, I came across two men of the Nigerian Mobile Police.
They looked haggard, dressed in loosely fitting police uniforms. One glance, and you could tell those uniforms had not been washed in quite some time. It was plain that they were tired, both their guns hanging at awkward angles – seeming more a burden than an instrument of their occupation.
It was a hot afternoon, and the mass of humanity that thronged the Gbagi market did not serve to help matters. Rivulets of sweat seemed to rise from their foreheads, crisscrossing their faces and running down into their already discoloured shirts – giving them an overall appearance of discomfort.
Other ‘street users’ seemed to pay them no attention. A toddler reached out to touch one of their guns, a hawker bumped into the taller of the two men - yet neither of them made any attempts to resist the ‘invasion’ of their ‘world’. Evidently, they were too tired, and as I later found out – hungry, to care.
One of them stopped at a stall to buy some raw meat – and the seller promptly disappeared. He shrugged indifferently, and moved to the next stall. From my vantage position in the traffic jam, I could observe the meat sellers signalling themselves – and ‘disappearing’ from their stalls in rapid succession. He ground his teeth so hard; I swear I could hear it. He turned from the stalls with downcast eyes, and I could literally see the pain etched into his face. Surely, it must hurt to be treated so.
It was a particularly nasty traffic jam. A truck carrying crates of Coca Cola, Fanta and the likes had broken down at a major junction, and all traffic headed towards the airport had come to a standstill. It was impossible to move forward – or backwards. So, I turned my attention back to the policemen.
In the interval that I had taken my mind off them and back onto the road, the fellow who wanted meat had given up trying. They had moved away from the meat stalls and closer to the road, and were trying to flag down commercial bikes. Again, I found that no bikes would stop. In fact, one biker ‘miraculously’ discovered a fault in his wheel spokes right about the time the policemen stretched forth their hands to wave him down.
The frustration was evident in their faces by now. The taller fellow staggered backwards, and leaned on a parked vehicle. His colleague stared hard at the road, seeming to will a car to appear out of the black tar and convey them to their destination. After some time, he shuffled towards his companion and they exchanged a few words. While they spoke, a female meat hawker on her regular beat approached. The man who wanted the meat promptly leaned forward, obstructing her motion – giving her no choice but to sell him meat.
The transaction completed, they prepared to move. The taller one removed his beret, seemed to debate whether to stuff it in his front pocket, and then put it back on. He handed over his gun to the shorter fellow, and adjusted his belt. He then collected both guns, and the shorter fellow adjusted his own khaki trousers. I noticed immediately that their trousers were baggy, evidently not their exact sizes. They would have to stop every once in a while to adjust the belts in order to keep the trousers from becoming uncomfortable.
It was evident that they were preparing to trek the distance to wherever they were going. After all, no bike men could deny them the use of their own legs.
That was when I made my decision.
The car right in front of me moved forward, and I made use of the available space to swing out of that lane and onto the other. As there was no oncoming traffic, I completed the tight turn – braking just abreast of the policemen.
As I rolled down the passenger window next to me, I asked “which way are you going, sirs?”
(To be continued...)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Theatre of The Absurd IV : INEC Goofed!

Yesterday, I received with much disappointment the news of the initial postponement of the NASS elections till Monday 4th April.

One thing was immediately obvious - Monday would not be feasible. Trying to conduct the elections on Monday would create a logistical logjam which would make the late delivery of result sheets on Saturday look like child's play by comparison. Also, it would raise serious questions about the fairness of the process, as the ballot papers and other materials already in circulation could already be compromised by then. It was plain that most likely, a new set of materials would need to be printed - making a longer postponement necessary.

With that in view, it was not particularly surprising that the NASS elections were further postponed to the 9th April. Holding those elections tomorrow would have been a recipe for disaster.

A truth remains that Professor Jega demonstrated great courage by going on air to announce the postponement of the elections, and he must be commended for that. Lesser men confronted with the same problem could have chosen a number of less honourable ways out. Some person might have chosen to continue with the process and simply have reruns in badly hit areas, while yet another might have chosen to brazenly proceed with the declaration of pre-decided outcomes - and risk kicking off serious civil strife.

That said - it remains that the excuse that result sheets were delivered late is by no means a tenable one.

While I am no Project Manager, I have a decent understanding of the basics and I posit that any Project Manager would have identified the delivery of result sheets as a 'critical path activity', and treated it as such. A critical path activity is one which if delayed for a period of time would delay the entire project by the same amount of time. However, in the assumed absence of a certified PMP on the INEC staff, common sense dictates that allowances be made for such "failure(s) on the part of the vendor". If such allowances were made in the selection of the date, the award of the contract, and the follow up monitoring of the "vendor" - that postponement would not have been necessary.

Professor Jega was definitely not directly responsible for communicating with the vendor and monitoring the delivery of those result sheets. Most likely, someone else was directly responsible - and that someone else would have provided him with continuous feedback. Of course, the fact that he is the overall head of INEC makes him responsible for all failures - and successes - that occur on his watch, whether he was directly responsible for making them happen or not.

The failure of INEC to ensure the smooth running of the NASS elections on Saturday speaks volumes of the gross ineptitude of most State run enterprises in Nigeria. The AVERAGE civil servant in Nigeria is grossly underpaid, ill-motivated, incompetent, and lacks all understanding of the concepts of punctuality, timelines, and deadlines. It is no wonder then that an organization staffed by AVERAGE civil servants cannot manage to put together a decent election.

It is also necessary to respond to those calling for the resignation of Professor Jega. Professor Jega's resignation at this moment would be sabotage of the electoral process. His resignation will necessitate the appointment of a new person, who would need time to learn the ropes and probably adjust some of the plans - rendering the constitutional handover date of May 29 impossible.

Professor Jega has done a good thing by taking responsibility and an even wiser thing by further postponing the elections till next Saturday - but he has failed horribly. Yet, he has a chance to redeem his image by ensuring that free and fair elections hold on the new dates.

Finally, I submit this quote by Plutarch for your consideration - "to criticize is easy, to do better may be difficult".


(Please go through my archive for earlier incarnations of my Theatre of the Absurd series).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nigerian Christendom: A Misguided Sense of Neutrality

About a year ago, I wrote the following post out of mild annoyance at the perceived apathy of the church towards happenings in the Nigerian polity. I would love to take a trip down ‘memory lane’, even as I work on a new incarnation of this post.
Ehm, obviously, my writing has improved a lot between then and now. I feel I should allow it flow the way I conveyed it back then, so I have chosen not to edit it and correct the mistakes I have noticed in the original post...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Love Rekindled

I wish I could start this by saying that I just finished reading the pre-release copy of ‘A Love Rekindled’ – Myne Whitman’s new book – and then go on to write a beautiful review. However, I cannot – so I’ll just have to make an assertion based on my journey into the depths of ‘A Heart to Mend’ and trust the judgement of Lara Daniels and Folake Taylor – while I eagerly await my own copy of ‘A Love Rekindled’.
While I am no student of English Literature, after studying well over five hundred fictional accounts by a wide variety of authors over the past ten or so years – I feel qualified to declare that ‘A Heart to Mend’ is a book like no other in the ‘Romance’ genre.
I read it only a few days after listening to Chimamanda speak about ‘The Danger of A Single Story’ (TED) and it was refreshing to come across one more book that tells the story of Nigeria and Nigerians from a somewhat holistic perspective. Another really impressive thing about ‘A Heart to Mend’ was the simplicity with which its message was conveyed. I am not one for stock market jargon, but it was unusually easy to follow the parts of the book that pertain to the Stock Exchange. AND, did I mention that I finally visited the Silverbird Galleria for the first time after reading it?
With such a wonderful experience tucked away from reading ‘A Heart to Mend’, I daresay that ‘A Love Rekindled’ IS by all means the book for THIS SEASON!
Authors like Myne Whitman make me proud to be Nigerian, and even more proud of what Nigerians can achieve when we set out to achieve excellence in any field.
I need us to show support for one of our own, and to appreciate an author who has defied many odds to pass her message across... You can find out more on the weeklong event culminating in the book-launch and the month-long book premiere here.
Even if you are no book collector, books like ‘A Heart to Mend’ and predictably ‘A Love Rekindled’ bring a refreshing new perspective to life – while exploring themes that are universal in their outlook (premarital sex, mobility across different social classes etc), so PLEASE buy the book o!!! Do not borrow from someone else... Get your copy NOW!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Dance With Death I

I met the most interesting guy today.
His name is Jimoh, and he was released from a local Mental Home only three weeks ago. He is fidgety - habitually shifting his weight from one leg to another while standing, and he seems incapable of looking straight into anyone's eyes. He has not had a bath in two days, as he only has the chance to use a bathroom when he visits his mother every Saturday evening – and he cannot remember the last time he had a change of clothes.
He cannot remember how long he spent in the Mental Home, but he was told his mental problem started sometimes in 1998 – he walked out of his parents' home in December that year. He was found at some time after that and taken to the Mental Home – where a variety of herbal concoctions and physical punishment inflicted by a 'Babalawo' made him 'whole' again.
He has not been to any hospital to confirm that he is truly sane. In my own opinion, he still needs medical attention. He is surprised by many of the advancements in society which others have come to take for granted. Last week he still stopped by the long abandoned NITEL office on Old Ife Road to make a phone call to a long lost journalist friend jailed by the Abacha junta.
Today, three weeks after gaining his 'freedom' – Jimoh is a commercial bus driver. Yes, you read right! Jimoh is a commercial 'danfo' driver in Ibadan, plying a 13km stretch of road between Olodo and Gate Bus stop. His bus is the typical rickety affair that is a constant feature on Ibadan roads, complete with a conductor that does his best to spend more time hanging onto and chasing the bus than he does sitting inside it. A percentage of what he makes daily is his to keep, while he returns the rest to a 'Baba' whose name he does not know and has never bothered to ask. He also swears allegiance to same 'Baba', and has committed to show up for 'other political engagements'.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Theatre of the Absurd III

National Anthems are formal songs honouring the spirit of a country. In this regard, the Nigerian National Anthem is no exception. Carefully worded with lyrics meant to elicit strong feelings of patriotism and serve as prayers for continued growth and unity, the Nigerian National Anthem has been taught to the nation since 1978.
It is safe to state that it is practically impossible to pledge allegiance to a country and yet not know the words to her anthem. It is also safe to state that persons who cannot recite a national anthem do not make a habit of following formal political occasions, as National Anthems are often sung to declare such ceremonies open.
It is therefore with much dismay that I receive the news of the confirmation of Mrs. Bristols’ appointment as a Nigerian Ambassador by the Senate - despite the fact that she could not completely recite the national anthem and pledge when asked.
It is inconceivable that at such advanced age and work experience, ‘nervousness’ or ‘exam fever’ could cause Mrs. Bristol to forget the words to the National Anthem, or the name of Jigawa’s capital. It is further incredible that the Senate went on to confirm her appointment even after Jubril Aminu stated that “she demonstrated fair knowledge of the job and what is required of her as an ambassador... BUT was not knowledgeable on specific and general issues concerning the diplomatic concerns of Nigeria.” (Source:; emphasis mine). What are we then saying?
Some points are pressingly obvious from this dismal outing on the floor of the Senate.
First of all, Mrs. Bristol is not necessarily consumed by patriotic fervour – a pre-requisite in my own books for a good representation of the country in other lands. If she cannot recite the anthem, then she probably does not care very much about the land which the anthem honours.
Secondly, Mrs. Bristol neglected to prepare for that interview. In a situation where she had taken time to research interviews granted to previous candidates for Ambassadorial offices, she would have found that she would be asked to recite the anthem and pledge – and probably answer other questions on national policy. Not doing that makes it painfully obvious that she took the whole selection process for granted – no doubt after receiving assurances from certain persons that she would get the position no matter what.
It is not necessary to go any further before I posit my conclusion: if someone cannot recite the anthem – they do not deserve to be an ambassador.

Please follow the links for earlier incarnations of 'Theatre of the Absurd' - Theatre of the Absurd I, Theatre of the Absurd II.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

School Closure: A Tool To Be Used With The Greatest Of Caution

(Tiwanijesu... Read through the post to find out who she is)
Her first daughter's name is Fatimoh, which makes her 'Iya Fatimoh' in Yoruba parlance. She sells akara under the Students Union Building at the Obafemi Awolowo University. She does not make much profit on a daily basis, but it is enough to put food on the table for her family of three – herself and two children – she is a widow. If you are wondering exactly how much profit (before billing) she makes daily during an academic session, it averages N700 per day.
His name is Malik. He is a Part Two student of Biochemistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University. He lost his father when he was only two years old, and his mother is paralyzed from the waist down – so he shoulders the responsibility for his family of three – his mother, himself, and a sister. He rides a commercial okada between classes; and over the years he has saved enough to 'employ' an uncle of his riding a second okada and making daily deliveries. After paying the bills, he manages to save an average of N500 a day. That may not sound like much to you, but those savings mean the world to him.
His name is 'Biola, and he is in SS2. He is not sure exactly which day he was born, but he knows it was just before Babangida annulled the 1993 elections. That makes him somewhere around 18 years old. He drives a commercial bus, popularly called 'town igboro', and he plies a route spanning from SUB to General after school hours. Of course, he does not have a driving license – and the bus is not his. After making daily deliveries to the 'baba isale' and frequenting his favourite night club (where he splurges on a girlfriend who is roughly twice his age), he manages to save N400 a day. One day, he plans to buy his own bus – so that he can gradually rise to the upper echelon of the NURTW (at N400 per day, he will need to save for about 3 years and 6 months to buy a rickety (by my own standards) bus). Yes, and did I mention that he wants to study Mechanical Engineering and become a Registered Engineer?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Convocation, Greatness: Random Thoughts

(This is me, and MBFF - Eno-Mfon Efiong. You can read my 'tribute' to her (on her graduating and 'leaving' me behind) here).


It has been a great day, albeit a stressful one.

Today, for the first time since gaining admission into the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria in November 2006 – I participated in a Convocation Ceremony. Beyond the usual 'begging-for-rice' thing that is characteristic of the average non-graduating student in OAU, I actually went all out to engage graduates (and at times their parents) and to get them to discuss their plans for life after school.

It is encouraging that the average graduate of OAU has a pretty good idea what they want to do with their life, but I also could not shake the feeling that some of the answers were too 'textbookish', and 'stage-managed'. Evidently, a lot of the graduates still have their parents 'managing' their lives.

I think one of the many 'challenges' of African society is that it tries to impose on everyone an obligation to every other person, particularly your immediate family. That is not too complex, I hope, and I hope I put it right. Yes, and please, do not get me wrong – that can be a good thing from a moral standpoint.

The AVERAGE Nigerian parent rears their children with the ultimate aim that they grow up to become 'big men' and then take care of them in future. The AVERAGE Nigerian parent spends less on Female Education because of the misconception (although it is sometimes right) that their male offspring are better placed to take care of them in their old age than their female counterparts (after all one boy can just come from somewhere and start dictating to the girl how much she should send to her father). One father expects his son to deliver his first-month-salary to him untouched, in appreciation of the fatherly role he has played over the years. Another father submitted that he would plan his son's monthly budget until he marries (I laughed out loud at this one o, and launched an appeal for the young man – so that they might let him manage his own life – abi ke...).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Great Ife: A Time for Sober Reflection...

The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago and the second best time is now. I wish I had made this a proper release, and that I had pasted it a few days ago. However, I did not then because I did not have access to the information that I have now – but I will not pass up the opportunity to do this now.

Before I delve into the meat of this discussion, I want to make some things clear – and I will very quickly run through them.

If this spreads like I hope it does, then a lot of my readers may not know me personally – and so introductions are in order.

I am KOYE-LADELE Mogbekeloluwa, the Class Representative/Governor of the Part Five Class of Mechanical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. By the grace and calling of God, I also happen to be the General Secretary of the University Joint Christian Mission (UJCM) and subject to the spiritual authority of the Committee of Presidents – I am partly responsible for the over-ten-thousand Christian students of the University.

In a job interview after school, or on a good day, that sounds like a good thing – and trust me it is. However, at times like this, it poses a big problem – one that makes me overly careful about my response to issues – because I am no longer perceived as speaking only for myself. True, a lot of the time when I publicly speak about the dynamics of life on campus I maintain the position of the UJCM – after all I am her Secretary. However, today – I ask that the words you read be taken on their own merit – as I speak entirely for myself in this matter.

I believe in the strength of the pen, and like every true member of the ACJ* – I consider it my business to assert its power. Yet, please note that I am not entirely without bias – because just like every other human I view the world through a belief window that is tainted by my previous experiences.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Whiteberry Culture

Class this session will be very different from what it has always been.

A lot of reasons could justify this statement, such as that it is our last session and everybody wants to strive for the best possible grades or that my classmates are now more future-oriented – having just come back from IT. These reasons even have their own merit, but then – I make that statement with something else in mind.

Class this session will be very different from what it has always been, because almost everybody now has a Blackberry. Well, maybe I should make that a bit more general because of people like me who still refuse to join the bandwagon. Class this session will be very different from what it has always been, because almost everybody now has mobile Internet access.

I remember when I was in Part One. 3G was in the not-so-distant future of Nigerian telecommunications, and Symbian S60 was something only geeks talked about. Blackberries, Apples? As far as most Nigerians were concerned, they were fruits – and nothing more!

I was one of the first people to adopt Symbian S60, with my classic candy-bar styled Nokia 6600 of blessed memory. I ultimately fell in love with the phone, what with the ability to multi-task, and use a myriad of free apps such as Call Cheater and Call Manager (which enabled you to get out of conversations you did not want to have and block calls from people you would rather not talk to in the first place).  And of course, I could send and receive email!

However, back then – most of my friends used phones that were just that: phones; they could make and receive calls, send and receive texts, and very few of them could browse with the sluggish EDGE/GPRS networks.

That was then.

Now, mobile Internet access is so commonplace – it is even taken for granted.

You know, the other day – I met a guy just outside a class who needed a Word document I had on my phone. After trying without success to send the file via Bluetooth, he suggested that I forward it to his email address. Pronto, I fired up Nokia Email, attached the file and sent him the mail. In my first wonder of year 2011: he got, opened, and edited the file on his phone in under five minutes, forwarded the edited version (via email) to a friend in his room who printed the document, biked down, and delivered it in under *wait for this* fifteen minutes from when I first sent him the file!

It was surprising to see that other people were catching on to the mobile Internet ‘thingi’ too! That could not have happened back when I was in Part One. Attachments? They were ‘things’ sized 250kb that took you roughly 10 minutes to upload. Email? It was what you had to brave insults and oppressive heat in cybercaf├ęs in order to send.

There are a lot of good sides to the mobile Internet culture... Instant Messaging, the ability to recourse to Wikipedia in the heat of an argument, the ability to google that difficult topic just before you got picked out by your Professor to provide an answer to his question... Good sides abound!

Wait, did I say Instant Messaging? Now that is one of the sides to mobile Internet that ‘kinda’ make me fear for the future.

In my own estimation, conversation is one of the core things that make us human. Yet, it is becoming harder to carry on a real conversation with a young person these days. Most statements you make will be punctuated with ‘pings’ from their mobile phones. And that is if you even bother to make the statements at all – because most people cannot stand talking to someone who only manages a nod or two while furiously typing away at a phone’s keypad.

Yes, and IM has even changed the way ‘friending’, dating, courting etc is done. Lots of guys prefer to ‘talk’ to ladies over BBM/Nimbuzz/Whatsap etc rather than in person – because it feels a lot more comfortable. And ‘woe’ betide guys who do not use Blackberries – even when they use C6’s and E5’s.
Whatever happened to the larger percentage of communication, the non-verbal one?

Maybe I should not really be afraid for the future. Maybe I should join the school of thought that submits that this is all a fad – which will all pass.

Well, till that time when it passes, on my authority as Class Representative of the Part Five Class of Mechanical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University – I make the following declaration. All lecturers should henceforth note that ‘boring’ lectures will be rewarded with BBM/Nimbuzz group chats right under their noses!