Suicide — Nigeria’s Silent Killer

Last year I was told I would be the presenter of an investigative documentary style show called 30 Minutes on Cool TV. I was ecstatic. I finally had the chance to do what I had dreamed of doing since I was a teenager — reporting on stories that I believed mattered and sharing with as many people as possible.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to pull off but I was up for the challenge. Aside from writing my script, I was also tasked with picking 13 topics (for the first season), I wanted to cover. This was relatively easy because there are so many topics I have over the years found myself questioning and writing potential blog posts about, (you should see the draft section of my blog — ridiculous).

Two episodes in, I’m exhausted but incredibly proud of the direction the show is going.

To all my Nigerian friends, you can watch 30 Minutes on StarTimes channel 196 on Cool TV every Sunday at 7:05 PM. For everyone else that’s not cool enough to live in Nigeria, here’s episode two that shines a much-needed light on depression.

 

Pants on the Ground

A town in Florida recently banned people from wearing trousers like idiots. It’s extremely pathetic that adults have to be threatened with punishment to stop “sagging their pants,” but unfortunately we are all sharing the world with morons. I even feel ridiculous typing the words sagging and rileypants because they sound so American. It is however a global issue. In every country I’ve visited and lived in I’ve seen human forms of Riley Freeman – Men and women who just can’t stop wearing their trousers low enough for me to know how often they change their underwear.

Citizens of Ocala, Florida are no longer to wear trousers that sag two inches below their waist on city property. First-time offenders will receive a warning; multiple-offenders could face up to six months in prison and a $500 fine. I’m sure lots of people think of young black boys like Riley being the main culprits but what about all the builders, maintenance workers and everyone else that seem to always bend over while working? For the love of God, can we not just throw them all in jail as well?

As much as I don’t regard myself a member of the fashion police, is it Bums up 31outrageous that I’m disgusted when someone’s butt is hanging out in my face?

I understand that saggy pants bring up more important issues than personal taste. For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union have pointed to the potential for racial profiling. Well, if everyone pulls their damn trousers up, no one will face a fine or prison if they don’t. Simple.

The power to legislate dress code is already used across America to ban public nudity, so is it really that big of a deal to ban the display of underwear?

So what will be banned next? Perhaps cleavage? What about 4 inch heels? I’ve heard these kind of arguments before relating to this issue and I’ve asked myself the same thing.

But what if sagging your pants was bad for your health? Would that make some of you reading that are against the ban change your mind?

Watch family physician and sex specialist Dr. Rachael Ross (the pretty doctor on The Doctors) explain the dangers behind sagging pants:

Abegi, (as we say here in Nigeria), do you need any more convincing?! Sagging your pants can lead to you struggling to have an erection and can damage nerves in your legs. Ladies and gentlemen, please pull up your trousers — for your own good.

Do you know what you’ll look like if you don’t? Watch my hero of the day explain below.

Are Child House-Helps Modern-Day Slaves?

Earlier this year, 8-year-old Sophia Shaidu was admitted to a hospital in Lagos after the flesh on her buttocks started rotting and producing puss. Sophia was beaten with a wire and a spatula by her guardian — a man she was sent to live with three years ago as a maid, (house-help) at the tender age of five.

Mr. Bashir Shuaibu reportedly inflicted the injuries on Sophia because she was a bed-wetter. The Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offenses said Sophia’s guardian was only trying to correct the child. Well, this correction has left Sophia in intensive care needing skin grafting for her injuries to heal.
MDG : Child's handprint on a windowThere are many child house-helps like Sophia in Nigeria and the rest of the world that are in desperate need of help themselves. More than two centuries after slavery was outlawed, 29.8 million people globally continue to be subjected to new and diverse forms of servitude, according to the Global Slavery Index.

Haiti, India, Nepal, Mauritania and Pakistan have the highest prevalence of modern-day slavery, while in absolute numbers, China, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Nigeria have the most people enslaved. In India, almost 14 million people are believed to be victims of modern slavery.

Are house-helps modern slaves? My gut, heart and brain tell me they are but lots of people I’ve spoken to about this don’t agree with me. I read a statement by Gulnara Shahinian, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences. Here’s an extract from the statement.

“We know that comprehensive figures on the number of individuals subjected to contemporary forms of slavery are difficult to obtain. This is because contemporary slavery takes many complex forms, and often occurs in hard to reach areas of the country or what is perceived as the ‘private realm’, such as in the case of domestic servitude. Slavery-like practices also disproportionally impact on groups of persons already suffering from marginalization, discrimination (including caste-based discrimination) or who are otherwise vulnerable, difficult to identify and reach, such as children, migrant or domestic workers, and other groups…”

The practice of employing domestic servants otherwise called a house boy or house girl dates back to the days of old and these days busy parents find domestic help more necessary than ever. According to the Child Welfare League of Nigeria, Nigeria may have the largest number of child domestic workers in the world. Many of these children end up being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused.

I’ve listened to the stories of child house-helps that have been able to become educated and even well-to-do because of their poor parents making a hard decision to send their children to another home for a better life. I get it but I don’t like it. For every good family looking after and paying for child house-helps, there’s a bad family treating children in the same way Sophia Shaidu was treated.

The fact is, without a legal framework to protect these children forced into child labour, cases like Sophia Shaidu’s will keep making headlines. Many cases won’t even make it to press. But guess what, there is a legal framework here in Nigeria. The problem (like so many other laws here) is enforcing these laws.

In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the Federal level, it is only effective if State Assemblies also enact it. To date, only 16 of the country’s 36 States have passed the Act. Sophia was maltreated in Lagos, a state that has passed the act. I’m disgusted by the remaining 20 States that haven’t passed it. Can you think of a good reason to be against legislation that protects children? Well, when you have government officials that marry kids, you don’t have to be a genius to know why they wouldn’t want to pass the Act — it defines a child as anyone under 18. Some states see making marriage between an adult and a child illegal as out of tune with their culture.

Here is an excerpt from the Act:

Causing tattoos or marks, and female genital mutilation are made punishable offences under the Act; and so also is the exposure to pornographic materials, trafficking of children, their use of narcotic drugs, or the use of children in any criminal activities, abduction and unlawful removal or transfer from lawful custody, and employment of children as domestic helps outside their own home or family environment.

So the sorry excuse for a man who beat the poor defenseless girl should be imprisoned right? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that if I was you. I feel so sad saying that but unfortunately the truth is there are too many criminals like this animal that aren’t behind bars.

I’m not even keen on maids either but slavery is something I can never tolerate — irrespective of the name we disguise it with here in Nigeria. The promise I’ve made to myself is that I will never have a child house-help. I hope you all make that promise as well.

How to Make New Friends

A few days before I relocated to Nigeria, I wrote a blog post about the fears I had about moving to a new country. I focused more on my fear of demons, (blame Nollywood), but another fear I didn’t really discuss deeply was my disastrous ability of making new friends.

Yes, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had this issue. Despite my choice of career, I am naturally shy and a terribly, annoying, complicated, introvert. First-days are always dreaded days as I picture having to introduce myself and maintain eye-contact, an acceptable level of laughter, witty comments…blah, blah, blah — nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like meeting new people, I just find it quite tasking trying to impress people with my being. That’s in essence what you’re doing when you meet new people — convincing them that you’re worth their time.

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Acting as my own personal sales person has made me go through life dreading every new school and job I move to. I’m sure most of you have as well but you probably don’t feel as nervous as I do during these moments. Some of you may even enjoy the idea of making new friends/associates. Unlike any other time in my life, moving first to New York and then to Nigeria, meant that I didn’t have my old friends as a safety-net if making new friends proved too challenging. Now that I have moved to Nigeria, got my dream-job and apartment, it seems I am here to stay. Its recently become incredibly clear to me that despite my amazing boyfriend and the time, shoulder, ears and arms he lends me with ease, I need friends.

There’s no shame in it. Making friends after university is a female dog. Making friends when you’ve moved to a new country….well, it’s not for the faint hearted.

I’ve had amazing conversations in the past few days that inspired me to put this post together. The conversations were all so insightful that I decided I should share them here.

Conversation 1 – I was told after complaining it was so hard to make friends in Nigeria, that I was in fact to blame for my lack of pals. Apparently, my tolerance level for new people is rather low and not compliant with the amount of tolerance needed when meeting new people. I got defensive about that critique but soon realised there was truth in what I was told. When I meet new people and we have misunderstandings or the person does something that really grinds my gears, I easily tell myself, “ergh — to the left, to the left.” I’m too quick to forget that the friends I have back at home in London didn’t become my friends overnight. We’ve spent years getting to know each other, annoy each other, forgive each other and most importantly, love each other. The new people I’m meeting and being so quick to write-off haven’t had the chance to really know who Eno is. I haven’t had the chance to know them either…

Conversation 2 – A bible was brought out folks. There’s no bigger killer while lloyd_christmastrying to defend yourself than a person armed with this holy book. The topic of discussion was forgiveness. Apparently, another cause of my friend deficit in Nigeria is the fact that I have harboured grudges against people I class as having the same mindset as Lloyd Christmas. It’s not that I’m easily offended, it’s just that I have pet-hates — rudeness and ignorance. Once I’ve marked you mentally as offenders of my pet-hates, it becomes apparent that the marker I used was permanent.

Having the reminder that unforgiveness is poisonous was definitely an unwelcome reminder. Here are the verses I was shown:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32 KJV).

I know all of this though. I’ve heard it a million times but knowledge of something as opposed to putting it into practice is two very different things. Forgiveness takes humility and although I consider myself to be rather humble in most situations, having enough humility to forgive someone after they have offended me seems to be something I’m struggling with. When I meet someone and they annoy me, I find it easy to decide that the person and I are just two very different people that probably won’t be able to get along. This way of thinking will leave you without friends not only in a new country but wherever you find yourself. Patience is essential when meeting new people. You have to decide to forgive and forget if you’re really serious about adding to your friend bank. If however the person is just a douche-bag then it’s still possible to forgive the person but obviously avoid making friends with someone who will add no value to your life.

This is what I find most difficult — forgiving and still being able to say hello to the person in question when I see them. The person I had the second conversation with that I mentioned earlier has instructed me to greet a person I no longer relate with at all. I seriously shudder at the thought of saying hello to the person — I’m likely to choke with all the humble pie I’ll have to force down my throat to be able to do this. I will eventually say hello and I’m sure this will help me in my new quest to become a more forgiving person. For now, I’m just trying not to roll my eyes when I see the twit lady.

Conversation 3 – I was told by someone about a friend of his that is having a hard time making friends in her new office because in her opinion she is being misunderstood. People at work have begun murmuring about her attitude and have concluded she is a snob. She has decided that the best way to sort out this misconception about her character is to further seclude herself from people who are in her opinion too judgmental and too difficult to be friends with. I feel her pain because I’ve had the same things said and thought about me for much of my adult life.

A few months ago I went out to cover a story with a colleague. After an awesome day, she told me that she used to not like me. Surprised, since I had never really spoken much to her, I asked why and she told me that she thought I just kept to myself and wasn’t interested in getting to know people. It was good to hear because I’ve always resolved to do just what the lady I have talked about wants to do. I pull further away from people who misunderstand me instead of opening up my heart and allowing them to get to know who the real Eno is. The result of distancing yourself from people who misunderstand your character is the same people further misunderstanding you…duh!

So, my three conversations have made me conclude that in order for me to make new friends in Nigeria, I need to:

1. Increase my tolerance level
2. Be more forgiving
3. Stop secluding myself from new folk

I’ve been putting all three of these points into practice at work and I’ve been taken aback by the difference its made. My life feels less stressful – I say life because let’s face it, most of our lives are spent at work so if we’re not happy at work, it’s likely we’re generally not happy at all wherever we are. I’m opening up and enjoying the changes. Give it a go if you’re an annoying introvert like I am and I guarantee you’ll be a happier person.

Disclaimer

There is no guarantee these steps will work for you.

What You Learn in Your 20s

I think I’m having a semi mid-life crisis. I had one when I was 20, 24 and 25 as well. I felt excited to be 26 last year, (still can’t figure out why), but now I’ve got a feeling a crisis is brewing as September creeps closer. If I’m right, while my Facebook timeline has a surge of activity due to people too cool for school, wishing me a “hpy bday,” instead of a, “happy birthday,” I’m likely to be deep in thought. As the years pass, I worry that I haven’t achieved as much as I should have and wish I could go back in time to become an inventor, PHD graduate or the millionaire I clearly by now should be.

Yes, these are the thoughts that run through my mind, make me feel old and cause me to feel like I’m having a semi mid-life crisis. Thankfully, these depressing thoughts have a great way of motivating me to achieve more. I guess crisis isn’t the right word — reflection is. I’ve experienced semi mid-life moments of reflection.

crisis_communication1I usually have to type a whole blog post to better understand my feelings. I literally begin a post not knowing what my conclusion will be, which aside from being therapeutic, is rather fun. Today however, I have a good idea what my concluding thoughts in this post will be because I’ve spent time for the last couple of years thinking about it. The title probably gives that away.

A few days ago I read a great piece in the New York Time’s Opinion section called, What you learn in your 40s, and started considering what I had learnt so far in my 20s. I jotted points down and soon realised I was writing a short novel so knew I had to share some words of wisdom on my loved but often forgotten blog.

Here are some things I now know that I wish someone told me on the eve of my 20th birthday when I had my first semi mid-life crisis…ehem, semi mid-life moment of reflection:

1)    You are still young in your 20s. I know it feels like play-time is over but you’re still in your skates but there really is enough time to have fun while working hard.

2)    You can’t escape working hard. Seriously, one way or another, you’re going to dream about being on a beach on a regular basis because even if you love your job, you’ll realise it can be hell at times.

3)    Going on holiday is better than buying clothes.

4)    Most of your wise decisions as a teen were incredibly stupid. With this knowledge, you’ll make the same terrible decisions a few more times.

5)    Your terrible decisions will mostly be linked to the guy or female you date. The good news is you won’t spend as long as you did as a teen to work out when the person you are dating is a scum-bag.

6)    You’ll think you’ve fallen in love but realise later that you’re still crap at selecting who you should be in a relationship with.

7)    You’ll love being single but hate not having a girlfriend/boyfriend. You’ll never admit the latter.

8)    Staring up at your ceiling and reflecting with sadness the wrong decisions you have made while you lie on your back on your bed isn’t cliché — it’s necessary.

9)    You will fall in love and believe/hope you’ll get married and live happily ever after. You won’t be able to until you’ve got somewhere for you both to live and other things that may seem shallow but are incredibly necessary.

10) LOL, BFF, LMFAO, STFU etc are acronyms you need to stop using if you want to be taken serious by serious people.

11) You need a car. Not to show off with but for boring things like food shopping.

12) Your parents are awesome — you’ll regret the times you pushed them away. The good thing is, if you’re lucky enough to still have them around, it’s not too late to build a relationship with them.

13) You’ll put on weight. If you don’t do something about it, you’ll just get fatter. Talking about joining a gym for months surprising is no substitute for working out.

14)  You don’t have to go out every weekend. There’s no shame in putting on a onesie and watching Scandal with a glass of wine.

15) Vodka is disgusting.

16) You should have made more of an effort to learn how to play pro-evolution and FIFA because grown-ups still haven’t grown out of playing these boring games.

17) Eating-in is cheaper than eating out. Cooking demonstrations on YouTube are a God-sent.

18) 8 hours of sleep will make you feel sick/lazy. 6 hours feels reasonable but you’ll still fall asleep involuntarily during the day.

19) Questioning aspects of the religion/faith you were born into doesn’t make you a devil — it proves you are in fact human with a functioning brain.

20) Chase your dreams NOW. Save yourself from regretting in your 30s what you didn’t and could have achieved in your 20s.

I could type forever but I feel it’s fitting to stop at 20. What have I missed out on my list?

Am I Light-Skinned?

I understand the title of this post probably looks ridiculous but it’s a genuine question I’ve asked myself since moving to Nigeria. Here’s why:

I was born and bred in beautiful Barnet, North London. Unfortunately, some of the characters I came across were not as pleasant as my home-town. I vividly remember being called a Paki by loud-mouthed idiots that were not brave enough to leave the cars they hurled racist words from and say it to my face. My Pakistani friend at university didn’t believe me when I later told him about this because let’s face it, you would have to be more foolish than a fool to call a black person a Pakistani.

Being racist is stupid — no doubt about it. Some racists, like the ones I unfortunately encountered growing up, reserved that special type of foolishness that still amazes me. I read an interesting article today about the secret double life of Nicky Crane — a gay neo-Nazi that organised and participated in many unprovoked violent attacks in London against ethnic minorities. In a television interview in 1992 Crane said,

“Adolf Hitler was my God…He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler.”

During Adolf Hitler’s regime, historians say 50,000 homosexuals were branded criminals and degenerates and as many as 15,000 died in concentration camps. Like I said, being racist is stupid.

20131205-173859.jpgYet, despite the confusion displayed by the people mistaking me for being from South Asia, I was very aware that I was black. I went to a secondary school with few black people and I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything about the shade of my skin colour. Black was black. Even when I moved to a new secondary school with lots more black people, black people’s skin shade was hardly brought up in discussions.

I’m the darkest in my family so I didn’t for a second ever consider myself fair-skinned. I remember years ago meeting my little sister near school and my friend saw her and said,

“Man, your sister is so pretty! She’s so light! What the hell happened to you?!”

I kid you not.

So, you should by now understand why I’m confused about this recently new notion that I’m light-skinned.

Since moving back to Nigeria a few months ago, I’ve been hearing left, right and centre things along the line of:

Kai, you’re so fair!
Yellow pawpaw!
Afin (Yoruba for albino)

Me?

While waiting for my colleague to get money from the cash machine yesterday, a lady approached me and asked me to stand in the shade. My other colleague with me said that if she was in the sun without me, the lady wouldn’t tell her to move to the shade. She said the only reason the lady was concerned was because of my skin colour! I remember constantly being told in a previous job here in Nigeria to stop making calls under the sun and move to the shade before I turn dark…again, I kid you not.

I’m forever telling people that I don’t care what colour I am. I like when I get tanned because my skin looks fresher and more golden. I can not imagine what would possess me to ever think about damaging my skin just to make it lighter. I told another colleague (check out her blog here) the title of this post and asked if she thought I should include the fact that I don’t bleach my skin at all. She said the first thing everyone reading in Nigeria would say is that I probably do bleach! Argh!

I’m still surprised when I’m called light-skinned because I’ve never seen myself as anything but black. I’m obsessed with my skin being smooth, not the shade. So although I’ve asked you if I’m light-skinned in the title, the truth is, I don’t actually care. Do you?

Should The Nigerian Stock Exchange Change its Name?

I came across an article this morning that said Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State wants  to rename the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) after Lagos. My first reaction was why but after reading his reasons, it seemed perfectly reasonable:

“I think the time has come for us to begin to look at the legislation that was passed during the military administration, that is decrees and acts. I think that was when the Lagos Stock Exchange became the Nigerian Stock Exchange, in unification for the country,” Fashola said.

helloThe NSE was established in 1960 as the Lagos Stock Exchange but it was renamed in December 1977 as The Nigerian Stock Exchange. Put into context, this name change is understandable as it occurred seven years after Nigeria’s civil war (Biafra). This is why it’s likely Fashola was correct to say that the change in name occurred in an attempt to unify Nigeria.

Yet, when I looked at the comments for this story on Linda Ikeji’s blog, (I know, great source right…) I discovered most people didn’t seem to agree with Fashola and I:

“Story, Story. Why should we copy them.”

“Nigerian stock is better.. Sounds united.”

“Padi mi, calm down pls. Lagos is NOT everything.”

“Oga Fashola you are not the one to decide…leave dat one for our oga at d top Joe.”

Hmmm. These comments made me pause and take a moment to think about why people would oppose changing the NSE’s name to what is best global practice. After all, as the Governor rightly said,

“…we have the Johannesburg, Paris, New York and we don’t have the American Stock Exchange or German Stock Exchange while there is a Frankfurt Stock Exchange and so on.”

I asked a few colleagues what they thought about changing the NSE’s name to the Lagos Stock Exchange and the first thing they said was that it would spark controversy. Really?

I understand that many Nigerians feel there’s an ideological divide among those in the North and those in the South, so the timing of the name change isn’t great. Also, it is true that we are again in desperate need for policies to help unify our nation. BUT what’s in a name?

I mean this seriously.

What difference does it make if the NSE is called Naija Stock Tings (NST)? I’m being serious.

So, my questions to you (because I’m attempting to write shorter blog posts from now on), are:

  • Is it actually rational to oppose changing the NSE’s name for sentimental reasons?
  • Do we not have more important issue in Lagos to change like the terrible state of the water on the Island?
  • What if any will the impact on the country be if the NSE’s name is changed to the Lagos Stock Exchange?

What’s clear to me is that Nigeria isn’t united BUT I’m not convinced changing the name of the NSE will change anything (for better or worse) other than its current name…