Category Archives: Food for thought

Are Nigerians lazy?

Now before I get accused of being racist I must state two important facts:

  1. I am Nigerian (and British)
  2. I read an article this morning with the headline: Are Nigerians lazy? Blame elders!

The writer disagreed with a  Nigerian bishop who last month said, “Many people are lazy. We seem to have a very poor attitude to work in Nigeria. We believe in free lunches, long vacations and so on. We believe in going on strike for months and expect our salaries to be paid.” Really?! Labour laws in Nigeria are incredibly unfriendly to employees. Workers in numerous states are owed salaries from government — some haven’t been paid for more than a year! Why wouldn’t Nigerians strike?

My goodness, I was outraged this morning by the bishop’s words but that was this morning. After sending and receiving a few emails since reading the article, let’s just say I’m no longer outraged by the question I’ve used for this post…

Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with the points he used to illustrate what makes Nigerians lazy but he may have been on to something. Ok, so that’s the annoyance from the email I just received coming out. The fact that I was irritated by a few people who happen to be Nigerian doesn’t give me license to generalise  my own people. I am however surrounded by Nigerians so permit me in this post to evaluate their attitude to work based on what I have experienced.

A colleague of mine recently passed away and I was devastated. He was one of the few people who could make me smile at 6am in the studio or in PCR before Good Morning Nigeria. Greeted with such a warm smile I would barely notice when he would slip a microphone pack under my clothes and clip it to the back of my bra! When my co-anchors and I spoke about him we would constantly say how much we liked him, how professional he was and the pride he took in his work. I must but hesitantly point out that he wasn’t Nigerian…

But I do thankfully work with some Nigerian people who have his spirit. I’m married to someone who works so hard I nearly feel guilty when I’ve got my feet up while watching TLC in the evening while he’s producing a jingle… BUT and it’s a big but, I’m constantly inwardly questioning the way people work here. Simple tasks are mishandled. Meetings are called with little or nothing solved. Common sense is a rare gem and yet so many people not only chase titles but somehow believe they are entitled to them despite their poor work ethic. These can all be attributed to laziness. If you need clarification on something laziness will stop you from finding the right person to help you understand how to complete the task. If you call for pointless meetings to feel superior its laziness that gives you enough time to do so. If you aren’t the brightest spark its laziness that keeps you dim. If you chase titles you don’t deserve you’re just a horribly lazy individual.

When I found out about the passing of my colleague it got me thinking about how I would be remembered when my time is up. How many people would talk about how hard-working I was? Who would recall how pleasant it was to work alongside me? Would anyone miss my ideas?

I’m a firm believer of questioning myself. It makes me a better person because I constantly realise I have things to work on. The people that emailed me this evening clearly don’t.

So are Nigerians lazy?

Hell yeah…but then again there are people from all walks of life in all corners of the globe that are lazy as well. Nigerian or not, lets all make an effort to be remembered in the same light as my late colleague and kick laziness to the curb. Amen.

P.S If you ever decide you want to send me an annoying email, I implore you to be lazy.

Don’t blame the media for your lack of knowledge

I tweeted about this post’s title this morning after reading an incredibly accurate and concise piece on blaming the media for our lack of knowledge.

I couldn’t have agreed with it more.

Since the awful terrorist attacks that shook Paris on Friday November 13th, I have read so many stories, comments, tweets etc about it that I didn’t feel I could contribute much further to the discussion. I didn’t particularly want to when comments about the attacks quickly turned into attacking anyone who showed any compassion for the lives that had been lost. If you added the French flag filter over your profile picture to show solidarity with French people then you acted on par with a corporate white supremacist. If you hadn’t tweeted about the Beirut suicide bombs the day before you tweeted about the Paris attacks then you were a hypocrite and a selective griever. God forbid you dared urge people to #PrayForParis…
I get it. There’s definitely a need to challenge the narrative presented to us by the media. The Delhi-based blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh beautifully reminded us to pray for the world and we should sympathise with innocent lives lost irrespective of their colour, ethnicity, beliefs or religion. Who should do all of this? The media? Ideally. But in the meantime, it’s our job to do so.

There is information everywhere but it’s up to us to decide how much of it we want to read and the measure in which we want to analyse it. I was amazed when I saw people on Facebook posting stories about the Kenya school massacre that took place in April. Apparently the story demonstrates that African lives don’t matter because of the lack of media coverage. This horrible attack happened while I was in Nigeria and was widely reported here but it was also widely covered by international news outlets at the time. If you just learned about what happened in Garissa University College don’t blame the media, blame yourself.

When I found out I was one of the Good Morning Nigeria anchors I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Eavesdrop on any heated discussion from a group of security people, bus commuters, television anchors or just about anyone in Nigeria with a heart-beat and you’ll likely hear them discussing a political issue. I’m tasked to be an expert in the field of politics. I may love politics but it’s not easy dissecting stories for people who already know the background of much of what I dissect. If I solely relied on the BBC, CNN or Facebook posts to tell me what was going on with the pro-Biafra protests in Abia State or the fuel scarcity crisis we are plagued with or how likely it is that APC’s promise of a N5,000 unemployment benefit for Nigerian youths would be fulfilled, I would be mute for most of our show. I find out about what’s happening in Nigeria not just because it’s my job to but because I want to know.

Likewise, with the Beirut bomb-blasts that took place a day before the Paris attacks, if you didn’t know about it, it’s because you didn’t watch/listen/read the news that day or you didn’t pay attention when you saw the headline or because you simply didn’t really care. I say this because of the tweet below and all the other similar tweets/comments/stories/poems I read — it’s untrue. What happened to fact-checking?

This was retweeted more than 50,000 times despite the fact major news outlets reported the Beirut bomb blasts.

This was retweeted more than 50,000 times despite the fact international news outlets did report on the Beirut bomb blasts.

There is another reason the bomb-blasts in Beirut may not have struck a chord as much as the Paris attacks and it’s the same reason I can at times skim through a story about a bomb-blast in Nigeria — we’ve become desensitised to suffering when it’s in places the media routinely reports on. I’d likely pay more attention to stories about bomb-blasts in Nigeria if I saw it happening in Lagos where I live rather than Maiduguri that is unfortunately frequently bombed…This is wrong but it’s true.

We no longer have to wait for the media to tell us what’s going on. There are citizen journalists out there that even influential media outlets rely on to know what’s going on in the world. If you want to know what’s going on in Africa or anywhere else outside of the West then look for the information. Ask a cab driver, follow analysts on twitter, download a history book for context and then share what you find out with the rest of us. The ball as they say is in your court.

What’s Your Hustle?

When I first moved back to Nigeria people asked me a lot of questions:

Why would you leave a civil country to live here?

Do you think your accent will make you successful?

How will you keep your colour?!

I heard a lot. Ignored most but was asked a question that to this day I continue to ask myself:

What do you do?

This seemed at the time a rather daft question considering the question came from my colleague at my new television job. I was a reporter at NN24 — chasing stories, writing scripts, editing and in my head an all-round bad-ass. This response it turns out was more daft than the question. After an unwanted but necessary discussion I came to discover that when a Nigerian asks you here what you are doing, they mean what do you do to get money aside from working for someone for a salary… or in essence, “what’s your hustle”?

Being an entrepreneur wasn’t in my immediate plans. I wanted the chance to be a journalist in Nigeria. I longed to report on stories close to my heart and help change the Africa narrative one story at a time. When I graduated from Columbia in 2010 I was offered a job where I would have the chance to make my dream a reality. My dad advised me to get more experience in the West before I did so and I reluctantly listened. More than a year later having worked for Fortune, the United Nations and the Atlanta Post I decided it was time to make the big move.

So there I was, with an Ivy League Masters degree and a new job under my belt yet, unable to impress my Nigerian questioner with my achievements. Now having moved back (again) to Nigeria two years ago, I fully understand why.

My working life in London and New York post graduation provided me with a salary I was happy with and a day in which I knew without fail my hard-earned money would be paid to me monthly. Now, let me tell you a bit about what it’s like working in Nigeria. In a nutshell, I have come to realise that working doesn’t guarantee payment or payment at an agreed time. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to work here and be paid on-time as I have experienced this but I have also experienced the flip-side and I am far from being alone. There are many state workers across the country that are owed salaries and pensions. I’m not talking about the odd month or so (as if that wouldn’t be so bad) but more than 12 months! Picture that. Working for more than a year without pay! T.I.N — this is Nigeria.

Living in Nigeria makes having an entrepreneurial spirit not optional but necessary. You simply shouldn’t or in most cases can’t rely solely on your salary. I got my thinking cap on and thought about a key follow-up question to what do I do — what can  I do. The answer and support from my amazing husband is what pushed me to think out of the box and register a company called OOTB Media Concepts.

I may have felt that being a journalist was the beginning and end of my story but Nigeria has helped me discover that there are more chapters to my story than I realised. This year has been a year of change giving me so much to adapt to yet I am still hungry for more change. My mind is constantly thinking of what’s next and that excites me.

Never stop questioning yourself:

What do you do?

What can you do?

Work these out and get busy!

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.

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?

Why I gave God my iPhone.

When I was 11-years-old, my Sunday school teacher told my class and I that she had a magical gift – she knew what would happen before it happened. As she spoke about her God-given gift, I sat thinking about how awesome it was to have a superhero as a teacher. Church didn’t seem so boring anymore.

Growing up in a pentecostal Christian home exposed me to many more people like her that claimed to have the same powers. It was in my early teenage years that I understood these people were not modern-day marvel characters but modern-day bible characters. These prophets were followers of Jesus Christ that believed they heard directly from God. It was God that generated their fortune-telling abilities.

Yet, no matter how many pastors told me what my husband would be like or what job I would have, I grew-up struggling to believe the validity of prophet’s revelations. That struggle ended when my former Sunday school teacher (who had become a pastor) spoke to me one evening after a mid-week church service. I was in my first year at university and living away from home for the first time. I had lost the luxury of food shelves magically being restocked without my help. Without my darling mother around, buying cereal became as important as buying textbooks. So, when the service ended, I tried to hurry out to buy my beloved breakfast choice.

Alas, my plans were foiled by my smiling pastor who evidently wanted to continue preaching. As she spoke to me about something I’m sure was God related, I thought about how annoying it would be if the supermarket closed before I bought some cereal.

“Wow, God’s telling me you really like cereal,” she said.

What the…

I’ve haven’t told this story to many people because the first time I shared it, it sounded silly. Why would God take time to tell someone I like cereal? I only think about what happened that day when I’m faced with someone who has a message from God, especially when it’s about me.

That wasn’t the first time someone shared information about me that they believed came from God. A pastor once told me that God said I would get a B in my GCSE Maths exam but I didn’t for a second believe I would. I used to sit next to one of my friends in my maths class who was as talkative and playful as I was. In fact, I’m not sure who distracted who the most out of the two of us. I’ll never forget the day when my teacher told both of us (and the class) that we would fail the paper, get a D and have to redo the exam in sixth-form. Although my maths result was the lowest GCSE grade I achieved, getting the B that I had been told I would get, made me the most proud.

I’ve since been told by a prophet that I would work for the BBC, which I did – twice. The terrible stomach pain I used to constantly endure was revealed to a pastor and eventually stopped – just as the pastor said it would. Yet, until the cereal occurrence, I remained a ‘doubting Thomas’ in regards to believing people who claimed to hear from God.

Perhaps being told I would get a grade B motivated me to work harder? Maybe hearing I would work for the BBC encouraged me to work through their painfully long applications? Could someone have told my pastor about my stomach aches?

It’s possible. But I still can’t explain how my pastor knew I was thinking about cereal that day in church. So, as “silly” as the cereal revelation sounds, I’m sharing it with you because I now realise that’s the day when I not only started to believe God speaks to people but also when I truly began to believe in God’s existence.

There isn’t a rational explanation for someone being able to read my mind. That is, unless believing something supernatural happened is included in the explanation. I’ve decided to pin what happened to the big being upstairs.

So, a few months ago when a prophet here in Nigeria revealed an extremely intimate detail about my family to me, I believed him. I wasn’t the only person that indirectly heard from God. Affairs, promotions, marriages and even deaths were revealed to my church congregation during his three-day visit. We were all amazed.

At the end of the service the prophet told us that God told him to tell 30 people to drop their phones on the altar as a sacrifice to God. I watched people rush forward to do so. I sat down, crossed my arms and whispered, “God forbid.”20130201-110352.jpg

The next day, the prophet preached, got everyone excited with prophesies and closed the service. Just as I was about to leave, the bishop (my uncle), told me the prophet wanted to speak to me.

I slowly walked up to him – terrified at what he might tell me and waited for him to speak. He asked me what I wanted and I told him that I didn’t want what he had told me the previous day to happen. He asked me what I would sacrifice to persuade God to answer my prayer. Money I thought – I’m accustomed with giving money to church. But to my horror, I heard myself say that I’d give God my iPhone!

God knows how much I loved my iPhone. It was my first one (always been a Blackberry babe) and I had only used it for two months. I was surprised when I told my deeply spiritual mum what I had done that instead of being commended, she told me,

“God doesn’t need an iPhone.”

I guess thinking about what God had revealed all those years back about me liking cereal had something to do with me accidentally giving my phone away. This was the second time in my life that I felt certain that God was speaking to me through someone else. Only this time, I lost more than food.

Now, I’m not sure where my ex-iPhone is. Perhaps it was sold and the money was used to further God’s work here on earth… That’s what I’d like to think but who knows, the prophet could be out there somewhere asking Siri where he can find another church congregation that gives precious items to prophets.

I’m not too fussed about what happened to my phone. In the bible, in most cases, an offering to God was a sacrifice only presented to God. In reality, the offering was used as provision for those involved in it – priests and prophets, etc.

So, I’m glad I symbolically gave my iPhone to God. Whatever it’s used for, I’m glad to know despite how difficult it was to give up, I have enough faith in God to believe I’ll be blessed for doing so. After all, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5 KJV).