Tag Archives: Nigeria

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.

Advertisements

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!

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…

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).

Why do Nigerians Take the Law into Their Own Hands?

I remember years ago in university hearing someone sing, “Ole! Bring matches, tyre, carry am’ go!” I was shocked to discover just how gruesome the pigeon English lyrics translated into English was, as the song was catchy and sounded funny. The singer is actually asking for matches and a tyre to kill the suspected thief (ole) by putting a tyre filled with petrol around the victim’s chest and arms before setting the tyre alight. This barbaric practice is also known as ‘necklacing’. I once asked my dad why in this day and age this still happens and he told me I’d have to live in a country like Nigeria to truly understand. So, here I am living in Nigeria and I think my dad may have been right.

Last Friday, a mob attacked four students from the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) in Rivers State. The young men were stripped naked, had tyres put around their necks, and were beaten by people from the Aluu community with wooden sticks, before being set on fire.

The killings, which were videotaped and posted online, sparked outraged among many Nigerians who were angry people had taken the law into their own hands. I can’t count how many blackberry broadcast messages I received about the incident. Although I was horrified by what I read and saw, since the lynching of thieves is not as uncommon as one would hope, I was curious to know/understand why people here seemed so moved by this particular event.

My younger cousins were the first to tell me about the murders. They received bbm messages with links to the video. I dared not watch as the description of the killings coupled with the before and after pictures of the guys was enough to warn me that I would most certainly cry watching. I asked my cousins if this was the first time they had heard of this type of thing happening and they said they were fully aware that thieves suffered this treatment here. What shocked/upset/angered my teenage cousins so much was the fact this incident was filmed and published on the internet. Seeing the faces of the young men that are no more, has shocked this nation in a way that’s necessary.

At long last, the discussion about Nigerians being disillusioned with their police force to the point they are prepared to take justice into their own hands, is happening among the people and those in authority. Mob justice in Nigeria has been accepted as a norm among citizens here for far too long. The sad truth is that the extrajudicial executions of crime suspects in Nigeria shows how profoundly devalued human life has become here. However, the fact that many people here seem outraged by what happened to the four students gives me hope that there are still people here that want to help create a better Nigeria.

Since Friday’s murders, many versions of the story have appeared in the press. I’ve heard that the students killed were cult members and were actually on their way to kill someone. I also read that the boys went to collect money from someone owing them money and failing to do so, took his laptop to hold until he paid up. Someone even told me that the boys were shooting at people and the mob got them once they ran out of bullets.

What angers me the most is when people attempt to excuse the barbaric act as necessary due to the incompetence of the law enforcement agencies here. That’s a rubbish excuse. I don’t care what the boys did. So long as we have prisons here, suspected criminals should be kept there. There is no justification for what that mob did.

If there is, then shouldn’t the nation’s oil thieves have tyres round their necks by now? What about all the governors that have embezzled money from their states for luxurious cars and homes? Are they not thieves as well? No, they should be brought to justice, just as the four boys should have been.

The Federal Government, security agencies, state governors, Senators, and members of the House of Representatives urgently need to discuss the following:

Police are unresponsive.

Police are unwilling to patrol high-risk areas after dark.

Police are ill-equipped.

Insecurity has become a constant companion for many Nigerians.

Money talks – too many criminals are free as a result of bribing their way out of prison.

Participants in mob action need to be prosecuted.

Vigilante groups either need to be replaced by competent police/army men, or be registered and offered adequate training to bring suspects to justice.

The standards for recruitment and training of police officers should be significantly improved.

Police officers need to be paid more and given better benefits.

ETC.

Oh, the list could go on and on but if these points are addressed, Nigeria will become a better place. I can’t justify mob violence on any level so I’m not entirely sure why Nigerians take the law into their own hands. All I am sure of is that it’s wrong. I hope the folk in charge come to the same conclusion.

Why I’m Glad to be Back in Nigeria.

If you read my last post you’ll probably find the title of this one ironic. Two months ago I happily left Nigeria thinking I’d only return once my family there complained I hadn’t visited in years. Yet, here I am – back where I almost vowed never to be again.

Most of the people closest to me have asked me why I’m crazy enough to want to be back. I had just settled afresh into life in London and it felt so good being around my family and friends. Despite feeling adamant I was ready to plant my roots in London for good, I found opportunities (well they sort of somehow found me), pulling me right back to this troubled West African land.

When I asked myself why I was leaving again, I was disappointed to find that it wasn’t because of a natural pull towards my motherland, or the belief I was needed in Nigeria to make it a better place. It just isn’t that deep. I’m back because of an opportunity that’s arisen. If a great opportunity came up in Syria I would probably move there because I just don’t love my homeland or any land enough to forgo a new opportunity just because it’s out of my comfort zone.

I understand that this way of thinking isn’t for everyone but neither is my profession. Right now I have the energy to travel around the world and learn new things while I’m at it. I don’t have baggage in my life to complicate my passion for travelling so I can’t think of a valid reason to avoid beginning a new life away from home, if there’s a chance it will make me, a better me…

Here’s the thing with a new experience, it can be daunting and sometimes feel really uncomfortable but the really important things happen outside of your comfort zone. Someone once told me when I was getting nervous about moving to New York that I would really find out who Enô is while I was away. Being stripped of the influence friends and family have over you will do that to you – make you really find yourself. Sounds super corny but its true.

I found this note. Can’t remember where but it really made me smile:

20120912-101812.jpg

Couldn’t have put it better myself. The title of this post perhaps should have been, “Why I’m glad to be relocating.” Nigeria might not have been my first choice but my new job is. I can’t wait to share what I’ll be doing with you but until then, wish me luck. In Nigeria, delays in job start-dates are unfortunately common.

Be adventurous, see the world and learn something new.