Making the best use of Nigeria NYSC skill acquisition program

At last the line went through and was able to chat a bit after 2 days of incommunicado.

“It was the election, very stressful” My niece told me.

“Were you paid?”

“Yes, we were, 10k naira”

My niece went on with her version of what went on ground at her election poll station. Corpers in her area have no choice of opting out of election clerk assignment, everyone allocated a place must report to duty.

I thought it was cool they get paid for their time however, what I think is incredible most was the opportunity for Corpers to see first hand how Nigeria leaders are elected and in many occasions ‘selected’.

Mid last year when my niece was preparing for her NYSC assignment so I read a bit online what Nigeria youths thought of their one year service and how incoming Otondos can best prepare for the journey.

I was thoroughly entertained reading from my nation’s youths – most older than 21. The common message from young men was that NYSC year was the year to ‘connect with God’- Really? People in this category will come back home full grown adults and still expect parents to feed them, so I moved on.

The other popular ‘advice’ from young men was that NYSC year was the year to let lose of their ‘dragons’ Really? Do you need a whole year to get laid? To this folks, I say grow up.

Ladies cracked me up a bit as their NYSC year was the year to look for husband.

Niece was posted to a remote village in Plateau state.

Mates were super cool and neighbours nice. I trusted a 23 years to be old enough to make her own decision but I was concerned that being away from home, one need to keep feeding mind with reminders that there are more options than getting laid/marriage/religion to focus on with spare time.

During the three week at the camp, the group was divided into smaller ones, each allocated taster lesson of a few skills i.e bead making, ICT and leather work.

My niece was in leather work group, she loved the program. After the camp, the tutor offered to continue teaching if enough Corpers could form a group.

Eight from her PPA coughed out 15k naira for 10months for twice a week lesson, fee included materials.

When niece was going to her station in January, my advice was to make sure she managed to live with 19k naira of government monthly stipend – little but reality is most Nigerian graduates would not be able to make that after service year.

If it’s proving difficult, be creative and find a way to supplement your income so you don’t rely on anyone to top up – dependancy don’t last.

At her place of primary assignment, she has one SS3 class students to teach twice a week. The school pays 3k naira. She took a second job at a school nearby teaching them same subject, chemistry twice a week, that school pays 4k naira.

After three months, niece has made a big tote, a clutch and currently working on a messenger bag.

“Okay, please tell me sister, how do you manage to fit in your leather work and soap making ‘enterprise’ in all of these?”  I asked.

Her response was plenty of belly laugh on the other side, she loved the independent life and the chance to be creative while making the best of her time.

What I know for sure was that even if for some reason my niece didn’t go back to university to finish up what she wanted to do, she is definitely not going to be used as a political tout or waste her time running after immigration vacancies to hell.

Entrepreneurial Africans

Sangu Delle Tedtalk was a delight one to watch – hits the nail on the head regarding micro finance and the perception that ‘fixated on romanticised idea that every poor person in African is an entrepreneur.”

The idea that microcredit helps with free trade thereby alleviate poverty in the rural areas and improve self-sufficiency is true, only that not every poor Africans has the discipline of a successful trader.

Take Nigeria for example, most people depended on trading for livelihood given limited options available, however most of these traders started out as a form of investment, which means that most run with the first idea that pops into the mind without proper research into what will be required to make any profit from such business.

There are several reasons why small businesses fail, one that is most obvious in Nigeria is misplaced priority of traders. Most traders in the market set up their businesses with the help of family/friends loan which more often than not people will default on.

My people never ran out of excuses as to why they default on loans – it ranges from children school fees, robbery, to Owambe of all kinds.

Banks do not give micro credit to market women because people are very hard to track down. Banks do give loans where tangible collateral is presented and the interest of 20% is agreed on – most Nigerian market traders are priced out of this.

A few years ago, a Lagos based private driver was asked by his boss what he would like to with his life as the boss has to return to his home country. The driver says he’d like to set up a business for himself as it might be hard for him to get another job given his age (54years old). The boss gave him three million naira ($15k) – no string attached.

This is a huge amount that is sufficient to set up something moderate. This driver has never done a day business in his life, he has always worked for people with an okay salary. When he got hold of the money, setting up any business was the last thing he did – the money was spent on building project, bigger than the money interest free cash he had.

Three years down the line, he called the ex boss only to give lots and lots of stories, the type no one in Nigeria would buy – that basically says money is all gone and no business so back in market looking for another driving job.

Mr Delle’s idea of ‘Pan-African titan’ is an excellent idea so is better access to finance to help existing business owners and others with brilliant business ideas set up a medium to large-scale factories that could give Africa much-needed boast and level playing field in world market.

Hospitable Nigerians

BBC Africa got Nigerians talking on  The best thing about Nigeria is…, a move to shift attention from what is not going well for the country.

The list started from Nigerians being happy people to their resiliency.

The way we answer a particular question really depends on the moment and the settings. A market woman who just had a sale after waiting around for hours is likely going to speak highly of how resilient and happy Nigerians are until a few hours down the line when she gets home to see no NEPA (power) after being stuck in traffic for two hours and oops there is no diesel to fire up generator.

Yes, we are happy and resilient. However, now that the world is a lot smaller, we can see a lot better what Nigeria has the potential of achieving.

My favourite point on the list was by Uche Nzeka, broadcaster and Sarah Okagbue, trainer. Both talked about Nigerians being hospitable. 

This is most obvious in the rural Nigeria, the sense of warmth is incredible.  More to do with the community set up, I suppose as houses are open and no high walls or gates to separate neighbours.

My parents’ house in the village was opposite the only road so this means I get to see people who are travelling via the village.

The closest village on both sides to mine is least one mile so by the time anyone reaches us, they’ll be thirsty given weather condition. General education on the need to rehydrated isn’t one thing my people are known for so we don’t carry drinking water with us on journeys. The common expectation was to get drinks in the next village.

I can not remember how many times, strangers have been asked “E wole, e mu’mi o” “Come inside to drink water” This is a polite call that is expected, more often than not, people would stop to drink as they needed it.

I have seen on occasions that strangers were offered to soak gaari too, usually offered to people who decided to rest a little.

This art is all dying as we have okada riders and people generally are walking less.

I had my very own experience of hospitable Nigeria in 1997, when I was desperate for a place to stay for the night, it was a happy ending.

Maybe being able to help make other peoples’ day a little better is what we are good at?

Nigeria next First Lady: Weighing our options

Neither Nigeria First Lady Madam Patience Goodluck nor Mrs Aisha Buhari will be elected,  yet, one of them will have enormous power to make positive change in the country especially amongst women.

We have seen pretty much what Madam P is capable of for the last eight years in Aso Rock, most notably for the last four years. Madam P as I see it is very energetic lady who could have done a lot better given the opportunity thrown at her, instead she played the stereotypical role that Nigeria women only concerns was for their bling bling – this is noticeable in many overseas trips in the name of claiming women rights aka National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS) and of course First Lady’s attitude towards the mothers of kidnapped Chibok girls was to say the least abysmal – who does that? 

I do not believe people change just by keeping them doing the same thing they have always been doing, so Madam will continue in the same path and we can shout and yell – hope for the best.

On the other hand, little is known of Mrs Aisha Buhari. She comes across as shy. I am not sure if this has to do with religion or her nature. Nonetheless, she has made efforts in a few public speeches that I have watched, very clear and concise – relatable even.

So in the off chance that Mrs Aisha Buhari becomes our next First Lady – lots of work ahead. If I were a First Lady of Nigeria married at 19 years old and grandma at 44 years old. Here’s what I would do. I will not waste any second of my time hunting people picking on my age of marriage because let’s face it FLON is not FL of Northern Nigeria so people in the south would pick on this fact – nothing I could do about it.

If I were Mrs Buhari, I will own up to my story and educate myself about the diversity of Nigeria people – not relying on word of mouth but get out to meet people.

What I have read about Mrs Buhari that I found incredible is the way she has improved and continuing to improve herself in all fronts (studying for MA Intern’l Affairs and Strategic Studies) – this to me is very important and reflects in the way she relates to people.

There are so many ways to make improvement and be a role model to Nigeria women, one could be starting from immediate door step – Vesico Vaginal Fistula and high divorce rate in northern NigeriaSometimes it is easier to deal with issues that one knows best. 

No one is expecting a quick fix for all of our social issues, but a role model First Lady would choose a project she is comfortable with and execute it as passionately as she could for the benefit of all.

Nigeria decides: Change or Progress

About a month ago, I learnt Nigerians are expected to use either ‘change or progress’ cautiously in  conversations depending on the event present otherwise one might get in trouble for supporting the ‘wrong’ person.

‘Change’ included in politics conversations usually means one is a supporter of ex military head of state Muhammadu Buhari while ‘progress’ in the same context means support for incumbent President Jonathan Goodluck.

Very kind of President Obama for his youtube moral support messageI do hope my people would take time out to listen to the message and reflect on it.

Below is a clip of our President Jonathan that I love to watch. This was his first time meeting President Obama and long before the Chibok girls were kidnapped.

I just so much love hearing GEJ talking especially when there is no script.  The juicy bits start from 5:30. Enjoy.

Speed to feed hungry roads

On the motorway going 70mph, it felt a bit too quiet after a friend called about her 82 years old father’s passing.

“Can’t talk, promise to call back in the evening” I cut in after hearing the reason for the call. I can already tell the funeral preparation is underway.

Mind drifted to the last time I heard about her father, he was a nice man. Then, I remember he had a car accident a while back that killed one of the passengers, that was a terrible one, the passenger was a family member.

“When was the last time your father sat behind the wheel?” I asked my friend when she told me of the fatal accident. I knew he always had a personal driver.

“Only started driving after retirement.” She responded. He has always had a personal driver.

God, help me I must stop this line of thoughts, before I ran into someone.

I stopped. Then turn on the radio.

Off the radio.

The silence became unbearable, so paid attention to my surrounding. I forgot how noisy it can get no the motorway, cars flying by.

Then I remember only a week ago that I encountered my very first psychic, my taxi driver. I had kept my peace initially but thought I’d tell my day’s story to a complete stranger.

I was at the supermarket to pick up a few items but discovered at the till that I had lost my car key, how could that be? How?

“The angel took the keys from you because you were not meant to drive” he says. “Ok” I responded.

Following driver’s recommendation – relax and think about how to replace the keys.

I felt better.

That was a week prior to the road trip.

I must focus but not before making a quick mental calculation of my chances of survival if I did not pay attention to what was going on around me. Well, given most drivers flying by were going between 70/80mph – I could be a dead meat.

Focus, I did.

Thinking about how it is in Nigeria:

Nigeria FRSC can be annoying sometimes, but I am glad that their presence has forced dangerous drivers to slow down therefore reduction in road fatality but we still have a very long way to go.

While the FRSC monitors the highway, how do you get the neighbourhood drivers to apply common sense while driving?

Only about two weeks ago a middle-aged man from Ile Ife visiting a friend in my town late in the evening killed an Okada man (motor cyclist). The bus driver has been driving way too fast and oblivious to other road users.

The driver ran away from the scene of accident leaving the deceased man in the pool of his own blood. Passersby applied the only way they knew the dead person could get justice – Jungle Justice. The bus was burnt.

Apparently the bus belonged to a politician not the dangerous driver, oh well.

Either way the innocent life wasted because of someone’s dangerous driving,, the driver now back on the road walking free.

In January this year, 11 women from Madam P home state were killed during campaign drives – the incident was terrible news for anyone with blood running through their veins but what is also sad and perhaps terrifying was the reactions of lots of Nigerians about this accident. People completely ignored the dangerous drivers and turned it to another political fights. Here

Even if all Nigeria roads are state of the art tomorrow, people still need to learn to take responsibility for their actions while on the road.

National Youth Corp Service

National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) was set up to encourage ease of movement for Nigerians. It used to be a gateway for securing decent jobs. For a long time now, this is not the case in, as at the end of the service year is when the real hustle begins.

Nigeria sends thousands of youths out every year to different parts of the country for the purpose of youths given back to the country that has supported them through their years of higher education. This was supposed to help us learn and appreciate our uniqueness as a nation better.

This reason was a welcomed one given the experience of Biafra War.

Clearly, NYSC has not changed our skewed view of one another in the country but why do we still  make youth service corp a mandatory service for Nigerian graduates?

Who is benefitting from this program in today’s Nigeria?

Most of the graduates regardless of field of study would end up teaching with zero knowledge of teaching.

For example a Biochemistry graduate posted to a secondary school is thrown into the job from day one.

Brief perspective;

In Nigeria, we have 74 federal/state universities.

47 approved private universities. The ‘approved’ there signifies we have handfuls of others still operating without the government official approval. The unapproved operating tertiary institutions means their students are moved to an approved schools during the final years.

Also, another important thing to note here is that most of the 47 private universities in Nigeria are owned by the religious leaders and politicians.

Most children of primary and secondary school age attend private schools. The trend started aggressively in the 1990s and has gone way beyond any logic.

Private schools in Nigeria is not like any other nations – we have at least about 100 different grades of private schools, some of which no child should be sent to – it is in every street, some are as big as a decent living room.

Also, we have a handful that are as expensive as any private schools in the West if not more. This is where the selected few send their children for primary school education before being wheeled abroad for boarding.

And the different range in the middle is very wide – No defined guide by the government, pocket size largely dictates the type of education received.

Now on the Otondo (Corpers):

The government had spent enormous amount of money over the last four decades on this program i.e 3 weeks training, the facilities and the uniform, and continuing to do so given increasing population.

Youth corpers literally overlapping at their place of primary assignment (PPA) nowadays. Sometimes, the PPA would reject giving ‘no vacancy’ as the reason so the said graduate would have to look for someplace else that would accept.

Nigeria government currently pays 19,800k naira/month for each corper. Not less than a third of these are teaching/working at private companies set up by religious leaders and politicians – Free and imposed employees every year.

In essence, we go round the circle.

And there is the case of ghost Corpers – these guys received their certificate of completion and all the benefits such as the monthly stipend but would not spend a day at the place of primary assignment. Their official certificate issued after ‘wetting the floor’ of the government officials.

At the end of the one year service, there is absolutely no guarantee of getting a job that could pay close to the stipend of the service year, many would be lucky to have any job at all.

Why do we still do NYSC?

Africa: Using familiar language to manage surging population

World population is increasing at alarming rate, analysts have lots of different statistics to back this assumption up. The upward movement affects different parts of the world differently, for us in Nigeria it means surpassing US population in 2050 and by 2100 very close to 1 billion people.

According to  Population Reference Bureau, total fertility rates have declined in all regions of the world over the last four decades. 2013 world’s average number of child per woman is 2.5 as opposed to 4.4 in 1970, Africa is 4.7 as opposed to 6.7 in 1970.

In other words, Africans birth rate per woman is significantly higher than the rest of the world and the trend is assumed to continue.

For starters,  the poorer one is the more children they tend to have and vice versa – all factors considered.

Now, one may ask what part of the need for population control does my people don’t get – plenty. This is partly because the compelling needs for contraceptive/family planning have not been explained in the language people understood.

The more the merrier is still largely entertained. Or sometimes the need for particular gender get the best of common sense.

What don’t we get?

An uncle visited his niece a while ago. Getting there, he met her with a newborn. The excited uncle picked up the phone to congratulate his sister – niece’s mother. The sister was happy too, and then asks whose baby that was as between the family there are a few women of childbearing age.

“Your daughter, Mama Emmanuel” The uncle replied.

“O daa, e se o, adun a kari” – ‘Thank you, w’ll all have a cause to celebrate’ – Niece’s mother prayed.

The old lady was confused, she wondered what she must have done to her daughter that made her hid her pregnancy news. They’re close-knit family where two weeks was too long for not hearing from one another.

Mama Emmanuel hid the news from all her siblings too.

Why the secrecy?

The newborn was the fifth child – all blessings.  The newborn immediate older brother was nine years old while the first child of the family was 18years old at the time of her birth.

After the news broke to everyone, they all rejoiced and happy that the baby and mother are well.

Mama Emmanuel has done well for herself, she started family very young – had the last child at 38. She and husband own home and children are in a relatively good school.

Why was she so self cautious?

A few weeks after the birth story, I spoke to the newborn’s sister to see how she’s getting on – she loved her baby sister but could not believe her mother would get pregnant again given how hard she had to work in order to contribute her share of keeping the family afloat.

“Promise you wouldn’t tell Maami” she pleaded. – suspecting a good gossip so promised. Her mother had difficult time given birth, she had intended to give birth at home but had to be rushed to a nearby clinic. Baby came and was well.

During the discharge checks, the doctor on duty asked if Mama Emmanuel knew about family planning, before she could talk, the doctor said “because if you don’t, we have a unit here” in a condescending tone that saddened her afterwards.

While I understand the doctor’s attitude, I really do not agree with him insulting a new mother to get the message across, Nigeria need professionals who can deliver without belittling people.

The way we understand the effect of population increase differs greatly in Nigeria – this cuts across board.  Sometimes, it was like beating a dead horse trying to explain connection between increasing population and poverty rate, let alone environmental consequences.

According to PRB: contraceptive usage among Nigerian women in relation to other women around the world is not surprising. 15%  of Nigerians while the rest of the world is 63% – this was 2014 data.

Change is hard, and I don’t blame Mama Emmanuel’s doctor for being insensitive, this is Nigeria where we often forget how connected we all are.

How about if Nigeria imitate Mechai Viravaidya’s strategy of aggressively educating the population and making contraceptives available everywhere and anywhere? And in the process reduce poverty?

Here: 

British born to Nigerian parents or Nigerian British

Selma is an historic film.

A friend asked if I had seen Selma, coincidently I was just reading an academic review of it which I enjoyed. She proceeded to talk about her views of the movie as compelling so to help put race issues in perspective.

I agreed.

Last Saturday was tight so I suggested we find a mutually convenient day to see it together. She proceeded to say it was nice to see a British actor having a lead role in an important film such as Selma.

“Which one was British actor?” I asked.

“David Oyelowo” she responded and continued to talk about how great David was in the movie.

See my friend is a fellow West African but had no clue which is which when our names are called.

So I said, “Really, David Oyelowo is an English actor?” 

“Yes, he is British with Nigerian parents” She responded.

Because it was very early on a Saturday morning and I could tell she hasn’t seen my point yet so I brought up Michael Adebolajo who was born in Lambeth, London and grew up there. I remember when the news of his murder of British Army Lee Rigby first broke out, it was reported as Nigerian  although he was born and raised in London.

To Adebowale and Adebolajo, my friend said they were Nigerian British but David is British born to Nigerian parents. Interesting.

Fair enough, bad egg will always put their origin in to shame.

Now, she got my point so I pointed her here to learn how to pronounce Oyelowo according to Brad Pitt. It was nice to see people making efforts to pronounce unusual names correctly.

It was after I logged off chat that I can relate fully to Maz Jobrani’s Tedtalk speech. The clip is hilarious but the related part starts from 5:21

Mother hen intuition

Domestic animals are quite common in rural Nigeria especially chickens and goats, not as pets but investment and easy meat when purse is running dry.

One big prey on chicks in my area are the hawks (Àsá) – they are fast, quick to grab especially newly hatched chicks.

My family had chickens for as long as I can remember.

Mother Hen rarely loses any of her chicks, she had eyes around her head to sense any approaching hawk. Neighbours sometimes called Mother Hen Okuroro Adie (wicked hen) because she protected her chicks from anyone be it humans or hawks.

Sometimes I think of my mother as Mother Hen.

My parents especially my mother worried I would be ‘lost,’ hence she hesitated for my insistent on going to Lagos at 18. I will stay with my older sister and I promised to listen to her and be back in a year’s time to attend college – I pleaded.

A year had passed, I was not in the least planning to go back home, I was busy. I’ve had three jobs behind me.

Lagos, I found was exciting. My sister took care of most of my expenses – life can’t get any easier. My salary was spent on clothes and shoes and this.

Moomi should be proud of me…so I thought.

Well to my second year I received yet another letter from home, Father’s hand writing but the voice of Moomi. This was the final letter and the bottom line was ‘pack your stuff and come home.’

The letter was hand delivered on a Saturday 8am by Gbadebo who has had to make two hours trip from his Ikeja area home.

A few days earlier, I went to visit a new promising job of being a Help for an Ijebu family. The husband seemed nice enough, he worked for Shell, wife was a school teacher. Their home library was the first that I have ever seen – full of colourful books with neat spines.

My new job starting from Monday would be to dust their mansion, every room twice a week and I would be paid weekly for the equivalent of my current monthly salary – how hard can that be? I’ll be so good this couple would keep me for life was my thinking.

So my mother’s letter was unwelcome in all fronts.

Nothing that I said made any sense to my mother and the fact I brought up news about my new job escalated the row.

I was at the college on Monday to submit my admission form. Back in Lagos for two days to pack my  stuff and 450 naira savings.

That was the end of Lagos dream.

Six years down the line, I was chatting with my sister about life in general so I asked after the rich Ijebus. My brother in-law who did carpentry and furnishing works for the family says they are doing well, and that the family now had two children birthed by the young wife who lives in a separate house about four miles away from the family house unknown to the first wife.

The first wife is still hoping for the fruit of the womb. “God will answer her” I prayed. It is a whole different life to have fertility issue in Nigeria.

Then my in-law turned to me and said “Someone’s got to do it after you ran away”

“What?” I asked him.

“Ha, don’t tell me you didn’t know”

“What?”

Did my mother have weird intuition? I do know she worries a lot but this time, the oddity did me well.

To all Mother Hen of the world – HMD

Immorality in Nigerians’ Bed

Some friends enter into our lives by sheer coincidence, they stay and it felt as if they have been here for ever. They knew what gets us in stitches.

My friend is one like that. I woke up to this message the other day:

“You people never run out of shocking statements.” 

As a Nigerian, I knew ‘you people’ meant someone completely nuts is on the loose so I proceeded to click on the link – was I right?

I really was not in the mood reading anything related to ‘our’ pastors as most were just painfully sad.

This one wasn’t like any other, that’s a relief.

I didn’t realise what Pastor Olugbenga Oladejo was on about seriously. Not sure any Nigerian is still in doubt about Hell vs Heaven. I used to not believe hell existed but now I do and a real life testimonies to show for it.

Biafra happened before I was born, however I grew up next door to Oba Okunade Sijuade, I was old enough to remember Ijaw and Itsekiri and the ongoing Boko Haram – can it get any hell than that?

Yes, there is hell.

Now, when I got to 5.14 of the clip – I realised Oladejo was talking about a different kind of hell fire – the Hell especially formed for Nigerians married couple whereby women are ‘allowed’ to be on top…

Only that it would be so painful to talk to this guy, I would have asked if there is a separate hell for the unmarried Nigerians who, well have to be in bed too.

I could only watch this video up to  5.15.

Disclaimer: Please clear any hot beverage nearby for danger of spillage.

5.14 “Hell fire for couple who performed immorality on their bed.” Pastor Olugbenga Oladejo

None but ourselves can free our minds

Reading about Aisha, a devout muslim university student in a fictional novel Boko Haram  was exciting because it just shows exactly what is going on in our society today.  It is becoming a lot harder to have set expectations of women that is based on nothing else but their gender.

Many women wanted to stay committed to the Islamic teachings or any religion for that matter but their head could not cope with the treatment they have to deal with, which by the way, they have seen countless of times, their mothers and women around them have had to deal with.

Here is TV host Rima Karaki making a simple request of sticking to the issue at hand and what she got in return:

 

 

Here is what I witnessed of another respected Islamist scholar bold enough to share his tale with the crowd.

“None but ourselves can free our minds.” – Bob Marley