Sunday, October 5, 2008

OJ Simpson: Karma's A B_itch

Who can forget that memorable low-speed chase of OJ Simpson’s white Ford Bronco by LAPD officers in the summer of 1994?His ex-wife, Nicole and her close friend Ronald Goldman had just been found murdered in her apartment and OJ was the prime suspect. I easily recollect the lengthy televised trial that had millions around the world following the daily goings-on in the high profile case. The late, well-respected Johnny Cochran was the head of Mr. Simpson’s defense team at the time and was largely responsible for getting the celebrity off the hook. The main swaying piece of evidence that helped the jurors reach their ‘not guilty verdict’ was the dramatic moment when the defendant, OJ tried on the black gloves that was central to the prosecution’s case. And the outcome: the gloves didn’t fit.
So on verdict day that October of 1997, the 12 members of the jury found Mr. Simpson not guilty of both murders, basically because there was reasonable doubt.Many across America and in many parts of the globe felt the U.S justice system had helped save a murderer. Some were of the opinion that yet another rich celebrity had being let off the hook because he could afford the best lawyers who capitalized on legalese to aid their popular african-american client.However,I had told a friend after the verdict that OJ had to watch his every step afterwards as most law enforcement officials would want payback in some way, based on the general view that he carried out the horrific stabbings of both victims.
So when I heard the news, in September last year, of Simpson’s arrest in Vegas for alleged kidnapping and robbery in a Palace Station hotel room, I told people he was screwed. Even though he repeated claimed that he was only trying to retrieve sports memorabilia that belonged to him, I had a gut feeling that it was possibly karma in motion. I agree with a good friend who feels that he was to blame for making such a silly move that day, especially when constantly aware of the controversy his acquittal caused across his home country. I was further convinced of the severity of his legal problems when I read that none of the 12 jurors was black.Yes,the absence of a fellow ’brother’ or ‘sister’ meant, for me, that chances of a potentially hung jury were quite unlikely.So after a far less popular 4-week trial than the Nicole/Ron Goldman case 13 years earlier, the Las Vegas Jury (made of 9 ladies & 3 men) found the controversial ex-football star guilty of all 12 counts of kidnapping and robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint on that fateful September day. For some, this was justice finally catching up with a criminal who was only fortunate the last time.On the other hand,it's expected Simpson's team would start making moves for an appeal of the verdict.
For me,at least 3 people know for certain what happened that June night at Nicole Simpson's Los Angeles condo in '94. Sadly, 2 of them are long deceased while the possible third witness could be ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars,come sentencing day on December 5th.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our Political Office Holders:Synonym For Mediocrity

I’ll admit it straight away,dear friends. With Nigeria, I’m a cynic most of the time.Why? Well,I guess most of us know the answer to this. It’s simply because so many times I’ve seen the same thing happen over and over again, as far as the type of leaders we churn off the production line, and our government in general, is concerned. Be it those dressed in uniform or trad, there doesn’t seem to be any sincerity and/or ability of majority of our political leaders to right the ills of our beloved nation.’ Man Know man’, mediocrity, corruption and disregard for the masses consistently seem to be the order of the day as far as our politicians are concerned. And deep down, I’m sure many of you agree.However, the particular reason why i, as at this moment, remain deeply cynical was already mentioned a few lines earlier: MEDIOCRITY….of our leaders. And that, my fellow Nigerians, is a fundamental hindrance to significant progress being made in the so-called ‘Giant of Africa’. Have you had a conversation with, say a Director of a FG parastatal, a special adviser or an average House of Reps member? I understand if you haven’t, but I’m sure you’ve seen them speak on TV or read their interviews/comments in magazines or the national dailies. I don’t know about you, but I normally nod my head in equal measure of disbelief and sadness. These are people empowered to carry out very important & sensitive duties in their various areas of public office & they don’t seem to know ‘what’s up’. That’s my honest assessment of most of them. The more painful thing is that they seem stuck in their attitude/perspective & yet, feel strongly they are competent enough to perform.
Just to help buttress my standpoint, I’ll share with you what I saw (with my own 4 eyes) on NTA yesterday during one of my regular channel-flipping moments. It was a recorded session of goings-on in the National Assembly. While an ex-military colonel who’s presently a Senator was discussing a bill meant for consideration by his peers in the Senate, I noticed the place seemed a bit disorganised. Courtesy of the camera angle, I noticed some senators in the background gisting and laughing amongst themselves. I was surprised because I logically assumed that they would have been a bit interested in what the honorable senator was saying about the bill. As these jokers behind him kept on gisting, one brought out his cellphone and was apparently checking or sending a text. I also observed that the noise in the background was distracting me from audibly hearing what the Senator who had the floor was trying to say.Thankfully,the Senate President(I presume) had to smash his gavel on his table, while at the same time shouting ‘ORDER..ORDER’ at his colleagues. This action helped to bring some sanity. Now,can you imagine such behavior??. In the nation’s ‘revered’ Senate. An assembly of ‘honorable’ grown-ups, not kindergarten.We all know that most of these members of the exalted Assembly were fortunate to being ‘elected’ because they had either had money or political godfathers...or most likely, both.How many of them can impressively discuss the economy, social welfare issues, global events or even political history in Nigeria? Without any statistical study, I’m sure the answer is close to zero (give or take the few learned ones).While I admit that some of our public office holders have tried by bringing in bright young people into their administration to help move us forward, the problem still remains as majority of these leaders are either archaic in their reasoning, incompetent or below par in the ‘smartness’ arena.
On a related note, I remember hearing, some months ago, someone say to his gathering of friends that he voted for Pat Utomi at the 2007 Presidential Elections. The laughter this assertion brought from his friends was in proportions regularly attained at a Julius Agwu event. No kidding, guys. As if, Mr. Utomi wouldn’t beat most Nigerian politicians hands-down in the ‘brains, knowledge & manifesto’ departments. Or isn’t brightness an ‘unofficial’ prerequisite for political office seekers? Or was it because he could never have won in this corruption-filled country we call home, where one being in the right ‘setting’ is absolutely compulsory for success? Wonders would never cease, indeed.Sometimes I wish the private sector were responsible for guiding this nation’s development. At least there are ‘modern’ thinking, intelligent and hard working men & women there.
On a serious note though, I honestly feel things can’t continue this way for ever and inevitably things are bound to get better across board. My worry is this: with the leaders we keep having, we may never get to experience it in our lifetime.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 years after 9/11

Time does fly indeed. Can you believe it’s been 7 years since the world stood still? The day most of us across the globe were solidly behind America in their most trying time since Vietnam. That Tuesday morning in September, terrorism took a new dimension and a powerful group called Al-Qaeda was firmly in its driving seat. The impact was costly. Over 3,000 american souls were gone, courtesy of daredevil terrorists who brought an innovative plan to disastrous fruition.They didn’t need bombs,rocket launchers,AK-47s or sophisticated arsenal. In fact their weapons were already provided for them, in the form of american commercial jets.I remember first hearing the tragic news at a friend’s small cybercafé. He was browsing randomly when he stumbled across the ‘breaking news’ on cnn.com.Initial reports stated that a plane had ‘accidentally’ hit the World Trade Centre in New York. It wasn’t till the 2nd airline crashed into the same building that the world suddenly realised it had all being cleverly orchestrated.
As I had a brother living in the Big Apple, my family had tried unsuccessfully,and desperately,to reach him. We kept on dialing the States but we just couldn’t get through. Our main worry was due to the fact that he worked in downtown New York and the jets had struck just past 9 a.m that weekday morning,a time when most workers would have been at work. We panicked, and at the same time, watched the horror on CNN.I doubt i would ever forget the shocking images of people jumping from 40 stories up,in a desperate attempt to preserve their existence.The screaming,the tears,the smoke,the mayhem,the brave firemen,a heroic mayor called Rudy Giuliani(who i now strongly dislike,by the way) etc.
Fortunately,we finally got through to my sibling several terrifying hours later and were ecstatic to hear he and his family were all fine, safe & sound.That Tuesday, the Osama Bin Laden-led Al Qaeda had brought the world’s sole superpower to its knees. And the U.S was humbled. It’s accurate to say that since that infamous day, the world (and the States) has never been the same.Actually,it may never be. President Bush had to show executive toughness and send a message to terrorist cells across the planet, especially to Al-Qaeda,easily the most powerful of them all. The organization being controlled & inspired by a long bearded, rich Saudi Arabian & ex- U.S ally from remote caves in Afghanistan.
George W. Bush ordered an invasion of the asian country using state-of –the-art military equipment to pound the Taliban-controlled region. Sadly for Bush, it’s been 7 years since the tragedy and America’s full scale reprisal,but the most wanted man on Earth is still alive and free. One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the main reason behind the delay in catching the US’s no.1 enemy has been. That reason was Iraq, a country led at the time by Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of George Bush Snr.Maybe it was the oil, or maybe President Bush Jnr needed to help Daddy finish the Iraqi dictator once and for all. Irrespective of the motive, it distracted America from their main target and so, Bin Laden & his lieutenants continued/continue to co-ordinate activities from his hide-out in the dangerous regions of Afghanistan.Today,Al Qaeda is still a force with several cells and splinter groups wrecking havoc in various locations across the globe(however, excluding the US).
As Presidential candidates Obama & McCain stand together, with partisanship put aside, at Ground Zero(the place where the Twin Towers once stood)today, two things are clear. First of all, one of them would be the next Commander-In-Chief come January.Secondly, that person has to do his best to complete the job their Texan predecessor sadly couldn’t finish.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Enough Of This Mental Slavery

As I write this, I remember a song by Jamaica’s biggest musical export, the legendary Bob Marley. One of the reggae prodigy’s best known tracks was the deeply inspiring composition ‘Redemption Song’.A line from this classic went thus: ‘’Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.’’ So, how’s this relevant?, you may wonder.Well,I’ll tell you how.
I’m sure most of you would easily agree that the current US presidential race has kept millions across the globe glued with passionate interest. We have seen history unfold in our eyes, as an African-American and a strong woman fiercely battled it out for the nomination of a major American party. On the republican side, we have witnessed the first ever female VP nominee ever to emerge.
Now, I must admit that I was one of many who was initially apprehensive about Senator Obama’s chances in getting this far. And it had a lot to do with his colour.However, my naïve & somewhat primitive views changed after his remarkable victory in the first democratic primary in Iowa back in January.Guys,the state of Iowa’s population is over 95% white. In that race, he won clearly and left the previously ‘favoured’ candidate, a stunned Senator Hillary Clinton, in 3rd place. Well, his unexpected success there got me interested in the 47-yr old man from Illinois. I started reading more about him, his career, his beliefs, his remarkable background etc.And so I became hooked. As time passed, the skilled charismatic orator continued to rack up more victories as the primaries continued, to the disbelief of many still entrenched in cynical times of the past (His 10 consecutive victories during the electoral calendar were a significant highlight of his applaud-worthy progress earlier in the year).So, despite Senator Osama’s history making nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, many cynics still believe the chap can’t win. On what basis? Because he’s black and blacks have never ruled? Isn’t there a first time for everything? After all, wasn’t Obama the 1st African-american to be nominated for President by a major political party? By the way, he needed and received the votes & support from millions white people to get there.It’s true that there are those americans who would never(ever) vote for him primarily because of his colour.But there aren’t many of such people still affiliated to those racist(& pathetic) philosophies of their forefathers. And if one delves deeper, you’ll see that they tend to be members of the other political party(an association with a 93% white membership, by the way).Like I have told a few friends, Barack Obama getting the nomination was evidence of the changing times & mindset of America. Black people alone didn’t give him the ticket. As I mentioned, it was courtesy of millions of white folks. So why are some of the cynics in our midst still basing their argument on the Caucasian Americans who have clearly acted otherwise, by voting for Barack in dozens of American states this year?
Now, only God knows who would be elected to this most exalted of public offices later in the year. And it may not be Barack Obama.However, that may be due to american voters’ views & priorities vis a vis the way they perceive the candidates on various issues such as their take on the economy, health care,trust,foreign policy and so on. It could even be based on the votes of the ‘currently undecided’/independents out there. For me,& based on the occurrences I’ve observed in the exciting US political race this year, Mr Obama stands as much of a chance at victory as Senator John McCain, come November 4th.And to those who say colour would still be his downfall, I recommend you listen to Mr Marley’s Redemption Song once more.
Remember,you are as limited as your dream.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tales From Walter Carrington Crescent

Have you paid a visa-seeking visit to the American Consulate in Victoria Island,Lagos lately? Well, I have and it was an interesting experience. From the time I arrived the nearby Napex parking area about 6.30 that weekday morning, there was one thing or the other catching my attention almost every couple of minutes. Since I strangely forgot to come along with the pre-requisite passport photographs for my application form, I was referred, by some hustling young men, to a busy place by the lagoon where chaps with digital cameras were busy turning the place to makeshift studios by quickly snapping those in similar circumstances as me. It was funny seeing how one person held a white cloth behind the applicant (since pictures with a white background were compulsory requirements from the Embassy) while the photographer did the needful.After obtaining my overpriced passport-sized picture,i then stood in line till it was time to enter the US territory.While there,we were entertained by a newspaper vendor who joked that buying a paper was a key requirement for entering the building. He also mentioned that no sharing of newspapers was permitted at the Consulate(his comical ploy to get every interested person to buy his/her own copy).This guy with a great sense of humor pleaded that applicants should kindly not go in with any charms,as a simple prayer was a better option in their pursuit of the coveted seal. The other funny observation was the variety of services being rendered by the large number of hustlers outside the consulate building. There were even those who offered to hold your mobile phone for you (for a fee, of course) while one was inside conducting his/her affairs within, since the embassy strictly forbade all applicants from going in with them. This service comes in handy in cases where the impending traveler didn’t come along with a car and had no other choice. That said, and apart from the few people who tried to be typical ‘Nigerians’ by attempting to jump the queue, there wasn’t any other significant incident noticed while waiting.Oh,i actually forgot something else.A s we queued,i enviously watched most of the foreign staff get to work via speedboat/ferry.A smart way of beating the legendary island traffic.
While inside & seated, I noticed the young guy beside me was taking no chances in his quest and had even included pictures from his wedding day (an extra effort to show the Americans that he had important ties in Nigeria).Then there was this Ibo man with his wife and 2 kids who had told a security guard, with whom he had a little confrontation, that he wasn’t desperate to go to ‘God’s own Country’ and, as such, should be treated with respect.Therefore,I was understandly quite surprised to see his eyes water when the interviewer told him later that she couldn’t grant him the visa as she was unconvinced he and the family would return after their intended ‘visit’.
I did feel sorry for one of two tense siblings who were hoping for student visas. They each saw a different interviewer.Outcome: the girl was given, while the brother was denied. He stood motionless for close to a minute after the lady had informed him of her decision. I wondered what the mood in their home would be later in the day.Bittersweet, to say the least. I also easily recollect a fair-skinned young lady who was denied barely 30seconds into her interview.
As for me, my interaction with my blonde-haired male interviewer was brief as well. And luckily, it ended with a positive result: 2 years, multiple.
By the time I was driving away from Walter Carrington Crescent, it was just past noon. I was hungry and a bit tired.Nevertheless,like i earlier mentioned,I enjoyed the experience.
Obama Country,see you in the near future.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

D'Banj,An Eatery & A Raised Voice

As some of you may know,the artiste D’Banj struck a deal with UAC to exclusively release his music some months ago. The 'Mo Hits Compilation' CD was the first album to be released under the arrangement between both parties, as the disc was solely available at Mr. Biggs outlets in a bid to curb piracy of his hard work. As a big fan of the Kokomaster’s, I was eagerly anticipating the release of his much-hyped new release, ‘The Entertainer’. Since the official 2-part launch of this effort was just held this past weekend, I felt there was the likely possibility that copies would be available to buy at various locations of the popular eatery.So,on my home, I decided to quickly check at the Mr Biggs outlet near my home. Since I wasn’t certain that the CD would be available,i decided to save my time by asking the security guard at the entrance(while still in my car) to kindly help me find out if the album was being sold in-store. The nice chap returned about 30 seconds with the ‘good’ news of the item’s availability. So, innocently trying to take advantage of his helpful demeanour,I then asked if he could quickly help me purchase a copy. When he expectedly obliged, I handed him some money. He quickly returned with a CD and my change. As I was about to thank him and tell him to keep the remaining money for his pleasant attitude, I noticed that he had bought the 6-month old Mo Hits compilation album(which i already owned instead.
Understandly,I told him that wasn’t what I wanted and that he should help return it and bring back my dough.Surprisingly, he didn’t come back as quickly as the first time. About 4 minutes had passed and I was about to exit my car to find out why, when he suddenly returned with the same CD and change. He mentioned that the staff had refused to take back the CD because it had already being registered into the machine as a sale. When he saw my instant visual expression, he suggested that I come in to see the shop supervisor myself.I entered to see a petit lady who I quickly figured was the person in charge. When I expressed my displeasure, she told me the exact thing the security guard had relayed to me. According to her,it had already been registered and therefore, was ‘impossible’ to accept it back.’ See me see trouble o’,I said to myself.
For those who know me,I didn’t disappoint. I started to rake. What did she mean?Was it my fault that their security guard gave me wrong information? It wasn't as if i returned a day later with the item or something.I told her that registering the sale didn’t stop her from adjusting/reversing the transaction.Afterall,the item would be back in their custody and would therefore not affect any accounting records. As accountants would say, it(the CD)was still ‘stock-in-hand’ at the end of the day. This ‘Madam Tiny Manager’ still wasn’t budging. Well, neither was I.I then asked her what happened in cases where a cashier mistakenly overbilled a customer at the till. Would the client be told ‘Sorry, but the items have already being registered. So it’s your loss,sir’’?It was when she subtly insinuated that it was my fault for not coming in myself to make sure it was the actual copy i was buying that I erupted. By now, most people across the floor had noticed our back-and-forth display. A shameful situation in which the ‘king of a customer’ was being treated in a typically naija way by a company’s person of assigned authority.
I guess it was when I told her that I was ready to take this matter to the highest level at UAC if necessary that this 'lady in desperate need of customer care schooling' decided to have a change of heart (it could also have been because she noticed my vocal range was reaching an Opera tenor’s level).She asked me to hand over the CD and, seconds later, sent one of the till girls to hand me back my money. I must confess I was pleased that my tough stance had yielded fruit.However,I felt disappointed in what this episode showed about our customer service culture in this country. Or rather, lake thereof. So many times I have observed customers being treated by company staff as if they (the customers) were beggars or being given the product/service free of charge. Like I tell some friends, the main reason why this sad situation continues to thrive is because many accept it.On several occasions, I’ve seen staff of supermarkets, fast food joints etc practically raise their voices at customers. Yes, the ‘victims’ may have been annoying, illiterate or slow but since when did that give anyone the right to talk down on them or treat with disrespect?They are paying for the goods/service,arent they?People fail to remember that without clients’ patronage, there would be no revenue and logically, no salary or jobs available to this rude set of employees. While the complete eradication of this ‘customer care’ problem in our homeland may be a long time coming, the short term fix lies in our hands i.e. customers. The solution: Never accept crap from any of these people especially when you know you haven’t been treated properly or courteously. And please don’t relent. NEVER.
Afterall, you all saw how it paid off in my battle with the Mr. Biggs lady.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Time To Whistleblow

Let me start by acknowledging that I, quite realistically, expect a large number of guys to be mute after reading this piece. Some may be defensive, while others could act as if they don’t fall into the category of men i’m about to comment on. Without trying to beat about the bush, I’ll jump straight to the crux of the matter. Yours truly is referring to the shockingly high volume of men (whether black, white, gay, straight etc) who, as a normal habit, fail to rinse their hands after taking a leak. While I subconsciously always knew that many dudes failed to do the needful after easing themselves, it wasn’t till a female friend of mine joked about it months ago that I took notice of the magnitude of the situation. She told me that she stopped shaking guys’ hands a long while ago (especially in bars/clubs).This friend added that she preferred to hug a guy she barely knew than shake hands with him. When I, understandly, asked her to shed more light on this, she expressed it was because of the unhygienic practices of chaps in the Gents. As such, hugging was a better option for her. Even though we both laughed about her non-handshaking policy with the opposite sex,I thought about it a bit further after she left.
So,I decided to take a detailed note myself by randomly observing the habits of my fellow gentleman from thereon. Since then, I’ve observed the ways of chaps in places as diverse as my office bathroom, bars, hotels, training venues etc.Both home and abroad. Sadly, the feedback hasn’t been good. Even in public bathrooms where expensive handwash was flowing like it was going out of fashion, dudes haven’t been tempted.Inclusive of the rich,poor,educated,illiterate and enlightened.Even in places where there has been enough tap water flowing to drown 100 Goliaths, my guys would not budge. They simple go in, unzip, do the needful,shake the stuff,re-zip and walk right out the door in a routine so orchestrated, they would be world champions if the process was an Olympic event. Even in cases where they noticed me taking time out to wash mine,many just walked right past. Like I was an efico or something that had too much time on his hands. I must admit that some guys have a rethink and are ‘inspired’ to do the hygienic thing when they see my humble self doing as is proper.
Now,I obviously don’t know what happens in the female bathrooms but I hope(no, pray) to God that it’s nowhere near what occurs in ours. What actually baffles me is that it only takes about 20 seconds to take some liquid, rub hands together and then rinse (add another 10-15 seconds in places with functional hand dryers).My fellow & dear Gentlemen, this is not a case of ratting out because as I mentioned earlier, my female friend & many other women in our midst already know the ‘koko’ of what happens in our toilets. Or rather in this context,what sadly 'doesn’t happen’.
The ways things are going, I might have to adopt a ‘hugging only’ stance as well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The L Word

I probably hadn’t seen a black man sweat so profusely since Kunta Kinte in ‘Roots’. Although this chap wasn’t in such a dire situation as the aforementioned character, he was evidently tense. I noticed as I was driving to work along the slow-moving morning traffic on 3rd Mainland Bridge that I happened to be behind this male learner in a small Japanese car. Even though I had observed that the guy was driving a bit too indecisively for a typical lagos motorist, it wasn’t until his car’s engine went off that I decided to swerve out of this sluggish lane. As I drove past the gentleman, I noticed that he had someone with him in the front passenger seat who was voicing out instructions and encouragement in apparently equal measure.
Looking through my rearview mirror shortly after, I observed that other drivers behind this ‘troubled’ line had started changing lanes also when it became clear to them that the occupant in the Nissan was in anywhere but a hurry.
I then started to think of my own days as a learner, and putting into perspective the fact that everyone on the bridge was probably in a similar state at the start of their driving career. I recollected dreading to ever have the ‘L’ sign at the back of any vehicle I was commandeering, for nothing but male ego’s sake.
Actually, my own learning experience behind the wheels wasn’t derived through conventional means. I didn’t attend any driving school/s or take lessons from my dad’s driver, as was the case with many experts today.In my case, I practically schooled myself by the age-old method:trial and error. Yes, I had stolen a car from home before, but only to get instant payback for it by scratching the side door as I was driving of the house gate. As time went by, my driving skills expectedly got better and better(less life-threatening, rather).I know many guys/girls who started driving in their early teen years while there are those who still don’t have the ‘liver’ to dare take sole control of the ‘almighty’ automobile, especially in a crazy country for driving such as ours.(To give an example, as at a few years ago, reputable movie director Spike Lee, still couldn’t drive due to his phobia for it).
I do feel though, as many would agree,that driving in Naija (especially in our mad Eko) is far from easy and those who can do it flawlessly here can certainly handle the wheels in any other part of the globe. In fact, even in Mars.Abi there’s sand there?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Truly Prized Possession

Friday afternoon.My office.2nd floor.When it made contact with the tiled surface below,it seemed like i had just been stabbed.Even though i haven't experienced that before(thankfully),i'm sure it felt just as painful.So what was 'it'?My beloved Nokia E61i falling more than 20 feet with incredible force after it had accidentally slipped out of my pocket as i was re-clipping my ID card onto my jeans.As i rushed down to see what damage had just occurred,i was understandably worried about the consequence of the device's impact.Fortunately,most of the phone was assembled with some ease by fellow colleagues who had witnessed the 'horror'.Sadly though,the screen had broken and as such,i couldn't see anything on my screen.For those who know me well,that was close to a tragedy.What would happen to my frequent mobile browsing,mobile office application for my emails as well as my regular texting activity?And last but not least,i was unable to see any caller's ID/messages.
It wasn't until i was rescued from my dilemma about 24 hrs later,courtesy of the kind people at I-Cell:Nokia's official handset repairs/warranty centre,that i finally had peace of mind(My special thanks goes to their wonderful employee,Victoria,for understanding my 'visible' trauma & attending to my desperate situation even though they had closed by the time i got there).The time in between incident and repair had been nothing short of a terrible discomfort for me.I was just not myself,was restless and felt so inconvenienced.That's when i realised how attached i had become to my precious mobile phone.The 7k cost of a new LCD screen for my E61i was a small price to pay to have my 'life' back.Seriously.Also,it was much cheaper than buying a new smartphone.It's obvious,now more that ever to me,that mobile phones might have become a priceless part of our daily lives.After all,it seems like it's one of our closest friends since we are practically with it all the time.And it took friday's unfortunate event to show just how important this special tool has become to us.
Like the saying goes,'you don't know what you've got till it's gone.'Well,thankfully in this case,it was only a 24-hr absence.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Height Of Xenophobia

At first glance,the word 'Xenophobia' seems complex.However,it's definition is quite straight forward & easy to understand.'A fear or contempt of that which is foreign or unknown,especially of strangers or foreign people'.Many nigerians may easily remember our own 'Ghana Must Go' era in the 80s when our Ghanaian brothers were peacefully asked to return to their own country.Unfortunately,the situation in recent weeks has been anything but pleasant.The disturbing and largely fatal attacks on foreigners(mainly Zimbabweans)which emanated in the Gauteng townships of Johannesburg have been received with shock across the continent.Gruesome attacks on foreigners were reported in the mainly poor townships of the nation's commercial capital.As at today,over 40 people have been killed and there's further bad news of the violence spreading to other South African cities like Durban and Cape Town.The grouse by the unruly locals are that the foreigners are competing with them for the few available jobs & housing and are also responsible for the rising crime wave in their communities and cities.While actual proof of their claim may not be readily available,it's easy to understand why the suffering masses in the once racially divided nation are venting their frustrations,what with the hardship the country's predominantly black poor currently face.Nevertheless,the cruel and fatal attacks on their neighboring brothers can't in any way be justified or rationalised.
Even though President Mbeki has summoned the army to assist with quelling the escalating violence,there still seems to be,in the views of many observers,displeasure with the way the government has handled the crisis.On another note,many of our fellow Nigerians make up a significant amount of foreigners residing in the beautiful african country.Expectedly,the developments there have become a major cause of concern for their friends and relatives back home.I've heard that many nigerians there have taken refuge in churches,police stations and the Nigerian Embassy building.I sincerely hope the mayhem and riots end in the shortest possible time as no one with a conscience can be happy seeing the disturbing pictures & footage of fellow africans being beaten,raped & burnt alive.
Lastly,from the PR perspective,the situation could have a devastating impact on the country's booming tourism industry(67% of tourists in SA are africans) especially with the upcoming 2010 World Cup & the enormous economic benefits football-loving visitors would definitely bring to the nation.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The BA Controversy

Ladies & Gents,let me start by saying these are my personal views/thoughts on the recent British Airways controversy involving some nigerian passengers(and some other foreigners,i should add)in March.Well,i personally love flying BA...simply because i've alway had a pleasant experience each time i fly with them to and from the UK.And like the saying goes,'if it ain't broke,don't try to fix it'.That aside,Nigerians make me laugh.With all due respect to the passengers who were allegedly affected by the incident on that fateful day in March,why have nigerians not signed petitions for the appalling way they are treated(as customers) in banks,general & private hospitals,offices,govt agencies,state secretariats,ministries etc over here?How about the way bullion vans,military & policemen harass law-abiding citizens on a daily basis simply because they have guns/power?..what about the decay called Nepa(PHCN),the frightening crime rate,insecurity and other pathetic vices most nigerians face daily?..why has no one petitioned/protested against the Govt for treating it's citizens like this due to some greedy officials in office who have no conscience while in public office?..or is that not maltreatment,especially for tax-paying citizens who expect to receive certain basic things/a respectable standard of living.?Left to me,this BA incident is primarily a publicity stunt by some selfish twats who want their names/faces in the limelight.
We are really funny in this nation,i tell you.Instead of facing real issues,we are trying to feel important in the eyes of foreigners.This reminds me of the dumb petition some jobless passengers made against a foreign airline for spraying the plane(passengers included) with insectide before international flights leaving Nigeria.1.Didn't the passengers hear a prior announcement from d cabin crew that the spray wasn't harmful to passengers?2.Weren't the cabin crew also inside the plane to face the same spray?3.When else should one spray a plane leaving a mosquito-infested country except when all the plane's doors have been shut,as a prelude to the flight's departure?Some people are just plain jokers,indeed.Back to the BA flight,do most of us know the procedures that can be carried out by the flight captain/police when there are incidents or cases of disturbances onboard a flight that could have an impact on the flight's security/safety?How do we know that the nigerians on board didn't get unruly/aggressive(as many of us could tend to be)during their protest in support of the nigerian passenger who was the catalyst for the entire drama?I'm aware that many passengers of different nationalities have been ejected from flights hundreds of time across the globe e.g in cases where they were deemed as security risks,unruly,aggressive or a danger to other passengers etc.
P.S. As someone who believes in the rights & respect of a paying customer,i however believe that BA should indeed apologise for the inconvencience/disrespect some passengers alleged faced on the day in question.However,we should stop seeking cheap publicity primarily for the sake of self-importance/relevance.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Torture called Banking

It’s 9.45pm on a Wednesday. I had just gotten off the phone with a banker friend of mine. The conversation ended up lasting less than 15 seconds. No, the connection didn’t prematurely end. The brevity of the call was because the gentleman told me, in a hushed tone, that he couldn’t speak at the time. Simply because he was in the middle of a meeting in the office. In the background, I could hear some of his colleagues discussing work-related matters. I rechecked my watch, just to be sure what time it was. I hadn’t been wrong. It was 15 minutes to 10.And this chap was in the middle of a meeting at the office.Wow.I didn’t know whether to laugh or sympathize with him. I then thought about the likely possibility of him getting home around 11pm or later.The next thing that came to my mind was him reluctantly having to wake up a few hours later for another busy day. If you are currently in the banking industry, what you’ve just read might not sound like such a big deal as many of you are probably used to long hours being spent at the office.However,I wonder what most employees really feel about this ‘torture’ in the name of collecting a salary. From various interactions i’ve had with bankers, picking up your stuff to close at 5.30pm would draw serious stares from your colleagues & bosses alike. Like you were walking around the office naked. So my wonder is this: Why do most bankers work such lengthy hours? Some say it’s a way of avoiding the regular rush hour traffic in the evenings. Could it possibly be a bit of eye-service, as well? As in, to seem like such a committed workaholic in the eyes of your boss or superiors? Or is your bank/unit/department understaffed,thereby creating an enormous amount of workload for the available hands to handle? I had actually thought that with the capitalization exercise carried out by the CBN a few years ago, things in this area would improve. My angle being that there would be only about 25 banks in operation(as against the 80+ we had before) thereby reducing competition, and that the 25 would have vast amount of funds available at their disposal, thereby reducing the pressure experienced in the past with marketing,rivals,financing of required staff number requirements/remuneration costs etc.For married, female bankers, there’s also a negative impact lengthy work hours could have with the domestic requirements at home, especially when children are involved. So my dear people, what exactly makes it ‘unofficially’ necessary that most bank employees close late? As for my banker friend, I hope he gets spared the current torture he’s experiencing, though. I thought i heard only witches/wizards met late at night.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nothing Funny About It....

I believe that a major reason why customers, of anything from a restaurant to a concert, are constantly treated shabbily in this country is because we (the customers) always accept it. If one treats a client like crap and gets away with it, chances are that there would always be a repetition. When I say ‘shabbily’, I’m referring to stuff like long delays for shows to start (aka African Time), rudeness and general disrespect for the customer in this country. One of the chief culprits of this type of behaviour are concert/show organizers. Although there are so many instances to serve as evidence to back up my assertion, I’ve decided to use an event that occurred a few weeks ago. The venue was the almost-overstretched Muson Centre, Onikan. The event: Comedian AY’s show. First of all, if a show was meant to start at 5pm, then why in the Lord’s name can’t it start at the pledged time? I so would like an answer. Maybe I’m very strange for expecting it to?It actually sickens me.
I gather that after the 'usual' situation of delaying guests outside the venue for a few hours, the show finally got underway (after a mad stampede as people struggled to get into the hall). It soon became clearly apparent to everyone that the show’s organizers had sold tickets almost twice the amount of seats at the renowned events venue. Why? Well, as that’s definitely a rhetorical question, I wouldn’t hold my breath for an answer. As the greedy/inept organizers realised that there was bound to be a major ‘seating’ headache which might not go down too well with guests (as N5k had been prepaid by the attendees), they decided to take a shockingly drastic, but low, step. As many guests(being typical Nigerians) had obeyed the unwritten ‘African Time’ rule and arrived late, this unlucky batch were told to wait for hours as there would now be,spontaneously,2 shows instead. Some of you may ask this good question: Were the scheduled performances by D’Banj,P-Square etc to happen twice for the two batches of guests?Answer:HELL NO.I guess the only way that was going to happen was if the show’s coordinators were ready to double the appearance fees to be paid the KokoMaster & other artistes. So what did the sharp events people do? They got P-Square to perform for the 1st batch of early-arrivers and saved D-Banj for the late-comers waiting for over 2 hours outside (2nd show). As for the ‘jokes’ department, they got about 3 up-coming acts to perform briefly for the latter show. A friend’s sister who had bought a VIP ticket had to share a seat with another friend as there was no space for her to seat during the first show. The passageways that were to enable guests/food & drinks sellers to move freely was fully taken over by newly arranged seats & previously stranded people.(The exact thing that happened at last Xmas’ Rhythm Unplugged in Lagos).As such, many guests couldn’t get something to drink and/or eat. Similar dilemma faced by those who wanted to make use of the restroom. One look at the difficulty of making it to and from the bathroom, and most realised it was smarter to hold their bowels. After all the terrible experiences endured by those who attended this ‘disaster of a show’, nobody prostested to the organizers. They seemed to just accept it,as if it was a free show they were privileged to attend. Why didn’t people in the 1st batch ask ‘Where’s D-Banj?'.Afterall, that was partly what the N5K was meant to cover, right? How about those who did ‘sufferhead’ waiting for the 2nd show to start at 9pm? Didn’t any of them demand for P-Square, as the Show’s adverts promised? Or feel belittled for being kept standing outside for so long? Oppression seems truly a thing of the mind, guys.
Given the evidently ‘passive’ behaviour of those who were cheated/maltreated that crazy Sunday, I’m quite confident we’ll see a repeat at next year’s edition. I won’t be there to experience it, though. That’s for sure.

Monday, March 17, 2008

All Suffering...

Let me guess.When you hear the word suffering,you immediately think of impoverished children in a wartorn zone,haggard-looking beggars on city streets or prisoners of war being constantly tortured by their captors.Right?Well,if that's your perspective on what the word means or refers to,you may be wrong.
Now,let me briefly explain what the catalyst for this was.I was at a get-together recently and as usual,the group at the occasion started to discuss the state of things in our dear naija.Armed robbers,electricity,corruption and so on.Then someone talked about the suffering being inflicted on the poverty-stricken masses.At this point,one guy responded that we are all suffering.Yes,all of us.Including those who live in expensive apartments,drive nice cars and have very good paying jobs.And i agree.
According to him,waking up for at 4.30am on weekdays because of one's fear of entering the usual,crazy traffic is suffering.Same with putting off one's generator at midnight(despite no available light from PHCN) and sleeping in that condition is suffering.You get the drift,guys.The commonly held view is that suffering is only synonymous with poverty.However,that's not true.So the simple way to figure out which of the two gentlemen at the party was correct is this:To see what the English Dictionary defines suffering as.The definition goes thus:''To undergo or sustain something painful,injurious or unpleasant''.As we know,being in traffic for 4 hours a day is unpleasant.Going to watch a football match at an uncomfortable,overcrowded joint because of problems with your overworked 'back-up' Generator is not pleasant.Being robbed of your valuables once or twice a month in traffic,while on one's way home,is unpleasant & painful(in some cases,injurious also).Based on this,it's clear we are all suffering.Whether we like to admit or not.It's not just those we see begging half-naked on our streets,people.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mayhem at 25,000 feet

Ladies & Gentlemen, please picture this scenario: You are an expatriate staff working for one of Nigeria’s biggest, multinational banks. Since your bank has a presence in West Africa, you are to visit your company’s operational office in Cameroun.You book a flight via one of Nigeria’s indigenous airlines whose name rhymes with ‘cell-due’. You board the plane for the 90-minute flight to Douala.Although this airline has had one tragic incident in the not-so-distant past, you are relaxed as you have many years of experience flying.Now,take-off goes smoothly and the airliner is almost at cruising altitude.Then,30 minutes into the flight the aircraft starts to shake aggressively. This continues for far too long to seem like ordinary turbulence. Then you hear the captain’s voice. The plane is experiencing some major problems along its route. Consequently, according to the pilot, they would have to attempt an emergency landing: On WATER!!! As the pilot is rounding up his distressing message to the passengers, the much-dreaded oxygen masks automatically disengage & drop down in front of everyone’s seat.Expectedly,pandemonium ensues.Screams,panic,crying,begging,the name ‘Jesus’ being called out by Christians and pagans alike, like it was going to be permanently banned from everyone’s lips the next day. As an experienced traveller of many, many years you are not as worried as everyone else seems to be. At least till what happens next. The flight attendants join in: Screaming, crying, running, begging & jumping up and down in panic like they had been electrocuted with a 1,000 volts of electricity. One female attendant is shouting out the Lord’s name, asking no one in particular ‘Why?’, “Why did I take this job?’’HEEELLLLPPP…Oh God’. At this point, you almost pee in your pants. Who can blame you? If the trained/experienced cabin crew have all visibly given up hope, who are you not to? Your end is tragically near, you think. You wait, in silent prayer, despite the almost deafening screams resonating around you. Seeming louder than that from a football stadium’s crowd after a last-minute winning goal in a World Cup Final.However,as it wasn’t yet the destined end-time for all on board, the pilots are able to avoid the imminent crash-landing by miraculously controlling the 737 and making an air-return back to Murtala Muhammed Airport. You’ve never being happier to land at the nation’s busiest airport in your life, albeit unplanned.
People, all you’ve just read was a true story. This happened about 5 weeks again. The experience was relayed by the expatriate himself. A day he’ll obviously never forget.
For me, I remember a Virgin Atlantic flight I took from Heathrow to Lagos about 6 years ago. Before we took off, the pilot had told us that it was expected to be a bumpy ride when cruising through european airspace, due to the bad pre-take off weather reports they had received in the flight deck. During the flight, we went through terrible and seemingly endless turbulence. Quite disturbing that the worried lady in front of me kept turning back to ask me what was going on with all the bumpiness. As if I was on the phone with the flight’s captain. As for me, what kept me composed during the 15-minute long turbulence was the visible composure the flight crew showed throughout.They kept serving food and drinks, with an accompanying warm smile, as if they was absolutely nothing for anyone to be worried about.That made me relax and feel that we were in no danger whatsoever (whether true or not).So if I was on this aforementioned flight to Douala and had seen the cabin crew doing all the theatrics, I might have done the ‘no. 2’ in seconds.Thankfully,all passengers were safe and sound.And,as you’ll expect, the expatriate changed his choice of airline for his 2nd attempt to Cameroun. Wouldn’t you have?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Time For Some Action

So the long-awaited verdict has finally come.According to the Presidential elections petition tribunal,Gen. Buhari(rtd) & Atiku had no substantial evidence to support their arguments against President Yar'adua's controversial election.As such,their petitions were flung out by the 4-member panel of judges.While the argument over whether our dear leader actually won the April 06 contest can linger on for years,one thing seems apparent to many.That is,the president had not made significant headway in the journey of transforming our country positively due to his concern about the goings-on at the tribunal.Some argue that since he wasn't 100% sure of his fate,he understandably wasn't as committed on the job.This could also have been a similar worry for his cabinet as well.
Well,if that's the case,i hope he can now get down to real & undistracted action as a result of yesterday's calming verdict.Action on crime,electricity,corruption,healthcare,the economy and so on.Basically,positive leadership by example.These are the things that matter most to a vast majority of citizens.Even though he may not have received their votes last spring,he owes us all sound,purposeful and transparent leadership.To be honest,if the tribunal had overturned the president's election,that would have had a significantly negative impact on the country in general and caused ripple effects in practically every aspect of our human life.
Come May,Mr. President would have spent a year in office already.Yes,time flies.But for the millions of impoverished nigerians out there,it's as slow as a snail.Same with his impact on the nation thus far.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hard,But Not Impossible

The list is seemingly endless. Amy Whinehouse, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, River Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Anna Nicole Smith,James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger and so on. I’m referring to the names of young celebrities who seem to have succumbed to the pressure of fame and fortune. Those who have been linked with various forms of addiction like drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs and generally controversial lifestyles.To be honest, one knows that it’s extremely hard to stay normal when one becomes a rich celebrity.One who has people constantly screaming and taking pictures at the mere sight of you. Let’s not forget all the glitz, glamour, partying, vanity, women, men that comes with the occupation. Till one is faced with such circumstances, it’s tough to categorically say we won’t fall under the same spell and addiction.However, there are many more in showbiz who have not let themselves get caught up with such negativity. An example that regularly comes to my mind is actor/rapper Will Smith. Despite years of success in the both the music & movie industry, along with a $20m a film paycheck, the 39-year old father from Philly has refused to have himself linked with any negative story or scandal. Happily married to fellow actress Jada Pinkett Smith, the ‘Fresh Prince’ has ensured that his private business stayed private and has also impressively abstained from circumstances/temptations that can lead a celebrity to ruins via scandals,drugs, alcohol & prescription drug addictions. As I say in casual conversations I have with people about young Hollywood and its scandals, if a movie star knows that going to a paparazzi-laden popular club in Beverly Hills would lead to several ‘unflattering’ pictures/reports all over the global press the next day, then simply do not go there. Same with patronising drug & groupie-infested hang-outs.That simple.If you choose to, then expect the good & bad things associated with it.
Parents of these young stars also have a key & moral role to play in their children’s lives, especially in their public conduct .However, it seems most are engrossed in their offspring’s wealth and as such lose focus in handling their parenting obligations (some probably out of fear of being sidelined financially by the family’s golden egg).
My biggest worry with people like Britney, Lindsay and Amy is that all this crazy behaviour they’ve become accustomed to could lead to tragic conclusions. By then, it would have been too late (sadly) for those concerned to do anything about it. The fatal consequences that befell the promising, 24-year old James Dean in the 50s and River Phoenix (aged 23) is an unfortunate reminder of how things could potential go if young, enormously talented actors and musicians fail to get an urgent grip(with the help of family & 'true' friends,of course).
Will, how about giving some private tutorials/tips to your peers?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Joker-In-Chief

The current U.S. presidential nomination race has generated an unprecedented amount of interest from millions across the world. While the objective is to select the two individuals who would slug it out in the battle to become America’s 44th president come November, this year's event is significantly different. Admittedly,although the fact that an african-american and a female are involved in this contest adds to the fascination, there’s a major reason why people across the globe have been glued to the exciting developments, and a record volume of americans are casting their votes in the on-going primaries. That reason is a man from Texas called George W.Bush,the current occupier of the White House, whom many can’t wait to see leave office next January. America doesn’t seem to have endured tougher times in recent memory. The economy’s almost in a recession, the enormous respect they received from the international community for many years has plummeted to almost rock-bottom levels and they are involved in an unnecessary,expensive & casualty-ridden war in Iraq. Defense analysts estimate the Iraqi occupation to cost the U.S. government about $200,000 per minute. That’s every 60 seconds, folks. Astonishing.
President Bush’s previously impressive approval ratings plunged to about 24% late last year, an all-time low since Nixon’s tenure. Americans are fed up of the mess they’ve endured in the last 7 yrs under the Texas native's leadership. Foreigners are also eager for his departure. His administration has made far more enemies than friends, both home and abroad.
As such, it seems the primary reason for the huge voter turnout experienced since the current nomination process began is this: Many americans feel that their non-chalance/abstinence during the last elections in 2004 gave Bush a victory that they clearly see, with hindsight, was a disaster for their country in almost all aspects .Be it the Economy, international PR, war commitments, Healthcare and so on. A total failure. They also nostalgically remember the impressive legacy of George W. Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton. A presidency where peace reigned, America was loved,respected and 10 million jobs were created in the 8-year reign of the charismatic, Oxford-schooled man from Arkansas. Therefore, American citizens have decided not to let those dark days resurface again by getting actively involved in determining a successor who’ll rescue them from their existing Hell.
One thing’s for sure after next January’s swearing-in-ceremony for Bush’s successor. No matter who wins, everyone would be happy. The Joker from Texas would have been confined to history.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I Had No Right

The extremely deep & talented hip-hop/soul duo PM Dawn,popularly known for tracks like ‘I’d Die without You’ and ‘Looking through Patient Eyes’ is the catalyst for this particular piece. As a big fan of theirs, i expectedly happen to like most of their music. One particular song that really does it for me is the incredibly honest (& melodic) song ’I Had No Right’, a beautiful written composition that has the large lead-singer, Prince Be, apologising to his kid for bringing him to this world ‘Knowing what he knows, feeling the way he feels, being so confused…’.Now, while his thoughts in the song seemed directed at global affairs or his shortcomings as a father, I couldn’t help but look at it from a singular perspective. From the angle of a mother directing similar comments/regrets to her infant. As in, from her knowledge of what the world is tragically like today. I guess it could go a bit like this:
I had no right bringing you here…to a world of suffering
….to a world of blatant corruption
…to a world of prejudice and outright racism
…to a world of people blowing themselves up and taking innocent people along with them
….to a world where,sadly,hard work doesn’t always pay
…to a world of treachery, betrayal, wickedness
...to a world where people have short memories and quickly forget where they came from
...to a world where most things don’t work as they should
...to a world where an unelected president can ‘win’ an election and lead 100 million people who don’t seem to care/mind
…to a world where people can be passive to the mess in government despite its obvious impact in every aspect of their own live
...to a world where people would use you, lie to you, cheat you and desert you when things are rough
...to a world where people practically worship worldly items and valuable possessions
...to a world where people would always let you down
...to a world where half of your so-called friends could actually be enemies
…to a world of perpetual eye-service in every aspect of our daily lives .
...to a world where people who are meant to protect us are paid peanuts like they don’t matter.
…to a world where 1 + 1 doesn’t always give you 2
…to a world where some would read this and not think about it for more 2 seconds, despite its honesty.
Personally,I feel the main message parents should tell their kids, i.e. when they reach the mental stage of understanding, is that it’s a cruel world they’ve come into. And that’s it’s anything but a Bed of Roses (No need beating around the bush, people).
PM Dawn’s 1988 album title adequately summarized Prince Be’s similar regrets with a direct message to his young son, Christian. It simply says ‘Dearest Christian, I’m so very sorry for bringing you here.Love,Dad’…Many people probably are as well, Prince Be.

Monday, February 4, 2008

To Those....

It’s really tough being good,kind or morally upright these days. There’s so much hardship,many personal difficulties & an overwhelming temptation to do wrong that one almost understands when people falter. It’s simply based on the aforementioned that I’ve decided to dedicate this piece to people who I feel deserve some recognition. Although they are not famous or influential individuals, they are worthy of being appreciated for the things they’ve done and for what some of them, respectably, haven’t done. So here goes my personal appreciation:
1.To those ladies at the Modupe Cole Memorial Home for the Disabled & Mentally Challenged in Yaba.I constantly think of the day I paid a visit there last year. I could only last for about 45mins.However,most of these female workers have worked with the home's inhabitants for as long as 15 years.15 years of washing their clothes,cooking,cleaning up their mess, playing with them and consistently being there for these unfortunate children who are, quite honestly, difficult to look at. Many of us don’t even feel comfortable letting them touch us. That is a job many wouldn’t even do for $200,000 dollars a year. The Modupe Cole staff are a true gift to humanity.
2.To those young men and women who sell recharge cards & hawk goods in traffic each day. In the burning heat of Lagos, these desperate individuals would rather hustle through life legimately, instead of resort to crime like many have done as a quick fix for their hardship. I can’t imagine how it must feel selling plantain chips, credit, rat poison etc on the road for several hours each day. All the more difficult as they try to market these goods to men and women sitting comfortably in their air-conditioned flashy cars, while they themselves are almost boiling & fagged out from all the trekking. How many items do they successfully sell each day, after all that input? I must confess, that is commendable indeed.
3.Lastly, to those 3 nigerian strangers who helped me out when I had some car trouble many years ago. They worked for 2 hours trying to get the car to start, like their life depended on it.Shockingly, they refused to accept one kobo from me, despite my persistent offer. To the extent I thought they could be dubious people who had planned for their 'hidden' cohorts to waylay me shortly after the car would stop a few minutes later. It was too good to be true.With every attempt i made to convince them,they simply said ‘Don’t worry sir. We are okay’. Up till this minute,I can’t understand why they refused to take my money as a show of gratitude for their hardwork.In this country where nothing goes for nothing,even in some friendships.
To these people and everyone else who regularly does the right thing , I say a huge thank you. Your reward is definitely coming someday.Definitely.
In closing, my main prayer is that we are blessed with many more people like them in our society. Please answer me, dear Lord.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Condemned to History

I was tempted to buy it. After staring at it for about 2 minutes, it brought about a nostalgic feeling that i still can't accurately describe. Those were the days. So what was I staring at with such mental concentration? A picture. Let me rephrase: A classic picture. I was at the Silverbird Galleria during the holidays when I came across an exhibition of reputable photographer Sunmi Smart-Cole’s valuable work from the last 3 decades.Now, there were many fascinating & eye-catching pictures on display that day (including one with OBJ & Pope John Paul II both sitting across a table,wittily titled: CONFESSIONS).However, the framed picture that truly captivated me was the one named ‘War Against Indiscipline’. It was an aerial shot showing about 100 lagosians impressively queuing up for a commercial bus in 1984.The line was so organized that one would have easily assumed the nigerians on it were professional queuers (if there’s such a word).If that isn’t nostalgic for you, then I seriously doubt anything can be. I practically had goose-bumps looking at it.1984.The time when President Buhari, along with the admirable late Brig.Gen Idiagbon, had come close to ensuring we, Nigerians, were disciplined in most aspect of our public lives.
I clearly remember watching the network news on NTA those days (involuntarily, I must add, as a lack of cable TV limited everyone’s viewing choices).I would always laugh at video footage of civil servants being forced, by their superiors, to frog-jump for coming to work late. Thoughts of the humiliation the offenders’ kids would go through, in the hands of fellow students at school the next day, stayed perpetuated in my head each time. Things were organised then. One pissed or threw rubbish on the road at their own risk etc.Well, 24 years later that is ancient history now. In fact, many youths today never experienced ‘those days’ when there was some degree of sanity in our public behaviorial patterns. Today, indiscipline is practically embedded in our DNA.Almost as inseparable as a hen and her young. The first instinct of most of us in a place that involves a lengthy queue is to see how he/she can bribe his or her way to the front. We (including my humble self) are all guilty of this. Easy examples are at times of fuel scarcity, visa quests at the embassies or entry into a show/concert.In a way, economics has a key role to play in this continued decay. My point is this: the security guard who,say in the embassy, is supposed to ensure orderliness is hungry and earns peanuts.Expectedly, he’s ready to enable anyone beat the lengthy line or large crowd, as one as he/she can part away with 100 bucks. Same mindset with the fuel attendants & filling station chaps during times of fuel shortages. If you are not ready(or able) to part away with something, one would languish for hours in the queue.Another simple reason for the apparent extinction of discipline is because our leaders have failed to lead by example.
As I stared at Mr. Cole’s incredibly captured shot of history that sunday afternoon, I wondered if we could ever get back to the type of discipline that was visually evident in that bus stop.Actually, I still wonder.Sadly, the response can come from portions of the biblical saying: ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for…..’.
You fill in the blank.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nollywood,Please Wake

$250 million a year. That’s the current value of the Nigerian movie industry, popularly referred to as Nollywood.Apparently, about 30 new movies are supplied to marketers each week. The industry is the 3rd largest in the world i.e. by volume of releases, led only by Hollywood & the Indian industry called Bollywood.The alleged story behind the origin of Nollywood is so basic that it’s actually quite funny. A Businessman from the eastern parts of Nigeria had thousands of videotapes to dispose of in the early 90s.So he, in conjunction with an aspiring director, decided to use a camcorder to shoot a film, making use of the empty tapes for mass duplication of the finished work. Did I hear you say ‘What???’.I relate with your surprise as to its genesis.
Anyway, are you a huge fan of Nigerian movies (sorry, Nigerian RECORDINGS)? I know many nigerians abroad watch them frequently(probably for the nostalgic feeling, since they are far from home) Househelps & hairdressers also make up a significant portion of the fanbase who consistently patronize the industry’s work. In terms of gender, women are the overwhelming sex regularly drawn to naija movies. I actually wonder why. I guess it’s because our dear ladies are anatomically drawn to stories of relationships, vengeance, deceit & treachery. Am I correct, sisters?
For me ,this is the primary reason I’ll stay glued to a naija film for 2 hrs:To laugh my head off at practically everything that unfolds before my very eyes(or if Genevieve's starring in it,of course).99% of Nollywood products never cease to amaze/amuse me. As an example to buttress a point, in the smash romantic drama Pretty Woman, Richard Gere’s character was meant to be a multi—millionaire. We believed because he looked & seemed like one while playing the role. The multi-millionaire in our own movies looks like an ‘Oga’ mechanic who had a good shower. The clothes & their mannerisms show anything but one with a lot of cash in his bank accounts. They’ll then be stupidly talking on the phone about taking their private jet to Abuja for an emergency meeting with the President and so on.Lol.Yeah, right.Which President? Of the Onitsha spare parts market union or what? How about the gangsters in naija movies? Are all nigerian mobsters big fans of colour riots? Green suits with red shirts & brown trousers combined.Aah!!Even Stevie Wonder go shout. The producers and directors can’t even get the simple things right. Must every scene of 2 people eating require them to use forks & knives to eat,or to drink orange juice? Also, you see a camera shot of the guy with half a glass of juice.Then the shot goes to the lady he’s with. When the shot returns to the gentleman 2 seconds after, his glass is full to the brim. When dem pour am? Who pour am? Spirit? As for the scripts, I honestly wonder if it’s primary school children that supply them with their screenplays. Someone shoots another person and the victim shouts out ’Aaaah.You shot Me’. No oh, he didn’t shoot you. He kissed you. For being such a mumu, maybe you deserved the gunshot in the first place. One more thing, guys: The Party Scenes e.g. an Owambe.Dear directors, the fact that the scene cost N100, 000 to shoot doesn’t mean that you show it for half the movie. No wonder many of our films have part 4s.After we have unnecessarily seen people drinking, dancing & spraying money for half an hour.Gosh.Abeg,Nollywood no kill me with laughter oh.
To be fair,a couple of good movies have been made i.e. with overall quality in practically all areas of production, but the vast majority of them are an absolute joke. I heard a Nollywood star recently say in an interview that she strongly believes that many nigerian actors here would soon be nominated for Oscars a la the british & australians. Wait a minute. The same acclaimed Academy Awards in America? Or do they now have Oscars in Enugu or something?
All I have to say about that hilarious comment is this:'She put jazz for mouth?’.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tipping with Care

Are you one of those who tips on the regular? As in, no matter what. Even if the person you were tipping didn’t deserve it. Actually, I know there are some who fall within this ‘constantly benevolent’ category. Sorry to make you feel used, but some of you have actually just been guilty of the western bug.Now, this may not necessarily be a bad thing but there are certain things you need to consider before you go doling out money to every single person who served you anywhere. This piece was in a way inspired by a chat I had with a friend recently. She seemed to feel that tipping was compulsory. As you may guess, I strongly disagree.Yes,in practically all Western Hotels, for example, you are sort of obliged to give the concierge something for carrying your suitcase & settling you into your classy hotel room. I guess that’s their culture.
Nonetheless, on the general/home perspective (with the knowledge of what the entire tipping concept was created for), it should only be given if you feel it is/was deserved. End of story. True, we know there are some exceptions like in a situation where your bar bill was N3, 470.You probably wouldn’t be waiting for your N30 change if you had given the waiter N3, 500.However, if you had received shabby or non-chalant treatment from the service person in a restaurant, why in the world would you dash them N100 or N200? To seem cool or western? The joke’s on you, in that case. In other words, you’ve just endorsed the chap/lady’s bad behaviour or poor customer service skills. And that only encourages them to maintain Status Quo, since they see that their attitude hasn’t stopped their tips from coming.Also,please note that in many of the standard bars/restaurants here, a 10% service charge is a compulsory addition to the cost of items you consumed: Even though the service wasn’t all that or was even poor. So by dashing out money again, you have basically being used twice. Fact of the matter. For me, if you treated me poorly during my stay at your joint, I would expect my exact change(except it’s like N10 outstanding or something).No be me get am?One of the main reasons for this is to indirectly let the waiter/attendant know that they were dismal and consequently wouldn’t receive a tip from me. That simple. And me not dashing anything doesn’t mean I can’t, but should be interpreted to mean I wouldn’t, for apparent reasons.If,on the other hand, I had been dazzled or pampered, I would gladly give out a sizeable amount of change for the staff’s effort.
This topic reminds me of a story I heard from someone who, in New York, had called a cab to take her mum & her to JFK from their Manhattan hotel. This taxi driver passively watched them, as they had carried their 3 heavy suitcases, on their own, into the trunk. At the airport, the mum was asking the daughter why she hadn’t tipped the driver anything extra for the services rendered. She said the fierce look she gave her mum was an appropriate,non-verbal response.
I really doubt it was as stern as mine when she relayed that tale.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Devil Or The Deep Blue Sea

Guys, what I’m about to ask would be quite difficult to answer. Some would try, but would fail. Some would argue for and against. This question, to be honest, requires incredible analytical ability. In fact, an argument over the question can go on for weeks. No exaggeration.Weeks.So without any further ado, this is what I want to know:Who are more irritating:Commercial Bus Drivers or Okada Riders? Told you it would be tough. Reminds you of the dreadful subject known as Further Maths from your secondary school days,right?Well,to ease the task of knowing the correct answer,I’ll try and give a little synopsis of both of these Kolomental creatures. The Okada Rider: In Naija, anyone can assume this suicidal role. As long as you are old enough to pedal. Although they tend to come from a particular part of the country (I won’t mention where, in the spirit of political correctness) they seem destined to irritate the hell out of motorists. They love to take one-way, consistently ride recklessly, have no regard for traffic lights unless it’s a place with a lot of cops/Lastma officials & are partners-in-crime when it comes to aiding criminals who rob motorists in traffic. To describe them in a simple, one-word summary: STUPID.Or in two words: STUPIDLY STUPID. Make the mistake of hitting one of them(which is actually one of my personal fantasies) & you’ll be amazed by the speed it takes for over 50 other Okadas to hit the scene in solidarity with the mumu(whether it was their colleague’s fault or not)Sometimes, I think they are from another galaxy & we earthlings just don’t know it yet. Sincerely.
Now, to the second set of Aliens. Commercial Bus Drivers: Show me 3 commercial buses in Lagos with working trafficator lights and I promise you 5 of my fingers. Or 100k.Actually, I’ll give you both. That’s how confident I am about the absence of the aforementioned item on their vehicles. The way then abruptly swerve, to pick up or drop passengers, while in front of you would make you certain that you were a victim of Punked (Nigerian Edition).Like someone is trying to make you as pissed as terrorists are with President Bush. And why do they love one-way so much, even if the correct lane/route is free? The moment they see 5 seconds of traffic, they immediately veer out of lane to climb on the curvette or pedestrian path in continuation of their journey.Like everyone else on the road is not in a hurry,abi?Now,this is a serious question: Is there any evidence of a bus conductor ever falling off a bus while routinely hanging out of it?Miraculously,I haven’t heard of such a consequence.
Well, as for me, this is my own answer to the mind-buggling question: It’s a photo-finish. They are both so annoying, disobedient & dumb in seemingly equal measure that it’s almost impossible to separate the two. That, in itself, is scary.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Love Them To Death

They are tiny,cuddly,cute,mostly playful,innocent and naive.Their lives are also quite straight forward.They cry when hungry or hurt.They spontaneously smile when one makes funny faces at them.They wrap their fingers around your finger once you place yours between theirs(99% guaranteed).They could also be erratic:i.e they could let you down by crying just five minutes after having being so receptive to your company.They are a gift from the Almighty who change the way their parents view life drastically.Unless you need some major help,i'm sure you've easily figured out who i'm refering to already(especially with the pictorial hint).Babies:those incredible little ones that most of us adore.The wonderful beings who are ignorant of the goings-on around the world.Oblivious of all the hustling,economics,joy,pain,hardship,treachery,hypocrisy,global affairs etc that grown-ups experience.All they know are how to cry when hungry or soiled down below,laugh when one makes silly faces and get carried about 80% of the time.
For me,what's really interesting about babies is the way they grow up to become young boys and girls.They would physically develop to be ladies who would one day wear make-up and be toasted by other guys.Grow to be guys who would probably steal the family car in their teenage years,come back late on fridays & possibly cause their parents some worry in the future,one way or the other.Don't you just wish babies stayed the adorable way & size they are?Strangely enough,i know some(though few)people who aren't crazy about kids.How in the world not?Things almost always change when they have babies of their own,though.That's quite certain.For those who have them,i'm sure the feeling is indescribable.For those yet to,we would all be blessed with as many as we desire some day,by the Lord's Grace.
As for me,i've always loved them for as far back as i can remember.How much?Frankly speaking,'...to death'.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tempted To Touch

To all readers who happen to be bankers or ex-bankers, how many of you have ever been tempted to steal from your bank? Before you rush and say ‘Never’, think of all that crazy amount of raw cash you guys see on a daily basis. Particularly those of you who work (or worked) in the banking halls. No temptation, whatsoever? I honestly doubt that none of you had any. What about those who had the ‘slightly degrading’ role of riding in those crazy bullion vans with policemen to transport millions of naira on a daily basis?
Well,the temptation was a bit too much for a cash officer, driver & 3 cops who were attached to a new generation bank recently. The crew, who were to move the sum of N37m from the Akoka branch to the bank’s head office in VI decided to disappear into thin air with the impressive sum. What a simple heist to pull off, right? If shared equally amongst the greedy 5, that’s over N7 million per criminal.Anyway,the dubious cash officer later called the bank to say that their convoy had been intercepted by armed robbers who stole the entire amount from them. This unwise move was what led to his arrest somewhere in Ajah, as the origin of the cellphone call was traced. A Manager in the bank was also arrested by the police and they are both currently assisting the men in black(with some torture,of course) with their investigations in the much dreaded State CID at Panti,Yaba.So,for the umpteenth time, our devoted men of the Nigeria Police Force have received further bad publicity.
As for banks, how can the risk of a re-occurrence be avoided in the future? Do they get police to escort the police escorting the cash-filled bullion vans?Lol.Or do you fit all bullion vans with tracking devices that at least help to show every single movement of the vehicle? For the bank staff who have connived to steal, with or without the help of cops, I feel your pain. It’s like locking a kid up in a candy store & asking him not to touch anything. That requires serious willpower.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Power of Power

Just when you think there's nothing else that can shock you in this our beloved Nigeria,something else springs up like it was straight out of a Stephen King thriller.I just finished reading this extremely silly,but 'sad' story.Mrs.Kemi Alao-Akala,wife of the Oyo state Governor, had gone to the Murtala Muhammed Airport yesterday en route to Abuja.At some point,while she was in the VIP lounge,the sum of N56k was stolen from the first lady's bag.Do you know that the security officials attached to her/the airport turned the entire building upside down in search of this 'tremendous' amount of money?In fact,the stern-faced men even asked the airport authorities to provide the last 2 days of CCTV footage,in their devoted quest to find the culprit.2 days!!!!That's 48hrs worth of recording,guys.Are some of us stupid or what?Were they expecting to find evidence of the petty thief camped in the airport lounge since saturday evening or something?With all due respect,while N56,000 isn't exactly chicken change,i doubt many would have gone through 2 days of vigil in a 'secure' location like an airport's VIP lounge just to steal that.Honestly,i think there are some aliens amongst us in this country.Was it all part of the usual sycophancy that made the SS dudes scatter the airport i.e trying to impress the woman or to appear as hard-working?If it was say an assasination attempt on a VIP/top government official,i can swear they would be the first to duck for cover,probably under the nearest stool or table they could find.As at press time,the money was,'shockingly',yet to be found.
Please lord,help our citizens to get serious.Seriously.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I Need Nostradamus

Can it happen? The exciting signs are there. Has God decided that it’s time? Time for a coloured man to have a chance at the cunningly named ‘White House’.Senator Barack Obama,the black presidential candidate from the state of Illinois is causing a bit of a buzz in the U.S right now especially after his remarkable victory in the Iowa primaries. A state that’s 90% white,population-wise.His main rival & previously assumed Democratic Party nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton is worried, to the extent that she’s started lashing out desperately at Obama as being an inexperienced politician who talks a good talk without much substance attached.
The irony of it all is that Barack Obama reminds many Americans (particularly the youths) of Sen. Clinton’s extremely popular spouse back in the day: a young, energetic, brilliant & visually appealing candidate who preaches change & hope. The only & significant difference is Osama’s colour.Are Americans ready to put that aside for the sake of a new beginning? Many cynics (including myself, I must confess) may say no. Not in a hundred years. However, stranger things had happened in the history of mankind. The latest polls from New Hampshire (venue of the next round of primaries) show Obama with an 11% lead over Bill Clinton’s wife.Hugely influential Oprah Winfrey is solidly behind the Harvard/Columbia University alumni and that, we know, is valuable.Yes, Hillary’s campaign team has a larger purse & are possibly better organized, but where was all that when she lost to Obama in Iowa last week?
I read that fire marshals had to be called in to prevent a stampede at the rally the 46-yr old African-American was holding in New Hampshire yesterday. Supporters of Senator Obama had thronged in their thousands attempting to enter the overpopulated cafeteria hall. The buzz is strong. Blacks are salivating. Young America is believing.The voting numbers have more than trebled compared to 4 years ago,possibly due to new-found enthusiasm amongst the electorate.Was Martin Luther King’s ‘I have A Dream’ speech a 45 yrs-in-advance hint? Can he get to lead the United States with its 75% white majority? Can life imitate art & place the young man, with the Kenyan father, in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January next year, a la President Palmer in the hit show,24?Time,they say, would definitely tell. My goodness, how I wish I had Nostradamus right here in front of me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Naija Music: A Good Year

First of all, here’s wishing each and every one of you a happy new year. May 2008 bring you all abundant blessings. So the year 2007 has come and gone. For many of us, it was quite an eventful one. On a broader perspective, many industries achieved a lot in the year but none more so than the naija music industry. As most know, the local music scene has blown up significantly in recent years. In continuing with this impressive explosion of talent & quality of material, the year proved to be huge as quite a lot of new acts were exposed to the music-loving public. The household names also strengthened their reputations by releasing huge hits in 07.For me, there were four main acts (specifically, 5 individuals) who had a great year indeed.So, I’ll share them with you.
1. Olu Maintain: The ex-member of a popular Ibadan-based group was massive as a solo artiste with a comical anthem called ‘Yahoozee’.This infectious track was basically a satire of the lifestyles & mentality of the average, infamous 419 beneficiary. To underline this club banger’s popularity, I saw white folks rocking their lives out to the track at a British High Commission party I attended recently. A truly funny/special moment.
2. 2face: The young man from Benue did it again with another special album. How many albums do you get to hear these days that are sweet from Track 1 till the end a la Michael Jackson’s Thriller? Very few indeed.Mr Idibia showed with this CD(released in late 2006) that he’s truly a gifted artiste whose music always comes along with great production, catchy melodies & a sweet, believable voice.’ See Me So’ proved to be another hot track that seemed made for the clubs & parties.’Hey ya Hey Brother eee…’.What a song.
3. D'Banj:The Koko Master was at his very best last year especially with the enormous popularity of the anthemic tracks ‘Why Me’,’Loke’ & ‘Move Your Body’. Ably assisted by his close friend & producer Don Jazzy, this headline artiste of Mo Hits Records clearly proved why he’s loved by many across the country & beyond. I believe that one of his main objectives, i.e when he & Don Jazzy are recording, is to always create songs that get music lovers to spontaneous move their feet as soon as they hear the track’s beats. The MTV Award-winning star ended the year with the release of another huge record called ‘Booty Call’, significantly boosted by the sweet vocals of Wande Coal, another member of the Mo Hits crew. I saw him at a joint on the island a few weeks ago. As I was leaving that night, I noticed his black Benz with the customized ‘KOKOLET’ plate number. No long thing.
4. P-Square: Unless deaf, there’s no young person in this lagos who can say they haven’t heard the extremely popular ‘Do Me’ by the dark-skinned twins.Honestly,I didn’t really like the song when I first heard it.However,with the track seemingly being played at every single place I went to this Christmas, I have to admit that it has eventually grown on me. No matter the occasion, as soon as that unique beat drops, everyone instantaneously springs to their feet. Although the lyrics are nowhere near the songwriting quality level of say Ne-Yo’s, there’s just something that makes it a great song to dance & mime to. Accompanied by a really cool video, this definite club banger was obviously the most popular song during the xmas holidays. Out of curiosity, I recently bought a copy of their latest CD ’Game Over’ while in traffic. After a first listen, I was so impressed by the quality of practically all the songs on it. For me, ‘No One Like U’ is my clear favorite though. To Peter & Paul, I must confess this about your music:’E get as e dey do me’.Lol.
I eagerly wait to see what the year 2008 holds for the millions of naija music fans out there. Mouth-watering prospect indeed.