The Word On The Streets III

My usual random ramblings after every trip I make to Nigeria. Here goes nothing…

1. Murtala Mohammed Airport looked really clean when we arrived. I honestly cannot recall seeing the place that clean any of the last few times I have been to Nigeria.

But then again, we got in at 5.30am and we were probably the first flight to land that morning so….

2. I started asking people if they had registered to vote as soon as I got my bag off the conveyor belt. In all I must have asked around 30 people or thereabouts. I’d say about 60% of those had already registered while ALL of the others said they were definitely going to register. I didn’t encounter anyone who was apathetic to the point of saying they were not going to register at all.

At the airport, a  customs officer I asked if she had registered almost took it personal with the way she answered ‘of course!’. I found this to be an incredibly encouraging sign.

The one down side was the amount of ignorance of the whole process I noticed in a couple of people I spoke to. I spoke to the sales girls at a shop in Ilupeju and they didn’t seem to understand why they should register near their houses as opposed to where they work.

The simple fact that there would be no movement on election day and you can only vote where you are registered was seemingly lost on them. Anyway, their voter education only cost me 3 minutes.

It’s one thing to be disenfranchised by technology, logistics, rigging or violence…but we cant rule out the fact that quite a few people unwittingly disenfranchise themselves through ignorance or careless mistakes.

Each one ought to teach one…so please do so wherever you find such people who are genuinely ignorant of the process. If you cant be bothered, remember they are able to cast a vote that may drag you and Nigeria backwards later. We are all in this together.

3. At the start of 2010 I made a conscious decision to be at least 51% bullish on Nigeria at all times…to be more positive than negative about the country at any given point in time. As you can imagine this is a pretty tough one as the country can really test your resolve on most days.

So I am on the plane back to London and I decide to go to the bathroom. While waiting for the bathroom to become available, I listen in on the conversation of 3 men standing close to me. One particular chap called Habeeb was in control of the gist and he reeled out one depressing tale about Nigeria after the other.

To hear him tell it, Nigeria was pretty much a hopeless basket case on which he had given up. And he was encouraging the other 2 guys to do so as well. His stories sounded genuinely harrowing…how the bakery he inherited from his father had literarily been run into the ground by the workers etc. He also seemed a very smart man. I will admit that at one point I asked myself; ‘what are you doing? You got on a plane to Nigeria just to go and register to vote…this very same Nigeria you are hearing about??

So I use the bathroom and after I am done, I decide to hang around pretending to stretch my legs. Their conversation soon shifted to talk of a revolution in Nigeria and I took that as my cue to wade in.

I tell them how waiting for a revolution is no more than an exercise in navel gazing. Even the recent Tunisian example remains inconclusive and it remains to be seen where that country finds itself next. I also tell them nothing says we cant have a revolution via the ballot box.

Ultimately my aim was never to win an argument with men who were all evidently much older than me but to sow a seed of ‘doubt’ in their minds….to make them, even if for a split second only, doubt the picture of doom and gloom they were painting for the country.

I don’t know if I succeeded but I know we were talking for close to 2 hours until one very rude Arik Air hostess came to ask us to leave as if we were shortening the air ration around the place…or something like that.

I am no Bible basher but a particular Bible verse comes to mind here; 2 Corinthians 10 verse 5….I have taken a line from The Message version

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies

Patriot games are never easy.

4. That a lot of people now have 2 generators (or more) is of course no longer news. What I found interesting is that there is a strong economic argument for having a standard generator and one small ‘beta pass’. My friend ran me through the rough numbers and it made a lot of sense running two generators based on demand at different times during the day. He even had both generators in matching yellow colours

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Look, no point kidding ourselves here, there is no electricity in Nigeria. Simple as. You cannot run a business factoring in x amount of electricity to be supplied by PHCN. The only thing you can seemingly predict is how much you would spend on diesel/petrol in a week.

This thing has crept up on us to the point where it is now normal. But joy cometh in the morning…or in April…or in 2012…or whenever.

5. Most people will tell you that having house helps is now no more than a necessary evil. Every time I hear stuff that truly scares me both as a parent and as a Nigerian.

So this friend of a friend went out and left her daughter with the house help as per normal. I don’t know what had transpired before or even during the time the house help was with with the child, but 20 minutes later the mother apparently returned home to find that the child’s upper body clothing all wet while the trousers were dry.

Just so I don’t mix up the story, let me jump to the end; the child died. From drowning or drinking too much water. They concluded that the house help had dangled the child upside in a drum of water…hence the wet upper clothing only.

Last year in June when I was last in Nigeria, I went with a couple of friends to some chap’s house in Victoria Island. As soon as we got in I noticed the man’s house help was a Filipino lady and I immediately began to SMH thinking this was the latest Nigerian ‘efizi’.

Now I am not so sure its just ‘efizi’. Maybe people who can afford it feel much safer that way.

6. I didn’t get to visit the new Shoprite in Surulere the last time I was in town, so I did this time.

While we were trying to park in the multi-storey car park, I looked at the ramp leading to the other car park floors and I did a double take. I have used multi-storey car parks all over this country and in America, of a truth I tell you, I have never seen anything like this particular ramp before.

The ramp was, without exaggerating, set at almost a 35 degree angle! The shopping centre is still relatively new so I guess the car park hasn’t really seen the kind of usage it was designed for but I fail to see how there wont be accidents on those ramps. You can just see a car sliding backwards as it tries to climb the ramp and crashing into the car behind it.

When you think that it was first designed, then the cement was mixed, then they arranged the bricks,  and they watched it dry…and no one said ‘this thing doesn’t look right’…you begin to wonder.

More importantly, the idea of multi-storey car parks raises other questions about how much innovation is going on in Nigeria. Only a few years ago, such car parks were a novelty. Yet we have been building multi-storey buildings for a while. If I remember correctly, Mega Plaza car park was the first purpose built multi-storey car park.

Today, the glaring lack of space in Lagos has now forced people into doing what we should have been doing a very long time ago.

I was talking to some friends and someone said Nigeria has only just started the journey towards development. Someone interrupted and said, actually we are still looking for the keys, never mind actually getting in the car and starting the journey.

What is not in doubt is that almost anything innovative and useful will be a massive hit in Nigeria these days. So if you have a great idea, don’t wait for it to become obvious and then impossible. Start to work on it yesterday…look for help when you are stuck.

The only evidence you need that the country needs to think of new ways of doing things is to look around you.

7. Goodluck/Sambo billboards are everywhere. They are all over the airport and are impossible to miss as you drive around town. They seem to be the only ones advertising. 

Its also an interesting part of our politics that you will never see an incumbent asking for donations from members of the public. We have subconsciously accepted that once a candidate is in office, he should be able to fund his own re-election campaign from the treasury.

So while Dele Momodu and Nuhu Ribadu ask members of the public to donate to their campaigns to get them going, you wont find any donation tab or request on the Goodluck/Sambo website.

A small point to note but it illustrates the huge challenge faced by any candidate trying to unseat an incumbent in Nigeria.

So if you are like me and you want to see change in Nigeria, be considerate when you criticise a challenger who is trying to unseat an incumbent.

But more importantly, we need to get into the habit of donating money to candidates we believe in.

Nigerians (Christians) don’t have a problem ‘sowing seeds’ in church or donating towards the purchase of a new car or house or suit for their Pastor. The reality is that after you have done all that, by and large the problems of Nigeria still remain.

Its not out of place that we learn to ‘sow seeds’ into the campaigns of candidates we believe in. The best candidates are usually the ones who need the most money…look for them, they are there. They might not be in the PDP or the ACN, but they are there working as hard as they can under very difficult circumstances.

Let me introduce to you one such candidate I am backing (if you haven’t met him). His name is Malcolm Fabiyi and he’s running for the Senate from Abuja. You can download his manifesto here and see what he’s all about. And if you feel comfortable enough with what you have seen, contact them to make a donation.

P.S Femi Pedro has this huge billboard ontop of a building on Ikorodu road. Shame really.

8. So I am now a registered voter. I have selected the candidate I am voting for (will gist you more on that shortly) and I will be returning to vote in April and most importantly I will protect my vote.

I do not know what the Nigerian people will say via the ballot box in April. But I do know that they are not dumb as our politicians have made it look like in past elections. So even if the people are talking rubbish, I am confident that their voices will be heard.

Maybe then, we can begin to make the connection between the way we vote and the state of the nation and then rectify it at the next opportunity we get via the ballot box.

Maybe.

 

I was in and out of Lagos like Jack Bauer. If I didn’t get in touch, I apologise. I will make it up in a couple of months time.

God bless Nigeria

 

FF

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