Sunday, October 6, 2013

How times have changed

A few of my friends and acquaintances turned the big four zero [40] this year and the ensuing events seemed rather similar. They were devoid of the pomp that accompanied hitting the milestone age as I can remember from my childhood.

Back in the day, people would make a song and dance out of turning 40 years. They would hold a thanksgiving service and thereafter throw a big party. They would take a family portrait with celebrant flanked by spouse and kids – akin to the Christian saying “your children surround your table”. They would enlarge the photo, frame it and display it in their living rooms for posterity. Their friends would come wine and dine with them and often hail, ‘life begins at 40!”

Back in the day, thirty-something year olds didn’t worry about cancer or high blood pressure [HBP]; they lived life to the fullest.

But times have changed. Today, cancer and HBP are stealing away many in their prime.  Today, most forty year olds feel they haven’t accomplished anything and really have nothing to celebrate – they don’t own plots of lands let alone a building or their businesses. Today, lots of 40 year olds don’t have 10 year old kids to show-off because people marry late and more so, some eligible singles are happily homosexual.

Today, 40th birthdays are quieter and pretty much like any other. People are simply thankful for life and being able to get by.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I got married on credit

My family friend runs an Events centre and from what she says, getting married on credit seems to be a new trend in Lagos. 

Brides want to look pretty – get professional make up and a glamourous dress, entertain guests in hundreds and serve a vast menu of continental and local meals at their wedding in a nicely decorated and air-conditioned marquee which they cannot afford. 

My friend’s latest experience was with a bride who made a 50% deposit for the venue, food and drinks, and decor. She promised to pay up the balance until 2days before the wedding, so it was secured and not released to any other intending customer. To her surprise, the balance was not paid but they wedding took place regardless. It was on the wedding day that friend realised that  she wasn't the only one that had been fooled when the caterer and decorator each began to grumble. 

It turned out that Mrs. Newly Wed had a wedding on credit and the big question her vendors all asked each other was – “how do we all get our balance payments, now that she had achieved her objective?” 

They feared that she’d go on honeymoon and return to her life as usual and pretend she never had dealings with them, and they couldn’t put a leash around her neck to get her pay. After all, guests had come and gone, they had been well entertained and wowed by the beautiful reception, so she had nothing to loose. They feared that a woman who was ruthless enough to proceed with a wedding party with all confidence that her vendors would deliver despite that she hadn't fully paid for food and drinks most especially, would easily walk away in a country like Nigeria where people got away with just about anything. 

Sad, isn’t it? More so when one realises that all of this injustice is born out of a desire to impress people. Each person is trying to outdo the next with a so-called 'Talk of the town' wedding. Everything in Lagos is now a charade. 

What is wrong with having a small wedding with a few guests, if that’s what you can afford? Life was so much simpler in the days of our parents, but now, our values are gone with the wind. These days, it's okay to cheat others in the pursuit of happiness. When you take advantage of people they call you a SHARP GUY or SHARP BABE, as in this case. Doing what is right is no longer in vogue.

Everything is now a facade.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My wicked female boss

I am very thankful for all the comments that keep coming. I have tried to reply several but I am unable to, it seems there’s a problem with my Blog settings and I haven’t figured out how to address whatever the issue might be.

One of my readers commented that he/she usually visits my Blog for some advice, so today, I will be giving some advice to young and upcoming professionals. I have been an employee for about 11 years now, so please permit me to do so.

May is month during which workers world over are celebrated and I usually take some time to reflect because May 2nd happens to be the anniversary of my first full-time job.

As I took some time to reflect on my journey as a career woman on the 1st of May, I realised that the notion that ‘female bosses’ tend to be wicked, is really not true but a case of stereotyping. In Nigeria, there’s a lot of stereotyping and hostility towards female bosses who are either Single or Married without Kids. When you scold a junior colleague, they say '"she is mean and it’s because she’s not married or haven’t got children". They also say women cannot work with each other.

I totally disagree with these notions because as I recall, I have had good and bad bosses in both male and female. My current boss is female and she’s awesome. She has said on a number of occasions that ‘we are proof that women can work together’. My late colleague, Nwugo who I give credits to in my Blog profile was married for 11 years without kids before she passed on, but she was one of the most amazing persons I ever met.

My conclusion is that it really isn’t a matter of the gender, but the individual beliefs and values of your boss.

Sometimes too, result-oriented bosses are misconstrued as ‘wicked’, but they are not. They simply want you to get the job done. My experience with working with such people is that you are better for it at the end of the day.

 My advice to every budding professional is – be result oriented. If you are, the ‘good boss’ will love you, and the ‘wicked boss’ will have no choice than to put up with you!

Have a lovely month of May.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nollywood needs to launder Nigeria's image

I have been following a telenovela - India a Love Story on Africa Magic since October 2012. I have become so involved with this programme that I am glued to the TV screen every Sunday from noon till about 3pm, catching up with the Omnibus.

Contrary to all the news reports in the international and local media of an increasing number of rape cases, the Indians have told a story of perfect love, high moral standards and values through this telenovela. They have painted a picture that holds women in high esteem and men who dare no infidelity.

I have learnt that Indian women keep long hair because the length of a woman's hair is symbolic for her husband's strength. I have learnt that male children are also highly regarded just like Nigeria. I have learnt that Indians insist on marrying one of their own because they believe that when a man dies, it is his Indian wife who will open the gates of heaven to him. I have also learnt a bit about the Indian culture and their Caste system; they consider the Dalits - dust and nobody of 'noble' descent wants to dine with a dalit let alone marry one.  

I have fallen in love with this telenovela and picked the lead character, Raj's definition of love:

Raj once said - "when you Brazilians love, it starts like a boiling pot of water which later goes cold, but when we Indians love, it starts cold and ends up hot like a boiling pot of water..."
My take-out from Raj's definition is that loving the Indian way, means enduring love.

The best part of the Indian passion is that it is bereft of nudity or obscenity. Pulic display of affection is frowned upon as they believe that affections should be shown only in the bedroom.

Whilst the telenovela captures some deceit, largely by women, the deceit is portrayed as an act of love which seeks to preserve culture, so much that it makes you love the Indians more.

Another interesting thing about this love story is that it was shot in India and Brazil. On the flip side, it shows Brazilian women as women of low virtue -  a mother dates the same guy her daughter dated; a married Brazilian woman seduces an Indian batchelor; divorce as commonplace in Brazil; a Brazilian billionaire fakes his death and elopes with his wife's best friend and so on and so forth.

Like it or not, this telenovela has created a positive image of India in my mind.

The Brazilian side of the story brings me back home to Africa Magic and the sorts of stories we tell. Nothing much that paints us  as 'picture perfect' especially the Yoruba movies.

Nigerian Yoruba movies depict only negativity - immorality, idolatry and murder. Apart from the negative story lines, the sub-titling is always badly done in bad English full of wrong tenses and typos. It is shameful.

This from me is a wake-up call to Nollywood requesting them to help launder Nigeria's image.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Is VFS Exploiting Nigerians?

VFS is acronym for VF Global Services Nigeria Ltd, the local visa processing agent for most embassies here in Nigeria. VFS services the British, US, Canadian, French, Netherlands, Italian and South African embassies here in Nigeria and perhaps even more.

They are the middle man between the visa applicant and the embassy. Daily applications for each of these embassies are about 100 on the average. So it suffices to say VFS processes about 700 applications daily for which VFS are paid a fixed sum for every application.

You might wonder where this is going but I have however noticed a trend with my last three visa applications which have prompted this post.

 In September 2012, I applied for a French visa and total fee was N17,835 of which N11,810 was the visa fee, N400 for SMS notifications and the balance N5,625 being VFS processing charges. The SMS' are intended to notify applicants of the status of their applications and inform when applicant’s visa is ready or otherwise. SMS rate as at that time was N5 per SMS but I did not receive a single SMS. I had to keep tracking my application via the VFS Nigeria website until it was ready.

In January 2013, I applied for a South African visa, again costs where similar but I cannot find the payment slips to give exact details.

I have also just renewed my UK visa and have once again been charged N400 for SMS notifications.

For my UK visa renewal which is very fresh in my memory. I received a total of four emails, and NOT a single SMS. By the way, SMS now cost N4 each which means cost to VFS would ideally be N16 whilst I was charged N400 and didn’t receive any notification.

If you do the maths, applying this to only UK visa applications alone, here’s what it adds up to:

100 applications/day x N400 x 5days x 4weeks = N800,000/month

If you apply that to 7 embassies, it implies N5.6million/month or N67.2million additional revenue/year for VFS Global Nigeria.

This is excluding the N5,000+ fees VFS receives per application.

Even if they spent N16 per applicant, VFS would still make N768,000/month.
Isn’t VFS exploiting Nigerians? Who regulates such organisations? Where’s the Consumer Protection Council in all of these? Isn’t this exploitation  tantamount to corruption?


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oga at the Top: The reality of Nigeria’s public sector

I am quite sure that you all had your fair share of laughter from ‘The Oga at the Top’ video and the several spin-offs that came thereafter.
Amid all the humour, I realised that the event simply brought to the fore the reality at Nigeria’s public sector. Here are some truths about our public sector:
  1. Lackadaisical attitude to work. People just don’t care; or how would you explain the Commandant’s inability to give a complete website address?
2.      People are not empowered to take decisions or use their intuition, if you recall, the commandant feared to disclose a wrong website so that his Oga at the Top won’t disclose something else.
3.      The philosophy of ‘first name basis’ doesn’t apply in our public sector
4.      Computers are a ‘wonder’, most civil servants have no clue about where the power button of a computer is located let alone operating one to generate a report – like you and I do on a daily basis. What they tend to do is to have a computer room with two computer-literate personnel who churn out all the required documents.
5.      The Oga at the Top most probably doesn’t know how to use a computer
Think about NIPOST, PHCN, Police stations, the FRSC, LASTMA, NDLEA and more.  In how many of these places have you seen a computer? These are a few government agencies and parastals that I have interacted with and the story is the same. It is sad that Commandment turned the scapegoat and is now on suspension, but it would surprise you that the “Oga at the Top” doesn’t know how to operate a computer or the nscdc website.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nigerians are too emotional

I guess the AFCON 2013 fever is over and this post probably stale but the truth is, I have borne this burden in my heart for weeks but have just not had time to write my thoughts.

Were you as amazed as I was about how carried away Nigerians were because we won the Nations cup?

I am still shocked at how Steven Keshi suddenly became everybody's favourite coach and how people began to say God finally answered the prayers of Nigerians concerning our football.

Let us all not be fooled. Even unbelievers are successful. It is a law of nature/ Karma or whatever you want to call it. What you sow you reap; if you work hard, some day you will be successful.

If Keshi didn't have faith and the players didn't give the games their best shot, they would have lost even with prayers. God blesses the labour of our hands. If we do not sow, then He has nothing to bless. God is the God of all mankind, not just the God of Nigerians. Otherwise, how do you explain the success of Psy and the Gangam Style? There's simply no big deal with the song or the dance steps but I guess it was God's time to bless the long-standing Korean musician.

We need to stop being unnecessarily emotional. The problems with Nigerian football i.e. corruption, poor preparation still loom. Prayers will not take them away, only men!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fall down and die!

Sunday School is my favourite part of church service because it is interactive. We listen and learn from our Sunday School teachers and thereafter ask questions.

Today was particularly very interesting because it was a review of lessons learned in the last quarter.

A gentleman had a mindboggling question under the topic - False Prophets, it was -
"Is it right to pray for the devil to fall down and die?"

In answering the question, the Pastor reminded us that it would be futile to ask the devil to die because the Bible tell us that the devil will be around until judgement. We were referred to Jude 1:9 which shows that even Archangel Micheal when contending with the devil dared not bring an abusive condemnation against him but simply said,"May the Lord rebuke you!"

He explained that people who say such prayers do not refer to the devil, but to the 'devil' in every challenge they face which could mean, poverty, sickness, failure, rejection, delayed married etc.

As I meditated on these words on my way home, I began to wonder if:
  • the devil called PHCN was dead and we had constant power
  • the devil called kidnapping was dead and we didn't have to fear for the lives of our beloved
  • the devil called Boko Haram was dead and people could gather in churches every Sunday without the fear of bombings
  • the devil called delayed married was dead, and all eligible batchelors and spinsters go married at the right age, or it was pretty normal to stay single
  • if devil called unemployment was dead and people got jobs on merit
  • if the devil called bad roads were dead and we had little or no road accidents
  • if the devil in our aviation industry was dead and we had no plane crashes, and so on...

The big question then is - will the pews in our churches still be filled every Sunday?

I think the answer to my question is NO. Nigerians do not love God. If we did, these devils wouldn't exist in the first place. So, if you are one of those who ask the devil to fall down and die, please STOP and remember that it is all about the man in the mirror.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why do we eat rice at Christmas?

The radio station which I fondly listen to every morning went out to the streets this Christmas and asked two questions:

1.      Why do we eat rice during Christmas?

2.      Must we eat rice at Christmas?

I think the answers to these questions are a no brainer.

Question 1 is akin to asking a woman – why do you cook with knorr cubes? And the answer is simply because my mother taught me to! We eat rice at Christmas because our parents taught us to.
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, people looked forward to eating rice at Christmas. I have fond memories of Christmas in the ‘80s and early ‘90s at my Grandma’s. Every year some not-so-privileged children would dress up and pay her a visit on Christmas day hoping to eat some rice. She would give them a huge tray with heap rice and goat meat scattered all over it with about 15 spoons jutting out of the heap of rice.

We grew up eating rice at Christmas and our Christmas gifts would be incomplete if we didn’t receive a bag of rice and vegetable oil from our employers. It is tradition.
As for the follow-up question, my answer is a big YES!

American’s eat Turkey at Thanksgiving, the British eat Turkey at Christmas and Nigerians eat rice at Christmas. If you never thought of it that way, begin to do so. We should keep eating rice and pass on the tradition to our children and next generations. Don’t replace rice with Pounded Yam or Salads!
Do eat rice come Christmas 2013, gain some calories and you can go on salads or a protein diet afterwards!
Happy 2013 to you all!