Biz club 2

So a few weeks ago, October 25th to be precise, the delectable Joy Isi Bewaji invited me to read at the “Business of Writing Event.” Award winning travel writer Pelu Awofeso already did a blog post about the event here and you can find a whole lot more by searching the hash tag #WritingBizNG.

So I read one of my Sabi News #WhatIf series pieces, Dear OAP, What If your accent is confused? 

But that is not the news. The gist really, is that my reading was recorded by IfooAfrica, an audio based online platform that aims to bring back the African art form of storytelling, and it is available on their platform here. You can also listen by clicking on the link below. Do well to share :)

Dear OAP, What if….?

wmmcWhat if your cheese is moved?

Cheese? I hear you ask.

Yes, cheese and no, this is not some Disneyland cat and mouse fable. In a way though, it is, different only by the amount of wisdom and enduring life lessons that it bears for which you should be thankful not to me, but to the one from whose mouth the story was first told, Dr Spencer Johnson.

You see, I am not a motivational speaker or something. I certainly do not subscribe to buying tickets to gather in a hall and listen to some smart fellow mouth-off on carefully memorized quotes by great thinkers in the name of helping me fulfill my destiny when the only destiny being fulfilled is that of the organizer. I begrudge you not if you do. What we can agree easily on, however, is the fact that life is one continuous struggle to find cheese, to graduate, find a job, get married, win an election, win the Nobel. Like mice running about a maze, some of us are good at sniffing out cheese, others are quicker to reach it and some others still are really good at helping themselves to more than their fair share of the cheese.

What if your cheese is moved, I ask again?

What if that means of livelihood and happiness that you’ve criss-crossed the labyrinths of the corridors and narrow chambers that is life to find – your job, position, political office, relationship, marriage, house, good health, etc,  is suddenly and rudely taken away? What if your life as you know it today in which everything seems ordered suddenly turns on its head and comes crashing down like a pack of loosely piled cards?

What would you do? How would you react? Wail until your tear glands produce blood? Grumble to everyone who cares to listen until you begin to sound miserable? Mourn it like you would the dead? Live in denial like it’s not happening? Blame your enemies and the owl that cried at night? Embark on fasting and prayer for the old cheese to be returned? Or would you sob a little, embrace it, adjust quickly and proceed to discovering new and perhaps even better testing cheese?

How complacent have you become about your present life circumstances? You grew up in affluence; all your needs are but a phone call away. You have that fantastic job and the world is perfect because a bank alert is certain by month’s end. Your startup business is bringing in more returns than the books projected so you can afford to spend less time at work and learn to play golf. Your constituents love you, you have stuffed their necks full so you can afford to relax in Abuja as the next election approaches and be certain they will vote you. Your husband, well you now have him hooked, why are you still bothering about looking good or being in shape?

We often get so comfortable and even develop a serious sense of arrogance in our state of comfort that we fail to notice what Changeis happening around us. So much so that even when the handwriting on the wall suggests that a change is imminent, we throw our heads the other way and reassure ourselves about the omnipotence of the status quo.

What if the cheese as a matter of its nature, is constantly moving? What if change like we often say is simply inevitable? What if your failure to change leaves you prone to extinction?

Our greatest undoing oftentimes is a refusal to become better, to learn new things, to venture out of our immediate comfort zones, to take risks. There is a natural apathy to change, a blood pressure spiking anxiety that comes with venturing into the unknown. This is why we refuse to admit even to ourselves that it is time to move on. We forget easily that when we are able to move beyond our fears, we feel and truly become free.

Old beliefs do not lead to new cheese it must be said. Doing things the same way over and over again and expecting a different result is the stuff psychosis is made of.  This has been our bane as a nation and also as individuals. We have mastered the art of complaining as a people but we never seem to be able to muster what is necessary to change the situation that has left us where we are.

So what if your cheese is moved?

old beliefNo need over-analyzing the situation. Nature guarantees that there is cheese somewhere else waiting to be found and the quicker you let go of the old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.  Jump right back into the maze in search of a new cheese mine for in the final analysis, it is safer to search in the maze than to remain in a cheeseless situation.

First published here

Picture credits http://mroutsource.com/ and http://financialkeys2success.blogspot.com/

When I smile and say “Good morning, sir” I lie because it is clear who between us is really having a good morning.

I rose 4.00am, barely four hours after hitting the sack. With a dying rechargeable lamp, I took my turn at the compound toilet and bathroom before venturing into the dark street, my life at the mercy of robbers and their different mutations. I finished up what was left of my sleep, leaning against the cold railing of the weather beaten bus that meanders through the narrow streets on a journey to earn a living.

You woke up when the bus I boarded was already making its third trip, sipped some coffee, jogged across the new bridge to keep fit, and then made a quick stop at the club to play some tennis. Back home, you grabbed a bite of breakfast and showered, before jumping into the back of your 4WD  SUV to be chauffeur driven across the short distance to work.

I do not begrudge you your lifestyle. You’ve earned it. Many years of hard work; calculated risks that worked out, some shady deals here and there that paid off and a sprinkling of some good luck to taste. Dues well paid by Nigerian standards. So much so that you’ve been able to establish this business and have employed me to work for you. Fantastic stuff.

What I cannot stomach, however, is your definition of the relationship between me and you.

What if giving me a job is not a privilege? What if your ability to afford the next three nation summer tour for your wife and kids is by the grace of the hours I spend slaving away at your office?

You see, what we have here is a partnership. Ought to be one, actually. I have some knowledge and set of skills that you need to enable you sustain the flow of cash that in turn sustains your lifestyle. In exchange, you are to pay me for the deployment of these knowledge and skills to your benefit. There are no privileges here. It’s an exchange, a contract. I work, you pay. I am not here to be your friend, protégée, errand boy, domestic servant or slave. We are partners, but your actions don’t suggest such.

What if, sometimes, I think you are a comedian because what you pay me is a joke and it is not lost on me. It is calledtake home pay for a reason but you seem not to have ever really appreciated that or do you?

What If my take home pay cannot take me home? What if it does not manage to even get me beyond the bus stop?

You know the state of employment in the country and that a thousand others are queued up, ready to take over my job the moment I quit. So you use it against me. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded, wouldn’t have as much as grumbled audibly at my fate as the weaker party in this relationship if you made good your word of paying even the paltry sum, as and when due. But no, you decide to hold it back, this take home pay that isn’t worth its title. You decide to take from me and add to your own, just because you can. You decide to push home so far away that I do not even know where it is anymore.

What if you knew that like you, I have a family too, a wife who is worn lean of my excuses, a son who does not know the taste of jam, aged parents who hope to reap from me, the fruits of their labour? What if you knew that my rent is late and my landlord, a neighbourhood drunk, gets quite sober when he is issuing a quit notice? What if you know that endsfor me are like unlike-poles that will never attract?

The business has cash flow issues you say and we all need to be patient. Patience equals understanding which equals not being paid. I stay on, working. And when you didn’t offer me any excuses, I found one for myself, a reason to keep turning up every morning, to keep wearing the company ID card like a dog tag around my shrinking neck, waiting for a pay that is nowhere in sight.

kimoonDear Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,

We are already counting down to yet another World Peace Day, on September 21st when we shall once again commemorate a day instituted by the organization you lead, to strengthen the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples of the world. This year will mark the 30th anniversary and I understand that you have aptly chosen “Right of People to Peace” as the theme.

Ordinarily, this should be a happy day to look forward to because over and above every other engagement the UN has today,  the advancement of the ideals of peace is the thinking that inspired its founding. However, there is hardly any excitement leading to the day nor will the day make any significant impact on the world for in many ways, the very idea the day seeks to celebrate has long been lost on the world.

What if the United Nations has failed?

The League of Nations before it failed, ending in a bitter world war which the world is yet to fully recover from. The thinking behind setting up the UN was to prevent any such conflict again. There seemed to have been a unanimous scream of “never again” by those first 51 member nations and the hundreds of others that have since joined in. How successful it has been remains a subject of intense academic debates but in the real world, the UN has besides becoming bureaucratic also become increasingly irrelevant in the face of crises.

A few examples will suffice. When close to a million died in the Rwanda genocide, the UN did nothing despite clear PeaceDay-Logoknowledge of the impending massacre. In Sudan’s Dafur, it took several years and over 300,000 deaths later for the UN to quell the devastation there. There has been the Cold war, the Gulf wars, the Srebrenica massacre, the rise of terrorism and the madness that has followed the Arab spring to highlight just a few.

The fact that nuclear weapons and small arms continue to be proliferated and circulated is perhaps the most obvious evidence of the failure of the UN. But even more worrying today are such issues as Human Trafficking, Child labour, and Environmental degradation all of which are important ingredients for peace.

What if the Third World war is already being fought?

Yes, it is. Not with the frenzy of the two earlier episodes but piece-meal, with battle fronts scattered all over all parts of the earth and with many of the fighters not even wearing uniforms. There is an ISIS sweeping people and cultures off the surface of the earth much like the Nazi attempted. There is a Russia obsessed with arousing the ghost of the Soviet Union at all cost in a conflict that has seen passenger planes become collateral damage. There is a North Korea that has perfected the art of pushing the world’s buttons whenever it feels like with its nuclear threats. There is an Israel and Palestine for whom weeks of attacks and counter attacks have become an annual feature on the calendar. The drug wars in South America are as alive as ever. There is Al Qaeda and its many franchises. There is Al-shabab and Boko Haram. There is Ebola.

In my country, over two hundred girls have been missing for many months, taken away by people whose ideologies are in direct conflict with those of the UN. In many parts of the world today, young girls, some not long out of wetting their beds are traded, transported over long distances, exploited and abused. Young boys are being recruited, taught to hate and forced to fight wars they know nothing about. Poverty continues to expand with the stronger nations exploiting the weaker to maintain a structure that keeps them on top.

un logoWhat if the world cannot survive all of this for much longer?

That precisely is the reason I write. We cannot last for much longer living in denial, spending billions of dollars annually in payments to your workers who are detached from the issues, funding NGO’s who are really businesses feeding off humanity’s failures, supporting projects that add absolutely no value and claim we are promoting peace. This conspiracy of silence around the proliferation of firearms which fuel conflicts, the instigation of wars purely for economic reasons and the endless arguments that are your Security Council meetings continues to push the world closer to the precipice. Perhaps, we can make this year’s celebration count for something. Getting the world to rethink our definition of peace may be a good place to start.

Dear Senator, what if your daughter is raped?

Well, I know you’ve got them all secured. Your house is a fortress. When they go out they are chauffeur driven with an armed police escort in tow. You’ve made sure they are in the best schools with extra layers of security and of course, the older ones are in universities in safe climes where getting raped is not a likely possibility.

Sincerely, I hope by God they remain safe, but imagine for a second that something goes wrong and one of them falls victim perhaps in the hands of a trusted one, a favourite uncle or even their husband. How would you feel?

Bad, I imagine?

What if you feel even worse? What if you discover after the fact, that there are no laws to effectively prosecute the perpetrator, that there is no support system for her except that which you and your equally heartbroken wife can provide, because existing laws against domestic violence in Nigeria are restrictive and obsolete?

How would you feel knowing that you had the chance as a member of the Nigerian Senate to put such a law in place and you looked the other way?

Yes, I am talking about the VAPP Bill. I am not sure it rings any bells, does it? Things like estacode and constituency project and 2015 take up the top spaces in your memory these days so I forgive your amnesia. There is only so much a person can remember especially when the elections are looming so large on the calendar.wbf-1

So, I will remind you free of charge. VAPP is an acronym for Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill. It is a bill that has made repeated unsuccessful journeys through the National Assembly, a proposed law which you and your colleagues have continued to ignore like it doesn’t matter, a law you would wish existed while cursing and swearing, should your daughter come to such misfortune.

You see, domestic violence is no respecter of social strata or geographical location. Rape is so prevalent here that according to one report about 3,800 cases were reported in the print media alone in the last 3 years. Its close relative, spousal battery is a fact of life for so many especially women which is not entirely a surprise given that in this age, we have laws that allow a man chastise his wife in order to correct her. You doubt me? Go read the provisions of the Penal Code again.

A little while ago, you and your colleagues’ tactically sanctioned child marriage after one of your colleagues, a distinguished Senator of the federal republic, played the religion card in justifying an action that should be repugnant to all discernable minds and you all screamed Aye in support.

What if Child marriage is no less a crime than rape and sexual abuse? What if by referring to it as ‘marriage’ we are giving it legality and promoting it as something that is morally acceptable?


But I digress. We were talking about the VAPP Bill which is gathering dust somewhere in the cabinet of the National Assembly and which might end up in the cemetery of legislative misadventures.

Your colleagues in the lower chamber have done the needful since March 15, 2013. The ball is now in your red chamber. A first reading is all that you’ve achieved on the bill and even that happened some six months ago. Since then, each time it manages to make the Order paper, your distinguished selves manage to fill up your sitting time with enough argument that you never get to it.

Distinguished Senator, I understand that at this moment anything that does not bring in the votes and guarantee your safe return to the chambers or promote your gubernatorial ambition is not a priority. Believe me, I do. But I also know that there are certain things that matter more than just another four years, things that will get your name cast in stone. Being remembered kindly by posterity surely matters to you, I imagine.

It is not too late to get this right. You can in the months left before the election, do something that will impact on the lives of so many Nigerians especially the poor and the most vulnerable amongst us including generations yet unborn? You can pass the VAPP Bill. If nothing else, imagine your daughter being raped and do it for her.

First published here


We know you are a government contractor but Chairman sounds better than Contractor. Oho, you agree.

You are happiest on the day the President gives assent to the annual budget. Such a day signifies the start of the hunting season. The Business Class seats on flights to Abuja hosts you more frequently than your toilet seat. The briefcase you pull along is bulging with business cards and letter headed papers for your many companies that exist only on paper.  Your pot belly precedes you, announcing your credentials as a big man.

This is your career, legitimate, yes, but only on the face of it.

What if you did not announce yourself wherever you went though? What if you were not so noisy on the phone in public places, in the departure lounge, in the hotel lobby, in the men’s room? Hysterical laughter, exaggerated courtesies and all.; you are always on to one Excellency, one Honourable, one Ranka Dede who can or who has access to somebody who can give you a handsome cut of the annual budget. corruption

You do not joke with your business. That is perhaps the only admirable thing about you. You can dance to Kwam 1 at the weekend owambe or allow yourself to be dragged to a night club by your undergraduate sugar girl, but when it comes to chasing those papers in Government offices, you are more serious than a brain surgeon. Even aggressive.  When a bid is opened, you are like a bulldozer on site, uprooting and over-turning everything.

What if you pursued the execution of the contract with the same enthusiasm, the same frenzy with which you pursued the award?

But your passion is fleeting. It lasts only until the commissioner or the minister or the DG has appended his signature on the award of contract letter. Depending on the number of zeros the value of the contract bears, you might dash it out to one of your protégés as something for di boys or your concubine as a birthday present or you sell it (sub-contract is the nice term for it) to the company with the real expertise to execute it after slicing off a handsome profit of course or worse still, you collect the mobilization fee, grease a few palms and vanish.

What if you did not add an extra zero to the contract value? What if you did not pad it so much that the cost is now almost twice what it ought to be?

The extra zero is the real value in the contract to you, not the accidents that will be reduced after the road is fixed, not the number of pupils whose lives will get a boost with new chairs in their classrooms, not the lives that would be saved from cholera when the village borehole finally begins to flow.

The extra zero is the gasoline which keeps our culture of patronage running. It is the steroid that keeps corrupt civil servants uncivil and anything but servants. They are almost choking from your bribes, from the gatemen who wish you happy weekend when you arrive the ministry to the oga-at-the-top whose cut you must guarantee before your file makes the triumphant journey out of his office to the Accounts unit and every one in between. This seemingly harmless extra zero is the reason why a dizzying number of people who share an equal citizenship of this country with you are unsure of their next meal. It is this extra zero that oils the wheels of disease and ignorance and ensures neonatal and maternal mortality remains abysmally high.

This extra zero which you and your cohorts add to the contract figure almost as if it was an innocent mistake is reason why you can afford to send your children to universities abroad and they get to acquire the effrontery to speak ill of their country, and make a career out of bad-mouthing her government on social media. How convenient. They get to pick their teeth with our collective patrimony and then turn around to fart in our faces with their self righteous indignation.

Your passport bulges with Visas to a dozen countries. The moment this house crashes, you are off to some safe clime. But not so for millions of us. So on their behalf and in the name of God if you believe in one, I ask you to leave already for we cannot survive your parasitism for much longer.

What if you had died?

The doctors say you took a cocktail of pills. The discovery was, thankfully, early. The prompt surgery took life out of the coloured pills that were hungrily gnawing at your being. Alas, they, not your heart, ground to a halt.

What if the discovery was not made?

What if it hadn’t been a whole week before I read the story in the Metro pages of the newspaper?

It has been over a year since we last had a proper conversation, one on one, like we used to, before life happened and put a blade to the thing that held us together, making our friendship fadeout into awkward hellos and how are you doings, delivered through chats that always returned a positive response; fine.

What if I always knew everything was not fine with you though? domestic_violence_543

Thankfully, this is not a funeral oration. But it is. Not for this bucket you missed kicking by inches but for the death you died some years ago when you took the decision to marry that man.

We were young and eager for marriage. It was the next cap, an icing on our freshly acquired degrees. He came along, like a smile from heaven; oozing affluence and trouble. You refused to see beyond the affluence. The Prada bags made up for his drinking. The designer outfits covered up his open womanizing. The love, you convinced yourself, would grow. When he said jump, you screamed how high?

What if I admit I was slightly envious, standing there as your maid of honour, watching as you exchanged diamond rings and swore to be with him in sickness and in health. Alas, you alone took that oath seriously. For him, the words paled into nothingness no sooner than they left his lips.

He hit you and you stayed. You made excuses for him. You even claimed to have been at fault. The most ridiculous excuse I heard was that the sex was good, a worthy compensation of sorts for every time he turned you into a punching bag. You stayed.

What if death is a decision? Not a state. Not an end.

You decided to marry him even though you hardly knew him. You decided to stick with him even when he was a monster. You decided to close your eyes to the other women even when you saw glaring evidence. You decided to quit your job because he said his wife should not work. You decided to lock the world out, telling us to mind our business.

You died long before you chose to commit suicide!

What if you remembered your strength, your independent mindedness, how you infected me with your love for life and success. Back when we were teenagers in secondary school, you told me of your desire to be a successful career woman, a professional, someone high up in the corporate world, combining beauty and brains and making men catch cold when you sneezed?

How did one decision ruin it all?

What if you had said yes to someone who loved you back instead? Someone whose brain is not stuck between his legs? Someone who knew your worth and valued it. Like that guy you dumped for this man, who you said was a broke ass fellow. He certainly would not have told you few months into your marriage, that he married you so you could stay at home and be a wife. A cook and a hen hatching children.

What if…?

The man you married would have been only too glad if you had died. In a matter of weeks he would have announced your replacement, one of his many mistresses, with a face buried in layers of Mary Kay.

Would I have been able to forgive myself for not being there, for not going beyond those awkward phone chats, for not stepping in to support and not to judge?

The last time we saw was last December at the end of year party of our Old Girls Association. You looked spent, twice your age, like a sucked orange. Two rows of seats separated us and when our eyes met, we exchanged an inaudible Hi, your face, a signpost of regret and pain. I was going to pull you aside after the guest lecturer’s speech to ask what was wrong. But you did not stay long. By the time I looked in your direction again, you were gone.

Picture credit http://www.dawn.com/ 


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