13 cultural beliefs of my village

With respect to the death of a family member.

This post is actually an expository write-up on the cultural norms/beliefs that I was obligated to revere & perform right from the moment of passing of my father, some of which I never thought were in existence. Still. And more so, upheld from where I come from. At the moment, we are making preparations for the ‘final burial ceremony’ of my dad, here in Lagos where we reside. This is about three months after the actual burial in the East.

Among these beliefs, there were some which got me thinking: these people just added this, right? While some had me questioning the Christianity stand in all of it.

Below is a list of what still has a place in the Ibo tribe with reference to my own village/hometown. There’s even meanings associated to each and I will be covering that in another post.

Hopefully.

  1. All female members of the immediate family of the deceased cuts their hair (wife and unmarried members): in my case, this included my mum, my sister and I. You can imagine how I felt after I was told that I would have to cut my hair as it was a ‘thing’ that must be done. I remember my sis was thinking of ways to arrange for a fake wedding (like that would ever happen. LOL!). I, on the other hand, raised arguments to prove how unnecessary and superstitious it was to cut my hair.

 

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Hair that I have been struggling to groom.

After much deliberation over the matter, and in fact, serious consideration, I finally came to terms with the fact that the hair had to go. To be honest, I had to give up the fight…and sooner as I was told that if I missed cutting it in the hands of a barber before travelling home for the burial, I would have to allow ‘the old women’ whose task it was, to cut my hair. So you can say, I decided to take the safer route.

2. No staying out late: this came into immediate effect after his passing. You know that time people come around to show their sympathy and all that, there were too many ‘experienced aunties’ who shared tons of Dos and DONTs with I and my siblings. This was one of the numerous ‘tips to live by after the loss of a loved one. Culture norms edition’ held among many from my village. We were told to not be found outside as soon as the sun begins to set. This was to be observed particularly from the time of passing up until he was laid to rest.

3. Yam cooking by the first female child of the deceased: this was one of the things I heard that got me wondering: but someone just died. What’s all this fuss about food? This was to be carried out by me and served to all the women in the entire family. But i didnt do this since I’m unmarried. Then again, after close observation into the argument that ensued among the ‘aunties’, I discovered that the cultural act had been so outdated that they weren’t sure if it was still a requirement. Phewww!

4. Tea preparation for the umu adaWonders shall never end! I never knew that the demise of a person meant having a tea party. We had to purchase stacks of tea and even went to procure loaves of bread at a local bakery which was served to the umu ada (which translates to ‘daughters of the family’). As per the custom, they consumed this at the wee hours of the burial day.

5. Uniform clothing among the children of the deceased: As children of the deceased, we had to buy and sew a uniform material which was worn on the day of the burial. So we literally stood out from the crowd which made it easier for empathizers (both the fake and genuine ones) to locate us.

6. All white everything by the wife of the deceased: Now, in the case of the widowed, she is expected to be seen in white and only in white. At all times. So my mum had to cut and sew her own ‘too unique’ material which she wore in her stay at home and whenever she received visitors.

7. The wife of the deceased must not consume anything prepared for the ceremony;

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Imagine seeing this and not being able to eat out of it. #NigerianJollof

8. An official visit to the hometown of the mother of the deceased: So custom also demanded that the first son and daughter of the deceased make an ‘official announcement’ to the birth place of his mother. And it wasn’t an empty-handed visit o. We ‘announced’ with a goat, and drinks ranging from local wine (palm wine) and beer. The crazy thing about this was that a day to the visit, a number of people told me that I would have to do this crying and walking on my bare feet as I approached the place. Of course, I engaged in another argument (not so serious though) especially after my mum attested to it saying she did same when her mother passed on.

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They got me like…

After a while, they turned around to say it was no longer a thing, and that they were just teasing. In my mind, I was like: tease all you want o, I still wouldn’t have done it if it were actually still mandatory. My brother was with me on this one.

9. Payment of outstanding home meeting levies or no rite performance: in my village, like in most, if not all, villages in the Ibo tribe, they pay levies for various purposes (which I’m not going to talk about.)You wouldn’t believe that if my dad’s levies weren’t being consistently paid, up until his passing, his family/villagers would have not shown up at the burial. in their own words: “we wouldn’t have been able to give him his rite.”

10. The eldest son must be present at the during major purchases: Now in this case, it is relative, as it is not entirely a fixed requirement. There are cases whereby the sons of the deceased may not be ‘financially available’, on their own, to cater for the burial purchases, but have daughters who have been married off. In such a case, their husbands are automatically expected to stand in for the sons and cater for the expenses. Also, if it so happens that neither of his sons have the means nor his daughters married, the eldest son must be present, regardless, during all major purchases made.

By ‘major’ I mean purchases such as the coffin, the cow…you catch the drift.

11. No confrontations over matters raised during the mourning period: A couple of people actually advised us to desist from engaging in arguments with other people especially on matters surrounding the burial preparations and while in the mourning period. I didn’t welcome this one at all. You cannot coman spill trash and I’ll let it die o. Sings in wizkids voice * plenty man shall fall that day if you cross my lane ooo eh*

13. Ego mgbaru (Condolences. In cash): So apparently, when groups of people come to pay their condolence on the burial day, they are expected to ‘drop something’ which ranged from drinks to cash, mostly cash. I guess the belief is: sha don’t come empty-handed. So on that day, there were several groups who performed this act.

14. Don’t wear clothes related to the burial ceremony to bed: This one was what mumsy told I and my siblings after the burial. And I was like: oh yeah? What now? Come on, are you sure you’re not taking this too far?

15. Observe a 6-month mourning period and consequently burn all clothing pertaining to the burial rites: I guess this is already commonplace maybe not just among the ibo tribe. During this mourning period, we were told again, not to go about activities like we used to before the death of my father. In clearer terms, things like going to the cinemas, inshort: having fun should be avoided until after.

story.


Sheesh! The things I was told though. Like the day of the burial, during the viewing of the body, I remember an aunt asking I and my siblings to cry, and in my mind, I was like :are we here for auditions? I’ll cry if I want to. You don’t get to tell me when to.


So that’s all. For now.

What do you think about this post? Know of any other customs which were not included here? Feel free to add in the comment section.

Thanks!

 

 

The F.R.E.E Conference

FREE: FRom Enduring to Enjoying

This career-shift event was organized by Jimi Tewe, a Career and HR consultant and I got to know about it through a friend after she tagged me on an IG post. I proceeded to register and didn’t really think much of it. The only information I had about locating the venue was that it was somewhere in Ikeja and frankly, it wasn’t difficult to locate at the end of the day.

I arrived a couple of minutes after 10am, which was the slated time of the event, quickly registered and proceeded to grab a seat before a friend whom I had mentioned the event to, a couple of days back, came over to where I was and offered me a sit. Apparently she had saved a spot for me.

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Amy wayne and I. DISCLAIMER:this picture is not awa real face. Please. lol.

At the time I arrived, one of the speakers, Omilola Oshikoya, was already speaking to the audience via a pre-recorded video. She took us through her days of being a full-time employer to now being FREE. It was an amazing journey, one which could only have happened because of the direction of God in her life.

Next speaker was the smartmoney woman, Arese Ugwu, whose story helped me understand that “when you step into your purpose, you will attract your helper.” I remember her saying that at 16 she had started interning in the corporate sector.

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The SmartMoneyChic, Arese Ugwu, sharing life tips.

Plus she got me like: What was I doing at 16?

The next speaker, Mr Ubong King, had so much to say that even the fastest fingers wouldn’t be able to put down. Ok, maybe it’s just me. Thank God the organizer also made audio CDs of the event available. His story was inspiring and left me with the happily-ever-after effect.

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Mr Ubong King aka The Troublemaker

Some of his words in quote;

The problem is not location but your imagination.

Whenever you see ‘somebody’ ask for the story behind their success.

Until passion hits you, you are going nowhere.

Anyone who gives you free food is stopping you from thinking for yourself.

If you are waiting for salary, you are suffering from vulture disease.

If you want to be rich, multiply your sources of income.

Pain is the down payment of gain.

Bend yourself in resources, else there will be no sources for you.

Whatever you eat, and continually eat, will eat you up eventually.

Passion without motivation will lead to frustration.

If you want to be something in this life, copy until you become.

The only way to get out of trouble is to enter one.

I’m pretty sure if he was given more time, other speakers may not have had a chance to speak. That’s how packed and ready he was for the conference.

Next was a panel which consisted of three great achievers, all doing great things in their various industries.

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Meet the first panelists: Foluso Gbadamosi, Ife Tokan & Tolagbe Martins (L-R)

To sum it all up, I’ll be sharing some of their words in quotes;

Good relationships is essential as it helps you with setting up beneficial structures- Foluso Gbadamosi.

Play to your strengths. Make use of the free stuff and build yourself in the ‘waiting’period. Package yourself!- Tolagbe Martins.

Endure with common sense.

Integrity is very simple yet priceless.

Invest in your integrity because it is very important while you are enduring.

You don’t need money to do anything. Its all about relationships.

– Ife Tokan

Net on stage was the second panel.

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Olawale Ayilara, Stephanie Obi, Kunle Idowu (popularly known as Frank Donga) & Gladys Ajiri-Okoro (L-R)

Again, words in quote;

Fall in love with failure first. Mistakes will increase your experience at the end of the day. Make as many now, not when you are much older and cannot afford a mistake.- Olawale Ayilara.

If your feeling comes from a place of love, you will excel at whatever it is you have decided to do.

Take in as much information that tickles your fancy.

Leverage is key! #DontCreateAMonsterYouCannotFeed- Kunle Idowu

Appreciate the success of others.

Going to school only provides an avenue to be better at what you do. There’s something already within.

What you do today, you reap tomorrow- Gladys-Ajiri Okoro.

At the final segment of the conference, the organizer took us through a deep session where he spoke about purpose, more like an introduction to his book but the profound thing about his session was when he talked about the levels of awareness- a visual representation of the stages involved in purpose discovery and I absolutely loved it because I immediately identified with the stage I am in that instant.

 

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Mr Olujimi Tewe dropping bomb messages.

See below the LEVELS OF AWARENESS which I’ll try to explain below;

DOMINANCE

Purpose

CONFIDENCE

Mastery

STABILITY

Practice

EXPLORATION

courage

CONFUSION

Exposure

IGNORANCE

From the flow chart, on the onset of self-discovery, one is ignorant of who he/she really is and from being exposed to certain areas (I’d say when one begins to see or experience things outside from the ‘comfort zone’) confusion sets in. Now, to move to the next level, courage must be exhibited from which he/she will now become very receptive to exploring things they never thought they would try out. By now, he/she is getting acclimated to the out-of-the-norm stuff and may probably have chosen an area of deep interest. What does he/she do at this point? PRACTICE! He/she puts into practice all the knowledge they may have garnered relating to that identified area of interest in order to move further up the ladder. Hence, stability. In order to then attain confidence in that subject area, he/she needs to do further study so as to advance and become the best in the field. When this has been achieved, he/she is well on their way to aligning with their purpose and then becoming a DON i.e he/she achieves dominance in the subject area.

I’m guessing there’s a thorough explanation of this flow chart by the author in the book. So this is just my understanding of the levels of awareness.

Below are some of what he also shared;

Your purpose is served in ETERNITY while your career is lived in REALITY.

The thing about purpose is that it can only be revealed.

Discovery is the result of exploration.

Show your interests with your actions.

If you count out GOD, you have discounted your future.

Just when I thought I had been blown away by the powerful messages, then came the final speaker, the iconic Fela Durotoye, whose session ‘took me to church’

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Mr Fela-Duroteye doing what he does best- enlightening us.

while sharing his wisdom through acronyms lettered A-I which goes thus;

  • A-Awareness
  • B-Belief
  • C-Conviction
  • D-Decide
  • E-Execute
  • F-Follow-through
  • G-Grow
  • H-Help
  • I-Inspire

His other words in quote;

The gap between been inspired and inspiring others depends on following God’s instructions.

No better thing can happen to a man than for him to be working on what he’s living for.

Ambition is vision bordered by self. (Not good)

Love is a genuine desire and consummate pursuit of the very best well-being of another. You can rule without love but cannot lead without love.

By the time he was through with his session, we had all held hands and prayed together and it really felt like a church service. Attending this conference was a blessing to me because I not only got to meet great minds but also got gifted with THE PURPOSE BOOK, a recent publication by Jimi Tewe.

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My devotional for the month of March. So much wisdom shared.

This was possible after the last speaker requested that anyone who wanted to purchase the book and give it out to people present should step out. This was after he had asked for people who really wanted a copy but couldn’t afford it to come on stage. The sponsor list was so much that I think 80% of the total population at the event got a copy to take home.

I am currently reading my own copy, one chapter per day, as each day I find a lot to take in. My hope is that I will go on to live the life God has called me to as I read this book and meditate on HIS WORD.


This post doesn’t even cover enough of what the event had to offer. So I strongly recommend that you get a copy of the audio CD through Eniola on 08055194404. You should also try to get a copy of the book too.

That’s all for now. Till next time, remain an “expression of God’s creation!”

 

About the tedxLagos Ideas Search 2017

Prologue: The year has started out quite in a fun way for me. only barely two months into the year and I have began to explore one of my several altruistic interests.

Unlike the slayfestival, the firm decision to be at the tedxlagos ideas search 2017 was arrived at right after the previous event. And of course, I was there as a volunteer. A week to the event, I received an email directed to all volunteers, with each of us assigned to a specific work section for the event. I had been assigned to the venue section and so I was expected to be at the event venue, Muson Centre, Onikan on Friday at 8am. I couldn’t be there so I sent messages to let the organizers know.

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I missed being a part of the team that put this amazing stage together.

Saturday morning came and after meeting up with two other volunteers, by 6:35am or so, we were well on our way to the venue location. We arrived by 7:16am and proceeded to receive our shirts and tags.

 

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Mirror selfie time

Next thing on the list was selfies.

 

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Smart volunteers 😉

 

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I was advised to never post this pic…anywhere. LOL!

Soon, we were debriefed by one of the head organizers of the event and I was re-assigned to work at the VIP registration area which meant locating the tags of the guests as they arrived and handing it to them.

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Busy hands.

Come to think of it, there were several tags whose owners I looked forward to meeting but they didn’t show up. *sad face*

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Soon, we began to hand out tags.

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Guests…Speakers…Journalists came through.

Before we knew it, the hall was full with people from all works of life.

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It’s about to go down!

After some time spent handing out a couple of tags, I and another volunteer proceeded to grab breakfast.

 

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This very enticing dish by @cafejadelagos. FOTO CREDIT: @Rotimi Okungbaye.

Just after one bite, I knew I had to go back for more (yes, blame it on the VERY edible catering). We resumed duty back at the registration stand. As time passed on, we realized the guests were appearing to not show up anymore, so we quietly ‘fled’ our duty post and went into the venue hall and took our seats. We were right on time.

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TED Founder, Chris Anderson was with us. His first time in Lagos!

The first speaker was a young lady who had degrees in Engineering, Economics and Education and to cap it all, she was a Harvard Alumnus who was now a full-time visual artist. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I truly admired her and was low-key happy to just see her talk about what she did with so much joy.

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Source: @tedlagos via Instagram

THERE were too many speakers who shared so much that only by watching the video recording would you be able to get all that the event had to offer. In the meantime, find below some speakers and a quote from their talk.

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All Photos above by @tedlagos. For the video of the entire event, follow @tedlagos2017 on Twitter/Instagram. I hear it would be dropped on that page pretty soon.

It was a wonderful experience…yet again, volunteering. I think a major highlight of being a volunteer at this event, for me, was at the end of the event, when all volunteers were invited for ‘a-2-sec fame’. LOL! That’s literally what I heard some of the organizer’s say. And in fact, it was! We stood there and in unison, took a bow with the audience applauding us. I truly felt like I had done something great for humanity in that moment.

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In that brief moment, I hoped to speak on the platform someday.

We were even invited for the after-party at Westwood Hotel, Ikoyi.

 

.Real BIG thanks to the TEDxLagos Ideas Search 2017 team for the opportunity. See you next time!

 

Bonus service to my Nation

Major highlight of the service year

Participating in the general elections was an interesting aspect of my service year. As a corper in the election year of 2015, it was mandatory to partake in the elections. The general elections originally slated to take place on the 14th and 28th of February 2015 for the Presidential & National Assembly and Governorship and State Assemblies respectively got postponed to the 28th of March and 11th of April due to poor voters’ card distribution and the Boko Haram menace at the time. So the need for ‘corper participation’ was paramount (of course I’m referring to the former).

I remember one fine Friday afternoon, during CDS, when news came that we should all report to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office. A number of us were unhappy about the request, some others like me were curious. I didn’t even stop to think about the risk of conducting elections as many others were talking about at the time. The office was only a stone’s throw (ok, make that 6 stones) away from the LGA where we were. I and a friend took a shuttle where we met a lot of other corpers waiting in line…already.

What’s ‘corper-ship’ without queue?

We were asked to put down our names after which we waited for a brief announcement where we were officially told that we would be participating in the general elections as adhoc staffs. As a number of us started to murmur, the speaker immediately added that it was mandatory and tried to persuade us saying that we didn’t need to worry about our safety and that we would be paid. By paid, he actually meant stipends that were tagged things like ‘bicycle allowance’ meaning transportation money, and feeding. However, a number of us didn’t participate in the end even despite all the threats. It really wasn’t actually compulsory though. I was interested, regardless.

So the election duty kicked off the following week with those of us who showed interest being stationed at different registration centres where we distributed voters’ cards to the recipients. This was something we had to do up until the week before the elections. It wasn’t the way it was planned from the onset but as the election day drew nearer, due to stats showing a large discrepancy between cards given and cards still in the commission’s possession, and the other reason mentioned initially, the election day had to be postponed by about six weeks. This was also done in a bid to fulfill a fair election.

Working with INEC was actually another major event that took me away from the boring CDS of NYSC. So every Friday and Saturday, when morning came, I would dress up in my khaki and leave for the INEC office where I would be handed my box full of voters’ cards. I would then proceed to sign in.Not signing in upon arrival meant no stipend for the day, as payment was made at the end of each day after we had the remaining cards returned, if any. Mind you, even before we were handed the cards, we were made to sign an undertaken drafted by the court of law which said something about getting arrested if any electoral material in our possession was tampered with (don’t worry, I didn’t need to get my lawyers. It was written in plain English and I understood that I wasn’t signing my death warrant or anything like that). In all sincerity, I was scared a little…just a teeny weeny bit, not enough to make me withdraw from participating.

Distributing the voters’ cards was quite an arduous task, in my opinion, and it wasn’t because of the droves of people who came out and more than often rushed to collect their cards, it was rather because of the difficulty that came with ‘managing’ the crowd. I mean doing this meant tolerating different ‘peoples of the world’.I’m talking ALL SHADES OF CRAZY. I didn’t mind though. Sometimes I just laughed at the way they would often push themselves like babies. Meanwhile, these were full grown adults–peoples’parents. There was a day when they raised their voices at me for not been on time (which wasn’t my fault. No, really). I had to make them understand that there was a delay at the office and assured them that the only reason why they wouldn’t get their card would be simply because it wasn’t in my possession. So I redirected those who fell in that category to the INEC office. There were days when that would work and then there were times when it seemed as though they had made up their minds from home not to cooperate.

On such days, I had Abraham who would calm them down on my behalf. You see, after a couple of weeks spent  distributing cards, I had made a number of acquaintances who appointed themselves my P.A of some sort. Abraham became the main P.A. He was in his late 20s and I must say, he really came in handy. It was good having him around to keep ‘his people’ in check. I figured they were his people since he knew practically everyone who came around for their cards.There were days when just as i was packing up to leave for the INEC office, I would have someone rush up to me, requesting and sometimes begging to collect their card. I really couldn’t turn them down. I would then unpack, sort their card and tick their names in the register. Yet again, there were days when it was a no-no. We were actually given a report back time by the officials, so my decision to stay back was determined by the time. If I checked the time and it was already getting too late, I would ask the person to check back the next day.

During the pre-election period, some of us actually got lucky to meet ‘the generous at heart’-those who often gave gifts ranging from money to food, just as a token of appreciation. Some felt the need to do this because of the stress and disappointment they were faced with in collecting their cards, same reason why some people never even bother to come around for their cards. A close ally who was also participating, after meeting back at the INEC office, would tell me how much ‘token’ she had received at the end of each day. There was even one time she received a hot plate of pepper soup. And this was recurrent. Meanwhile, I never got anything. As each day passed, I started to think she had some sort of lucky charm following her and the annoying part of it was that she barely gave out cards. Some days, she would indicate giving out just two cards whereas in my case, I would get nothing after giving out up to 70+ cards.

LOL! Is this life not a HOT pot of beans?

After about a month dedicated to sharing cards, it was time for the training proper. We were expected to attend several scheduled meetings in which we were taught how to use the Smart Card Reader as well as given general election knowledge.

We actually got manuals.

In it contained all the essential elements of a successful electoral process which included tips, instructions and guide for the general election activities/conduct. The election week was the ‘happening week.’I remember on several occasions where we would get notified by a contesting party, requesting to see all corpers. On one of such request, we were offered sits and addressed after which they handed us ‘gifts’ (I’m sure you know what is meant here) saying they appreciated our spirit of service which was demonstrated in our participation in the election. shior! They were using scope to bribe.

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I be like: what’s my own?

I wee chop the money and still do my job as it should be done. After all, it’s national cake meant for all of us that you are giving me a tiny portion from. We would walk out smiling, calling our friends who were unaware of the invite to come collect their own portion of ‘the national cake’.

Weeks before the election, we were asked to frequent the INEC office in order to get information on the centre we were to each preside. As a rule, all corpers were made Presiding Officers of their polling units. This, I came to understand, was because the commission felt that way they were able to hold someone accountable should in case electoral materials got missing. This therefore made all other participants (non-corpers) report to the corper placed above them.

From my perspective, INEC was quite disorganized towards the election day. On the eve of the election, I remember roaming about the office searching for my name and polling unit up until it was late in the evening. The crowd was massive.

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A weak attempt at describing the crowd at the INEC office.

They had pasted the information quite later than expected. Meanwhile, by now I had already gone home and packed a few things to stay at a friend’s place at Festac. I decided it was better to do so since my unit, Agboju in Festac, was farther from home. No need risking leaving home too early and heading to the unit. After having spent time locating my unit, I found it. Myself and all those allocated to the same polling unit area were expected to report to a school compound (it was one of the Govt sec schools) where we would pass the night against the election day. Their reason was to prevent any delays in conducting the election. Upon arrival at the school compound, thinking we would have beds to ourselves or at least mats, to my surprise, we were going to pass the night on the bare sandy floor. It was utterly distasteful and annoying because we had been assured of ‘proper accommodation’. Not cool. I couldn’t turn back now. I had already made the firm decision to participate except of course if the risk was too obvious to ignore.

Some others left soon after to lodge at nearby hotels while others who had friends/relatives within the area passed the night there. For the rest of us, the floor was our bed. So I slept that night on the bare floor, under a tree, with its branches poking my back. Such discomfort! All for you, Nigeria.

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It was a cold night too.

I tossed and turned till dawn when the Electoral Officer of the polling zone summoned us and made an announcement. It was about 6am-the day was finally here for the Presidential/National Assembly election. In no time, we freshened up (not baffing tinz o, just brush teeth and wash face) and took turns (indeed) to get our electoral materials which consisted of markers, collapsible ballot boxes, pens, stamp, tons of forms differentiated by a unique combination of letters & numbers, ballot papers, just to mention a few.One would think collecting the materials was one easy thing. We literally had to drag materials with other teams. Each Polling Team consisted of four members with distinct duties. My team members were great to work with.

Apparently, the electoral materials weren’t even enough.

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They got me sooo…

By the time it was 8am, which was the time slated for the voting process to commence, the officials had already began announcing that we move out to our various polling units. Like this was our fault. I just couldn’t understand what was going on at this point. Thankfully, my teammates and I were fast enough to get through the crowd to grab all the essentials listed in the manual. A couple of minutes after 8am, we were well on our way to our unit, conveyed by a bus hired by the commission. It wasn’t much of a distance from the school compound but for safety reasons, particularly to avoid a hijack of the materials by political thugs and whatnot, the ride was necessary.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a few of the electorates and election observers. We then proceeded to unpack and setup the various voting points as described in the manual. I tested the card reader as well, more like a calibration. Election took off minutes after with accrediting the voters’ cards presented to us by the electorates. This was necessary to prevent counting the votes of fake voters’ cards (cards not issued by INEC), after which we proceeded with the election itself which of course involved handing out the ballot papers to each voter as they stepped up to us and directing them to the voting point where they were expected to thumbprint the paper before folding neatly and placing into the ballot boxes.

As the election continued, we soon had issues with the card reader-it stopped reading. I knew we had to get it fixed and fast so as to prevent postponing the election for my unit. We had been briefed earlier that in an eventuality that the card reader develops a fault, we should send it back to the INEC officials for a replacement, but if they were unable to either fix it or get a replacement, we would have to conduct the election the following day. I didn’t like the sound of that, one bit–conducting election on a Sunday? No, please.

As soon as the card started acting up, I immediately sent one of my team members to take it to the office as instructed, while I addressed the electorates as they were already beginning to murmur and become disorderly. Dealing with people is a really big deal. I really had to try and manage the situation till they were calm again. Soon after, we began to hear reports from other units about their card readers not working too.

Even with the postponement of the election, INEC still wasn’t quite ready?

After about almost an hour, my team mate returned with the card reader saying he met a technical officer who rectified the problem. You can imagine the relief I felt. So we resumed the election and by 2:00pm we were done with it.

Now, the main work had just begun- the documentation.

There were numerous forms which we were expected to sign, stamp and file. It included forms stating the number of ballot papers used and unused, number of electorates turnover and things like that. Another major task which we had to really checkmate was making sure that our records of the number of electoral materials handed to us and those used up tallied. If they didn’t, we had some serious explaining to do. So that too scared me a little but from the onset, I made sure to state everything clearly.

After counting the votes, we then announced the results and in my unit, the current ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) won the election. We packed up after documentation and headed back to the school compound for submission. Back there, we met a number of other teams who had arrived earlier, awaiting the arrival of the Collation Officer whom we were to submit the results to. I proceeded to submit the electoral materials left to the Supervisory Polling Officer and joined in the wait. It was quite frustrating waiting under the sun hot, knowing I couldn’t just leave without ‘proper handover’ (My team mates could leave though). At about 4pm, she arrived. We were now on a queue to make our submission. This took longer than expected as people ahead of me who had issues in tallying the report were made to correct their mistakes on-the-spot or face court query. I just wondered why she didn’t just ask them to go back and try again later. Instead she kept the rest of us waiting.

The wait was too real. Some of us even cried. It was that serious.

Standing for hours just to make my submission was where the real work was, I soon realized. I kept checking the time because after last night’s experience sleeping on a bare floor, I thought it wise to stay at my friend’s place who lived in Festac. Although it was farther from the school, at this point, it was anywhere but here. At about 10pm, there were only 3 people ahead of me and soon enough I successfully made my submission. It was really late by now and after seriously second-guessing myself, I chose to leave the school and flagged down the first biker I saw. It was almost 11:30 by now. After passing through a lonely, dark road, I arrived at my friend’s place. I met her mom and siblings in the sitting room who gave me a really warm welcome. I was so tired. I don’t think i have ever been that tired…ever. They served me food and water which I readily ate and gulped like a hungry lion. My friend was yet to return home and it was almost midnight. Soon after, I managed to walk to her room and dozed off. I was so deep into sleep that I didn’t notice when she got back. By the next morning, I took my bath and was on my way back home.

The Gubernatorial election which was held on the 11th of April had the same process. At the end of it all, I was really glad to have participated in the National General Elections.

LESSONS I LEARNT FROM THE EXPERIENCE

Regardless of some let-downs by the commission, the experience overall was a good learning opportunity so I thought to also share a few of the lessons that came with it. They are;

  1. Working with INEC demystified the entire election process. Yes, it was only after working as an adhoc staff with the commission that I realized it wasn’t really a big deal after all because before now, I used to think it was something that only highly trained people were assigned to do. Definitely not corpers.
  2. I think it helped me develop better people skills as well as improved my communication skills. I learnt how to relate with even the most aggresive person in a gathering. They can’t kill you, don’t worry.
  3. When someone tells you they will provide accommodation, don’t relax just yet. Try to first find out what they mean by the word ‘accommodation’ and see if it tallies with your own understanding of the word.
  4. Election work in Nigeria is not for the faint-hearted. Don’t even try it o. Although participating was kinda a secret dare to myself, I’m glad I didn’t regret it…totally.

A small GLOSSARY

Ballot papers- a long slip containing all parties contesting in the election.

Collation Officer- someone who collates all results from a specified polling area.

Electorates- people who came out to vote.

Electoral Officer- the head of the Commission’s office in an area council.

Electoral process- activities carried out in steps during election.

Election Observers- people (domestic and foreign) appointed by respective organizations and accredited by the commission to observe the elections. Journalists are included and party agents.

Poling Team- a set of four people assigned to a polling unit.

Polling Unit- a designated location where registered voters cast their votes on election day.

Presiding Officer- someone in charge of all activities at a polling unit on election day.

Smart Card Reader- electronic device used to verify the biometrics of an electorate.

Supervisory Presiding Officer- supervises the conduct of poll in a cluster of polling units.

(Source: INEC official manual for the 2015 General Elections)

The experience in general was really expository which was an avenue to test my strengths. It literally pushed me to my limits.

Have you ever worked with INEC? How was your experience in a nutshell? For those who haven’t, from what you have read, do you think it’s something you would like to try? Feel free to share below. I’d love to hear from you.

Again,

Thanks for reading!

My NYSC experience (The Finale) 

Finally done with the series

Now about the other segment of the NYSC—SAED. 

The SAED which stands for skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development is actually the scheme’s initiative of enabling corpers acquire skills for self-employment. In camp, we heard a lot of ‘get a skill and be empowered’ talks which often goes on to be about the lack of job opportunities. And so the need to be your own boss, basically, was the message. A wide range of skills were made available for to choose from ranging from cosmetology, cooking, IT, craft making, just to mention a few. I actually had quite a bit of a hard time picking one but I eventually chose craft making.

My handwork in display

 I guess I just really liked the whole idea of creating something. The lessons went on after each seminar we had in the day and I can say although the learning process is supposed to be a continuous one after leaving camp, I had learnt a couple of things from creating purses and bags to flats and accessories using Ankara fabric before the three weeks elapsed. I later decided to do short courses in IT and HSE (Health, Safety & Environment) after leaving camp just to give the CV “a boost.”

Towards the final week in camp, we were expected to showcase what we had learnt and present them to the camp officials as a group. It was a fun day because there were so many beautiful crafts displayed by my group.

My group and I showcasing our ‘achievements’

As the day for the passing out occasion drew nearer, we got our first allawee. The queue obviously turned out to be the worst ever in the camp. Trust us Nigerians, when money is involved there is no tomorrow. It must be collected today. It was quite a drag but we all eventually received our payment. 
On the day we were to leave camp, after so many days and nights spent practicing for the parade, the day was finally here to prove that we haven’t been playing uno. The governor arrived and in no-time all the small talk was over and we paraded and moved on to receive our letters of PPA (Place of Primary Assignment) which is basically where each of us would be spending the rest of the service year serving the nation. There were different emotions as each of us received our letters. Some cried, some laughed and some well, just indifferent. I was indifferent because unlike many others, mine didn’t actually have a defined place that I would be reporting to. All I could take from the letter was that I would teach. Just before we were dismissed, the camp director announced that the Lagos corpers should report to the state’s secretariat with immediate effect as there was a limited amount of slots for those who would be receiving the state allowance. 

The morning of departure
[We were also expected to sign our names in a book which would serve as an evidence of service. It was called ‘the book of life.’ What a name!]

The frenzy that followed as the letters were handed to us was just as expected. Every one of us who was a Lagos corper fought our way through to get into the next bus. It was all part of the fun of camp and I was truly going to miss camp.

​​By late noon, I had arrived Lagos. Of course I didn’t report immediately as advised. I couldn’t imagine carrying my box all the way, after an exhausting journey from Oyo. I decided to start the hustle the very next day. Upon arriving the secretariat the following morning, I was greeted by another long ‘corper queue’ and as I enquired to confirm what the queue was for, it was for the very reason I had come there. The slots had already been taken. Like I was not expecting to hear that. Apparently, a lot of us came straight from camp the previous day to collect numbers as the slots were handed out by numbers. 

“So the 600 slots has been filled just between yesterday and today?” I asked myself. I felt bad about it. I should have come the previous day to get the number. How hard could that be? I thought. The search for a PPA commenced and with time I got to know that I didn’t even have to stress it as my letter was soon interpreted. I was to teach at a government junior secondary school and so that automatically qualified me to be a recipient of the state salary. But not arriving early still had it consequences but a friend from camp helped put me through a staff at the secretariat and I was well on my way to receiving allawee from two separate sources. Yay! 

Locating my PPA was quite an arduous task and I needed to do it sooner as the clock was ticking on me because I had to sort it out and then head to my local government area for a full registration. 

The NYSC and its endless registrations! 

The local government is the designated place for the CDS meetings (CDS=Community development service). This is basically that part of the scheme where one can take up both individual and/or group projects focused on solving a need in just about any area of interest. It could be providing infrastructure to school kids or even providing borehole water supply to a community. I didn’t do any though. But some who did got recognition from the state government.

Each and every one of us was entitled to joining a group we liked back in camp but as I got to the local government office to do my registration, the woman in charge automatically placed me in a group I didn’t even hear of in camp—SERVICOM. It was one founded by Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria in a bid to checkmate the activities of public organizations. It was always boring (reminded me so much of the camp seminars) attending the meetings and I couldn’t even risk not being in attendance because it greatly influenced the qualification to receive the monthly allawee. Repeatedly going MIA on CDS could equate to ‘no pay’ and in worst cases, an extra month or more spent in the scheme. Our meeting days was Fridays and it was just the perfect day for CDS. As time went on, a lot of the national holidays fell on Fridays so there were so many ‘off days’ for the activity. 

With time, I located my PPA and was given a resumption date. I was to take basic science for about four periods each week. As time went on, the principal asked me to also take agricultural science as there was no teacher to teach the subject. More workload! The teaching wasn’t the problem. It was actually writing the teaching outline. It was absolutely necessary as oftentimes, we had inspectors coming over to see how we deliver the teaching to the students and they would demand to see the outline made. On two separate occasions, they visited my school. The inspector who came the first time didn’t think I was doing a great job but by the second visit, I had gotten better at teaching.

With time, the objective of CDS got changed to a national agenda—U REPORT. This was a kind of forum created to get the opinions of communities on several issues such as power supply, security and so on. News reached us that the agenda was put in place by the federal government and we were asked to go into the streets and get a lot of people to sign up on it. For me, it was exciting…doing something I would normally not do—stop a stranger, talk about the forum and get him/her to sign up. Although I had to do a lot of talking trying to convince some people, it was a good challenge in the end. So we had all other plans/activities for the group cancelled by the Local government inspector.

 Soon, the agenda was used as the prerequisite for receiving allawee. They got us hooked for good! At the end of each month, we were each expected to submit about 50 valid numbers and sometimes the LGI would even go as far as dialing some to verify they were genuine numbers. 

He really had our time.

As a corper, one of the most dreaded thing was not receiving ‘the alat’ when it was time for payment. The feeling of losing out on the one thing that literally lights up your face was avoided at all cost. It’s worse when your colleagues say they have received theirs and you are yet to receive yours. Really heartbreaking. But I was told it’s received eventually. Maybe not in all cases. There were cases where you would have to write a plea before the issue would be addressed. 

At my PPA, we had the usual inter-house sports competition and my house came top in everything. It really felt good particularly after spending extra time training my house for the march past. It was a memorable day.

The joy of passing out successfully

There was another day when the principal of my school celebrated the promotion of the vice principal as principal at another school. I didn’t know parties were thrown on such occasions. She was Yoruba and so was many other teachers. So I needn’t be surprised. Yoruba people and parties go hand-in-hand. And yes, they celebrated in a big way with lots of delicious dishes to go round. They also had this time when they exchanged gifts. I was surprised I was also given items to take home. Aside these two days, every other day at my PPA was normal. Sometimes too boring and sometimes quite entertaining—when the students were naughty and I had to flog them and restore them back to being good kids. I was the only corper posted there. The teachers were great though. No hassles like a couple of my colleagues often complained about theirs. 
During the scheme, there were so many programs that we had to attend just to get clearance for allawee. The scheme literally treated us most times like they owned us. Literally. Like if you were asked to do something, there was always a consequence attached to not doing it. Weeks before the final passing out, we were asked to report to the camp for parade practice. It wasn’t compulsory but hey, it’s parade, so I was always in attendance till the passing out ceremony day. We got our certificates, took pictures and on the 15th of October 2015, I was officially done with NYSC without any outstanding allawee or issues.

Momma I made it. LOL!

NYSC was a wonderful experience. For me, it was a really god time to test my strengths and be open to trying out new things and yes, taking risks—working with INEC (I’ll be sharing my INEC experience in another post) 

Here I go again making promises…let’s just hope this one doesn’t keep me hostage.
How was your own experience? Feel free to share in the comment section.

My volunteer experience

Last Saturday was LIT!

As I stood on the railway corporation compound, looking at all the beautiful people and activities I was surrounded by, I asked myself “why did you ever think it would be okay to deliberately miss this event?”  I had seen the proposed SLAYFESTIVAL reposted by the ‘Bruce Lee of Visuals’ Ms. Kemi Adetiba, on her Instagram page weeks back and immediately got interested and thought, “It would mean a lot to actually meet her in person.” So I took a screenshot of the page as a reminder to register. I didn’t make the quick move to register which was at a cheaper price because I was seriously considering another program slated for the same day. If you must know, it was a FREE TRAINING on graphic design which I already had a seat booked. As the day got nearer, I couldn’t decide on which I should forsake for the other. They were to be held at different venues and within the same timeframe.

Like… which has the greater benefit?

On the week of the event, it began to look like the SLAY FESTIVAL was tempting me to choose her as the reposts were beginning to crowd my IG feed. I would overlook and scroll down only to find more reposts by people but one particular repost by an old friend got my attention and I had to ask questions. It was now Thursday the 19th. Upon enquiring, I got to know she was actually going to be volunteering at the event. This explains the constant reposts she had been doing all week. She told me all I had already known, by now, about the event as I had checked the event organizer’s website (severally) earlier in the week. I knew I had missed the ‘early bird’ registration deadline and I could barely afford to even make the payment. She told me that I would then have to make the payment for late registration. Ol’ boy! My loss, my fault. I thought.
My “neural accumbens” by now was in a hyperactive state and I expressed my desire to volunteer too. She sent me a number and asked that I call and try and see if more volunteers were needed. I tried the number a few times but no one picked up the call. I was losing interest again and by Friday morning, she sent me a message to try calling again, which I didn’t do, by the way. I forgot (PS: making and sometimes taking calls are a bit of a herculean task for me. I’m trying.)

Later that same day, she requested that I send my email address (hyper active state activated…again) saying that the organizers seem to be needing more volunteers. I did send the mail. She asked me to pray that I get a reply. I left my mobile data on during ‘the wait’ which was unusual, for me (those who know know) and kept refreshing my mail just to be sure it wasn’t been delayed by network or anything at all.

After about thirty minutes spent on the refresh tab, I finally got the mail. Yipeeee! God wants me to attend this event o. I thought, happily smiling. I was slated for the afternoon shift but arrived HOURS earlier than expected. Hollup…

The journey to SLAYFESTIVAL

I knew how to get to Yaba, which was the location of the venue but had to figure out the exact place. So I got my friend again to confirm the route which was quite clear. I got dressed and headed to the venue.

From Yaba, I alighted (based on the driver’s direction) on a pathway which was apparently supposed to be a ‘shortcut’ to the venue. Although another commuter suggested that I stopped somewhere further the road, the driver insisted he was right saying he had dropped many other people with the same address earlier in the day. He couldn’t be wrong. After ‘crossing rivers and climbing mountains’ (it was actually just a bridge) I was soon on a railway track. Where’s this place o?  It was looking like the sort of place where someone could get snatched or murdered and no one would hear them scream. I walked up to the first ‘approachable’ person I saw, which was a somewhat old man, to ask for directions and while I was busy trying to read out the address sent to me in the mail, he said, smiling “na that place wey dem dey do something, abi?” with a smile on my face I said, “yes, sir.” It was to be a long walk along the tracks but he felt I needed a ‘guide’ and asked a middle aged man who he knew to go with me. It was quite a distance and we introduced ourselves and chatted as we walked.

                 Guardian angel or nah? 

In no time, I was at the entrance of my destination of about an hour. I quickly called my friend and got directions to the volunteer stand where I got my pass. I walked in and it was a beautiful sight. There were so many people in attendance and the TWP creator, Kemi, was on at the time I arrived. I got directions to get my very own fabulous SLAY shirt, got changed and was now on the carpet. Ready to slay. Lol! It was 12:34pm.

I looked around and soon bumped into another old friend (PS: old friend= we went to high school together) I really wasn’t surprised to see her here and it’s not even because my other friend had told me she might be coming as a guest.

Look who I bumped into, Oga madam herself

I was assigned to the activities area of the event which at the time was a simple task of handing out cold water to guests. It was a small task than I had imagined volunteering at the event would be. It made me feel like a hero (in a type of way. Call me the thirst-quencher…hehehe) like some would actually come up to me thinking it was for sale and I would eagerly say “it’s free” like it was my money I even used to buy the water I am dashing out.
Several speakers came on at intervals to share their advice, give opinions and answer questions on maximizing opportunities in the media industry. Some also shared their journey of how they got to being the media experts that they are today.

M.I Abaga was Live at the slay festival

We had speakers from various parts of media. In music, we had M.I Ababa, in movie we had Kemi Adetiba and Mary Njoku. For TV personalities, we had Toke Makinwa, Zainab Balogun, Keturah king and many others, as well as the smartmoney lady, Arese Ugwu. there was of course a session with the founder of the biggest makeup industry in Africa, Tara Durotoye and her husband, Fela Durotoye both which turned out to be the major highlight of the event (for me, at least). [Check my IG page for short clips: @ritsgorge.]

A session with Toke Makinwa and Arese Ugwu
The power couple: Fela&Tara Durotoye

They each shared lots of amazing advice and tips in maximizing the vast opportunities available to everyone looking at getting into the media industry ~check out @onewordadvice on IG for some short clips~
The organizers of the event also did a wonderful job in making master classes available and hosted by experts in the industry who provided the attendees with tips for getting one’s business moving forward. There were also several vendors who had pure Nigerian products on display. I got to know about quite a number of brands which I never knew were in existence. They were amazing too. We also had a number of artistes who gave really thrilling performances.  They had me wondering why their music wasn’t trending.

toke
Toke Makinwa gave out signed copies of her recently published book.

Towards the end of the event, I had eaten to my fill thanks to Maggi and their jollof rice variety (which I think would have been just great as concoction jollof though but it’s alright) and a Chinese cuisine by a vendor whose name I didn’t take note of. I also had cakes and cookies (got my buds happy) and sharwama to cap it all. As we got ready to leave for our various destinations, fireworks repeatedly got fired into the sky, it was like Christmas all over again.

It was truly a day WELL SPENT and I was so glad I had this fantastic experience. I made new friends (which I think are all amazing, by the way).

Special thanks to @kyindykay and @Sheleadsafrica for the opportunity to volunteer and be a part of this event.

Till next time, ama keep slaying!!!

Don’t KNOW the future, MAKE the future! PT 1.

Amazing Tomorrow

 Basically, this is a call to youths, you and I. I found this ringing in my mind and I’ve began doing my best to follow it…

  • What are you Sowing?

1st Samuel 3:12-13 (KJV) “In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restraineth them not”.

Eli was a priest of God and he had two sons named Hophni and Phinehas. Now, God had declared that the house (generation) of Eli will walk before him forever by the way of being priests. The bible mentions three children who are implied to have been under the care of Eli and they were Hophni and Phinehas (his sons)…

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MY NYSC EXPERIENCE-PART 2 OF A SERIES

Finally got myself to sit down and try to complete this series I started. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like we are ending it soon.

So after obtaining the kit, I had to check to see what fitted right and what didn’t and check with other people to see who I could make an exchange with.

(I should probably post a couple of tips and tricks later on. No promises so I’m not held ransom. By myself.)

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kitted and good to go.

This is actually common practice in the scheme and in my case, I had really big boots and khaki and I luckily found someone with a smaller size for the boot but I had no chance getting an exchange for the khaki as it turned out a lot of us got bigger sizes than smaller sizes. So off I went to MAMI. This is basically the market in camp where you can make purchases ranging from food, drinks, snacks, and all those other ‘pleasure’ food items which I didn’t expect to meet in camp. And of course, tailors who were really good, by the way. When I first realized that I would be charging my phone at this market (as there were no sockets in the rooms) which meant leaving it amongst thousands of other mobiles for hours, I didn’t welcome the idea at first. I mean, it could get stolen or claimed by another person. But as it was a necessity, I soon warmed up to the reality. Besides, phones were given tags with their owner’s name on them. So it was pretty safe, I thought.

I joined the parade the very next day. I had looked forward to participating for so long that I was ready to stomp that feet on the ground as commanded by my platoon soldier. In camp, part of what you get registered for at the initial stage is your platoon. I was placed in platoon number one.

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Might as well take a shot while we’re at it.

Always number one, ko easy! Lol!

So yeah, the parade practice was not just for the fun of it o. it’s a serious something as we were actually being prepped up for the big day—the passing out occasion. Every other day, after the usual morning exercises (which was another exciting highlight of camp life) and camp devotion/ announcements, those of us who had shown interest in the parade would wait behind while other corpers graduates proceeded to having breakfast and whatnot.

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Parade pro. hehe

You see that parade selection ehn, many graduates intentionally perform badly so they can be pulled out from the line by the commanders.  Initially, it was compulsory for all but I guess if the soldiers didn’t do it that way, many wouldn’t actually volunteer for it. So after the parade, I would then proceed to have breakfast but sadly, I soon realized there was actually no extra time allocated for those of us who partake in the parade.

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As you can see, I am tired and hungry. What’s with the picture?

On several occasions, as we are ‘travelling’ to our hostels to shower and eat, the beacon would go off for the next usual activity of the day which was the part of the day many of us dread the most—the seminars. Those seminars were literally blood-sucking. Although, I must admit, not all but most were. With time, I noticed that a good number of the speakers always gave employment tips and basically life-after-NYSC gists. They were good though, quite helpful and informative. But repetition like I said is something I don’t really like.

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Bored out of my mind

Oftentimes, these seminars would last for hours and during that time, I would look around to count the number of people asleep. The ‘very epic’ poses of some people while asleep often made me giggle. LOL! I know that sounds naughty but it was a good distraction for me in those times. I couldn’t t imagine the paparazzi taking shots of me asleep o. But forget, there were times I did shut those tired eyes. It was just necessary. Sometimes we would go on a break and return to a sequel but with another speaker on stage. The next thing in line would be lunch. The beacon for that purpose would go off as the seminar was coming to an end. At this time, aside eating, you could actually catch a good sleep, use your phone, chat, or even get water for taking a cool shower afterwards, amongst others, as there were often less queues at the taps at this hour.

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There won’t be queue.So I thought.

After the brief resting period, we were summoned once again for another hour of intensive parade practice. I couldn’t complain. I was enjoying it. From then on we would rest again and come out for the social night. In camp, every night was social night and we were forced to participate in every single thing. Even if it’s just being a spectator. But for me, when I had had it with the stage presentations, I would sneak back into my room and off to sleep. Some nights were fun though, especially whenever the comedian of the camp mounted the stage. He was actually a major highlight. He was just too funny to miss at the socials.

After the socials, another beacon would then go off to indicate the ‘send-off’ to sleep. Before then, one would have had dinner. And the cycle repeats itself up until the mandatory three-week camp period elapses.

On the morning of the swearing-in day, we were all asked to assemble on the parade ground, fully kitted (in the crested vest and khaki preferably) under that mighty hot sun, awaiting the arrival of the governor of Oyo state, as is the norm at every other camp across the nation. Of course he didn’t show up. He sent a representative.

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Don’t keep me waiting.

That day ehn, we had to stand while the speaker spoke to us about stuff sha (I wasn’t listening o) but in case one got tired, we had been instructed earlier to sit at the back of the assembly, where it wouldn’t be noticeable. By now, a lot of us had taken comfort as directed but I didn’t want to. I decided to instead test my limits and soon some of the guys in my platoon labelled me a source of motivation. Lol! It was funny watching them say to themselves that if I could do it, they could too.

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Thinking to myself: “these ones won’t goan rest before they collapse.”

We stood for hours mehn but with time it was over. And we got back to the other usual activities as the parade time had lasted from morning up until the time we were usually dismissed from the seminars. Other activities in camp included sport competitions such as football and volleyball as well as cooking competitions, man-o-war day, endurance trek and bonfire night.

Now, about the man-o-war.

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Let me be careful before khaki tear.

Each platoon took turns each day to partake in the man-o-war drills which took place at a demarcated part of the camp called man-o-war village. Here, all kinds of obstacle courses such as tug-of war, wall climbing, just to mention a few. Long story short, the man-o-war was another activity I anticipated and enjoyed eventually.

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Scrubbing the floor in the name of ‘training’

The BONFIRE NIGHT which was actually supposed to be the ‘littest’ activity turned out to be the one with the lowest expectation for me. The camp director, on that night, seemed to be pissed off about something I don’t even remember and so the punishment was to ‘kill the vibe’ basically of the night. But it was just fine though and we danced round the fire, chanting some babalawo-ish songs like cultists celebrating a new member.

The ENDURANCE TREK

This is a long trek as the name implies. In my camp, we took off the trek from camp to the site that formally used to be the state’s camp which wasn’t that much of a distance if you ask me. From the moment we left camp up until the old site, music was played and we were basically just grooving. More like ‘bonfire day’. It was an expository experience and I loved the part where the traffic had to take a pause whenever we needed to cross the road as we moved in droves.

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I looked up and saw my paparazzi on a tree. All for a shot. NICE!

In camp, I didn’t quite make new friends. I basically hung around people I knew from uni. Thinking of it now actually reminds me that camp was somewhat ‘Igbo-guys’ laden. I mean like ‘thick Igbo fluent’ guys which wasn’t attractive at all. Or maybe I didn’t really ‘explore’ the camp. There were actually some that were good though. Turned out that a good number of them where Oyo corpers and so leaving camp kinda ended the friendship. Lol!

See you on the next part. I hope you enjoyed reading.

Daddy dearest…

They say you never know what you have until you lose it. I actually knew in my case.

So my father passed on months back and I had to pen down a tribute for print. You never prepare for these kinds of things. I mean, of course our parents would leave us someday. Supposedly, when they are wrinkly  (to say the least) and not when you have barely started life. But then, death doesn’t give notifications. It just happens and you have to move on with life. I just really felt like putting some more of my thoughts down here Although the words to type have been in and out of my head every now and then, I think I best just start from somewhere.

Dearest dad, words cannot express how much void you have left in our hearts, or more personally, my heart. At different times, I catch myself with tears trickling slowly down my cheeks, especially when I am alone and as I lay on my bed to sleep at night. But more recently, I have found myself crying on the bus and to avoid people from looking at me, I simply turn to the window, when I am at that position, or more commonly, use my handkerchief to wipe my face ‘codedly.’ You know, like as though something got into my eyes.

Six days ago from today made it exactly three months since you left us here in this cold world. Have I gotten used to not having you around? NO. And I don’t think any additional second can change that feeling. I know I have to be strong, if not for myself, for my mum, especially. Everyone who has ever come to share their sympathy never fails to say so. I know this deep within already. But you see, that’s the easy part—knowing what do to. The ‘doing’ is where the real work is.

Even though I know that if you were to somehow say something to me, I know you would ask me to quit all the ‘childish’ crying and move on. LOL. Believe me when I say I am trying to. I really am. So far, my best tactic has been to think of you in the full and warm embrace of JESUS and you saying to me, “be there worrying yourself, I am enjoying myself here.” Because that’s the sort of thing you would say. When I let that thought in, the tears stop flowing almost immediately and I get back to doing what I was doing.

It’s not being easy and I have been really avoiding reminiscing both several funny events and the events surrounding that cold day—the 18th of September. I also remember the times your words gave me a confidence boost. The way I would feel just because you had something to say about a situation. I remember that one time I came home crying from school (back in secondary school). My classmate, in an attempt to get at me in a heated argument, called me “bread head.” I had cut my hair (annoyingly low, thanks to you) and she found the shape of my head funny and just came up with that phrase. I was so pained and felt defeated. So as soon as school was over, I walked home briskly, angry, and with the subtle intention of reporting the matter in a way that you would feel guilty. You simply smiled and said, “Don’t mind them. So you don’t know they are jealous of you. You are free and they are not, that’s why she said that.” And like every of such scenario, I felt the anger vanish, denying myself of the initial plan.

I also remember when the barber would come over to give us all a haircut. How much I dreaded cutting my hair—your style. It was bad enough that you insisted that I go to school on a low-cut but not allowing me choose the height was going too far for me. When it would get to my turn, I would sometimes pretend to be asleep or too busy with chores to come for a cut, and just like each time, you would send for me and I would have no other choice than to come and take a sit. In so many occasions, I would wait till you had left me alone with the barber so I could tell him to do it my way, but no, you always showed up to change things. Whenever I tried to let you see reasons why my choice wasn’t bad at all, you would go on, saying things like, “you don’t need this hair. It is a distraction. Don’t you see Ezekwesili, Okonjo and co, they know it isn’t important. And look at where they are today. Don’t worry, cut it low now and get what you want first, then later, you can do whatever you like. If you like fix the one that will go from your head to your toe, nobody will ask you questions. But for now, leave it low.” I always tried to argue that point and defend it, knowing that a lot of the ‘brainy ones’ at school had long, full hair. And LIKE ALWAYS, after the deed is done, you would look at me and say, “Just look at your fine skull. See what you are hiding. You have a very great skull but you don’t know.” ‘GREAT’ SERIOUSLY??? And sometimes, you would even go as far as talking to my siblings about it while pointing at me and they (which are the worst to ask for opinions from) would agree with you while laughing on the side.

As I type, it’s Christmas eve and honestly, it doesn’t feel like it. Christmas can never be the same again—other days even.  You made each day fun and lively. You had such an adventurous spirit which showed in everything you did. You were also very open to giving new things a try with a good number of them being just plain funny and highly unusual because they always left me thinking: Are you supposed to be doing that? Particularly your ‘kitchen inventions.’ I remember that one time I walked into the kitchen and saw you holding the toaster in a pressed down position. As I came closer, trying to see what was so huge that you couldn’t just close it and let it do its job, I soon realized you had actually placed a couple of yam slices. You simply laughed and went on with it. Like it was normal. Hilarious! And that toaster actually didn’t work again after your yam was ready to eat. SMH.

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Found this back home. It was my baptism.

You left me with so many wonderful memories and that’s what’s causing the most hurt. As a family, we had like an unlikely relationship, somewhat “weird” as my roommates often described it but they didn’t need to understand. It didn’t matter that we don’t speak on phone from time to time, especially when I was away at school, or sit to talk about stuff. I cherish every single years of my life growing up because I had you. You taught me so much that I cannot begin to list them, even the most basic things like how to pound pepper using a mortar—without noise, by the way. LOL. I remember that day when I was in the kitchen, pounding so loud, and you came downstairs, sat me down and asked me to watch you do it “the right way.”. “Target the seeds, forget the outer part,” you said, “You don’t need all that noise you are making.” And that day marked the end of ‘noisemaking’ in the kitchen for me.

Rather than grieve, I choose to be thankful to God for choosing you to be my father. Though it still feels like I have lost my guardian angel. All of the lessons you taught me and particularly on the subject of prayer—that there’s nothing better than having a relationship with God. Even though I would grudgingly wake up whenever you came to call us for our usual midnight prayers, you never stopped nudging. And when you would catch me dozing off in the chapel, you would say, “if only you knew what it means for you to wake up at this hour to pray to your God and what you are doing for yourself…”

You were so devoted to God and in doing good deeds that I have no doubt that your success in life, even though it was a short one, was because of your stand with God. You achieved so much in such a short time. I remember one of my aunts, like many others, who shared stories of your humble beginnings. During our conversation, she shared with me how a colleague of yours once planned to blackmail you, “an incident if it hadn’t been for God’s intervention,” she said, “would have left you at rock bottom” and probably for life, as it was drug-related.  She ended by telling me that she wanted me to know that God had always fought your battles for you and I should never forget and begin to think the enemy had his way with your demise. She helped reaffirm my belief that all that has happened has God’s mark on it. Like mum would say, your enemies have been trying to get you for a long time and God has been helping you dodge their bullets but now God has decided that enough is enough and called you to him. And I couldn’t agree more. I did witness some of the attacks, particularly back in 2009, but God has been and will always remain faithful.

It’s just sad that I never had the chance to say these words to you in person but I know that actions already spoke them, even louder. I know so. I could go on and on but I know words won’t be enough to talk about what a great father, confidant and mentor you were to me.

And just like in my tribute to you, I believe my life—our lives as your children—will be the ultimate tribute to you. I pray that we will continue with the great legacy you left behind and also become all that you envisioned us to become.

ADIEU DADDY, CONTINUE TO REST IN THE BOSOM OF THE LORD.

 

My day at the GSK YP Program

Thinking Out of The Mortar

​Today was—in one word—exceptionally amazing. Like, I can’t really use a word to describe how today was spent but I’ll just stick to that. 

And it wasn’t even planned.   

I woke up today and like any other Saturday, I did my chores and had breakfast. Just when I was about going into the “chilling” mood (which is basically seeing a couple of movies on my lappy), I got a call from a high school mate of mine who has actually been looking into facilitating a possible employment for me at GSK for a while now. He was calling to remind me of a program which he felt I should attend. So I quickly scrolled to my text messages and found out that the message containing the event venue and time which he had sent the previous day was somehow already marked ‘read’ and without me actually reading it. The slated time was 11am. By now, it was already 10am. 

Reading the message a second time, I didn’t feel it would be right to attend. I mean, this is a program organized by GSK and was targeted at young pharmacists. It literally read: Young Pharmacists’ program (YPP). Not Biochemists. Or maybe I was finding reasons not to go. “And for what?” My conscience asked. “Movies?” It answered. So I gave him a call to point it out to him but he insisted I go. Which I did. 

Trust me, by 10:10am I was dressed and headed out. Taking a route I perceived would be fastest, I arrived Orile at exactly 10:57am. From there, I took one more ride straight to the venue. See me pressing phone, completely relying on the driver to alight at my stop (something I knew isn’t the right thing to do), only to be taken further down the road up to the final bus stop. Thankfully, he agreed to take me back to my destination. I got out and walked into the building. Upon arrival, the first man I met said, ‘Rita? Thank you for coming.” LOL! I smiled shockingly in affirmation.

 I was asked to sign-in immediately by another man who then proceeded to ask, “So where do you practice?” Now, I just let out a laugh…quite long one. He laughed too. And almost hesitantly, I gave him a brief intro on how I ended up at the venue. He went on to assist me in filling the sign-in which included my place of practice and so on.

 I felt really good knowing I was the first to arrive for the program. Even when I thought I was already too late, especially with the very vivid imaginations I was having on the bus about how I would have to walk into a room full of people. But nah! I was in fact very punctual as the speakers too had not arrived. I even got a prize from being punctual—a ‘pen-drive’. It’s actually a pen with a USB drive attached at the base. I didn’t know until I was told. So we good. 

Arriving first, I had the opportunity to choose a spot I felt was the most comfortable (away from the AC path, at the back) only to be asked to move forward as the seats in front were not yet fully occupied. That was how I ended up sitting literally in a face-to-face position with the speakers. This was risky as during the course of the program, the speakers kept giving me eye contact, mentioning things they needed me to validate. One even asked, looking at me, the cost of a Ventolin inhaler and I only stared as other people echoed the answer. LOL! 

The seats awaiting the limited number of participants
At around 12:30pm, the program kicked off with one of the medical representatives of GSK anchoring the event. I got to know that the program is actually an annual thing held in all states across the nation and this was the last one for the year. 
Then came the speaker of the day, Lere Baale. A man I soon came to know as an embodiment of greatness. I always knew that there are much greater people in this life than those we often hear about and this man proved this belief of mine. A humble and ‘brief’ man working with the abundance of God’s grace. He shared a lot with us, from his life story to his several accomplishments both as a pharmacist, a consultant for major firms in top industries and a director in Business School Netherlands, Nigeria. He has acquired vast experience across numerous industries including FMCG and Telecommunications. Talk about diversity! 

There was so much to learn from him that if I decide to go into details, I may end up writing a book. But let me just try to mention a few highlights of his presentation. His presentation was centered on and in fact titled: thinking out of the mortar. From what he shared about his humble beginnings, dating as far back as his university admission, I was able to have a better understanding of how pharmacists differ, and in a big way, from Doctors, who are known to have a kind of superiority complex. I didn’t know until today that a point grading system existed which determines how suited one is for a course. In respect to the two aforementioned professions, the required points for pharmacy turns out to be higher than that of medicine. This may actually be the way it is/was in his university, I must add, before somborry reads this and begins to attack me. Hehehe! 

On reading, he spoke about the need to read ‘value-adding’ books and not fictional books but didn’t fail to state that there are actually select fictional genres that are still a good read such as those with a scientific aspect; such books that push you to question the author’s thoughts or views about their writing. He also made mention of reading biographies of great people instead of romance novels and others such as those.

The only picture I have of that day and my eyes are closed. Sheesh!

He also gave tips on success as well as made emphasis on the need to read other areas asides those related to one’s formal education. He also boosted our confidence. Yes, I said “our” by telling us about how much skills are grasped during the course of training to be a pharmacist and I believe the ‘extra package’ he spoke of are also things I gained too from studying Biochemistry. Of course you do remember I mentioned it was a program to meet with young practicing pharmacists, right? But I actually didn’t feel left out. I could relate to some (most) things he talked about. Biochemistry isn’t that much different. So I think. I mean, we are all in this together, right?In conclusion, he charged us to constantly challenge ourselves. It was in fact a fantastic experience and I am so glad I was a part of it. 

I don’t know, I may be wrong but I feel there’s a saying about the best things happening to you when you don’t actually plan for it. But just in case it’s a first, remember you heard it here first *winks.

Oh my! I cannot end this post without talking about the ‘long-throat’ item 7 we were treated to. Yes, I like food. I remember telling a school mate this and she laughed at me. I am a foodie and a proud one too.

So this item 7 ehn, it was a full-course buffet service. You know when there’s so much to choose from. SMH. I was even dulling when the other attendees started packaging the food in take-away packs. “So GSK actually called us to eat,” I said to myself, playfully.

 I mean, who gives you food with free take-away packs and a large bag to carry the food with. Only GSK! LMAO! It was literally an eat-in and take-away service.

As I was ‘packing’ the food, I just remembered that my mate who asked me to come for the event had actually spoken about the food service at GSK. I had no idea it was this grand. I mean, there was appetizer, a variety of main meals, dessert and drinks. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  GSK made my day!

I would love to be a part of the GSK team. Don’t begin to think I have the wrong motives. I value what they represent—wellness–and I hope to be a part of such a pacesetter in such an advancing industry.

So that was how a Biochemist (and most likely the only non-pharmacist there present) was the first to arrive at a program targeted at Pharmacists. Impromptu. And I have my old school mate to thank for such an opportunity to meet with such greatness.
Till next time,

Do more…feel better…live longer.

Source: The ‘lappy’ archives

Dated: 27th August 2016