Biochemist by formal training| Online Freelancer| oh cliché.. just an unusual Naija babe who enjoys putting her thoughts down. I also love having deep conversations (even with myself) :D. The perfect meal combo is Rice, fish, beans with plantain.
A lot of holidays, like the Easter break, is a time many get to hang out with family and friends, and for some others, it’s a time to really sit back at home and relax, easing up the stress from work.
Now for me, as usual, I never actually set out to go out and what-not, although I and a couple of friends had already talked about hanging out this year weeks before, I hadn’t really made up my mind.
So the Easter Monday started out with me chatting them up in the WhatsApp group specifically created for this purpose (yes, I guess it was necessary. LOL.), asking to know if the outing was still on. We had initially made suggestions of places to go which included the annual GidiFest, Wakaa theatrical show and the Lekki conservation centre. And after much deliberation, we eventually opted for the last option.
I didn’t have a particular preference as all three were entirely new to me as opposed to my usual ‘going to the cinemas’ hangout option. So I welcomed any idea that was settled for. Our meeting spot was at the residence of the ‘chief initiator’ of the outing. I arrived first and shortly after, another friend arrived. So it was just us three.
Our ‘chief initiator’ wasn’t ready…yet and it was only after we had arrived that she called for an UBER. At this point, it was about 1pm and I thought to myself “hope we won’t end up going to see power rangers like this.” Because at this point, I was beginning to think she was trying to sabotage the planned outing as she kept talking about power rangers all the while.
Thankfully, soon enough, the UBER guy arrived and we were well on our way to the Lekki conservation centre.
There was no traffic and in time, we arrived at the centre. We proceeded to pay a total sum of N2,500 as entrance fee and for the canopy walk.
From here, we were asked to wait in a room with other people waiting to take a tour on the canopy walk.
Shortly after, we commenced on the walk and after covering quite a distance, with monkeys staring at us and running up the trees and lots of selfies being taken, I was beginning to think this was all it was to the canopy walk.
Mind you, I had heard people say LCC before now but didn’t quite know what to think of the place.
Soon enough, the actual walk started—the canopy walk which happens to be the longest in Africa. We were instructed to climb the canopy, only 6 people at a time.
The first walkway gave me the first doze of adrenaline as I kept looking down to see how high we were. I remember swallowing really hard at the sight of the distance between me and the bare ground. I was in the sky and there was no going back.
As I climbed, I wrestled with my inner guts which kept throwing questions at me and the fear I could feel so closely, severally tried to render me immobile. I had to keep pushing forward because I obnoxiously kept telling myself that I only needed to get to the end of this hurdle and it would be all over.
Well, I did get to the end and alas, I realized there were about 6 more of the walkway to climb which ascended even higher as you go on.
All three of us were pretty shaken up and even more when we noticed that the other trio didn’t follow us as expected.
We couldn’t go on and so we just stayed there, waiting for someone to join us. We soon began to consider going back down the same way we came when another lady, who introduced herself as Titi, said it wasn’t possible and that the only way was up.
It was in this moment that I looked up and saw a caution sign that had the expected height possible while on the canopy walk, boldly written and remembered that upon starting this daring adventure, the tour guy had specifically stopped us to read the caution board mounted at the entrance of the canopy walk, then I realized what I had done to myself.
Funny thing is, I did read but hastily because I was so much in a hurry to get up on it already!
Good thing, with Titi here now, we were able to continue the walk, like we had any other choice but this time we had an ‘expert’ leading us.
And so on each ‘hurdle’, we breathed deeply and just totally cut off eye contact with what was lying beneath us—a distance so great.
There was even a point where after Titi had gotten off, and it was just us three, she began to ask us to be careful as we approached the end, as a portion of the construction seemed weak and was really shaky. So she said or maybe she was just saying that to pull our legs. Lol. A strong wind blew and we really started to panic. We just froze and held on to the ropes until it was calm again.
I kept my cool all the while even though I was deeply terrified by this experience. I actually kept saying this in my head: “Just keep walking, you’ll be fine.”
Afterwards, we tried out a restaurant that serves seafood kinda meals.
Now, LCC has been on my lips. If you haven’t been there, you gotta go try the Canopy Walk. Get your adrenaline pumping!
It was a very daring experience for me, probably the most daring thing I’ve ever done…yet. Just as I told the tour interviewer, I don’t see myself doing this again. But who knows, I just might become a ‘Titi’ to someone another day.
I remember that day just like yesterday when i strolled along Agbowo road with Moyinoluwa. You see there was this 10 day programme going in my church then and i had vowed to attend all the services. Moyinoluwa and i decided that since we did not have money for fare, we should leave home early…
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.
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.
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 ada : Wonders 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;
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.
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*
12. 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.
13. 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?
14. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See below the LEVELS OF AWARENESS which I’ll try to explain below;
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’
while sharing his wisdom through acronyms lettered A-I which goes thus;
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.
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!”
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.
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.
Next thing on the list was selfies.
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.
Come to think of it, there were several tags whose owners I looked forward to meeting but they didn’t show up. *sad face*
Soon, we began to hand out tags.
Before we knew it, the hall was full with people from all works of life.
After some time spent handing out a couple of tags, I and another volunteer proceeded to grab breakfast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.