Dear 6-month old me

Dear 6-month old me,

Ezinma Ukairo - Dear 6-month old me

You look rather chubby today; probably because I have been rubbing my eyes lately. Something is in my eye again. The right one itches all the time. I might get an infection if I don’t stop soon.

But I’m not writing to talk about my eye. I have some questions for you.

You don’t know it but it’s 2015. Yep! You turned 20 months ago. It’s an age I know you really looked forward to. You must have felt you’d be sure of everything by now – what you want and don’t want. But I am sorry, because things haven’t panned out the way you expected.

Okay that’s a lie. You are where 9-year old us wanted to be – third year law student who is taking French classes to fulfill what 14-year old us came up with. You made plans when you learnt what plans were. You had dreams as soon as you could. At each stage, my darling, you came one step closer to fulfilling what you want. So thank you! Thank you for being you.

I am sometimes confused. But most days are better than the rest. It usually helps when I make a list – oral or written – of things to do. I equally question life. Always. I wonder, ‘what is the end to all these?’ It is not all rosy, you see. But I remind myself and I want you to also remember that “you have a purpose and that is the end to all these”. Nope, I’m not telling you the purpose, you figure it out.

Losing weight is the rage now. It is crazy considering we have always been big. Almost everyone who can afford it is wearing a corset. I have tried dieting, I even checked out a gym the other day; I think I am just not motivated enough. I’ll just eat healthy and work out. It would be suicidal for me to regiment my meals now; we like food, the healthy kind of course. Lol, do you know the meaning of suicidal? Well, it means when someone feels like ending his or life. Why would someone want that? I know, right?! Life is so beautiful ish. Well my darling, people do. But do not be perturbed (don’t worry, I will explain all the big words at the end) because I’m not suicidal … yet. Trust me, it is fun being you.

So before I ask my questions, let me tell you a little bit about 20-year old you – us. Sweetheart, you are tall, beautiful, smart and intelligent. Girl, are you wonderful at speeches! You are gap-toothed though; you didn’t like it the first time you noticed. But your smile is beautiful. People ooh and aah every time you smile. Hehehe, okay, I’m exaggerating … a bit.

You still walk like a soldier; don’t even think of learning to walk ‘girly’, it’s sooooo sloooow. Errrr … I don’t know if it is alright to tell you about our love life, you are just 6 months old ba? Shaa, I shall tell you anyways, so that as you grow you can try to make some things right.

You have dated some, and no you haven’t been overtly free with your emotions but you could have been more careful. Just remember that you should not date until you are ready to say “I do” in charge of your emotions. Please, only get into a relationship with a man (please, man not boy) when you are sure of what you expect both from him and from yourself. When you are everything Beyonce described in her song “Grown Woman”, then you can date. Be a big girl, know what you want. Wait until you are a strong lady with clear-cut principles on life, politics and love. Note that love came last.

When you get to 20, you will have a best friend who will mean the world to you. Do not lose her! She is amazing. How would you know her? Well, she is a year and three months younger than you, and she looks like a cute rat. Which reminds me, try very hard to convince Dad to let you live off-campus; the rats in this hostel are simply devilish. Devilish I tell you!

Now my questions … actually, just one question: What’s the weather like today?

With love,
20-year old us.

P.S. The 20-year old you got this letter when she was six months. I am simply doing the same thing for you. Remember to continue the tradition.

So, big words and their meanings:
Perturbed = worried
Lol = Laugh out loud; it is a cool way to show you are laughing while texting.
Ooh and aah = sounds people use when they are amazed
Amazed = errr, when people are just thrilled about something
Thrilled = errr….???
Nne ehn, you know what? You will learn English Language in nursery school, so don’t worry.

By Ezinma Ukairo

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it rained again today

I came across this poem and fell in love, not just because it’s a well-crafted piece of art but because boy, I PLAYED in the rain as a kid.

Its writer is a wonderful young man by name of Alyazid Alexander Osinachi Okoli who writes under the pseudonym, ‘The BlackInk’. (Ghen ghen):) When asked about himself, this dude only says “I am a graduate of the great University of Nigeria, read pharmacy…that’s it!”

Hmmm…this poet pipu can like to talk short short shaa. 😉

I’ll drop a little warning before I stop blabbing and post it already; Don’t read this poem as a grammar-savvy intellect or a grown person for that matter, read it like a child, through the eyes of the little boy or girl you used to be.

So! Here goes…

 

IT RAINED AGAIN TODAY

childintherain

its raining again….
my little com-com is set
i can hear its drum play
atop our zinc,…chidera lets go

slippers would bar my flow
bare-footed i set for the door
jumping like a milking goat
i scream out loud in joy

its raining again….
My little legs,dangling
held close by my dirty pant
arms spread wide, i soar in the rain

nne went to the market
as usual my plates are unwashed
but maybe she would understand
it afterall rained again, today

its raining again
legs dancing in the mud
sliding up and down the dirt
with absolute reckless abandon

what other fun beats playing
not just it,but also in the rain
screaming,”rain rain go away”
but wishing it poured down

more more and more

it rained again today
mama’s Cain awaits my bum-bum
but right now who cares
tell her it rained again today

– the blackINK.

Mention me on twirra @ojukwu_martin

ON TOP D MATTER: Week 6 of the National Confab

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The delegates at the National Confab have been on deliberations in the 20 committees they had been split into. Interesting news coming from tabloid reports inform me that Nigerians did in fact respond to the request by the National Conference Secretariat to send in memoranda embodying the different areas of life they wished committees to deliberate on.

 

The secretariat reportedly received a total of 319 memos; the breakdown according to an exclusive report by Saturday Vanguard is as follows:

Radical restructuring of the Nigerian polity – 70

Devolution of power – 42

Politics and Governance – 34

Citizenship, Immigration and Related matters – 23

Social Sector – 22

Political Parties and Election Matters – 20

Religion and Law – 15

Judiciary – 15

Human Rights/Legal Reforms – 15

National Security – 14

Environment – 10

Agriculture – 10

Trade and Investments – 10

Transportation – 5

Public Service – 5

Public Finance and Revenue – 5

Civil Society – 4

Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters – 4

Energy – 1

 

I do have a couple of questions for this week…

MY QUESTIONS:

1. Why is it that the broken down numbers of memoranda sum up to 324, 5 more than the reported total number of memoranda?

Surely with the rate at which authorities and media confuse numbers these days we all must now know the importance of carrying a pocket calculator!

2. And this one just occurred to me; are the delegates allowed to recommend a cut in the emoluments of government officials, or is that an untouchable?

 

Meanwhile, I was privy to a sneak-peak into the venue of one of the committees’ meetings. Two things were clear to me at the expiration of my peeping allowance:

1. Adults are not very much different from children as far as juvenile idiosyncrasies are concerned, and I mean this in the most grey-haired-loving way possible;

2. A lot of delegates seem unconvinced on the workability of a state police in the Nigeria of the near future. It remains to be seen if this skepticism extends to other matters or not.

 

 

ON TOP D MATTER: Week 5 of The National Confab

It’s been a really slow four-day weekend cum Easter holiday, and God forbid it pass by our delegates at the ongoing National Confab. They had adjourned proceedings at the end of Wednesday to enable them partake in the celebrations of the Easter season.

Last week ended in a consensus of sorts (thank resurrected Jesus!) for the first in a long time. The delegates had earlier deliberated on the composition of committees, committee work plans and the need for an extension to three weeks of the two weeks given to the committees to work.

Justice Kutigi, Conference Chairman however stuck to the existing work plan. He also shot down the attempts by some over-EGGcited delegates to extend the Easter-induced hiatus of the house. He ruled conclusively for deliberations to resume today, Tuesday, April 22. We expect the different committees, numbering about 20 in all, to resume meetings in the National Judicial Institute and halls of the Sheraton until the expiration of two weeks when the entire house will reconvene to review the committee submissions.

It is therefore with gratitude in our hearts and a heavy sense of loss in our stomachs, that we mourn the passing of the holidays and turn our binoculars once again, on the deliberations at the National Conference.

It is needless to mention that outside the walls of the Conference venue, patience is drawing thinner and thinner by the second. The write-up, reproduced below, of a Nigerian youth speaks volumes and all the angles of the present Nigerian (youthful) disposition to the Confab, a disposition Justice Kutigi and sons best be aware of:

 

My Experience & Contribution at the National Conference – Hemenseter Butu

Last night, I dreamt I was in the National Conference and I got tired of hearing delegates go on and on about seceding, division, unfair representation, etc so I stood up to speak. Hear me:

 

Good day Ladies and Gentlemen. Please lend me your ears for at least five minutes. I’ve heard all everyone has had to say and it’s becoming more and more deplorable. Hear me out this day so we can go back to finding a solution to our problems – assuming that is why we’re here.


I am a Nigerian youth, in my late twenties. I represent the largest set of the country’s demographic yet we are the least represented at this confab. Have we complained? Have our peers raised placards and threatened bloodshed? I must confess your generation doesn’t give us the respect we deserve, we have given you countless chances, Obasanjo was Head of State in 1976 and came back again as President in 1999. Muhammadu Buhari had his turn in 1983 and yet has also been given several chances to vie for President of the Republic. What have we to show for these chances we’ve given your generation over and over again? What has it benefited us? Yes, I’m talking about the young people who make up almost 70% of our population?


We’re sitting here whining over our allowances and allowances for aides, food and the lack of it. Talking about food, do you know hundreds of thousands of Nigerians go without a meal every other day? And I’m not talking about those currently being displaced by the numerous crises in the nation. They can’t complain like you are. They neither have the disposable income to afford it nor the voice to be heard, unlike most of us gathered here.


Before we talk and propose anything let us remember that 13 year old boy who’s dreaming about becoming an astronaut, not knowing there exists no infrastructure in Nigeria to support his dream. Let’s remember the young girl in Konduga who is waiting on her WAEC result only for her life to be cut short by Boko Haram. Let us not forget that uneducated boy who just wants to run his barber shop in peace but can’t because there isn’t electricity…ROUND THE COUNTRY, in 2014! *sigh* fuel is scarce and there aren’t realistically accessible loans for informal businesses like his.


Those are a few of the real issues my peers are currently facing. So please with all due respect to “Elder Statesmen” sitted here, spare me the “food didn’t get to me yesterday” talk.


My generation is growing weary of wasted chances, we hear of the millions of millionaires in Norway and we weep. We hear of the electoral reform strides in Ghana and we weep. We hear of the ranking of a Sudanese University above all varsities in Nigeria and we weep profusely, as I speak we are still weeping.


If this confab fails it will be towing the same path as every other thing in Nigeria over the years. Problems beget problems and we the youth offer another chance to be wasted yet again.


Is it not time to convert all this potential into energy? Is it not time to come together as a nation and forget about being Muslim or Christian, Efik or Tiv, Northerner or Southerner? Is it not time to force critical thinking out of every Nigerian? It is not time to do all it takes to get it right? Again I assumed that is why this National Conference was convened in the first place.


I am standing here, representing the largest constituency of Nigerians and instead of complaining I truly want to request, beg of you even, that this conference throw away all division and just get it right this one time.

 

By: Hemenseter Butu tweets via @HemButs

 

He who has eyes let him read and use his mouth to tell those who have ears alone.

Compliments of the season!

BLAME GAME: BLAME WHO?

At about 2pm on the 3rd of April, I alighted from a bus under the Ojuelegba bridge. I came upon another bus parked just by the side of the road, with school children stuffed into it. My use of the word ‘stuffed’ is no accident because these children were not sitting; they were not even standing or ‘lapping’ – they were just stuffed. The phrase, ‘packed like sardine’ immediately came to mind as they were bundling themselves into the bus, stepping on feet and hands and bags, clawing, pulling each other down so as to get on, biting and yelling.

The driver of the bus sat calmly in his seat doing nothing, waiting; the conductor stood a safe distance away from the chaos waiting for them to ‘arrange demsef finish’ and when it looked like the open door wasn’t space enough to let them in, he opened the rear compartment. And of course, some of the uniformed mob broke away and commenced another regime of chaos trying to get into the bus through the boot.

A number of bystanders and passers-by tried yelling at the children to behave themselves and look for another bus but if you have ever seen a starving dog just thrown a bone, you should have an idea of just how much attention the children paid to the rebuke. While I watched, thoroughly harassed on their behalf, a police van cruised past, very slowly. Through the wound down windows and from the rear of the pick-up van, the Nigerian policemen observed the ruckus. Without braking for even the minutest of seconds, the van cruised on by.

It was at this point that I took out my phone and took the pictures below. While I took the pictures, many of the bystanders made cracks; some called me ‘Reporter!’, and one looking like a black Toyin-tomato snickered, “Don’t put us on Facebook oh”

20140403_150756

20140403_150739

In that situation, I played no blame games. I did not blame the president or any minister, neither did I blame the policemen – they must have been chasing armed robbers in slow motion. I also did not blame the bystanders or passers-by whose actions could be aptly summarized as an occasional rebuke, snicker, sigh and/or shake of head; what else could they have done?

I did not blame the bus driver or his conductor – it was just business. And I certainly did not blame the children – the bus was clearly charging a subsidized rate and many of them must have had little or no transport fares; those who might have had enough must have been saving it for a roadside treat or the rainy day.

I threw no blames.

On the night of Monday, 14th of April, 107 girls (ages between 15 and 18) were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Bornu state. On Wednesday, the military spokesperson at the Defence Headquarters, Major General Chris Olukolade, issued a statement claiming that most of the girls had been rescued, with only eight still missing for whom the search was still on. He also claimed that a member of the Boko Haram sect that participated in the abduction was also nabbed by the military.

Reports from the Principal of the school and Executive governor of the state are however, contradictory. The Principal, Mrs. Asabe Kwambura, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning that the military’s claim was false.

“There is nothing in the military statement that is true about our abducted girls,”  Mrs. Kwambura said. “Up till now we are still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students; all I know is that we have only 14 of them, and the security people especially the Vigilante and the well meaning volunteers of Gwoza are still out searching for them.”

Borno state’s Governor Shettima was also quoted by the BBC Hausa service that same Thursday morning faulting the claims of the military.

He reportedly said, “We have recovered 14 of the girls and we have announced a N50 million reward for any credible information that will help us get our girls released and rejoined with their families.”

In this situation, I still play no blame games. Because where would one start and where, stop? Does one blame the government – their blame calendar is booked full a whole year in advance, or the military – they are always ‘doing their best’? Or does one blame the parents for letting their children out of their sights, the principal for taking the children in to write their WASSCE, or the girls for not running fast enough away from the abductors?

You could even choose to leave all human elements out of it by blaming the weather. Or a societal system so marred that the value of a child is non-existent. Or if you care, a society where human life battles fashion and food for a position on the scale of preference after crude oil, money, pride and politics.

For me, I still will not be part of the blame game.

Like a local wrestler, I dump all of the blames down in the center of the ring. And I turn around and walk away; he who has the strength, let him pick up and throw.

 

 

 

 

BANKY W’S VERSION OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE INFAMOUS ARIK FLIGHT TO NEW YORK

 

The buzz has been on about this – Banky W’s version of waht happened on the NY-bound flight, between March 31st and April 1st, 2014. Here it is; I think he writes well for a ‘Nigerian’ artiste – pardon my justifiable (you must admit) subscription to stereotype. Enjoy!

Banky_w_passengers_arik

Recently, footage from a camera phone has surfaced online about the dire circumstances that passengers suffered prior to take-off, on board an Arik Air flight from Lagos to New York; I was one of the passengers. For anyone who has not seen the footage, it’s available on Youtube and various News Websites and Blogs. However, for purposes of this write-up, I will recount what happened.

The flight was scheduled to take off at about 11: 50 pm on March 31st 2014. Boarding was completed on time, and all the passengers settled in their seats and prepared for the flight to begin. However, there seemed to be a delay in operations because although the ground crew had exited the aircraft and the cabin doors were shut, we weren’t moving. The pilot announced that there was a small delay in the ground crew operations on the plane, and that we should be patient as the flight would depart “in a few minutes”.

The problem was, the air conditioning was not turned on. Midnight soon passed, and there was still no A/C, neither did it feel like we were going anywhere, anytime soon. Passengers were vigorously fanning themselves, asking for water and ice from the Crew, and doing whatever they could to stay cool and hydrated. The reality was that the heat in the plane was quite frankly unbearable. It’s hot enough in Nigeria these days, and then you couple that with a cabin whose doors have been shut, and a bunch of people locked inside that enclosed space… suffice it to say it escalated from bad to worse very quickly. The Captain made another announcement about how he’s “sorry for the delay, but it was due to the ground operations”, and that there was only one engine on and that was why the A/C could not be turned on yet. By now it was well past 12:30 and people were becoming extremely frustrated. Parents had begun taking the clothes off their children, children were crying, one lady looked like she would faint. Still, there was no further update on when we would take off and when the A/C would come on.

Almost an hour into this debacle, many passengers became justifiably irate. We were all drenched in sweat, burning hot, and it was hard to breathe properly. Now, let me interject here to say this… I believe that up till now, it was actually Arik’s policy to not turn on the A/C on their Aircrafts until take-off. I’m not sure why, but I’ve flown on many of their local routes within Nigeria and 100% of the time, this is always the case. The difference though is that usually, once boarding has been completed, it only takes a few minutes before take-off begins, and the A/C comes on pretty quickly, so while it’s unacceptable, it has been… tolerable. In this case however, we had been on board for well over an hour, and now passengers that had surged up front into my section actually said people were fainting, and more people were going to pass out. It was disastrous, to say the least.

Just before the passengers surged into my section up front (I was in seat 1A), I actually saw the pilots pull the one foreign air hostess into the cockpit and lock the door behind them. I suspect that either the A/C may have been on in the Cockpit, or that he was concerned for his and her safety because the shouting from the back indicated that people were in a state of panic and riot. Either way, I thought his actions came off as incredibly ignorant and prejudice against the Nigerian Staff (who were doing their absolute best to try and calm people down), and against the very Nigerian passengers who he was employed to take care of. As the people surged up front and started banging on the cockpit door, the Captain made yet another announcement that people should be patient for a few more minutes, and of course it had been well over an hour so none of the irate passengers were having it. He also said that if people did not go back to their assigned seats, he would have to call the police. Of course this did nothing but provide further incentive for people to be angry, frustrated, irate… you name it.
By this time, the entire section around my seat was filled with screaming passengers, banging on the cockpit door and yelling at the Nigerian Staff who were still pleading with us. I actually feared for the safety of the Air Hostesses, and for the equipment on the plane; the captain was not saying anything to calm people down, and would not dare show his face, and was not hearkening to the cries of people that he should open the cabin doors and let us out until they were actually ready to take off.

I feared that more drastic measures were going to be taken by the irate passengers, which is why I stood up at that point to try and calm them down. My reasoning was that I’d been on enough Arik flights to know that this was their policy, so I didn’t feel like the plane was not fit to fly. I suggested that seeing as we’d already waited that long, we give them another 5-10 minutes, because if we disrupted the flight or caused damage, they would have to kick us off and begin the entire process from start. Some of the passengers calmed down after I spoke, while some were just intent on fighting or doing something drastic to express their displeasure… (one very short angry man actually tried to take out his anger on me, but I felt bad for him so I didn’t let that escalate).

In any case, soon after that, the Captain announced he was beginning take-off procedures, and I felt the A/C come on. This further helped me make my case to the passengers, and most of the people started going back to their seats. What further shocked me at this point was that the Captain actually started taxiing the plane on the runway, while people were still making their way back to their seats. This seemed to be both dangerous AND illegal, in my opinion. To be fair though, it did motivate people to quickly rush back to their seats. Including our short and irate friend who at this time was screaming at the top of his lungs, and topless. After this though, the rest of the flight went on incident free, thank God.

Many news agencies, upon seeing me in the footage online, have contacted me asking for details of what happened, and my opinion on the incident. My thoughts are as follows: it was an avoidable disaster, and one that could have ended up much worse for the staff and equipment of Arik Air. This policy of enclosing passengers within a cabin with no A/C is senseless; I suspect that it saves them some money because they don’t need to rent/buy ground power units to power the planes while they finish their operations, but it is unfair, cruel and inhumane to the clients of the airline to subject their comfort and even health to such conditions, all in the name of cutting costs.

A few years ago, I took this flight route on Arik Air for the first time, primarily because I needed to be in NYC as quickly as possible on business, and they were the only carrier that went directly with no layovers. I was very impressed by pretty much every aspect of the flight. It was convenient and clean; the seats were big and comfortable; the staff was friendly and courteous; I was so impressed that for a short while, I stopped using my usual international Carriers. The one downside at the time, was that the food wasn’t quite the best, and there was no frequent flier mileage program. I remember filling out a suggestion form at the time, along with some other passengers, and we all commented that the food could be better. Shortly after that, I was beyond impressed to find that they had changed their menu and food supplier, and stepped up the quality to the point that it was as good, or better than most other carriers. It felt like they were really responding to the needs and expectations of their patrons, and I thought this was a great start for the Airline.

I’m a proud Nigerian… and I’m a fan of all things good that are Nigerian. We have many issues as a country, but I’ve always been of the opinion that we have to fix ourselves. We have to police ourselves, and play our part in changing Nigeria and making Her better. As such, whenever possible, I try to support Nigerian owned businesses. My suits, for instance, are made by Mai Atafo; he has impressed me so much that I now refuse to buy suits from anywhere else in the world, because of the quality of his craftsmanship; and it is a source of pride for me when I’m asked by colleagues, clients and fans around the world where I got my suit from, and I’m able to tell them that it was made by a Nigerian Designer.

Arik is currently our only airline that flies to international cities like London and New York; however instead of being a source of pride, they’ve allowed their standards to drop over time. There are 24 seats in my section, about 10 of them are not functional and have not been in months. The entertainment system is a joke; there are only a handful of tv shows and films available for viewing, and they are the same exact films/shows that were available years ago when they started flying to NYC. They literally have not changed the movies in YEARS. They just flat out refuse to upgrade what they have, and seem content to let it deteriorate. There is still no frequent flier program, even though for years they told passengers to hold on to their boarding passes, as it would soon commence. “Soon” has taken an eternity with no end in sight. Attention to detail is crucial, and very often, it is the difference between greatness and mediocrity; between growth and decline, success and failure.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out some of the positives that the airline still has. For one, I’ve found their Nigerian staff to be very polite, courteous and helpful. The food quality is still great – I have no complaints on anything I’ve tasted so far, other than the fish peppersoup – yuck! The duck however, was fantastic, as well as everything else I’ve eaten on board. Generally speaking, their cleanliness standards have not dropped either, thank God. And lastly, the direct flight to NYC remains as convenient as it gets for someone like me who sometimes needs to save time spent in European layovers.

I’ve witnessed them make positive changes before due to the suggestion surveys passengers filled out; my hope, in writing this, is that they do the same again, fix the issues and give us a Nigerian Airline that will be a source of pride, not pain.

 Banky W.

PS: Not everyone needs to be in NYC like myself; I suggest to the powers that be, to try and partner with an American carrier, so that once you touch down in NY, you can easily transition to a local flight to take you to your final destination.

PPS: I apologize for the extremely long article. I have even more to say but this will have to do.