Feb 19, 2007

Life cycle of a Lagosian

Monday - Friday
Wake up at 5 am. Prepare for & leave for work at 6 am. Work from 8 am - 8 pm (+/- 2 hours). Get home at 10 pm. Sleep at 12 am.

Wake up at 10/11 am. Visit Mechanic, Drycleaner/Laundry, Electrician, Store, Estate Agent, Market etc. Get back home and sleep again till evening.

Sleep, sleep, sleep!

Lagos today is divided geographically into different regions, most prominent of which are the Island (Consisting of V.I., Ikoyi, Obalende, C.M.S./Marina), Island Extension (Lekki, VGC, Ajah & Beyond) and Mainland (every other place). Unfortunately, provisions for proper flow of traffic between these three regions have become grossly inadequate and insufficient, largely due to the ever increasing population of people & vehicles and other contingencies which have become common during rush-hours. All these result in one thing - Traffic Jams commonly called "Go-Slow" or "Hold-up". In a bid to avoid these hold-ups, since Go-Slow is no longer a tenable excuse for lateness to their offices, Lagos workers have resorted to leaving their houses very early. Thus they have unconsciously prepared the time table above without realizing it, and for some workers, this time table begins as early as 5:30 am.

Let's take the example of a newcomer to the Lagos corporate world, someone fresh from school & NYSC. He successfully (and fortunately) gets a job with Big Firm in Big Building on Victoria Island. As is usual, he stays on the mainland, say Ojodu/Berger. In order to get to his place of work on time, he has to follow this time table strictly day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. In some years, marriage comes in. This is followed closely by children. He becomes a family man thus, responsibilities increase, and so do expenses. At work, he gets a promotion and/or a salary review, or he changes jobs (not as easy as it sounds) all in a bid to earn more income. He buys a car or two, moves into a bigger house or starts building his own house, his children grow and need to be sent to school - he does not want them to suffer like he did and so sends them to the best schools he can afford or barely afford. After 5-10 years of working in Lagos, many things have changed about him. His outlook has changed, his income & possessions have changed and invariable, his age has also changed. However, one thing refuses to change. The time table! Yes, he remains bound to it ... following it daily, weekly, monthly. In fact, it probably gets worse. Some weekends find him in the office, and he often has to go on some official trips meaning he won't sleep at home on some nights. Time becomes an asset not to be joked with and he tries to outsource every activity that could take out of that time e.g. Car Wash, Laundry, Household activities, etc. And time keeps ticking, and he keeps working, and the time table remains, followed strictly to the letter.

I've been a loyal follower of this time table for some time now, and so have many of my friends. You can see us on the roads every working day of the week in a never ending flow of traffic all going towards one direction. I can almost imagine some deity firing a gun while yelling "On your marks ... Get Set ... GO!" in the wee hours of the morning, signifying the start of a race. I also imagine all the athletes taking off from various starting lines into the race against time.
For the next 5 hours, the tracks are busy accommodating the "racers" The major track is the 3rd Mainland Bridge, side tracks are Herbert Macaulay Road Yaba, Dolphin Estate Ikoyi, Falomo Bridge, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Broad Street Marina, etc. God help you if you're caught in those tracks at the wrong time. Between 5pm and 10pm (in the evenings), the tracks are reversed and the racers face the opposite direction. Day in, day out, this race goes on. I looked into my crystal ball ... and I do not see a change in the next couple of years. People will always work in places much farther than their places of residence. And since they will always have to work, they have no choice than to keep to the time table.

I've had lots of meditations, and I'll share some with you. A question you should ask yourself is this, "Do YOU have to work?" If you lose your job right now, how long can you survive? Or let me put it this way, if your salary is stopped, will you continue working? Agreed, there are some people who are working because they love their job and they would gladly do it for free. However, at least 95% of Lagos workers work because they get a paycheck at the end of the month. This seems to be a steady source of income and so they spend each day working in earnest waiting for "Month End" when questions like "Them don pay?" & "Money don enter?" would be answered in the affirmative.

Now think about this, what if you could get different paychecks from other places or avenues? What if you had Multiple streams of income flowing your way daily, weekly, monthly and yearly? What if your extra income could match and even surpass your salary? What if your sources of income are guaranteed and secure? I'm sure you would say goodbye to days of waking early and rushing into the traffic to get to work, without giving it a second thought. Well, I have good news. There are ways out. You can get multiple streams of income. You can become independent of your salary ... in other words, you can be financially free.

In the next few weeks, I'll be posting a series of articles on "Managing your finances". Now I don't claim to be a financial expert, neither am I financially free (yet), but I do have enough knowledge to give you some tips and point you in some right directions. Right now, I'll give you 2 requirements with which you need to get started. They are foundations which will keep you going for a long time.
  1. Have a good reason why you want to be financially free. Ask yourself this - If you don't ever have to work again, what would you do with all that spare time? Think about your hobbies and all the things you want to achieve but cannot because of time. It's very important because without a good reason, chances are you'll never be financially free.
    "'Why' is what separates us from them, you from me. 'Why' is the only real social power, without it you are powerless" - Merovingian in the movie The Matrix Reloaded.
  2. Have lots of determination. The road is never straight. As you begin, you'll have to take some risks and more often than not, you'll record some loss. But don't see it as a loss, see it as a price of learning. No knowledge is ever wasted. At a point, you might even be worse off than your current position ... but don't give up. Stick with your plan and keep educating yourself. It'll pay off some day. Sooner than later.
    "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison (Inventor of the Light bulb)
Reflect on these two points and watch out for the articles. Wishing you luck in your quest for financial freedom.

Yours in the race,


[ Click here to read more ... ]

Feb 6, 2007

Area Boys - Menace or Blessing?

If you stay in Nigeria, then you are probably quite familiar with the subject of this article. Commonly known as street urchins in other parts of the world, "Area Boys" have become a part of our environment & society. With no specific job description or role, their activities range from extorting money from commercial bus drivers, creating car parks in public places (e.g. Yaba, Marina, Silverbird Cinemas, etc), harassment and extortion of money from motorists & pedestrians (politely or otherwise), campaign agents for politicians (who themselves are just decorated versions of the area boys), sole proprietorship of the black markets used to sell fuel during scarcities and just about any other odd job you might think of.

Many a Nigerian has had a bad experience with Area Boys, and for some it's been one experience too many. They've been made to part with money and precious items, while thanking God that their lives remained intact. In addition, area boys sometimes double as thieves and armed robbers during the night. Sometimes they carry out "Okada" robbery, dispossessing innocent pedestrians of their bags, phones & belongings and zooming of on their bikes before the victim has a chance to put himself together. Needless to say, they are disliked by the vast majority of Nigerians.

Last Saturday, I had an experience with the area boys, and this has changed my views and made me to think more favorably about them. I was trying to avoid the traffic of Lagos mainland, and being a person who is always looking for new ways to do things, I took a new and unexplored route home. After driving through some unfamiliar roads, receiving inconsistent directions from "Okada" riders & pedestrians, I finally got to the last junction that was to lead me to the highway ... and freedom. There was a slab-covered gutter (drain) running across the road, which I was turning into. Unfortunately, two of the slabs had disappeared (how or why, I do not know) and still more unfortunately, due to the rough driving & impatience of drivers around the junction, I did not see the "slabless" holes. Before I could say "Jack Robinson", I had driven right into one of the holes and my front left tyre was completely immersed. Immediately I heard the bump, I sensed the severity of the situation and knew that the car wasn't going to move from that spot unless by some miracle. My brain was about to go into overdrive when Lo and behold, before I could even start thinking of a solution, a group of 4-6 area boys approached my car from all directions appearing as it were from thin air. They shouted to one another in Yoruba and I've tried to capture the summary of their discussions here.

"Bros, e ma worry, ko si problem" (Brother, don't worry, there's no problem)
"Oya, E gbe!" (Come on, lift!)
"Bros, e fi si reverse" (Brother, engage your reverse gear)
"1, 2, 3, E gbe!!!" (1, 2, 3, heave!)

In 12 seconds, my car was out of the hole! One of them then proceeded to stop other motorists and direct me until I was out of the traffic and safely facing the right way. This he did with such expertise to be envied by traffic wardens. After this he appeared at my window (for the usual) and just said "Oya". Without thinking, I pulled out a N200 note from my wallet and handed it to him. I would gladly have given him more. The magnitude of the service that had been provided could not be quantified.

I spent the next few minutes wondering what would have happened if the area boys had not come to my aid. I probably would have be stuck for hours, maybe would have had to leave my car in the hole and gone to look for a towing truck, or called a friend to come help me out (assuming he had the time and means to help), got arrested by LASTMA for causing obstruction of traffic, the possibilities were endless. The non changing fact was that I would have been there for far longer than I (and my wallet) could tolerate. So the question comes to my mind - Are area boys a menace or a blessing to the society? Come to think about it, they do lots of useful stuff. They create parking spaces in busy market areas where you can be sure your car will be safe. They sometimes fill up potholes in the middle of roads to aid free movement of traffic ... and during fuel scarcity they make fuel available to those with more money than time. Personally I think area boys have their uses within the society. Looking at this with an open mind, the whole scenario boils down to an irony. If the government had repaired the roads, I would not have been stuck in a pothole and therefore wouldn't have needed the help of the area boys. On the other hand, if the government had reformed the economy, more of the area boys would have got respectable jobs and not needed to be a menace on the streets. The area boys make a living through the negligence displayed by the leaders of the country. (They create parking spaces because the government has not provided parking facilities, they fill up potholes which the government has refused to fill, they harass and extort money from people in hold-ups caused mostly by absence of traffic lights or wardens, bad roads, etc which are all results of negligence of duty on the part of the government officials, they hawk petrol in the black market because of fuel scarcity also caused by the government) the same government that makes the economy unfavorable such that area boys cannot find decent jobs ... hmm, I think I’m getting confused by my analysis here.

In conclusion, I throw the question at you. Area boys - are they a menace or a blessing? For me, they were a blessing on that fateful day. You be the judge!

[ Click here to read more ... ]