Oct 29, 2007

From Nigeria to Ghana by Bus

Time: 0900hrs
Location: National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos
Mode of transportation: Bus
ETA: 2000hrs

I was excited and thrilled. Having never stepped out of Nigeria in my entire life, I had every reason to be. I had already met a few friends and we had discussed how we were going to enjoy the scenery, have fun at the borders and marvel about being in 4 different countries all within a day. Unfortunately for us, we were about to go through some shocking experiences which made me conclude that most of the problems we have in Nigeria are caused by Nigerians themselves. I’ll start the story from the departure point.

We boarded the bus at Surulere under the bridge opposite the National Stadium. When we were ready to move, the first of the problems came up. Area Boys, (a popular menace in Lagos, Nigeria) held us hostage and refused to let the bus move. Why? The bus had just loaded in their territory and being the territorial terrorists guardians, they were entitled to territorial fees! Talk about Robin Hood and the Sherwood Forest, except this time it was not for a common good! Fortunately though, we were bailed out by some mobile policemen not too far from the area. A minor setback, I thought ... little did I know.

The next experience was at the Seme Border. Some curious okada-like tricycles were riding past and a friend of mine (Gbolade) brought out his camera and took a picture. Suddenly, Customs officials appeared in the bus as if from nowhere and started shouting furiously, "Who is that?", "Bring that camera here", "Move outside" and other such phrases associated with the military. His camera was confiscated and he was taken away for some brief "questioning", during which his memory card was explored and the images deleted. I thought to myself, "OK, even if there's a law against taking pictures at borders, and yes someone broke that law, why should you talk to him like a kid, snatch his camera and march him outside like some criminal without exhibiting one iota of professionalism?" I realised that that was just the typical Naija definition of Law enforcement which we're supposed to be used to.

The next experience was when a friend and I stepped out of the bus in search of a toilet or secluded area where we could do the No 1. Finding no convenient place, I left my friend and turned back, when suddenly, some rough looking fellow approached me and said, "Officer dey call you". I looked at the "Officer", and behold, I've never seen a more shabbily dressed officer. This "officer" guy was in ragged jeans and a dirty T-shirt. Thinking to myself, "This guy think say them born me yesterday", I said to him "Which officer? Wey im uniform? ... Tell am make he come meet me for inside my bus". Nonsense and Concorbility. However, a fellow traveller was not so lucky. He obeyed the "officers" and they told him to declare the currency in his possesion. He did and after their "inspection", N500 had disappeared. Now what do you call that? Theft, extortion, or what?

We spent the next 4 hours at the border waiting for our passports to be stamped for exit from Nigeria. 4 hours in the hot sun in a bus with the engine and AC switched off is no joke in any way. During this time, the frequent travellers amongst us (apparently identified through the VISAs on their passports) were invited for a special session of silly questioning like "What did you go to do in France?" , "Who did you stay with in London" etc. all this while, I noticed Okadas crossing the borders freely with passengers without any such thing as a security check. All they needed to do was drop an undisclosed amount of money with the guards at the gates. Eventually, we were stamped out of Nigeria and surprisingly we were stamped into Benin Republic in under 30 minutes. We crossed the border and drove into Cotonou, and lo and behold ... it was like heaven ... compared to where we were coming from.

Cotonou is a beautiful city. During our drive through, we did not step into a single pot hole in the roads, neither did we pass through any undulating patch. The street lights were all complete and shone brightly. There were no traffic jam and we soon got to the Benin/Togo border. In about 20 minutess we were in Togo. I then thought to myself, "Have we just crossed a border?". It took us just 20 minutes and I couldn't believe it. We crossed a border in a strange land in a fraction of the time it took to cross our own border. Did those people trust us more than our Nigerian brothers did? We got to the Ghana/Togo border and it was the same thing. Within 45 minutes we had gone through. The Ghanian officials were very polite. A soldier came into the bus to look through the bus. He was very well mannered, friendly and looked quite decent and neat. He soon became a subject of discussion on the bus. On comparison with our recollections of Nigerian soldiers, he stood miles apart.

At the Ghanaian border we were treated like invited guests and tourists. At the Nigerian Border, we were treated like spies and criminals ... without any reason. At the Ghanaian border, we were people to be reckoned with. At the Nigerian border, we were just another number of people, opportunities for the Nigerian officials to make money. I used to think that the whole of Africa was like Nigeria, but like the popular yoruba adage, I had to visit another farm to know that my father's farm wasn't the biggest. Nigerians really do cause problems for Nigerians.

The trip opened my eyes to 3 problems that are prevalent, and need to be addressed ASAP.
  1. Autocracy. The "Do as I say, because I say so" syndrome exhibited by everyone with any measure of authority.
  2. Corruption. In many places, the officials are not just corrupt, corruption has become official.
  3. Crime. Starting with such little things as swindling innocent people of little sums of money, it soon blows out if not arrested.
I know I promised not to write any bad thing about Nigeria, but I had to put this up, so we'll know exactly what we're up against. We are the cause of our own problems, and by the Grace of God, we shall be the solution. God Bless Nigeria.

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Oct 21, 2007

Back from AWOL!

Yes o! I'm back finally from AWOL. I've been away for the past seven days to London Ghana to see the queen! OK, seriously though, I was selected as one of 101 young African leaders to attend the 5th African Business Leaders Forum in Ghana. Internet access and free time were almost a luxury and I rarely checked my blog talk less of updating. For me, it was more than a life time experience. I met and interacted with more "Big Men" than I have ever seen in my whole life. CEOs, Company Executives, Directors, Politicians, the Governor of Ogun State, several commisioners in Ogun State, Dr Fayemi (to-be Governor of Ekiti State) and many more. What more could one ask for?

I also networked with fellow delegates and I realized that young Africans have so much potential locked within them. There were times I felt I did not deserve being selected among the 101. These young people are consultants, facilitators, entrepreneurs, writers, motivational speakers, national award winners, etc with lots of achievements trailing them. Now, I'm all the more convinced that Africa has a great future and that this future is in the hands of young people like you and I. It's time we took a stand, it's time we spoke up, it's time we fought back in whatever way we can. Our leaders have stolen our past, our present and some are now trying to steal our future. We need to reclaim that future and then create a better future for our kids. I shall be updating soon with events and lessons I took away from the conference and the journey. I know for sure that something great is about to happen ... you and I shall be a part of it.

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Oct 12, 2007

Female Artists on the Rise

Within the last few months, female artists have been on the rise in the Naija music industry, an industry pre-dominated by males. Performers such as Weird MC, Sasha, Bouqui, Ashionye have kept their own against their male counterparts and new artists are gathering the courage to enter the limelight. My favourite female artists right now are Asa and TY Bello.

Bukola Elemide A.K.A Asa is a multi-talented female musician and artist. Her name is the yoruba translation of "Hawk". Seeing her for the first time, one might be tempted to write her off as a quiet nerdy type and underestimate her abilites, but just like the Hawk, no one sees her coming. She recently did a song "Fire on the mountain", which is currently gaining lots of airplay in Nigeria, France and all over the world. With great vocal abilities which remind you of India Arie and Lauryn Hill, she passes across a message of awakening. The song is available below.

TY Bello is not someone whom many people can forget in a hurry. She was a member of the group "Kush" which comprised such talents as Dapo Torimiro, Lara Bajomo (now Lara George), Emem and herself. After nearly 2 years in the studio, she's now out with her first solo album titled "Green Land". With a strong Alto voice, she wove her lyrics and notes expertly. The title song "The land is green" immediately leapt out of the album and started getting massive airplay. She also recorded a video which caught on with viewers nationally and internationally. View it below.

If you're feeling these songs as much as I am, I'll implore you to go get those albums. Buy the original CDs so you can encourage these ladies. Both albums can be got from Nu Metro Media stores at Silverbird Galleria, V.I. or The Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki.

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