Saturday, 16 June 2012

Pass Out before I Pass Out

I'VE DONE IT! After 345 grueling, demanding and occasionally rewarding days of service, I've finally finished!

My set of Corpers did what we called Passing Out, a closing ceremony of sorts to officially mark the end of our service year. I've learnt so much over the year, met some good people and drawn closer to my native culture. At times I felt like passing out literally but I've gritted, hustled and survived.

Beach Pass Out Party ought to be mad!

Partners in Criminal Activity

Me & Ant

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

She Weeps




Evening of Sunday 3 June 2012,  I wake up to a bombardment of missed calls. Prefix all commence with +44 so I have reason to believe something major has taken place. *Phone Rings* It's my younger sister. Her tone unsettled, she enquires about my welfare. I respond positively – she does the same before switching to a dismissive tone as if she was being hurried along. I ask what happened. She informed me a plane crashed in Lagos that afternoon. To make it worse a friend of her friend was scheduled to be on it.  Her concern understandably switched to confirming if her fears were true – she hangs up. At this point any lingering clasps of sleep have fully cleared from my eyes. I had to confirm what I'd just heard.

Fears Confirmed

153 people on board the Dana flight from Abuja lost their lives when the plane crash landed in a residential area in Agege. At least 10 others were killed on the ground and with allegations of faulty gear and engine equipment aboard the ageing liner (22 years) all I can say is why (again?)

For long I've raked on about Nigeria's lacklustre maintenance culture. We seem to believe once we build a new road or acquire a new bus the job is done. I'm accustomed to cussing out the UK's Highway Agency with all their roadworks - tarmacking terrain they serviced only weeks before. But here…pah. It's as if maintenance is a chore, a financial hindrance of sorts to appease the gods. So when I hear said plane was over 20 years old, one shudders. 

Our new roads rivert back to their old state within months - have you wondering if renovation ever took place. Our schools and offices, roads and aviation sectors act as dumping grounds for old, haggard computer equipment, black smog-bellowing Mack trucks and dated, second hand planes from abroad we seem more than happy to accept. Nigeria reminds me of the guy who can just about purchase a Range Rover failing to account for the after sale expenses of fuel, servicing and insurance. 

Now we as a nation sit with forlorn faces asking ourselves why for the um-teen time and we'll continue to do so until we get the fundamentals right. I'm not even pointing at the Government this time – it's becoming a cliched gesture. I'm pointing at the private companies acquiring sub-standard equipment with selfish gain taking priority over the safety and well-being of our people. I'm pointing at the 'we'll manage it' culture where instead of replacing a decrepit machine we opt to cope in order to save or even pocket a little extra Naira. And the saying goes he who points the finger has three pointing back at him - so I'm pointing at myself for sitting back and expecting things to change eventually – and if it doesn't – as long as it doesn't affect me and my immediate folk I'm largely unperturbed.

In fact I'm tired of complaining. My NYSC Community Development group were badgered to raise N550K for our project reconstructing a borehole and 12 toilets for a local school. A valiant endeavour yes but maintenance work that should be carried out by the local government is conveniently shifted over to Corpers who are accused of not serving their country if they murmur. 

But as I said, I'm done complaining, just waiting patiently for someone or something to place that final straw on my nations back - then we'll see - until then she'll continue weeping.

Friday, 4 May 2012

A Focus on Friendship: Part II



You've been invited to a birthday dinner. You and the celebrant have no mutual friends so you'll probably be the glum plum who doesn't know anyone; an accomplice is therefore essential! You systematically troll through your phone book & BB contacts trying to find a suitable candidate. You acknowledge the fact the celebrant is rather reserved so inviting Hype-Hype Ken is probably a bad idea. Moaning Mark will probably jar you after 30 minutes, book-in-advance Ben stressed two weeks notice wasn't sufficient and Cheapskate Chris will be asking a million questions about how much the dinner will cost. 

Hopefully your scenario isn't as tasking as this but herein lies the gist of the second entry - looking closer at the assortment of characters that make-up ones complete circle (if of course it is). Which of these are in yours?

The Joker

Needless to say life without this character would be rather dull. Commercially known as the party-starter these individuals are an absolute must at birthday functions and gatherings to break the inevitable icy atmosphere etc. Loud, funny, outlandish, fearless flimflammers - experts in uplifting spirits, practically every circle should have one who possesses these traits. 

Their uncouth nature can make them unpopular figures amongst some as they tend to speak their mind so friendships with these character are usually ones that have spanned a few years – at least until one can handle and accept their crude ways. From experience they're not the best listeners (as they tend to be the ones who want you to listen) or ones you can confide in as their big mouths invariably leak news like a tabloid newspaper.

RATING: ESSENTIAL

The Confider

When you need a listening ear and idiosyncratic advice on an issue you don't even need to think about who to call – it's automatically The Confider. Typically the more reserved character in the clique as they use the silence to simply sit and observe but not always. True, some prefer the sweet-talk consultants – those ones who will tell you what you want to hear but the certified Confiders put your feelings aside and tell you what you need to hear. Some even have this insatiable way of noticing when something isn't right even behind the front of 'all smiles, all good'.  

As a guy I've always found the best Confiders to be those of the opposite sex but same sex Confiders are just as prominent. 

Arguments with The Confider are rare but when they do occur it's usually quite serious. I've seen instances where friendships have collapsed after the recipient couldn't handle the Confiders truth but typically speaking these are essential friends for life. The ones who truly have your best interest at heart will always slap you with a dose of reality regardless of how it makes you feel. If you appreciate a true friend you'll appreciate the Confider. 

RATING: ESSENTIAL

The Complainer

*Sigh* if they gave you £1 for the number of times you'd want to slap this character you'd be in the Forbes Rich List. If it's not their partner, it's work. If it's not work, it's the rising cost of patties at Bagel King. If it's not…errr...I think you get the gist. These characters are just programmed to see the adverse side of everything. 

As the analogy at the top of this entry would suggest you've probably got into a few scuffs with this one. Spent some time 'not talking to each other' over some pettiness that seems trivial when you both grow up and realise the silent treatment is pointless.

Despite their tiresome ways, you stay friends with these characters because 
1, you would've ditched they're arse a long time ago if you couldn't stomach them and
2, you've probably gone through more fights than Ike and Tina Turner but always seem to make-up so you just assume the idiot is meant to be a permanent fixture in your life.

Best thing about these characters is that on the rare occasion they're not complaining, they can possess traits of the Joker and the Confider – bittersweet I guess.

RATING: FAVOURABLE

The Looker

This is the guy or girl in the circle who always gets the attention. Wherever you go in numbers – be it raving, chilling in a bar or at a birthday gathering they're the one your male or female friend will slyly enquire about during the post-event phone call. Not to limit them to just superficial characteristics as they can also be the Confider, Joker or Complainer too but their main contribution dwells in the aesthetics department. 

Ensure you have your jealousy in check around these characters. Many a time I've seen friends in the same circle begrudge The Looker's attendance at a function simply because 'he's gon' take all the chicks'.

RATING: OPTIONAL

The Connect

Not a lot of circles can boast of this character as they usually belong in the outer circle. These are the individuals who seem to know everybody, everywhere. Need gig tickets in LA? They've got a connect for that. Driving Licence in Lagos? They've got a connect for that. Cocaine in Columbia? They've got a connect for that. 

It's as if their links know no boundaries but the offset of this is that they usually don't have time to play the friend which is why relations with these characters rarely go past a phone call every couple months. Very useful but whether they're essential in terms of being a friend is questionable. 

RATING: OPTIONAL

The Excuse

Ah the excuse – the individual whose whole life revolves around blab and waffle. Not to be confused or compared with the Complainer. You need a lot of patience with these characters as their monotonous tendencies can get tedious. They're prone to alienating themselves and are soon left on the periphery of circular activities. 

Ask the Excuse whether they'd like to go out and you may be familiar with the following replies: "It's too hot", "It's too cold", "I'm broke", "It's too far", 'It's too expensive", "I don't have hair cream", "I have one or two things to do", "Who else is coming? *mentions names* Nah 'llow it", "I don’t know anyone", "you didn't give me enough notice". By the time you've heard the 11th excuse you're ready to hang up. 

Most annoying thing about these characters is that when they do come out they can make it entertaining but this is overshadowed by the 99.8% of the time they mutter flimsy excuses not to.

RATING: QUESTIONABLE

The Conscience

In some ways The Conscience and The Confider are similar with the only difference being The Conscience adds the religious element to proceedings. The Conscience is the character in your circle who frowns at anything remotely secular. The one who advises you to refrain from vices. You probably wouldn't invite them to a bar or gathering where after a few drinks the post-watershed topics start and their spirit gets edgy. 

Well-mannered and well to do, these individuals are a reliable addition. You may feel you can't act yourself around them at times as they can be quite condescending and judgmental from my experience anyway. The Conscience and The Joker (especially a secular one) may clash. If there isn't a like-mindedness between yourself and The Conscience you may find relations remain at surface level.

RATING: OPTIONAL

The Hot Mess

The Hot Mess is the baby of the circle. Living in their second childhood, they're attitude to taking responsibility for themselves, their duties and others leaves a lot to be desired. Unreliable, you'd be a fool to think they'll turn up on time or finally give you the money they've owed you for two years. 

The Hot Mess is the individual who is advised several times not to do something but will go ahead and do it anyway (yeah that!). A highly frustrating character, The Hot Mess will invariably get into altercations with anybody and everybody making promises to change that never materialise.  If this character is in your circle I'm pretty sure you've questioned their presence on several occasions but because they're your friend, you overlook their shortcomings rather than deserting them. Lord knows if you did they're finished. The ironic thing is these characters usually have great potential but they fail to exercise them.

RATING: QUESTIONABLE

The Organiser

Also known as the circle PA. Similar to The Connect but plays a more intricate role as a friend. The Organiser arranges the trips, nights out and such so when they're not available other circle members seem at a lost at what to do without them. Usually the high-flying type, ace in their academics, probably in a sturdy relationship too. They can get edgy when things don't go according to plan due to their synchronized nature but are usually cool-headed characters.

RATING: FAVOURABLE

The All-Rounder

The All Rounder tends to be the utility character – one who can switch from mellow to monster in a minute. Their popularity plays a part in silently ordaining them with the leadership role. They possess a bit of every trait. One can come to them for advice like The Confider, has the ability to entertain like the Joker and generally acts as a link between all the members in the circle. 

I call these character the Iniesta’s (the pint-sized genius in the heart of FC Barca's midfield if you didn't know) of the friendship circle – stringing the passes to makes sure everyone's involved – the cogs of the clique. The first on everyone's list, there's usually a vacuum left when these characters are not present. Every group needs one who possesses these characteristics.

RATING: ESSENTIAL 

Missed any?

The Atomic Analogy

Proton, Neutrons & Electrons – remember that lesson. Not going into the academics of it but the analogy of the friendship circle bares similarities to the framework of atoms we were taught at school. So picture everyone you know being within an atom…ah forget all this, my brain is starved of oxygen. Let what I've written marinate first * collapses*

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Day 300




THREE HUN’RUND!

SPAAARTA! What is your profession?

Flagrant Corper, assessing the state of affairs 300 days since trading my Bus Pass for a wooden Danfo seat.

You know initially when they say it whizzes by, you overlook their observation as mere ignorance but when I glance back (no Lot's wife) it has gone quickly. I recall entering orientation camp as a young, somewhat na├»ve A je buta boy not knowing what exactly to expect. Area boys, Okada & MOPOL have put me through a baptism of fire with each harrowing encounter being a fresh lesson. I've experienced, learnt and now shine eye better than most - I'm now the aggressor but never the instigator – in my approach and reasoning when dealing with challenges over here.

Surpassing Expectation

A lot of people are in disbelief that I've even managed to stomach Nige for this long. From friends to family members, even strangers applaud my efforts but I continue telling them I was already mentally psyched for this. Just envisioned and prepped myself for the worst. Once you're able to accept this, nothing can shake you. All my A je buttish peers drive lavish cars to their luxurious workplaces whilst I endure the bus conductors unwashed armpit in my face on the way to my industrial container of an office. I've gritted and just got on with it and I'm more accustomed to the more adverse side of Nigeria.

At 300, I stand as a man who feels more Nigerian than at any point in my life. Lodged in Lagos I've discovered a deeper appreciation for Yoruba culture. Despite the aggressive undertones, I love the poetic elements and passionate delivery of indigenous speakers of the Yoruba language. If Nigeria was the world, Yoruba would be the equivalent of English – I picked up small still. 

Unfortunately Igbo culture has failed to make an impact. It's not like there's a shortage because Igbos are plague-like on this axis just that their language, mannerism and behavioural tendencies have dithered behind their outspoken counterparts.

Still woefully trying to acquire a more meaningful understanding of my home tongue. Still find the ‘Pongs’, ‘Tongs’ and ‘Wongs’ more of a comical jibe rather than something I desire to be fluent in but one day I'll get there.

As you were

Some aspects are yet to change or improve. Silly superstition and senseless beliefs still hold my country firmly by the nuts. It's as if we refuse to believe unfortunate incidents are part of life – if anything adverse occurs it's usually passed off as a spiritual undertaking. 

We're still critically short-sighted and this is what prevents us from moving forward. Long-term planning is deemed irrelevant – we're only interested in the here and now and understandably so seeing as today's sacrifice for many, in a poverty stricken nation, probably means dying.

The inequality gap continues to widen, corruption remains absolute and now this new threat of terrorism ravages the chances of Nigeria ever being great. It's through this NYSC service me and my fellow youth aim to learn, grow and engineer change for the better but reality will probably slap me and ask ’what's the point?' 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A focus on friendship



They say show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are. Not sure about you but the individual claiming such would struggle to do so in my case. It hangs on the premise of dated ideologies – birds of a feather flock together and all that kerfuffle but in my eyes, only long-standing friendships uphold such authority over ones character. 

Under scrutiny

On scrutinising my circle of friends, I observe such a wide spectrum of character traits and personalities it’ll be near impossible to brand the person I am. And it’s needed – a close group of friends should have this balance, this utility aspect to it where there's a friend to turn to in practically every circumstance. I liken it to a toolbox, each friend a tool useful in their own unique way. You wouldn’t call on a spanner to do the work of a hammer but both are present to cater for their particular need when it arises. Every character has a role to play in collectively contributing a unique piece to complete the 'circle'. Due to similar character traits, you tend to find clashes in homogeneous groups which lack the rigour and solidarity of those with a more cosmopolitan make up.

Since sojourning in the motherland, I’ve noticed the over-zealous attempts to befriend. In the nicest way possible I’ve often found myself maintaining a healthy distance probably because the minute inkling of paranoia got me thinking they’re just after a ticket to the UK. As I approach my latter years, I’ve observed this obstinate attitude of mine towards making new friends. Whether this is to do with my antisocial nature I don’t know. I believe one is at their most receptive in their adolescence as you permit and prone the type of characters you can and cannot tolerate within your circle. 

As you meet new people you’re discovering yourself too which is why old school friendships are so intrinsically valuable as they’re a reflection of who you are, and if the friendship still exists, a product of whom you’ve become. Secondary school through University I’m sure you would’ve gone through a list of friends, associates and companions who may or may not have withstood the test of time. Some alliances falling foul to conflicts, others mere distance and these days even death. 

As we age, we wean out the shaft until we’re left with that circle of close knit individuals we can call our true friends. Outer circle ‘know-bies’ will forever remain and they serve their purpose too but for some reason or another will always remain on the outside.

Quota reached

Now, in my mid-20’s I feel I’ve reached my quota. Not that I wouldn’t accept a new friend but simply because I feel I’ve acquired the balanced arsenal I need. Let me put it out there for those of you who’ve graduated and worked for a few years: how many can say you’ve met a new friend you could immediately draft into your inner circle? Not a lot – well I assume not anyway. Most inner circles comprise of friendships that have spanned years, be it right from childhood, school or Uni even. Screening their character traits, likes, dislikes and compatibility with yours is a process that usually takes time to implement, test and conclude. Yes on the odd occasion we meet that individual whose character just fuses and those years of investigative study can be packed into a few months but such is seldom.

What constitutes to a complete circle of friends is held at ones discretion. Experience says around 5 to 6 individuals but this is merely a guesstimate. It’s really depends on how scrupulous one is in their process of elimination. 

In the second and final instalment, I’ll delve a little deeper into what makes for a balanced circle, the atomic analogy and the role of outsiders.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Great Commission

Another video entry this time the handiwork of my bruddah from long time, Jojo/legz who really needs to distinguish which moniker he's going under - is it Jojo or Legz fam?

Won't yab you with a blurb, just know that God's using the kid mightily. Kinda makes me reflect on my life.

Listen. Absorb. Reflect.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Reflecting at 200




Rah another milestone in this epic journey of mine. Hard to fathom that 100 days ago I was contemplating my 25th birthday. Now it's 2012 and I'm faced with terrorist threats and a national crisis over the fuel subsidy. I'm grateful though – still trying to stay learned, understand my native tongue and 'shine my eye' for any scam artists scoping me as an easy target.

From the last landmark entry I've been a victim of jazz - twice (I can't find another explanation to decipher what happened), got a new job (those in the know will relate to how much a triumph this is) and united with a bunch of long-lost cousins I never knew I had. Mixed bag in all but variety is the spice of life right even if I'm not a big fan of pepper. Till date I'm still vehemently denying accusations that I've acquired a wifey out here. Peeps back home are of the opinion I've already consumed her love potion, promising her a British passport and a house with a swimming pool and garden. *Sigh* My Life.

Anyhow, deciding to keep this one to a minimum, concise and straight to the point – had a few gripes about the length of my entries so I'll let pictures deputise for textual content. Miss Kennedy always said I waffled too much in my essays and she wasn't wrong. Still got an A in English Lang and Lit though AND WHAT!! See you at 300 – SPAAAARTAN!! 

Life's a Beach: If it was it wouldn't be half as hard - chilling, Eleko Beach, Lekki

Family Affair: One of my long-lost

Sips up: Drinking that fresh Coconol