Adaeze Zita: Back to Lagos

After a year in the remote town of Erijiyan-Ekiti, I got used to the laidback calm and cool weather, which can also get really cold; the very free roads that could even inspire free twerks to some questioning eyes of children and elders; farmers walking briskly to their farms, basins tucked unashamedly under their armpits; kids headed for the streams or borehole with laden bowls and troughs, and later to school; hunters returning from their nightly hunting trips;, and the music from chirping birds and wily insects.      

Apart from time spent outside the state for my tertiary education and the National Youth Service Scheme, I have lived in Lagos all my life yet the ‘city that never sleeps’ never ceases to amaze me.

Lagos just jolts you out of all that hinterland reverie, wakes you up quite mercilessly. Transplanting myself from the cool jaunts of Erijiyan, back into Lagos is definitely a culture shock. The heat and dust alone is enough. The rush of people, each trying to move faster than the next person, while guarding their bags consciously, jealously; cars and their impatient drivers honking at each other, expletives pouring out with the same force as the old man with load on his head jabs his pee against a company fence wall; the yellow and black striped buses and the conductors in their almost brown-white singlets trying to outdo each other at yelling passengers into their buses at crowded stops, with the elaborately constructed sheds abandoned to street urchins; the hawkers on the streets, mostly kids running from one vehicle to another with their wares and pushing it in your face, their eyes begging, threatening you to buy; the women sitting under the yellow, green or red umbrellas selling recharge card vouchers and snacks; women sitting behind tables laden with their wares as close to the road as they can get; the roasted plantain and yam seller, checking and turning her products over the simmering fire with her bare hands, using the edge of her wrapper to wipe the sweat off her face; the very tired LAWMA workers in their orange and neon overalls resting by the roadside… This is Lagos!

My attention was somewhat cut short by the muttering taxi driver who maneuvered his car like it was plastic. Initially I ignored him but soon got into a conversation with him because I was tired of his muttering and complaints at every turn of the wheel. The man would just not let me register my Lagos sights the way I wanted!

I had to ask him what the problem was and he started with him being fed up with the state and its government and the stupid means they always use to extort money from them. Showed me a slip of paper that showed he was an accredited driver of Lagos state. From all he said, he had spent most of the day trying to get that paper and initially had to go through an exam and medical checkup before getting it and had spent over N4000 (Four Thousand Naira) for it. It was obvious the man didn’t understand why suddenly he had to go through all that.

I could identify with the need for such an exercise but what I don’t understand is why the government would come up with an idea and refuse to educate people on it, rather force the measures down with inhumane ultimatums. And then… the attendant boon of possibly extorting money from those who pass or fail.

In my opinion, the exercise is a great idea but to these drivers, it’s a waste of time and money. It is the job of government to properly educate people about any exercise they embark on through the media and possibly, seminars. In addition, a laminated piece of paper is a poor means of identifying an accredited driver, a proper ID card should do and I think N4000 (Four Thousand Naira) should be more than enough to cover that.

In trying to avoid the usual traffic at mile 2, the driver decided to go through Ajegunle. Getting past Ajegunle was another feat. It was a Saturday and due to weddings and other events, most streets were blocked by canopies and we had to reverse about 3 times! This got me wondering if the ban against street parties was for the choicest parts of Lagos and not the slums. Laws are not kept in these areas especially since officials sent to check these happenings collect bribes and leave. Same goes for infrastructural projects: it’s always glaring that the slums are hardly considered and left the same way especially the bad roads.

Another issue that struck me was the difficulty of managing a small business in Lagos and, of course, other parts of Nigeria. From the hawkers who sell iced sachet water and other drinks on the roads to the owners of shops and kiosks on the side streets. Coupled with the heat and dust is the inevitable sound of generators from almost every shop or office you go past because of the usual absence of power every day. This has led to business failure time and again. It will greatly boost the economy if the amount of money spent on power by these entrepreneurs is put into revitalizing their businesses.

This got me dreaming about a more peaceful Lagos where the sounds of generators are non-existent and we didn’t have to rush to charge up our devices at the sight of power. I bet Lagosians will be a bit saner then.

It is great to be back home anyway.

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#ErijiyanFactor: The End; The beginning.

I came into Erijiyan wondering how I was going to survive the next one year in such a remote place with poor network and mud houses, with the next major town, 15-20 minutes away. Well, it’s a year now, my bags are packed and it’s time to leave. I cannot believe time flew so fast.The Beginning

I would miss Erijiyan especially the lovely weather, the calm atmosphere, the amazing view of the hills, the free roads for morning jogs and evening strolls, the abundance of plantains and bananas and other fruits at really low prices (smiles) and the friends I have made here (Jennifer, Blessing, Isaac, Robert, Ozioma ) and others.

After all is said and done, I am glad I was sent here to serve and did my best to make it a memorable one for myself and those around me. I learnt a lot about people and the other part of Nigeria most Nigerians have no idea exists. I learnt more about myself and my capabilities and I am ready to move on to the next phase.The End

Big thanks to all of you who believed in me and encouraged me to be better than I was. Love you guys.

Adaeze.

#ERIJIYANFACTOR: The Debate Competition

Deb 1The last time we had a serious competition in school, it was an essay competition, this time, we decided it was going to be a debate. We found the students knew next to nothing on debates and decided to use this competition to educate them.

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Those interested were asked to apply by writing on the ‘Effects of media on our youths’. Quite a number did, we found out, because of the attractive prices set aside for the winners. Selection was done based on points raised and how well they wrote. The Corpers took it on themselves to coach those selected on how to debate because all they knew was ‘I hope I have been able to convince you and not confuse you …’ and the popular mode of greetings used by students.Deb 3

The competition was set between juniors and seniors with the juniors speaking for media and the seniors speaking against. It was fun and fierce with every child putting in his or her best. I was really glad about the marked improvement especially in the students’ interest to try and do something different. The juniors won and the best speaker, surprisingly, was a little boy, Tobi, in JSS 1.

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This will be the last for me but I am grateful another Corper, Robert, who assisted me in this will continue to train the kids to help them improve their written and spoken English. A club has been set up for those really interested in essays and debates and will be taken care of by Corp members in the school.

Adaeze

 

#ErijiyanFactor : A Rare Kind of Customer Service

In Erijiyan, due to the distance one may have to walk when there are errands to run or the sheer frustration associated with standing for a long time while waiting to catch a bus; we settled for having dedicated motorcyclists, popularly called Okadas, whose numbers we keep for easy access to them at all times. This way, we call them whenever we are in need of their services and they come to the house to pick us up.

I have got the numbers of three of them; Femi, Jide and Elijah. These guys are hardworking and reliable with very quick response time. But that’s not all. One thing I notice about these guys and so many others is their knowledge of customer care and service. A lot of people would say its business. Yes, it is. But these motorcyclists go the extra mile.

For instance, I was very sick at a time, and needed to be taken to the health center very late at night. One of them was called and he took me there with my friends and waited till we saw the doctor and I received treatment. He took us back home and he was paid. Days later, this same man called me; said he got my number from one of the corps members and called to check how I was feeling. I was actually dumbfounded.

They take you to the park and call you later to find out if you have arrived at your destination. And if you have not been seen in town for a while, they call to find out if you are alright and around. And sometimes if you had no money to call any and you are seen strolling, they give you a free ride.

The most amazing thing about all of these is that they do this for meager sums of 50 – 500 naira, depending on where you are going. It’s funny though that these ‘villagers’ know more about customer care than those supposedly trained in that field.

It says a lot about the system that has failed to recognize such enterprising minds.

#ERIJIYAN FACTOR: The Sacred Fish River

The RiverWe went touring recently trying to see some parts of Erijiyan Town that we had not visited already. In doing so, we were brought to this river called the Erin-Ayonigba sacred fish river. To the ordinary eye, there was nothing to see.

We couldn’t glean anything of importance in the river till the villagers asked us to get bread and throw into the river. Seconds after the first piece was thrown in, it disappeared into the mouth of one catfish (Popularly known as Point and Kill). Soon after, the river was filled with fishes trying to get bread.

My mind immediately saw several bowls of hot sizzling steam!

You would be wondering why the fishes were left alone and not eaten or sold especially since they were so many and were reproducing too. An indigene of the town, Femi, soon set me right!

Me: Femi, why una no dey catch the fish wey dey this water to eat am or sell am?

Femi: Ah! Madam, we no fit oh. Since wey this town dey, nobody don catch any fish for this river. Even our fore forefathers them.

Me: Shuo! Why na?

Femi delivered the story with some storytelling aplomb.

Femi: This river nah woman. She enter the village from somewhere change into water. All this fish wey u see so na her children. Nah why dem tell us make we no touch am. We fit use the water do any other thing like wash or cook. But we no fit touch the fish.

This wasn’t good!

Me: you don hear of anybody wey catch the fish? Wetin do the person?

Femi: we hear oh. If you like cook the fish from morning till night, the fish go die but e no fit done (it won’t cook). And the people wey try am no fit get better thing for this life (They won’t prosper).

Hmmm. So much for a hot pot of catfish pepper soup.

Sigh.

Sighda.

SighTFOC.

Adaeze Ifejilimalu (@Dazee_Zita)

#ErijiyanFactor: What happened to Promotional Exams?

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In years past, one of the toughest exams any student wrote was the internal promotional exams in schools. This exam was dreaded by students and everyone studied hard to make it.

Parents warned their kids against failing as that implied paying extra school fees, dues and costs. Students who failed afterwards were asked to repeat that class.

Repeating a class meant letting go of your friends in your former class, facing the shame of being with juniors in your new class, and having to manage taunts from teachers and even students.

In order not to have a repeat of this experience, the student ended up working hard to move on to the next class.

In recent times, it is normal for children to fail and face no consequence of their failure. Hence, they keep failing and failing without losing a beat. How important is passing when failure also got you promoted?

This results in a lot of students not knowing what they are about but are still retained in top classes. They graduate knowing nothing and not bothering to learn anything, since they know fail or not, they would be promoted.

What they forget is that learning itself is a process that applies and stays with you through the different aspects and periods of life.

Teachers were asked the reason behind this phenomenon of ‘fail and promote’ and it was alleged that it is a directive from the government to promote every student with no one allowed to repeat.

It is hard to understand why the government would give such a directive to the detriment of the students.

It looks more like a safety gambit by teachers in order to protect their jobs. This is due to the fear that government would close down any school that has less than the number of students expected to be in a class.

There is also the problem of parents coming to threaten or bribe the school/teachers to get them to promote their kids.

It is no longer news that education in the country is fast deteriorating and the quality of graduates we have now leaves little to write home about. Graduates who can neither write well nor speak proper English to save their lives.

This present problem is an off shoot of the situation discussed above. Parents, who really want the success of their children, should make them study and pay attention to their schoolwork at home. They should also leave schools to do their part in helping that child.

Teachers also need to take their jobs seriously and understand that their neglect of kids placed under their care goes against every ethic of the profession.

The government, most importantly, should give directives and laws that favour the child, in this case and monitor for effective implementation.

If this problem is left unchecked and some action is not taken against this. I am afraid in years to come, we would be having lots of educated illiterate people in various positions in the country.

Adaeze Ifejilimalu (@Dazee_Zita)

#ErijiyanFactor: The First Edition of the Competition

It’s always so gratifying when you set about a task and see it through, with startling results.
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The first edition of the Essay Competition and defense, held at the school premises. The number of entries received was amazing, probably due to the prizes attached to the competition
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Disappointing that some didn’t understand what it meant to write an essay because their answers came in numbers written – believe it – in half a page. A few impressed me with their writing styles.
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The major problem I noticed in all the entries was just as I guessed, use of English Language.
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After quite some work, the selected few were called to come defend what they had written a week after submission. It was obvious this was something new to them since some of them tried cramming their essays, the others didn’t know how to begin or conclude, but as it is usual with youths, each fought to win.
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One thing I got to understand from all these is that there is an innate ability in every child to be whoever he wants to be and each have some unique talent that needs to be harnessed. The sad thing is that some kids would never find out because they were never taught, pushed or given options.
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From those that participated in this, we found potential writers and orators who would need lots of practice and encouragement to become better.

I would like to use this medium to thank all who encouraged me in carrying out these competitions; @imagervet, @akinsoke, @chubaobiokaro, @kwamiadadevoh, @dupekilla, @deboadejugbe.

May God bless you all.

Let’s go out there and do more for our communities. There’s always something we can do, if we look closely.

Adaeze Ifejilimalu (@Dazee_Zita)