Nigeria my beloved country…

I’ve been professing my love for Nigeria a long time coming, on Monday that love was reignited as I had my first ever adult road trip experience in Nigeria. This road trip took me through Keffi, Godo Godo, Gidan Waya, Riyom (forest road) to Bauchi in (Nassarawa, Kaduna, Plateau and Bauchi states respectively in Northern Nigeria).

The sights and sounds of this trip has so inspired me I decided to share with you all.

The beautiful hills and rocks of Jos and Bauchi

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(forgive my in-motion poor images)

Cactus and other lovely flowers and plants
Very red and sweet strawberries grown in Jos… so affordable, my enterprising wheels in my head couldn’t stop turning (I didn’t know we grew strawberries in Nigeria).

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As we drove into Bauchi State, the magnificent hills beckoned to me, I asked myself “why don’t we consider mountaineering and hiking this part of the world?”.  The shrubs and mango trees all testifying to a simply beautiful country. Baskets of fresh tomatoes, onions and yams makes me wonder why we have food shortages.

Countless security checks, I stopped counting (counted on my way back – 21), that helped me learn a few words of Hausa – “Sanu, yaya aiki” “sai godiya” – which means “Well done, how is work?”, “We thank God”. These security checks where testament to the insecurity that exists in those parts of the country.

Indeed tribalism, nepotism, corruption, terrorism and bad roads have stolen a lot from us as a people and it’s high time we changed the narrative. We have a lot to offer in tourism and agriculture if only we (leaders and followers do right by ourselves).
The landscape through Jos from Kaduna is simply breathtaking, my heart could only wish things were different so my children can be taken on such beautiful roadtrips through the country.
I wouldn’t change my nationality because I know my being Nigerian was not a mistake… the land of promise is truly beautiful and blessed.

Musings from an IDP camp

As I sit in the cab heading home, I wished I had the words to describe how that morning’s experience made me feel.
I spent my Saturday morning at the Area One IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Abuja, Nigeria to commemorate with the girls at the LitClub, the World Read Aloud Day.

Below are my musings from Saturday:

“Today I wish I understood and spoke Hausa given my experience, nonetheless, I was still able to connect with the girls as I was given the opportunity to read to them. While our session was on, two groups came to perform their philanthropic activities. The first group brought items of clothing and blankets (which are very essential given the cold and windy weather) while the second group brought jollof rice to share with the children (which is equally important and commendable).

However, what shook me was how the two scenes revealed our heart conditions about good deeds and how giving out aids might not result in sustainable development and progress for the members of that IDP community as well as our nation at large.

I’ll explain what I mean.

As you may have clearly guessed, as soon as the first group arrived, all looking nicely dressed with their expensive phones, taking pictures, selfies and videos, the beautiful girls in the LitClub were distracted, they no longer paid attention to the volunteers who were teaching them to read and who were explaining the importance of being literate.They were interested in the gifts being shared outside which was expected.However, the group left as soon as their giving was done though they spent some minutes to ask some questions.

The scene reminded me of how I tend to feel good with myself after visiting an orphanage or even contributing to send provisions to  an IDP camp. But today I realised it should go beyond the feel good factor. We feel good about our kind acts and are eager to share on social media to get praises but beyond that meal or clothing or money, I realised from observation today, that we tend to miss an opportunity to interact with a beautiful girl or smart boy, an opportunity to inspire and encourage them, an opportunity to empower the young men and women to be self sustaining because they have great potential as you and I to also make a difference and the only difference between us is that we had a safe environment and we had opportunities.

In spending time listening to the girls I realised they are all so smart and when one of them broke down crying my heart broke… she had lost her father to the insurgency and as the second group arrived with their rice, that scene must have triggered memories for her… but in all they left me with special gifts, the gift of hope, smiles and laughter. They also reminded me of the importance of not abandoning the boy child in all our intervention plans.”

So what’s the essence of the post you may ask? My experience on Saturday made me realise three things that I thought to share with you my dear reader:

  1. We urgently need a sustainable plan for the people in the camps to transition them back to normalcy.
  2. Aids should not be only about food and clothing, lets start working on better housing/living conditions for them and entrepreneurship/employability programs that will help those lovely people I met earn a living and enjoy the dignity of labour.
  3. . This crisis needs to end. We can no longer be detached from the crisis, especially those of us in the South. We need all solutions that we can come up with.

Thank you for taking time to read through. My heart has been burdened since that experience and I just had to share.

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When you hit rock bottom…

Over the last week, I have come across different posts online about the need for people to share the process of their story and not just the success. I even saw a video on Facebook that encouraged we shared the process as it occurs and not until after the results where we focus on the results and barely describe what was at the core – the process.

Initially, I simply read and watched those posts and nodded in agreement without really giving them much thought. Until yesterday when I seemingly hit rock bottom. (P.S. This post is about authenticity and sharing the process as it occurs because I may forget some of the details when the result/success occurs).

'I know it doesn't seem possible right now, but trust me, it could be worse.'

So what rock bottom did I hit?

Sometime last year (April, precisely), I quit my job as a tax consultant. It didn’t make sense at all and yes I was going for the Mandela Washington Fellowship but that was not a strong enough reason to quit a job in one of the “Big Four”. My bosses tried to persuade me to just take my annual leave/study leave instead of resigning. But I was sure of the end result then as I am sure of it now and I knew I didn’t want to start that journey of purpose and passion and return to routine. So I was adamant and I quit!

However, I didn’t have the step-by-step execution clarity of the process that would get me to the end-result that I am so confident of. All I knew was that I was walking on water as my Saviour bid me come (biblical analogy). Since then, I have been privileged to run 2 leadership, entrepreneurship and technology workshops and 1 more detailed boot camp. You can tell I absolutely love what I do. There’s this pure joy I experience working with young people and introducing them to concepts and activities that would make their education more relevant.

You may be wondering, so what rock bottom did she hit? Stay with me, we’ll get there in a bit.

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Anyway, since returning from the fellowship, one key thing on my mind has been how to sustainably run this social enterprise that I have found myself working on. How would it generate income? How would I sustain myself while it is still in the growth stage? I am not used to waking up in the morning and not going to an office, how do I keep myself motivated to keep working on the vision without slipping into depression?

Thankfully, I have a great support structure but guess what made me hit rock bottom, explaining the “how” of the vision to the people I care most about. One question I get asked is so where is Steer to Greatness going? How will it make money? Before you conclude, I have written the vision, the plan, the goals and the operation plan so you may still wonder why I am not articulating it well.

The vision scares me sometimes, it is that big.

When you are walking on water, some if not most of your actions are inexplicable. Looking around, trying to understand how it will work out after you have done all you can is what makes you hit rock bottom. When you have bills coming up but your vision can’t fund them yet.

But do you know what I did – I cried for help. Yes, you heard me. Literally, cried for help. At 1 a.m., alone in my room, feeling overwhelmed and clueless, I cried to the only one I knew could help me out. Then I wiped my eyes and got to work. Yup! Feed your focus. Hitting rock bottom is not an excuse to stop trying or to give in and jump on the next available easy way out. Rather it was time to restrategise and refocus. It was time to think of other skills I had that I wasn’t putting to use yet that can help me while I work out the end-result.

In conclusion, I found out that hitting rock bottom is not an issue in itself, there are stories of many people who are household names today but failed a lot of times before they hit success. The main takeaway for me was to stand up and keep going even when I hit rock bottom. Fear of what people would think or say should not stop me from persevering. At least even if it doesn’t work out, I would know I tried and not have to guess what if.

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My friend when you hit rock bottom, cry if you must, but stand up and keep walking, running till you are soaring.

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Have an awesomely amazing 2017!

 

Not so picture perfect

I really wish there was someone here to take a picture of my not so picture perfect self right now. But I can help create the image in your mind.

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There I lay on the bed, legs folded, hands on my tummy, eyes swollen, laptop at my legs – open but now joined me sleeping.

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So what’s the issue and what am I about to rant about?

It’s simple! Girls, Women, Menstrual cramps and productivity. In other technical terms, gender and productivity. I am not about to give excuses for being a woman, but wait a minute, this menstrual cramp is a real deal.

I wouldn’t normally take to writing about something so personal or using it as an example, but as I abandoned work to give my tummy attention, the wheels in my mind went to work. I remembered on October 11, the international day of the girl child, at Badagry, the speaker before me asked the girls if any of them wanted to change their gender and why.

A few of them raised their hands and one of the reasons was – “monthly menstrual cramp”. Then my mind went to the days I worked as a tax consultant and my monthly friend showed up angry (I hope you get the metaphor). Those days, I won’t be really useful at work till about afternoon.

You’ll either see me restless, touching my stomach every minute, walking back and forth. In summary, I was completely unproductive for the better part of the day.

But then the question is, does this make me as a whole, less human or of less value than my male counterparts?

I can’t really determine whether my monthly friend will come in angry or not but I strongly believe as a woman, I should not be judged because of how I am once a month for something out of my control.

I am not saying cut us some slack, or maybe I am.

I am saying cut the stereotype about women in the workplace or girls in school. Yes life cycle affects our performance on those days, but eh (as my Zambian and Namibian sisters would say), we are on top of our games despite it.

You don’t believe me? See I just wrote this article on a whim and with the pain and weak feeling.

Not all females at work or in class would get the chance to call off work because they just are not in the mood, that would be sacrilege but organizations should not make women feel less of themselves or doubt their abilities because they have to be a woman once a month.

So yes, I will get up from my not so picture perfect state and post this for everyone now. Hopefully you get the call to action embedded therein!

Cheers!

Opportunity is knocking on your door!

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Today’s post is focused on opportunity!

I remember as a child and teenager being told that success is when preparation meets opportunity. I even had a personal example to buttress that point. When I was studying for my A’levels (which I did in about 8 months), I worked pretty hard (wanted to have a result at least as good as my brother’s and was tired of JAMB’s antics) and believed God for success.

Just before the last day of my exams, an opportunity showed up. It was an opportunity that shifted the focus of my exam from just getting into university to the possibility of attending my dream school – The London School of Economics and Political Science. It was a scholarship opportunity!

I was able to seize it because I had just finished my Cambridge A’levels exams and could use the results when they were released to seek admission in the United Kingdom. Hence, my easy agreement to the saying preparation plus opportunity is success.

9 years plus down the line, I would like to modify that saying at least from my vantage point. The experiences of the last 9 years, the people I have met along the way have all made me realise that we actually don’t need to just work hard and wait for opportunity. We can and should create opportunities…not just for ourselves but even for others.

The next question then is How. How do I create opportunities?

First – Identify a problem/challenge in your immediate environment
Two – Select the one you can solve
Three – Come up with an approach through which the problem can be solved (strategy, roadmap)
Four – Implement the strategy

In trying to solve that problem/challenge, you learn along the way and must be willing to ask for help or collaborate with others.

These days there are also sites like Opportunity Desk that you can regularly visit and apply for academic and job opportunities.

So cheers to no longer sitting around waiting for things to happen! We create the opportunities because the Creator has given us creative abilities to make things happen!

Values – Live a life of integrity and honour

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Hello there!

I realised it was time to continue the values series. I have not written on them in the order in the GEMSTONE creed but according to inspiration.

Today I would like to share my thoughts on the above value and hear your views an practical ways to imbibe this value with personal experience.

To begin with, what is integrity and honour? I have observed that many organisations use the word integrity as their core value. The question then is does everyone understand the meaning of the word? or is it just a nice to have value?

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During my research for this post, I discovered a lovely write-up on living a life of integrity that I would recommend you read too. You can find it here. That blog post kind of echoes my thoughts for this post. But I won’t be lazy. I will still share mine.

There are two definitions of integrity. One is the “quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” while the other is “the state of being whole and undivided”. Integrity is an extremely important attribute which is essential for a successful life. In my own understanding it is simply ensuring daily that my “yes is yes and my no is no”. No compromise.

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Is it easy to achieve? Initially no, but it is easier than deception and it has lasting importance and implications for the individual. I have had people favour my cause or choose me because from their experience I would not deceive them. Daily, I strive to be whole and honest because the one I represent is “the Truth”.  Are there temptations to tell an occasional lie? Sure. However, I would rather face the consequences than try to remember the last lie.

Living a life of integrity in my opinion is linked to a life of honour. It is knowing and doing the right thing. If everyone in every relationship, community, workplace did the right thing and not waiver or compromise, our Country will definitely be better for it.

 

The result that forever changed my life – a call to resurrect education in Nigeria

So I just got off the phone with my dear grandpa and he told me about his recent trip to Accra, Ghana for the annual West African Examination Council (WAEC) meeting. He was there to present the Annual Oyediran Award to the school with the Best West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) result.

He shared a very interesting and joyful news and an equally sad one that got me out of my blogging hibernation. (Happy New Year dear readers, trust it has been a great year so far). So I hope I have stirred your interest with that intro (smiling). I know you might be wondering how any news that I plan to share is linked to the topic of this post. Please stay with me a bit, I will get to it shortly.

My grandpa told me that the best three students for WASSCE 2015 were three girls from the same school in Ghana! Yes you heard that right. I was excited by that news considering that this month of March (as a YALI ambassador) the focus has been #Africa4her and I pledged to tutor local girls in a school, well I have a motivating story to share with those girls and I am elated. Can you beat that they were all girls and they were all from the same school? I am sure the school would have gotten special publicity and more students by that information. (Congratulations to those lovely sweethearts, I am proud of them!)

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So now you may wonder how such good news can equally make me sad. Well I am sad because for three years running, Ghana has produced the best three candidates in WAEC. Where is my beloved country in the scheme of things? I am happy for my Ghanaian sisters but I am sad that Nigeria has lost her place in that first three spot. Once upon a time in a not so distant decade ago, Nigeria produced the best three students and yours truly was the best candidate in Nigeria and West Africa then.

That WASSCE result was the result that God used to totally and radically change my life for good. It opened up doors I wasn’t expecting neither did I imagine, it answered prayers I never uttered out of my lips and it impacted and encouraged so many I am yet to meet in this side of heaven. So I am deeply hurt that the education sector in Nigeria has so deteriorated that the next generation has lost the opportunity that was offered to me. From my earlier post on education, I have already discussed the education epidemic and will not focus on that tonight.

My focus is on reviving the education sector in Nigeria. I asked a couple of friends what can we do from a small scale and what should the government be doing about this situation. I would be sharing their ideas and mine on this salient topic.

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My idea on reviving this dear sector is not one focused on just good grades but setting up an education sector that trains the mind, strengthens character and develops the potential in each child and youth.

Beyond policies, we need a good and effective implementation plan. The importance of training opportunities for the teachers and administrators of the schools and universities; improved facilities and rewarding excellence at every level of education (primary, secondary and tertiary) cannot be overemphasized. All hands have to be on deck to help the next generation see the importance of being the best they can be, stirring up interests and passion in the students (which is not possible if we do not have passionate and creative educators).

Finally, as my friend, Omotola Akinsola (Jumpstart Academy founder) puts it:

“For me the education sector can be revived when we move from not just seeing education as the formal form of just going to school to learn to read and write or be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or banker, to revive the sector will mean to be open to other ideas about what education really is. Can we say education or transformative or transformational education should be something that can be used in the context people are in and have opportunities to learning things that makes sense for the context they are in. So to revive the sector in my own opinion, the first thing that needs to change is the definition of what we consider as education and also helping people get over the mindset of if you did not go to university, you don’t have an education or have a good one as the case may be.”

In conclusion, if we resurrect the education sector, we stand not only the chance to reclaim our lost glory of producing the best WAEC candidates, we also unleash potential and create innovation that would revamp our economy and the continent at large.

 

 

Thank you for being a part of my 2015

2015 is fast coming to an end and 2016 is fast on its heels.

Before the curtains are drawn on the year

I would like to take a short walk down memory lane.

 

This year was a year of tests and challenges

But thankfully I overcame each one

This year was a year of answered prayers

I am glad I witnessed each one

This year was a year of growth

I am fast becoming who I was made to be

In 2015 I broke new grounds

It was indeed a privilege

 

None of this was possible without God

He made each season worth living

The year won’t have been beautiful without family, friends, colleagues, and everyone

You all added colour to the year!

Thank you for being a part of my 2015

Cheers to a greater, fulfilling and surrendered 2016

Let’s go upward and outward!

 

See you in 2016!

The consuming nation – Devalued Naira

So tonight I read a friend’s bbm display message that read “US increases interest rates, RIP Naira. It got me thinking about our economy. I also had to remind myself some of the economics I spent 4 years studying  (problems of an economist-cum-tax professional).
Anyway, I realised that that meant the Dollar would be further strengthened against the Naira  (in lay man terms that means you get more Naira for every dollar – as if the 260 Naira a Dollar rate in the parallel market is not bad enough).
Well you may say that’s no news, we all know that. Exactly, we all know how bad our Naira has devalued in the recent past and the slump in oil prices is not helping the economy’s matter.

However, I have always been an advocate of this saying “to solve a problem, you need to first discover the root cause”. Tonight, I am not going the corruption angle, we’ll keep it strictly economics (they say if you can teach a  parrot to say Demand and Supply, you’ve made an Economist of the bird). I want us to explore one of the root causes of our monetary woes in Nigeria and see if through those lens we can discover a lasting solution.

Firstly, why would the Naira weaken against other currencies? The answer is simple,  the demand for Dollars, Euros, Pounds, etc, is higher than the supply in the Nigerian foreign exchange (FOREX) market. Thus the market forces action will push up the price.
Secondly, why is the demand for foreign currencies high in the Nigerian FOREX market?

The reasons for this are varied but I’ll go with one – consumption. There is an economic theory that increased consumption is beneficial to a nation’s economy in the long run. However, in the case of Nigeria, our consumerism has stilted our economic growth.

This is because we consume what we don’t produce. Our flashy lifestyle and love for the best things, unfortunately means that we enrich other nations at the expense of our own country. As a consuming nation, we are always importing one thing or the other, or even demanding payment in foreign currencies for transactions started and completed locally!

The Central Bank of Nigeria in its attempt to curb that menace, placed restrictions on foreign exchange activities but this has not really helped the matter. why?  because you and I have not stopped demanding for Dollars. Rather there needs to be an enabling environment for local production and good quality exports in order to reduce the demand for imports and increase the demand for Naira in the foreign exchange market.
We need to all start patronising “made in Nigeria” for almost everything or at least have strong exports that would ensure our balance of payment is not deficit. Our human capital (education) must be given proper attention in order to develop the right skills required to manufacture locally.

There are other factors that can help create that much needed enabling environment – improved infrastructure: roads, railways, constant power supply will all go a long way. Rule of law and strong institutions are also a necessity. The government can also consider closing the borders temporarily but this would be successful only if the above have first been put in place.

Then we can be a consuming and producing nation with a strong resurrected currency.

I will show care and respect through my words and actions

Hi family!!!
It’s been a long time here. I have definitely missed blogging. I keep praying for inspiration and may each reader that stops by always find encouragement to be patriotic or truth to inspire them to greatness.
I am yet to conclude the series on Values. Today I will be elaborating on the value that says: “I will show care and respect through my words and actions”.

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This value right here is the real deal. Especially with the rise in inhumane evil acts, it is necessary to remind ourselves to show care and respect at all times.

So let’s break it down – we’ll attempt to answer these questions:

1. What does it mean to show care and respect? – The word care means: “to be concerned about, have an interest in or to look after or be mindful of”,  while respect means: “an attitude of consideration or high regard”. Putting the two together, to show care and respect is to have empathy,  compassion and put ourselves in others’ shoes before speaking or acting.

2. How do I show care and respect through my words and actions? – 
One,  care for children and respect them because you will be handing over to them – that child that has no clothes,  no food,  no one to talk to,  no money for school fees,  no books,  no toys or whatever their needs may be, help in your own little way.

Two,  don’t look down on anyone especially subordinates. Avoid condescending tones when speaking to others – you are not their Lord. Let’s avoid selective care. Everybody deserves to be respected.

Three, be considerate. if we were all  showing each other consideration and empathy,  we’ll achieve better results. Everyone likes being loved,  I am still learning this: look for the good in others and compliment/encourage them.
Four,  honour agreements and value intellectual properties. This is very important for business especially. Don’t buy or sell pirated products,  Avoid plagiarism.

3. How does having care and respect as a value affect the nation or make me a nation builder? – A leader that cares executes policies that positively affect the citizenry. By caring,  regardless of your position or title or the lack thereof,  you will resolve to make an impact that matters whether it’s at work,  home or community. By caring,  we won’t look the other way when funds are being misappropriated or people around us are abused or neglected.  We would lend them a voice. The #bringbackourgirls movement is still ongoing because these women and men care!  Because you care about others,  especially the next generation,  you make conscious efforts to build legacies rather than chase money. By showing care and respect,  we won’t exploit each other by charging exorbitant prices for our products/services. We would be more people oriented.

4. Examples of people who are living or lived by this value: I can think of celebrities and normal everyday people that always showed care and respect. Bill and Melinda Gates, my dear mother,  Marcia Graham-Fadiora,  etc.

Overall, by caring individually and respecting each other, we’ll build stronger institutions, industries and the nation as a whole would be better.

At my Value Based Leadership Training, we had a great man in the person of Prof Yomi Fawehinmi share the meaning of this value.  I’ll put down the extracts below:

If you don’t care, that which you fail to care about might become a problem for you in the future.  for example,  if you fail to care about education for all,  the children of the uneducated might become miscreants and cause problems for the society tomorrow.
You will be remembered either by the problems you solved or helped to create.  You decide which it will be!

Cheers!
P. S.  comments are welcome!