Monday, November 15, 2010

I was pleasantly surprised, and a bit flattered, when a distant relative sent me an SMS appointing me into his Committee of Friends for his forthcoming wedding.

Now, I haven’t seen, or spoken with, this guy for three years, so I didn’t really think I qualified as a friend. But I guess he was counting on our, not so clear, blood ties. The story goes that his grandmother and mine were cousins, so I guess that makes him family.

So, being an ardent believer in sustaining family ties, I made the trip to his Sango-Ota residence for the first meeting of the committee. I was very pleased that my (is it half?) cousin considered me important enough to help plan his wedding, considering that he is four years older than me, and about ten times wealthier.

On getting to his flat, my bloated ego suffered a slight puncture when I discovered that there were 37 of us in the committee. I was further shocked, and bewildered, to discover that we were in Committee Three. Yes, my dear cousin had inaugurated three different committees of friends for his upcoming wedding.

A bemused fellow committee member explained the set up to me; Committee One comprised of about 15 close friends of the celebrant who were expected to ‘donate’ N25, 000 each, Committee Two was made up of 30 business associates who were expected to ‘chip in’ N10, 000 each, while Committee Three included 37 not so close friends and relatives who were expected to ‘contribute’ N5, 000 each.

As the meeting progressed, I discovered that we were not really there to plan a wedding. We were there to ‘assist.’ We were simply part of a massive revenue drive. Someone whispered that the target was N1.2million. Our host spared no efforts to achieve this target, as he ensured that we were well lubricated with sufficient booze to loosen up some tight wallets.

In retrospect, my initial feelings of shock and disappointment at the commercialization of the process wore off. In fact, I began to marvel at the ingenuity of the scheme. It beats having to take a bank loan for your wedding in an era where bankruptcy occurs as the aftermath of some weddings.

So, if you are contemplating a wedding, and you are interested in adopting this method, you had better start getting those contacts of long forgotten relatives. Look harder at that family tree; there are branches you might have missed before.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yahoo boys target job seekers

Ifeanyi Mbadugha was pleasantly surprised when he got an email, on October 13, containing an employment letter from Mobitel Nigeria Ltd.

The 2004 graduate of Marketing was ecstatic, because the stipulated remuneration and benefits were double his present pay. However, his elation evaporated as he got to the fine print at the end of the offer letter.

“They said I was required to come (for resumption on October 16) with an affidavit certifying all the credentials that they asked me to bring for the documentation,” he said.

“Ordinarily that would not have been a problem, except that they directed me to a particular lawyer to do it. That was the first sign that something was amiss. I called the lawyer, and he told me to bring N6000.”

Biting at the bait

This served to grow his suspicion that he was the target of a scam. Nevertheless he played along, half out of a desire to see how it would end, and half believing that it could still be real. “I told the man that I could only afford N3000, and he told me to pay into his account and bring the rest on resumption day,” he said.

“So I paid, and on Saturday, I left as early as 5am, only to get to the Mobitel office in Victoria Island to see almost 50 other people with similar offer letters.”

The company personnel were as surprised as the deluge of expectant youth that raided their offices that day. Before 9am, as many as 30 of them had turned up. Their excited air of expectations turned to incredulity; and then to rage as they realised that they were victims of a massive scam.

“Three of them came from Ghana,” said Mr Mbadugha. “Some came by (air) flight. It was really terrible. The company workers were very embarrassed. I later discovered that 22 of us paid various sums into the account. The rest either were too ashamed to say, or they were smart enough not to pay beforehand.

Mobitel’s defence

Staff of the telecoms company moved quickly to dispel any lingering doubts. Staff vehicles were placed at the disposal of the stranded youth, to take them to their various addressed listed by the lawyers. “The first one (at Maryland) turned out to be a hotel,” said Mr Mbadugha. “The second one, at Anthony Village, did not even exist. Someone suggested going to the police with the account numbers to ask the banks to block it, but I knew it was fruitless. They must have withdrawn the whole money by then.”

Scandalised by the affair, the company swung into motion to discourage other prospective scammers by issuing disclaimers. One of which was published on their website read thus: “Mobitel Limited has been informed that unknown persons who are not affiliated with Mobitel are fraudulently soliciting money from prospective job applicants for positions with Mobitel Limited. Prospective applicants have received e-mails promising job seekers positions with us upon payment of a fee and the receipt of the recipients’ curriculum vitae.

Please be advised that Mobitel does not solicit payments from job seekers. Any requests for such payments should be regarded as fraudulent. Mobitel has absolutely no connection to any of these e-mails or related communications or persons. We believe these communications are part of an attempt to perpetrate fraud on unsuspecting members of the public. Adverts for positions with Mobitel are normally made on the career page of our website.”

Hunting nearer home

Hundreds of companies have found themselves in the situation that Mobitel did in recent times, as Internet scammers (popularly known as Yahoo Boys) have begun to latch on to the millions of desperate job seekers in the country. The fraudsters also go to the lengths of building websites, taking paid adverts in newspapers, and actually conducting aptitude tests/interviews for applicants. “One Yahoo boy in my neighbourhood is already begging to see that letter because he is interested,” said Mr Mbadugha.

The Yahoo boy, who gave his name as Henry, a 2002 Economics graduate, said he had attempted a similar scam last year, but did not succeed because he felt that it was poorly executed. “I used the name of an unknown company, that is why (it didn’t work),” he said. “What I will do now is to invest money in it. Put it in the papers or even if it’s just to print posters and paste around. Use the name of a big company that people will be eager to apply for. For the past three months, I never receive money from white man. This won’t be a bad idea.”

Gullible and desperate youth

Critics have been swift in condemning the gullible nature of university graduates in falling prey to such scams. “If a person who spent four years in the university can be stupid enough to pay for a job, then that person deserves to be hoodwinked,” said Onyekachi Ukwuoma, a Human Resource Executive.

“And even when some, especially government, agencies ask for payment, don’t they make it as transparent as possible? At least they either ask you to purchase application forms, or PIN for online applications.”

However, most unemployed youth disagree with Mr Ukwuoma. A snap survey revealed that most of them are not averse to paying for getting jobs. Charles Nwaorgu, a 2008 Sociology graduate is one. “I have a friend that got a job through one company like that,” he said. “When she was paying the N2500 they requested before aptitude test, I was like this could be a scam. But she paid, and wrote the test. Now she is working.

Another company, (Zipha Recruitment), have also sent me email. They are charging various amounts for different qualifications. I think I will try it. You can’t just allow such opportunities pass because of fear.”

And that is the mentality that Mr Mbadugha has chosen to adopt. “If one allows such things discourage him, things will only get worse. Nigeria is all about opportunity, and one must always be on the look out.”

Previously published in NEXT

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The monthly paycheck

The National Youth Service Scheme did not enjoy much popularity when it was introduced in the 70s. The young university graduates then were impatient to get to work, considering that they were intensely wooed by both corporate and government organizations.

Most of them saw the mandatory service year as a waste of career time, and impatiently blazed through it. Some went as far as devising ingenious means to avoid it and jump into the jobs that were beckoning.

Today, the reverse is the case. The jobs are no longer available, and the graduates gladly embrace the scheme. They do so, not because of any sense of patriotism, but because those 12months provide a relief from idleness and boredom. They do so because the scheme provides the first (and for some, only) time they will receive paychecks at the end of every month.

And because the scheme has adorned such an attractive toga, thousands of Nigerian university graduates go to absurd lengths to secure a berth in the service year. Those of them older than the age cap of 30 doctor their birth documents; pregnant ladies take ridiculous, and dangerous, steps to conceal it; and some even forge call-up letters when the NYSC has not invited them.

However, the icing on the cake is the revelation that some graduates, who have undergone the one-year scheme, connive with dubious NYSC officials to get re invited for another service year. Indeed, it stretches the bounds of credulity to receive reports of people who have served thrice. What kind of graduate would sink so low?

Agreed, the unemployment situation has approached crisis dimensions, but people still get jobs. Are these graduates sure that they earned their certificates? Does taking the coward's option solve the problem? While these questions boggle the mind, it is also instructive to remind ourselves that the country's unemployment rate has reached alarming statistics. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youth enter the labour market annually; less than 20% of them get jobs.

The country's abysmal business environment smoother the entrepreneurial spirit among this lot. Left with little or no choice, some of these youth are lured into a life of crime. Millions of university graduates are currently engaged in cyber fraud, both within and outside the country.

The situation has approached dire proportions in that most of these youth labor under the disillusionment that cyber fraud is no crime. A vast majority of Nigerian youth is therefore disinterested in Nation Building; and this is the most dangerous calamity that can befall a country. Our present crop of leaders should therefore, as a matter of utmost urgency, tackle the rising unemployment rate.

Lofty ideas of building an enviable economy by 2020 can never be achieved if the youth are left to continue like this. Nigeria's outrageous unemployment rate has placed the nation at the edge of an abyss. Until we remove ourselves from that precarious precipice, we will not be able to make any progress.

The time to act is now; before the bloated NYSC scheme bursts at its seams.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Skeletons of our history

Our gods have been starved to death.

The cutlass that occupied prime position under the man of house's bed has been displaced by the shotgun and AK47.

The wrappers that proudly sat on our mothers' waists has been replaced by Calvin Klein jeans.

The evil forest in my village was once the most efficient courtroom. People accused of a crime only had to answer one question in their defence; guilty or not guilty? And the judgement was swift and final. No adjournment. If not guilty, you woke the next day to sleep in your bed again; if guilty, you never get to sleep in your bed the next day, you woke dead and joined the skulls in the forest. The crime rate was remarkably low.

The kolanuts in the bowl has been replaced with chin chin and chocolates. Homemade gin by Hennessy. Akpu was replaced by garri; which in turn has been replaced by semovita. Egusi and Nsala have been replaced by Chinese soup. Abakiliki Rice is almost extinct; Thai Rice has taken over.

Like Fred Nwonwu said, our young ladies have turned to scarecrows, with fake fingernails, fake hair, fake skin tone, fake eyelashes, fake lips, fake accents, and even fake breasts. Like Cheta Nwanze said, our young men are wearing leather jackets in the sun.

They are strangling our culture, and we are not resisting. We are all guilty. I have replaced the palm wine, that kept my forefathers strong and healthy, with Heineken. I have replaced my father's yam farm with bricks and imported flowers. I have turned papa's yam barn into a house for the generator. What will we tell our children?

I will not allow my children learn my culture from history books and the Internet. I will tie a wrapper once in a while, even if it's just indoors. I will break the kolanut once in a while, even if it's just before my children. I will make ugba for them, even if I have to microwave it. And my future wife must carry our child on her back, even if it's once in a while. So help me God.

They have strangled our culture to death. The least we can do is to preserve the corpse. So that our children can at least see the skeletons of our history.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My ancestors versus the church

He was buried sitting down, in a cupboard built specially for that.

Grandpa was a pagan until death, and so his burial threw up so many weird pagan rituals. From the bizarre, to the downright hilarious. The three day ceremonies kept us very entertained; that is apart from father, who nearly went bankrupt.

Grandpa was a pagan; and he was lazy. Any fellow who could afford to be an artist in those days was lazy. But, by jove, the old man made some beautiful sculptures. Some of which I have kept, until the day I will go to America, where I will sell them for big money.

Grandpa was a pagan; and did not believe in God. He drank more than his fair share of the palm wine, but he believed in honesty and truth. He lived his life under one simple belief - that his ancestors were watching his every action; and would punish him if he told a lie, or took another man's property.

Grandpa was proud to remain a pagan; and rebuffed all his children's efforts to teach him about heaven and hell. He couldn't understand how we could go and sit in a church, and listen to a 'small boy' teach about right and wrong, when we could simply call our ancestors to come at midnight and clarify any confusion.

Grandpa was a pagan, but he was a good man. He was a drunkard, but he was honest. He was lazy, but he worked hard to entrench peace in his society. He didn't believe in God, or any gods for that matter, but he believed in his ancestors.

And so he joined them at 106, sitting proudly in his throne, secure in the knowledge that he did not disappoint them. He joined them at the round table, and I wonder if they are still passing the cow horn filled with palm wine around. I have begged, and begged, that they answer a few troubling questions. But try as much as I do, I never seem to hear them whisper directions at midnight. And the question I ask is: are they in heaven, or in hell?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The things some fathers do

My father loves meetings to a fault. And I can't say I blame him; he inherited it from his father.

Grandpa was the oldest man in our clan, and a red cap chief to boot, so he held sway as the convener-cum-judge of the daily meetings of the clan. I am afraid it turned him into a lazy fellow.

Can't say I blame him either; I blame the society. You see, the traditional Igbo culture encouraged, nay, demanded dialogue. So much so that grandpa, and most old titled chiefs had to build out houses (obi) within their compounds to serve as venue for these meetings. I suspect this was done to keep the wife happy.

Everything was matter for spirited discussion among the men folk; from genuine matters of communal development, to marital issues. I was once privy to eavesdrop on one such occasion, where an indignant uncle asked that he be allowed to send his wife packing because she made too much noise while performing her conjugal obligations. I remember the men shaking their heads solemnly.

Father hasn't gotten round to building his 'obi' yet. Maybe he is waiting for his tenure as the oldest man. And he has been practicing for that day; with his children. And so, while we were still living with him, we had these meetings daily. Sometimes twice a day.

Anything was fodder for a conference. If the electricity bill came unusually high, father called a meeting. If his 1981 Peugeot 504 refused to start in the morning, father called a meeting. If the food supplies ran out before the month's end, father called a meeting. Sometimes, father even called a meeting to inform us that we will meet later in the day.

And then, father woke up one day to realize that we were no longer living with him. It is killing him. Not that he misses us; it's the meetings that he misses. I pray nobody teaches him how to make conference calls. But he grabs the advantage whenever any of us visits. And so we try not to visit individually. We accompany each other to go and visit father, so as to share the agony.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The last time...

The last time I saw mom, she looked so beautiful. She wore a flowing white gown, and was fast asleep inside the box in the center of our living room. I wondered why there were so many people in the room. Couldn't they see she was sleeping? But I was only 7, and powerless to chase them away.

But they said she wouldn't have minded the crowd. She was accommodating. She was kind. She was a good person. They taught me about my mother. And I drank in the information, like Nna Eruo used to drink his palm wine. I became obsessed with any information about her. I collected the photographs, and the obituary newspaper clippings. I collected her books, and even her employment letter. Anything to feed my curiosity. But my thirst has refused to go away.

The last time I spoke with mom was on the midnight of the last day of the year. I recall she called me to her bedside and taught me how to greet 'Happy new year.' Little did I know that it would be the saddest year of my life. They said I must have been dreaming, for she left us on the 28th. But I know what they don't know; she came back to say goodbye.

But why did she have to leave so early? Can a good person be that mean? How could she abandon us? They said I would understand when I get older. But I know what they don't know; you never come to terms with such a thing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My first time...

I remember my first time. She was so good that there was none of the awkwardness associated with first attempts.

I had approached her with trepidation, because I was just 13, and I knew I wasn't ready for the affair. The room was dark because I didn't want to see her and lose courage. Her scent was overpowering, she was fresh and undiluted, and so I had no trouble finding her in the dark.

I didn't hesitate as I grabbed her; the first drops of the palm wine tickled down my throat, and I winced. Not from the penetration, which was smooth and gentle, but from the agonizing pleasure that caused my body to go into convulsions.

I shivered, I arched my back, and I barely succeeded in stifling the scream that struggled to break lose off my clenched teeth. I wiped my tears, and grinned from ear to ear. I could now hold my head up as a man.

And then, the door crashed open and grandpa stood in the doorway, his white beard bristling with rage. The scent of our intercourse hadn't escaped his uncanny sense of smell. He was furious, especially because for him, the rituals of a priest and his sacramental wafer were nothing compared to that of mixing the raw palm wine with the right quantity of water. “Nwata aruo ala,” he bellowed.

And for the first time, I offered no excuses. For the first time, not even a whimper as the strokes of the cane hit my back again and again. I had discovered manhood. I had discovered an unrivalled source of pleasure.

Well, so I thought then, until I discovered sex.
But then, that one is another story.
That I will tell soon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yahoo boys keep Lagos cyber cafe's alive

After a few false starts, Azubuike Ejiogu finally retired from cyber fraud; but not before making sure that his last scam paid a handsome pension of $12,500. With the money, the 32-year-old 2002 Chemistry graduate of Imo State University decided to become a legitimate entrepreneur. He bought a struggling cyber cafe off its relieved owner at Okokomaiko, a suburb of Lagos, and plunged into business.

"My siblings were all against my decision because they were arguing that cyber cafe business is no longer lucrative," he said. "But I told them to just watch me and see how things will be. I have practically been living in cyber cafes, from Owerri to Lagos, for over five years, and I think I know how to run one profitably. I know what to do."

His siblings were justifiably concerned, considering the dearth of the cyber cafe industry in Lagos. A snap survey conducted in selected areas of the metropolis revealed that a lot of cyber cafes were closing shop, while most barely hung on by offering skeletal services.

The vanishing cafes

The proliferation of smart phones, cheaper laptops and Internet packages from telecom companies, bandwidth problems, diesel costs, and maintenance costs are some of the reasons that owners attributed to the death of some of these cyber cafes in Lagos.

"My biggest problem was power," said Onyeka Nwelue, who recently closed her cyber cafe at Surulere. "Every day you buy at least N2000 (worth of) diesel, and maybe only six people will come in that day and spend an hour each. At times, I couldn't even make N10,000 in a week."

Despite the gloomy outlook, Mr Ejiogu remains confident because he has an ace up his sleeve. "I am going to call all my friends who are ‘Yahoo boys' to come and start patronising me because I will offer them security, and they will be comfortable operating in my cafe," he said. "Already, eight of them have promised to be coming all the way from Igando to that place to work. Of course people like students coming to apply for exams, and (job) applicants will also be there."

‘They keep us alive'

His enthusiasm of retaining scammers on top of his clientele list underscores the fact that Internet fraudsters, popularly known as Yahoo boys in local parlance, have kept a significant percentage of Lagos cyber cafes alive with their patronage.

Most of the cyber operators were reluctant to admit that the scammers constituted the greater part of their clientele. However, Okechukwu Obiwuru, a Surulere-based cyber cafe manager, admitted that he frequently toys with the idea of closing shop, "If not for the fact that there are four boys who usually buy bulk time (flat monthly subscription), and at times I just start the generator for them when I consider how much they have paid for that month," he said.

The owner of another Surulere-based cyber cafe, which closed shop early this year, and who gave his name as Olatunji, acknowledged that the ‘Yahoo boys' were his major customers before he closed shop. "Apart from during exam periods, when students will be coming to fill (online) forms, or when people come to apply for (American visa) lottery, the business is dry, and it is only those boys that will be coming," he said. "But after police raided my place, most of them stopped, and even me, I got tired of the business."

Long arm of the law

The Deputy Head of the Cyber Crime Unit of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Lagos Office, Chukwunonso Okoro, stated that the anti-graft agency was constantly revising its strategy in its effort to rid our nation of the scammers. He also confirmed that the intermittent raids on cyber cafes have scared away fraudsters from Lagos cyber cafes.

"To catch a thief, you must be a thief, so we are continuously undergoing training and retraining on the new methods and the workings of the minds of these fraudsters," he said during a Crime Prevention Summit organised by The African Youth Initiative on Crime Prevention at the University of Lagos, last November.

"We are also collaborating with ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who must now register with EFCC before operating. When we identify IP addresses that were used in Internet crimes, we block it if it is a Nigerian address; if it is foreign, we write to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and they block it. Various specialised units have been set up in the EFCC to deal with the various new forms of cyber crime. We also ensure that money recovered from the fraudsters is given back to the victims."

If this information fazes Mr Ejiogu, he doesn't show it. He has swiftly swung into action to revive his cyber cafe by giving the place a face-lift and hiring two workers. "I know it won't be easy because even some of those my friends are buying laptops and avoiding cyber cafes, but I am optimistic that it will work because I will also do stuff like photocopies and scanning of documents," he said. "All I know is that I won't join those people looking for work."

(This article was first published in NEXTonSunday).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Preying on Lagos children

Lagos residents woke, on June 7, to the startling news report of a 45-year-old man, Sunday Jacob, who was arrested for allegedly having illicit sex with a 7-year-old girl. The next morning, a similar, but more bizarre story broke. Philip Benson, 37, was arrested for impregnating his 12-year-old daughter.

In the past couple of months, Lagos residents have been startled by scores of reported cases of paedophilia across the metropolis. Suddenly what previously used to be viewed as an alien occurrence associated with the western world has jarringly and repeatedly happened closer to home, and parents are getting worried.

Unreported cases

Parents have every cause to worry, going by the fact that experts believe that majority of such acts go unreported for fear of stigma, or for financial gains.

“That is just the ugly fact,” said Ikechukwu Onyekwere, a public affairs analyst. “Most times, parents do not get to find out about such acts, and the children just live with it throughout their lives without ever revealing the abuse to anybody. And it’s not just girls, I know a friend who was sexually abused when he was 11 by a housemaid, and of course he never told his parents.”

Anthony Okoye, the chairman of residents of a public building in Ijesha, Lagos, had invited the police to arrest a 30-year-old tenant who was accused of defiling a 15-year-old daughter of his neighbour, and was jolted by the reaction of the girl’s mother.
To my utmost surprise, they came and started insulting me for taking the man to the police,” he said. “They said I was too rash. What else should I have done when the man confessed to rape? The eventually settled the case when he agreed to pay N60, 000 to the girl’s mother

Affecting our culture

A snap survey revealed that parents, especially among the high and middle-income groups, have begun to take protective measures as regards who their children are exposed to, a fact that sociologists say is alien and threatens the fabrics of African culture.

“The truth is that the whole thing has made me begin to distrust anybody that is not a close friend or relative around my daughters,” said Ifeoma Akanwa, a banker and mother of three. “I used to have a house boy, and since he left last year, I have been reluctant to get another help, despite that my youngest child is just a year old. I prefer taking her to a crèche, or even locking her up with my eldest child (aged 10) at home at times.”

Uwadiegwu Otisi, a sociologist holds the opinion that this portends a dangerous trend, and might fracture the fabrics of Africa’s familial culture if left unchecked.

“The unfortunate fact is that people have started distrusting everybody that comes around their children,” he said. “I know a case where a woman even avoids leaving her small daughter alone with the girl’s step brothers living in the same house. It has become that bad! And the implication is that these children will grow up disconnected with people that ought to help shape their lives. And then what happens to the proverb, ‘One person does not train a child?’”

Assisting the victims

Experts state that children who suffer abuse are likely to have serious psychological hang ups later in life, if not counselled properly. They also advice efforts should be made to avoid publicity when such events occur, although not at the risk of letting the perpetuators go scot free.

For us at Project Alert, we are primarily concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of these little girls,” said Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, the executive director of Project Alert, a Lagos-based nongovernmental organization that promotes and protects the rights of women and young girls. “First is taking them away from the environment where the abuse occurred, and taking then to a safe place; appropriate medical care and counselling for them. Also of immediate concern side by side with this, is prompt arrest and prosecution of the victims.

While the details of the young victim should be kept secret, so as to protect them as they grow up, that of the rapists, should be made public, and should remain throughout the period the case is in court until the time judgement is given. That way it will serve as a deterrent to others. The media has an important role to play in this.”

UNICEF Nigeria’s position

Geoffrey Njoku, a communication specialist at the Nigeria Country Office of UNICEF, said the organization would continue to work towards ensuring the protection of children from all forms of abuse.

“Over the years, UNICEF has supported the establishment of the appropriate legal framework/structures in parts of the country and capacity development of law enforcement agencies to handle all protection issues against children,” he said. “UNICEF would like to see a Nigeria where all rights are accorded to all children all the time.”

However, while parents hope for the day when Nigerian children enjoy the full repertoire of the rights accorded to them in the Child Rights’ Act, they gradually come to the realization that they need to take the protection of their children from predators such as Messrs Jacob and Benson into their own hands.

This article was previously published in NEXTonSunday

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sola Oba’s bloodcurdling scream broke over the din that is associated with Oshodi during peak hours.
The tyres of the huge commercial bus popularly known as ‘molue’ had climbed over her right feet as she, and other commuters, frantically tried to board the bus that was still moving.
Traffic management personnel at the Oshodi area face an uphill task in controlling flow of traffic, especially during peak periods, due to the mass of commuters who converge at various spots along the road in wait for buses.
The commercial bus drivers often slow down along such spots, disgorging passengers inside while those outside scramble to get inside, often resulting in accidents such as befell Ms Oba.
Sina Thorpe, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, accuses commuters of impatience and disregard for the proper use of amenities.
“There is no bus stop atop that bridge in Oshodi, yet commuters congregate at various spots there instead of moving farther down to designated bus stops,” he said. “And because they stand there, the commercial bus drivers will want to stop and pick them, thereby causing traffic congestion.”
“People will even prefer to have bus stops right in their houses; we need to start doing the right thing. Let’s take the case of pedestrian bridges where people dash right across the highways even under the bridges. It is like an endemic problem, we have to start with the reorientation of the people,” he added.
A survey reveals that most bus stops in the Lagos metropolis are either in various states of disrepair, or have been taken over by touts and derelicts who have converted them to their hangouts.
Critics have also questioned the unavailability of bus stops in the metropolis and expressed concerns over the dilapidated state, and misuse, of most of the bus stops.
“Look at how pathetic some of Lagos bus stops are,” said Ugochi Ukeje, who commutes between the mainland and the island every working day. “Some of them are so dirty that you dare not stand inside them to wait for a bus or you might catch a disease. I think the state government ought to embark on an overhaul of the bus stops and even builds more.”
Responding to this, Mr Thorpe reveals that the state government was about concluding plans to engage the private sector in the construction, and management, of more bus stops in the metropolis.
“There are plans, at an advanced stage, to redesign and build new modern bus stops,” he said. “The government will franchise out to private investors who will now recoup their adverts through adverts. We are still dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s”

Bus stop Parliaments.
Many of these bus stops have also been converted to parliamentary grounds where issues like the lingering fuel crisis, the Niger-Delta war or Yar’Adua’s state of health is vigorously debated by legislators made up of commercial motorcyclists, vendors, and touts. At the Igando bus stop, last week, tempers flared and a free for all almost developed when ‘parliamentarians disagreed on the rationality, or otherwise, of the arbitrary increase of bus fares in the wake of the fuel crisis.
“Some of the things they discuss can be quite interesting, and I must admit I have been drawn to join in the debates at times while waiting for a bus,” said Taiwo Fasuyi, an insurance marketer who resides in the area.
Mr Thorpe promises that the new bus stops would take care of this situation. “In so far as the person is not committing a crime in those bus stops, he has a right to be there. That is the reason we want to come up with new bus stops that will correct the inadequacies of the old ones, look at the BRT bus stops, they were built in such a way that people will not use them as bunks.”

Bus stop as markets.
Some bus stops are scarcely recognizable for what they originally were. The Oyingbo bus stop has evolved as a market due to the determined market women who have taken over the place. The Ijesha bus stop disappears completely in the evenings, and in its place a market is born. Score of women, and young girls, armed with makeshift tables and large umbrellas, start converging at the bus stop from 6pm and display their wares which range from oranges to designer shoes.
“I find it convenient to buy something for my dinner here on my way back from work,” said Anthonia Mbamala, a regular commuter along the route. “I know it is illegal for them to display their wares like this in this area but if other commuters, and the government, don’t seem to mind, then life must go on.”
Reacting, Mr Thorpe promised that the state government would prosecute illegal traders but warned that it would be impossible to expect a miracle.
“Will the state government police all bus stops? Of course the security organizations will continue to dislodge illegal traders whether in bus stops or anywhere, but people should start being more responsible.”

Bus stops as homes.
Just like the motor parks and uncompleted buildings, bus stops are also a favourite of touts and derelicts who convert them to homes at night. Early morning commuters, especially bankers, who congregate at the bus stops to wait for their staff buses confirm that the bus stops are turned into dormitories by touts.
“We usually have to be at the Igando bus stop as early as 6am to able to meet our staff bus,” said Ms Ukeje, a banker. “You will see some of the ‘agberos’ (touts) still sleeping inside the bus stop. At times we even have to stand in the rain because they occupied the shelter. If not that we usually come in groups, it can be frightening.”
Indeed some of her colleagues were recently scared out of their wits when they fell victim of armed robbers while waiting for their bus at the Motorways bus stop, Alausa.
“A colleague of mine was robbed of her phones and cash when armed robbers accosted them while they were waiting for the bus at Motorways,” said Ms Ukeje. “I wish the government would make these bus stops more secure.”
Luckily for Ms Oba, her leather sandals got the worse of the brush with the tires of the bus, and she hurriedly limped on board the next ‘molue’ that rumbled along when someone suggested taking her to the orthopaedic hospital at Igbobi.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Child hawkers

Chibuike Ibe jumped nimbly aboard the large bus that was just rolling to a stop at Oshodi, managing to precariously balance a tray of beef rolls in one hand and hang on for dear life to the doors as passengers struggled to alight from the bus. He is nine years old, and the time was few minutes shy of 10pm.

Reacting to the queries of a couple of incredulous passengers on the Mile 2 bound bus, the youngster retorted, “Even my junior brother dey sell for Cele (bus stop on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway), and proceeded to hawk his wares at the top of his voice while striding the length of the 50-seater bus.

“Look at how such a small boy is selling things by this time of the night that he should be in bed, what kind of parents will send such young children out to the streets to sell? What will he even sell?” asked a Shola Akanbi, a passenger aboard the bus.

Not all passengers, however, shared Ms. Akanbi’s concerns, as the wad of cash that Chibuike clutched in his dirty hands showed sufficient proof that business was good.

As the massive population of Lagos state continues to swell considerably, the activities of child hawkers have continued to increase, despite the efforts made by the Lagos state government’s at curtailing this development.

What the government did

Concerned with the trend, the Lagos state government rolled out series of sensitization programmes last year, and warned that parents whose children were caught in the streets, especially during school hours, would be issue a ‘yellow card’ for first offenders, and a ‘red card’ for repeat offences.

Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the commissioner for women affairs and poverty alleviation, subsequently instructed law enforcement agents to sweep the streets and apprehend defaulters, specially targeting the arrest and prosecution of parents whose children were caught.

“Education and proper upbringing of our children is the only way to eradicate poverty,” she said. “The law forbids the use of under-aged children for domestic labour, negligence and maltreatment on the part of parents and guardians as it negates the tenets of the Child Rights law.

“The Lagos state government through the various agencies of government will ensure the survival, development and protection of all the children in the state, the laws will be enforced to the letter in order to ensure that all the rights of our children are protected.

Parents, scared of finding themselves on the wrong side of the law reigned in their children, and they subsequently stayed off the streets. However, the child hawkers simply came out at night, when law enforcement officials are scarce. And their numbers have continued to swell considerably.

Spots like Oshodi, Ojuelegba, Obalende, Cele bus stop, and Mile 2 are their favourite haunts due to the high number of commuters that pass through these places, and their bustling night life.

‘We make money to support’

Another child hawker at Oshodi, who gave her name as Toun, said she had to make sure that she sold out her oranges before going home, often as late as midnight. She gave her age as 14, but looked 10.

“Our house no far, so if I finish this one, I will go and take more from my mother who is peeling them there,” she said, while expertly balancing a tray of oranges on her head and darting in between the buses at Oshodi. “Why my mama say make we help am sell na to support am.”

Not all of them, however, are trading to supplement family incomes; some, like 16-year-old immigrant Sherrif Adebisi, have no family to take care of them, and simply have to live off the streets.

“Before I used to beg (for alms), but one Good Samaritan gave me N5000 and I started with pure (sachet) water business before I went into the soft drinks that I am doing (selling) now,” he said.

Bad economy

Oluyemisi Wada, founder of Haven for the Nigerian Child Foundation, an Lagos-based NGO that rehabilitates street children, is not comfortable with the government’s efforts so far, and blames parents for contributing to the increasing population of street children across the metropolis.

“The economy is so bad now even in urban areas, not to talk of rural areas that majority of these children come from, so parents often end up subjecting these children to street hawking,” she said.

“Often, these children run away to the cities in search of better lives. I think parents should pay more attention to children, and strive not to put them in situations were running away from home becomes attractive,” added Mrs. Wada.

For some of these children, like Chibuike, it is simply a question of survival.

“If I finish selling, I go follow big bus go Cele and help my mama pack for where she dey sell before we go begin go house,” he said.

This feature was published in NEXTonSunday.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sex on the beach

When Uche Okoro moved into his Lekki apartment, he was particularly pleased that it was close to the beach. The euphoria did not last long.
“I used to be happy whenever I received visitors, because we would just stroll to the beach and entertain them, but now I struggle for reasons to deter my visitors from going there whenever they come,” he said.

Mr. Okoro’s concern stems from the large number of commercial sex workers, and touts, that have become a regular feature of the Lekki Beach. These ladies, some of who are teenagers, flock out in their hundreds especially on weekend nights.

NEXT investigations have revealed that an increasing number of commercial sex workers throng to Lagos beaches in search for trade. Some of them who spoke to NEXT revealed that the crowd of fun seekers that frequent the beaches, and the party atmosphere that envelopes the beaches on weekend nights have guaranteed brisk business.

“Apart from the fact that people frequent here to catch their fun, it is cheaper here than when you go and lodge in a hotel (brothel),” said one of the girls at Lekki Beach, who gave her name as Eunice and spoke in Pidgin English.

Doing it on the beach
According to Lagos beach crawlers, Kuramo beach, located on Victoria Island, enjoys the unenviable reputation of being the most notorious among the lot. Apart from being the dirtiest, with faeces decorating some portions of the fine sand, it plays host to the largest number of commercial sex workers, derelicts, and criminals.

At the Lekki Beach, scruffy looking young men collect a toll fee of N200 which they claim is needed for maintenance of the beach, while the boys at Kuramo collect N100. “Don’t you know that people will sweep the place?” retorted one of them, when NEXT inquired.

However, some beach regulars reveal that some of these young men act as gigolos for the commercial sex workers, and in some cases, provide protection to them. “One of them is either a boy friend or a brother to one of the prostitutes here (Lekki Beach) because I always see both of them,” said Augustine Ifeanyi, a frequent visitor to the Lekki Beach.

Some of these commercial sex workers are immigrants who have lived on the beach since they moved to the state. A teenager, who gave her name as Richael, said she has lived at the Lekki Beach since 2007 with her siblings. They only know that their father is Lebanese, but do not know his name or location.

At both Kuramo and Lekki beaches, the commercial sex workers make arrangements with some of the bartenders on the beach so that their crude makeshift wooden shacks can be used as quarters for sex with their customers. A space, in some cases as small as one square metre, is carved out at the back of the bar for what one bartender, who requested anonymity, called, “The C-room.”

“They have a mat there, and if some customers like, we can even do it on the beach were people are not too much,” said Eunice. “At times some people will come that just want to sit with a woman and be watching the (waves of) the ocean, but most of them want sex finally.”

Blight on the face of Lagos tourism
Respondents have criticized the development, and urge the relevant government agencies to address this blight on the tourism potential of these beaches.

“I was so embarrassed when I took some friends who were visiting to the Lekki Beach, and they came in contact with some of those girls,” said Kingsley Achonu, a Lekki resident. “If not for the cool breeze that we enjoy from the beach, I would have started thinking of moving elsewhere.”

Efforts to get the Lagos Commissioner for Tourism, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, were unsuccessful as repeated calls made to his mobile phone went unanswered.

And so, while residents like Mr. Okoro, continue to hope that something is done to address the development, the commercial sex workers are having a field day at the beaches.

This article was published in NEXTonSunday of April 4, 2010.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tony Dara has the most unusual of alarm clocks; he is woken around 6am every morning by a waft of marijuana smoke floating through the windows of his one-bedroom Ijesha apartment. The source of the smoke is an uncompleted building in the next compound that has served as abode for derelicts for years.

“Because of the heat, my windows are open throughout the night, and as soon as they start smoking, the odour will shock me awake,” he said. “They are always punctual because it is always between 6 and 6:30 (am) that they start smoking.”

Gangsters’ paradise

Mr. Dada’s experience is akin to that of a lot of Lagos residents who find themselves living near uncompleted buildings or abandoned lots. Despite sporadic police raids, these places have continued to serve as shelters and hangouts for unsavoury characters.

“At times the police will come and raid them and arrest any people they see inside their, but the next day you will see some of them back playing cards or smoking hemp,” said Mr. Dada. “These boys are always there, whether morning or night, and I wonder what they do for a living. I thank God they have never robbed anybody in this neighbourhood.”

Eke Izekor is not as lucky. Her harrowing experience at the hands of armed robbers who emerged from an uncompleted building a few blocks from her Igando apartment late one night has caused her to take a longer route home ever since.

“I usually close work late so that night (around 11pm) there were few people on the road,” she said. “Just as I neared that place, three boys jumped out and demanded for my handbag. I just threw the bag at them and ran back. Who knows if they would have wanted anything more than that?”

Environmental hazards
Not only do these abandoned lots attract hoodlums; they also attract refuse as some residents have found them convenient dump sites. This is noticed more in place on the outskirts of the city.

Piqued by this phenomenon, the Lagos Waste Management Agency has warned that owners of uncompleted and abandoned properties that have been converted to refuse dumps risk losing them to the state if the environmental hazards are not checked.

“If you have undeveloped property, and they are dumping refuse there, and you are not raising alarm and compromising with it; we will invoke the law and advice the state government to take over rather than allow your land to cause an epidemic because government has a moral obligation to protect the interest of the larger public,” said Ola Oresanya, managing director of the agency.

Ijeoma Ekwuonye owns one of such properties in Ojo, a Lagos suburb. She bought the undeveloped land in 2008 and started construction of a two-storey building which was stalled months later when she ran out of funding. A four-foot high mountain of refuse presently occupies the land as residents of three adjoining buildings have resorted to tossing their refuse there.

“I have tried everything to stop them from throwing rubbish there,” said an agitated Mrs. Ekwuonye. “I burnt the refuse twice and every time they will just keep on throwing rubbish there. I am trying to raise money to come and start (construction on) the building again. These people are wicked, if the government seizes my land now, they will be happy”

Mr. Oresanya however has assured property owners who find themselves in similar situations to contact the agency for partnership in evacuating the waste. “We will work with anybody who wants to remedy the situation, and we will talk to them and partner on how to evacuate the dump,” he said.
Published in NEXTonSunday of March 21, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

No jobs at the jobville

The huge turnout of candidates for the Nigerian Navy recruitment test held in January was the final straw; Onyema Mbakwuru’s mind was made up, to seek for greener pastures outside the country.
“For two years I have been attending (job) aptitude tests, but the crowd I saw at Ojo (Lagos centre of the test) was terrible,” he said. “More than 10, 000 people came to write the test. I saw people that left school before me looking so desperate.”
This feeling of desperation has gradually spread as more and more young school leavers find themselves caught in the expanding labour market of the country. With its strategic position as the commercial nerve centre of the nation, Lagos is home to more than its fair share of these job seeking youth.
The spectacle of thousands of candidates jostling for space at the various job recruitment tests that occur periodically in the city is one that residents are quite familiar with. And as thousands of school leavers graduate from the one year national youth service scheme every four months, the population of job seekers in Lagos swells.
In a bid to be more proactive in fighting the huge unemployment rates in the city, the Lagos state government launched a job registration website,, on February 16, 2010. During the launch, Governor Babatunde Fashola said the initiative was aimed at tackling the high unemployment figures in the state.
“The website is another opportunity for youths who are still unemployed to become self-reliant by linking up to the free website for job registration,” said Mr. Fashola, who was represented by his deputy, Sarah Sosan, during the launch of the web portal at the Lagos State Auditorium, Ikeja.
“The new reality is that, this platform will encourage and promote government policy on public-private partnership programme (PPP) and also, serve as reference point for data collections and demographic study for our wealth creation programmes.”
The hopefuls and the cynics
While some unemployed youth in the state have lauded the initiative, others have dismissed it as a weak attempt at solving the perennial unemployment problems. And most have indicated a disinterest in registering at the site; as evidenced by the less than 10,000 visitors the site has registered so far.
“Since I have heard about the site, I have been visiting (it) and have never seen any vacancy,” said Wasiu Akande, a History/International Relations graduate. “The fact is that people are desperate, and will clutch at any straws to get a job, but I don’t believe that website will really make any difference.”
Samuel Kanu disagrees; and is hinging his faith in the state government’s employment programmes. “At least Governor Fashola is doing something,” said the Sociology graduate. “In my home state (Abia), the government is doing absolutely nothing to tackle the unemployment thing.”
The entrepreneurs
The website also features an artisans’ directory page, where small scale entrepreneurs are encouraged to publish their contact details. A total of 40 entrepreneurs have registered so far.
One of the registered artisans, Idris Onisiwo, a Political Science graduate from the University of Ibadan, prefers being self employed, and is currently combining footwear production and consulting.
“My business has not really improved much, in terms of increased patronage, since I registered on the site,” he said in an email response to NEXT’s enquiries. Mr. Onisiwo also believes that the government would be doing small scale business owners like him a big favour by the “provision of grant/loans and support for entrepreneurs.”
Another entrepreneur, Tochukwu Agbo, does not feel that registering his business in the website will do him any good. His small scale fish farm is prospering, thanks to the rural settings of his Igando suburb and he does not believe the government owes him anything.
“I have been doing this (business) since 2009, and I don’t need anything from the government,” he said. “When they cannot even provide electricity, talk less of loan. I bought my own generator, source my own water, and developed my market, so I don’t think I need to register for anything.”
His disillusionment is shared by many; including Mr. Mbakwuru. “My cousin who wrote aptitude tests for years without getting a job eventually went to South Africa, did his masters, and landed a job at his first try. I am following suit; man must survive.”

Published in NEXTonSunday March 7, 2010.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The depths of unemployment

The National Youth Service Scheme did not enjoy much popularity when it was introduced in the 70s. The young university graduates then were impatient to get to work, considering that they were intensely wooed by both corporate and government organizations.

Most of them saw the mandatory service year as a waste of career time, and impatiently blazed through it. Some went as far as devising ingenious means to avoid it and jump into the jobs that were beckoning.

Today, the reverse is the case. The jobs are no longer available, and the graduates gladly embrace the scheme. They do so, not because of any sense of patriotism, but because those 12months provide a relief from idleness and boredom. They do so because the scheme provides the first (and for some, only) time they will receive paychecks at the end of every month.

And because the scheme has adorned such an attractive toga, thousands of Nigerian university graduates go to absurd lengths to secure a berth in the service year. Those of them older than the age cap of 30 doctor their birth documents; pregnant ladies take ridiculous, and dangerous, steps to conceal it; and some even forge call-up letters when the NYSC has not invited them.

However, the icing on the cake is the revelation that some graduates, who have undergone the one-year scheme, connive with dubious NYSC officials to get re invited for another service year. Indeed, it stretches the bounds of credulity to receive reports of people who have served thrice. What kind of graduate would sink so low?

Agreed, the unemployment situation has approached crisis dimensions, but people still get jobs. Are these graduates sure that they earned their certificates? Does taking the coward's option solve the problem? While these questions boggle the mind, it is also instructive to remind ourselves that the country's unemployment rate has reached alarming statistics. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youth enter the labour market annually; less than 20% of them get jobs.

The country's abysmal business environment smoother the entrepreneurial spirit among this lot. Left with little or no choice, some of these youth are lured into a life of crime. Millions of university graduates are currently engaged in cyber fraud, both within and outside the country.

The situation has approached dire proportions in that most of these youth labor under the disillusionment that cyber fraud is no crime. A vast majority of Nigerian youth is therefore disinterested in Nation Building; and this is the most dangerous calamity that can befall a country. Our present crop of leaders should therefore, as a matter of utmost urgency, tackle the rising unemployment rate.

Lofty ideas of building an enviable economy by 2020 can never be achieved if the youth are left to continue like this. Nigeria's outrageous unemployment rate has placed the nation at the edge of an abyss. Until we remove ourselves from that precarious precipice, we will not be able to make any progress.

The time to act is now; before the bloated NYSC scheme bursts at its seams.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Intellectual ganja

Attired in designer suit, George Ironuma (not real names) looked startlingly out of place amidst the scruffy looking characters that lurked around the entrance to an uncompleted building located on Itire Road, Surulere. The building has served as a hang-out for marijuana dealers and smokers since 2005.
The middle-aged banker said he has been addicted to marijuana for over 10 years, and is unsuccessfully struggling to quit.

“I started the whole thing in my second year in the university, and it has been hell for me since then,” he said as he took off his jacket, loosened his tie, and sat on one of the concrete blocks lying around the floor of the building. “The stuff helps me relax. If I don’t smoke before going home, I won’t eat, and can’t sleep.”
“Then I buy the one that I need in the morning before taking my shower, because it helps me start the day in the right mood, and also keeps my senses alert through the day’s work at the office.”

Intellectual ganja?
In a side street off Pako-Aguda, in Surulere, a ramshackle wooden bar sits in front of the filthy canal that runs through the middle of the street. The bar also serves as a joint for hundreds of youth in the area who congregate regularly to smoke marijuana. The proprietor is a gaunt old woman known as Iya Raufu.

A dreadlock-wearing gangling young man of about 25 sat in a corner; bare-chested and swaying to the music from his headphones. He seemed to distance himself from the rough looking men and women that lounged about smoking or drinking. He gave his name as Encrypt.

“I smoke ganja because na im dey give me inspiration,” he said while he delicately licked the tips of the soft paper he used in wrapping the marijuana. “I don already release two singles (music tracks) and very soon Eko go hear my album.”
“This,” he said as he lit up and took a deep drag, “na wetin (popular hip-hop musician) Terry G call ‘intellectual ganja.’”

Mr. Ironuma also believes this view, but is battling his addiction. “God knows I have tried to stop, but my brother the pull is too much,” he said. “I even told my pastor about it, and he has been on my neck since then. But, I am afraid that is I stop it, I will lose the creativity that it has helped me impact on my job.”

Marijuana as aid to creativity: Fact or myth.

The two men are examples of a substantial number of Lagos youth who are addicted to marijuana use, and have remained under the illusion that the drug enhances creativity. These youth are regular patrons of joints were the sale of marijuana thrives in the metropolis.

Uncompleted buildings, brothels, motor parks, and seedy bars in suspect neighbourhoods are some of the favourite haunts of dope dealers in the metropolis.

Niran Okewole, a Senior Registrar at the Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital Yaba, reveals that marijuana usage induces an illusion of enhanced imagination, but points out that the negative consequences can be dangerous.

“Marijuana is known to heighten the user's sensitivity to external stimuli, make colours seem brighter and sounds seem richer, and more details become vivid,” he said. “Appreciation of time is also subjectively slowed. All these could make an individual 'feel' artistic concepts more.”

“There is a culture especially in the entertainment industry which encourages impressionable, identity-seeking youth to indulge in marijuana and other psychoactive substances; think of the impact of lyrics like 'Nothin do me becos I dey shayo.’ (However), Cannabis use could lead to intoxication, manifesting as impairment of memory, motor skills, and level of consciousness. Anxiety, behavioural disturbances and frank psychosis could also be consequences of cannabis use.”

Any refuge?
House of Refuge is a rehabilitation centre run by Freedom Foundation, a nongovernmental organization. The centre, located on Alpha Beach, Lekki, was established in 2001 and has succeeded in rehabilitating 1000 former drug addicts since then.

“We have a group of men who go out to the streets and identify addicts that really need help, and we also partner with NGOs and doctors who refer people to us, and then we profile to see if the person is qualified for admittance,” said Ayo Awoyemi, the Programme Officer of the centre.

One of such is Piriye Kalaiwe, a 42-year-old database administrator who got hooked on drugs while studying in the United Kingdom, but is now weaned of his addition. “It takes you to decide that ‘look I am tired of it’, and I needed somewhere like a sanctuary to go and chill out,” he said. “A place like House of Refuge only contributes mentally and spiritually, but it is always your decision to stop it.”

Mr. Okewole shares this view, and advices repentant addicts to be committed to quitting the habit. “A lot has to do with the level of motivation of the individual,” he said. “Rehabilitation programmes like we have at Yaba and Aro are excellent. (And) there are also some private rehab facilities.”

For addicts like Mr. Ironuma, who are desirous of quitting the habit, and are finding it difficult to make the decision to seek professional help, something needs to trigger them into taking the leap.

“Maybe when I get married, hopefully before the end of the year, I will now be forced to stop this stupid habit,” he said.

This piece was previously published in NextonSunday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

DANGER of losing the fans

Hip-hop sensation twin act, PSquare, probably attracts more dedicated fans than the Nigerian Super Eagles; and indeed the whole 20 football clubs in Nigeria’s Premier League.

It is no secret that the Nigerian music industry has enjoyed tremendous growth and popularity; neither is it a secret that even faithful hardliners agree that Nigeria’s sports industry is spiralling on a downhill fall.
Football, unarguably the biggest sports, achieved incredulous levels of nationalism in Nigeria’s ethnicity-frayed polity during the heydays of the Super Eagles exploits in USA 94 World Cup, and Atlanta 96 Olympic games.

Today, the nation’s footballers and athletes perform woefully in international competitions, leaving the fans in the rut. Consequently, the fan base has dropped to dangerous levels.

Arresting the trend: a fusion of music and sports.

While Nigeria’s talented sportsmen and women flee in droves to the more organized, and glamorous leagues of Europe, and even sister African countries; our talented musicians abroad are hastening back home to be part of the renaissance.

Multinational blue chip companies, realizing the huge potentials of Nigeria’s music industry, are tapping into the dream through. They have unleashed an avalanche of promos, sponsorship deals, and even grass-root talent development. Our sports administrators could reawaken public interest in sports by following suit.
They should create more synergy between Nigeria’s music and its sports.

Multiple award winner, Tuface Idibia, has a football academy. Sports administrators should invest in this project, and also encourage other music stars to follow suit. An extensive public awareness campaign could be adopted in this regard.

Popular musicians should be appointed sports ambassadors. They should be adopted as symbols for specific clubs; their presence should be courted, at all costs, to sports competitions. Sports administrators should engage their services at sports events such as awards.

Nigeria’s music industry is wholly managed by private entrepreneurs; our sports industry should tow same line. The present situation, where state governments own and run clubs, can no longer be tolerated. The blitz of such leagues, as the English Barclay’s Premier League, is as a result of the aggressive marketing and investments of club owners who are private businessmen. Ownership of clubs should be wrested from state hands, and sold to interested investors.

The current travails of Nigeria’s Flying Eagles in the hands of FIFA’s MRI scheme epitomize our poor grass root development initiatives. It is highly improper for a country to feature sportsmen/women who are decades older than specified limits for age-grade competitions. Grass-root development should be embraced. Music sensations; Kc Presh, Wande Coal, etc were discovered in talent hunts and developed.

The Star Trek initiative of Nigerian Breweries Plc and the Project Fame initiative of MTN are examples of corporations investing in talent hunts geared to discover and nurture musicians. Sports administrators could partner with the social corporate responsibility projects of such blue chip companies.

It is only when all these things are done that; maybe, Nigerian sports would command the level of interest and respect that its music industry does.