Friday, 9 December 2011

….and 50 Things I won’t miss

       1. All the late starts to meetings and general buffoonery surrounding and during meetings

2. Missing the point and nit-picking over trivia

3. The busses!

4. The pot-holes, especially on the Ajase-Offa road  and the 'road' to Jebba!

5.   Rudeness and lack of consideration of drivers, to pedestrians especially.

6. Being hissed at to get attention! Hate this and completely ignore it.

7. Having ‘Oyinbo’ called after me and being expected to respond with smiles and waves.

8. The anger and frustration when you hear of incidences of gross corruption and ordinary people being ripped off.

9. Everything highly peppered with chilli – even some makes of biscuit!

10. Living behind bars – I long for a room with a view!

11. Generator hell! Noise from all directions well into the night – if not all night!

12. NEPA – or lack of, and the uncertainty over whether tonight’s meal will be cooked by candle light or not.

13. Cockroaches and micro-ants, but my aim with a spray can has improved greatly.

14. Picking weevils out of the beans.

15. Market traders and taxis ripping us off whenever the chance arises.

16. Having to stand on protocol at every meeting

17. Any contact with inefficient and pompous authority.

18. Roadside police extorting money and trying to look mean –usually succeeding till they spot me and then its wide grins and waves.

19. Slow/no pace of progress in simple matters

20. When people don’t keep your appointments with them – or prepare what they should have

21. Working in the office – not really what I came here for!

22. PSA forms – a bloody nightmare!

23. Trying to conduct business meetings while competing with the transistor radio or TV.

24. Jollof rice, pounded yam, egusi soup etc etc. Oh for a fried egg, bacon and mushroom butty!!

25. Not having music to listen to – since all mine was stolen on 16th June at about 2am!.

26. Celine Dion 24/7!

27. Huge trucks belching diesel.

28. As a passenger, feeling slightly worried, if not scared, at the lack of road discipline, especially at busy intersections .

29. Wondering if our flight will take off anytime today.

30. Powdered milk in tea.

31. Buying an Abba CD and finding a Celine Dion album inside.

32. Being in the right place at the right time with your camera to snap an amazing sight and finding your memory card is full.

33. Having to eat rice and soup with your fingers at meetings and trying to look as though you have been doing this all your life.

In conclusion, there are far more things I will miss than not miss, which goes to confirm my present feelings about Nigeria and the people of Kwara especially. Certainly it has had its frustrations and there have been times when I have longed to be home, but I now feel as though I have made progress in ways I had not anticipated and this realisation has come about through having had conversations with people I work with about just that – my impact, and in truth I am sad to be leaving . Funmi said to me many months ago: ‘Seriously, Mr Lea, when you come to the end of your time with us you will be so sad to leave that you will say you are not going back – your family can come out here to live instead’. At the time I thought ‘In your dreams!’ But although this is perhaps going a tad too far, I would love to work at Oro and see to completion the projects I have been involved with.

A pre-departure reflection:

Nigeria’s greatest asset is not its oil but its people and to them I would like to pay the following tribute by acknowledging what they have taught me:

· The importance of every day greetings and courtesies in forming and maintaining good personal relationships;

      · That if you do not have, don’t worry about it – improvise or just do without – you’ll live!

· Humility – the humility that believes that you will cope with life’s challenges – that God will provide, and if he does not, it will be for a reason;

· Not to winge and moan about your lot – there are people worse off especially here;

· That formal education is not the complete answer to your life chances – that there are many skilled people even amongst the illiterate poor who have remarkable talents that are under-appreciated.

· That traditional society lies just beneath the surface and will occasionally erupt through to reveal a completely different set of mores, beliefs and customs that may be at odds with ‘recognised’ practices and with one’s own perceptions of reality. This is a bit disconcerting to sat the least, as with ritualistic killings, but has made me think and reappraise my own position as a westerner coming here to introduce what we perceive to be ‘better ways’ .
      I still find it hard to believe that there are people here who believe that, if you pick up money dropped on the street, you will turn into a yam!

· That women in Africa work extremely hard – far harder than most men – and in our terms get a raw deal – they deserve our respect for their resilience.

· The extent to which corruption of all sorts impacts negatively on the poor who ultimately have to bear the load;

· Being depressed is something of a luxury that the poor can’t afford;

· The extent to which some of those with power and influence couldn’t give a damn about ordinary citizens , have no conscience about malpractice and will rip them off whenever possible, often pocketing obscene amounts of money in the process.

· That in spite of the above, people generally just get on with their lives as best they can and hope that better leaders will emerge eventually.

· That what truly matters is people and values – not possessions or power or status. I have tried in all the schools and colleges I have been to, to make students and teachers appreciate how important the job of a teacher is to the future of their country, always remembering the young girl who said to me that ‘I love Nigeria, but Nigeria does not love me!’

For me, I will take away many memories and I feel as though I have been changed as a person through my experiences and by my acquaintances – hopefully for the better. Returning to the UK at Christmas with all the excess and nonsense is going to be a mighty challenge - one I am not looking forward to but I guess I have got to confront – without offending family and friends in the process. How do I explain to them a position which is outside their terms of reference without coming across as moralising, patronising, a kill-joy, holier-than thou?

May be Funmi is right – perhaps I should just stay here – at least until its all over!!

1 comment:

  1. Amazes me every time... the ignorance of people like yourself who would travel out of the little box in your immediate environment to expect everyone else in their own Western shell-shocked countries bow to you. And continue to have a side dish of the same boredom and plastic life you are used to.

    I always find one in every good people that visit and enjoy other countries so much they keep going back, but in return, ignorantly pay back the love with a rain of dirt from their buccal cavity.

    If you cannot bear with any country you are so fortunate to visit, the same people that welcome you open heartedly with sincere smile and reception, not the plastic type you are used to. If you cannot bear with Africa for trying to recover from centuries of slavery, unnecessary dehumanizing colonization and continues rip-off and degradation of Africa and its people by the West. If you cannot bear with Africa for trying to rediscover herself from the worst calamity and horror ever placed on a people, then, maybe you should simply stay in your bubble until Africa fully recovers from such havoc and the shell shock that followed.

    If you are not part of the solution, maybe your ignorance is part of the problem.