To Bee Honest…
Starting a blog has been much harder than I ever imagined. Now I’m in awe of all these bloggers everywhere, coming up with a half decent name took a couple of weeks, and I’m not even sure it’s all that good. I also learned that there are a gazillion books and articles by bloggers about blogging, fascinating.
Thankfully, deciding what my first post should be was really easy, my trip to Abuja/ National Youth Service Corps office. Right from the airport this trip was an experience, partly because I had only been in Nigeria for a week, so everything was still so new and surprising. I got onto the flight, and was quite pleased with my seat; I was in the exit row right after the business cabin and had ample leg room. I noticed an elderly “gentleman” seated in business class who kept looking back at me. In my innocence, I began to wonder “maybe he is my dad’s friend, and recognizes me”. I paid attention to him for about 5 minutes, and then my flying phobia took over and he was promptly forgotten.
After landing, I was jejely standing and waiting for my luggage, a porter approached and asked if I needed help. I assured him I was fine, and then he proceeded to tell me “my boss asked me to come and help you, he would also like your number”. “Who is your boss?”, I asked quite puzzled. He pointed to the older gentleman from the plane. Now don’t judge me, but, I was busy calling the cab driver who should have been waiting for me, and fielding calls from concerned family(apparently a one hour flight is too much for me to handle). In addition, my philosophy with giving out my phone number has always been just give it and avoid wasting ten minutes of my life engaged in pointless conversations, so I gave it to him. When my phone began to ring I picked up thinking it was the cabbie. It turned out to be the extremely well spoken older man, he started by saying “I didn’t come over so you wouldn’t slap me”, all I could think was, “so, you knew you deserved to be slapped?” Cutting through the entire he said, I said, dude buddy ended up offering his car and driver to me; apparently he would be fine taking a cab. It just made me sad because this guy was old enough to be my dad and most definitely had a wife and kids my age or older.
That was my welcome to Abuja. Thankfully, a friend picked me up at the airport and I got to save the 4k cab fare. Driving from the Airport into the city, all I could think of was that Abuja reminded me of Enugu, a rural place desperately trying to be a city. I’m not sure what I expected of Abuja, maybe a mini Lagos, but I didn’t get that. The city is definitely well planned, modern buildings, relatively light traffic, some level of organization; most people would probably consider it a decent city, some say it’s the only place in Nigeria to live. To me it felt artificial; the city lacked soul and character, I missed the vibrancy of Lagos (known to some as craziness, madness and sheer lunacy), the colorful people, language, the mix of old and new, everything that makes Lagos, Lagos.
Driving to the NYSC office was an eye opener, it’s quite astonishing the number of ministries and task forces this country has, especially considering the fact that nothing works. One in particular caught my attention, the Federal Character Commission, like what the heck is that? Apparently, they ensure equal division of leadership positions between the tribes (read Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba). So if the oga at the top is Hausa, the next in command might be Yoruba or Igbo or vice versa. Disclaimer (I should have checked out the website before writing this, but it was taking way too long to load.)
After battling the horrendous traffic that leads to the NYSC building, I got to the gate; there a special brand of the abuse of power was on display. It was obvious that these security guards savored their seven or so hours of daily power. It says a lot about the country that the downtrodden seek to bully others when given the slightest opportunity. They rudely demanded to see passports, bags, and best of all commented on clothing. A female security guard with a straight face told me, “next time you are coming don’t wear this type of dress, we don’t accept it, it’s too short”. I was speechless and could only make a non-committal noise and stare at her. I was bemused, especially because for the most part I’m considered a conservative dresser, no bum shorts, cleavage hanging out, bandage dresses and all. The comment became even funnier when absolutely no one in the actual office batted an eyelash at my dress. Side note; apparently no civil servant comes to work until 10.00am
My actual experience in the NYSC office was relatively pleasant, I had to return to the office multiple times, but that was totally my fault for never getting on their website (ooops?). However, the “students” at the office were a different story. Now, I will admit that some of them were obviously well educated and sensible people, but in my first hour I was sure that I had never encountered a more pathetic bunch of “graduates” and Nigeria was doomed. I had no idea that Nigerians went to all sorts of far flung places like Cyprus, Malaysia, and Singapore to study. I know our universities have some fundamental problems, and I can’t hate on anyone making the best choices for their life. I do have a MAJOR problem with these graduates who can’t fill simple forms correctly, obey basic instructions, and don’t know the difference between a passport data page and a visa. Please by all means, explore all options, study abroad, but please, actually study something, don’t just buy a fake certificate and come back. Luckily, I encountered a number of people who restored my faith in our foreign trained graduates.
Aside from the NYSC craziness and the inherent dryness of Abuja, I had a great time. My friends were terrific hosts, even when I was hesitant about some of their suggestions, like Abacha barracks for grilled fish. That was definitely a hard sell, mainly because I was suspicious about their hygiene and worried about boko haram. We got there about an hour before they closed and basically had to inhale our fish and chips. Apparently those military folks take their closing time seriously, but it was probably the best fish I had ever had. Another night with a different friend, I got to sit outside consume copious amounts of suya, and wash it down with beer, while having philosophical discussions about life, perfect night. A couple of food mentions do not make me a foodie, but the food in Nigeria has such amazing flavors, I can’t help myself. So, if I mention food in a number of posts it’s just because I couldn’t resist.
Thankfully, other than a few minor brushes with some old men and funny cabbies the rest of the trip was about playing with my adorable little cousin and hanging out with friends. My flight back to Lagos was mercifully free of leering old men, I did get a job offer from some Lebanese guy 🙂 . Extremely funny because he didn’t ask a question about my work history or education background just gave me his card and told me to call if I wanted the job. Ultimately, a very successful trip (even if it did extend from 2 to 6 days), it was mission accomplished, I’m now registered for Batch B, waiting with bated breath for my call-up letter.