Decisions

The first man to ever call me an ‘ashawo’ was my father.
So if you ever see me expressing outrage over being called an ‘ashawo’ by a bus conductor, or bus driver, or roadside worker, just know that it’s fake outrage…

Mind you, I didn’t really start spoiling till I was in my twenties, so it didn’t make sense when he said it. I was 14/15 years old at the time and I wasn’t doing anything even remotely ashawo related. It was just one out of his colorful library of insults that flew out of his mouth with ease.

Afterwards, as she always did, mother would yinmu and say “Don’t mind him. Deep down, he really loves you”. I was young, so I could get by on that.

      _______________________________________________________________________

My sister is wedding, and we’re in the village. It’s the morning after we arrived and two grand uncles have called for the first of several family meetings. I see a number of unfamiliar faces. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. One is an electrician who rode in on a bicycle to do a repair job in the downstairs living room. He never makes it to the living room. His curiosity gets the better of him and he leans against a pillar by the patio, spanner & screw driver in hand, to watch the proceedings. Father begins his usual round of introductions.

He points to one brother, this is the UK trained chemical engineer. He points to the next brother, this is the UK trained mechanical engineer. Then to my sister, this is the medical doctor. He signals in my general direction, that one claims she read biochemistry. I haven’t seen her certificate till today. She is jobless in Lagos “na eme Igbo Igbo Igbo Igbo”… I don’t understand the exact words, but I don’t need to. People drop their heads in embarrassment so I know. I don’t know the Igbo word for prostitute, but it’s safe to assume that’s what he said. It’s the only way I’ve ever been described by him.

In my family, I’m the one with a temper. But I can’t get up and walk away, not this time. There’s a wedding to be had. Mother does the yinmu thing again, and tells everybody present that they shouldn’t mind him, “as you’re seeing him, he’s really happy to see them deep down”. She says something in Igbo about his heart jumping for joy at the sight of his kids. I turn to look at her and I can’t hide my irritation. Still, I don’t say anything or break her “yinmu-ing” nose, because there’s a wedding to be had.

One aunt speaks up. Leave this poor girl alone! She should’ve taken a cue from the rest of us and stayed quiet because now he’s gone into a long monologue and he’s giving points to support his ho’ theory. If she’s not a hoe, how is she surviving in Lagos with no job?

I’m sitting quietly, my chest hurts because I don’t want to cry. If I do, he wins. His people are nodding slightly in agreement. They have mouths to feed and children’s school fees to pay, so if he says his daughter is a ‘ho’, surely he must be right. They will nod now and corner me later to explain that although he says these things, he really loves me. Again, deep down.

Have I told you about my new church? It’s a new age church, one of those funky churches with hip sermons. We’re taught to rely heavily on the word of God so I’m sitting in the meeting, trying to remember scriptures from every I-am-fearfully-and-wonderfully-made sermon I’ve ever heard. The only thing that comes to mind is Sinach’s “I am who God says I am” song, but it’s not what I need to hear. I know I’m not a ho’… if I was, my mattress wouldn’t still be on the floor in my room a year after moving into my apartment. I would be able to afford a bigger place. I would have workout shoes that don’t need sewing every two or three months. I know I’m not a ho’.

Wedding discussion starts in full. I sit back, relax and internally, I breathe a sigh of relief. I’ve survived round one. Now he’s complaining about the pressure he’s under because of the wedding. He’s grateful to God that he will never have to go through this again. Someone reminds him about me. There is another daughter, there will be another wedding. He laughs and says that no man will marry this kind of person with such bad behavior, so he’s not worried.

That’s the one that makes me cry. The tears start and refuse to stop.

I don’t remember how the meeting ended. Everyone is leaving and he begins taunting me. He’s calling me “fatty bum bum” and “Fatima” and the men are laughing. I know how much weight I’ve put on. I don’t own a scale but the girl in the pharmacy near my house let’s me use theirs almost everyday, so I know.

After the meeting, I don’t eat or speak to anyone again till evening. My siblings understand to leave me alone. Even mother keeps her distance, but I know her well. She will wait a few weeks and then one day, she will find a way to say in the middle of a conversation with a friend (and to my hearing) that I am my father’s favourite child.

I’m in my thirties now though. I can no longer get by on that.

               _____________________________________________________________

It’s the morning of the wedding & we’re in our third and final meeting. By now, I’ve given up trying to hold back tears. Let him win. I’m counting the seconds till my sister does the wine dance so that I can go home.

Orji, Ngozi (MSc PhD Dr MBBS Consultant))

Good morning beautiful people…

Last week, my uncle called me. We’re not related by blood, but we’ve been family friends for a long time. I hadn’t heard from him in almost a year so when I saw his name pop up on my phone, I had to wipe my screen to make sure I was seeing clearly.

“Ngor! Hawayoo?”

“I’m fine thank you sir.” He’s at a weird age where he’s not so much older than us kids that we should be calling him uncle, but he’s also not our mate so we can’t call him by his first name. However, because he’s richer than God, we call him “sir”. In fact, if not for self control, we would’ve been adding “oga” in front of the “sir”.

“Your mother told me that they sacked you.” 

I hate that word ‘sack’, but uncle is not patient at all… there was no point going into a lengthy explanation about budget cuts and redundancy so I simply answered, “Yes sir”.

He said, “Sorry my dear. Don’t worry… do you know what you will do?”

At the sound of those words, my heart skipped several beats. I thought, Holy shit! I’m going to get a job in his billion Naira oil company!  He might create one useless position with plenty salary and insane benefits…

I would probably be the Head Crude Online Tester, like a sub-division of Quality Control. My job would be to look at online pictures of crude oil to make sure that whatever we drilled was the same colour. I would put in two or three years of hard work and retire before 40…

But then uncle killed my dreams of early retirement when he said, “You can start your own consulting firm. You have very good communication skills. Just print out business cards and schools can pay you to come and talk to their students about their college education. Then you can charge people 200,000 Naira for your services. I have a friend who is doing it and he’s making mad money.”

I was confused. “Sir, erm… please which services?”

“Consulting na! You don’t even need office. My friend doesn’t have office. He meets his clients in restaurants. He will look at their documents there and advice them on what they should do. And before he takes you on as a client, you will sign a document that says you cannot hold him responsible if you don’t get a visa. You see how he gets his cool money?”

That’s when it dawned on me what he was talking about. “Yes sir… very cool.”

In truth, I was heartbroken.

                                       Oil tester picture 2

With great fear and trembling, I told him that I don’t have knowledge of immigration laws and shit like that, and it’s something I’ll have to take time to learn. As I suspected he would, he went off on me. He said I’m lazy, and I don’t want to hustle, then he reminded me again how much money his friend is making.

My country people, how the hell am I supposed to answer ‘Consultant’ and start charging people 200,000 Naira to let me use them to learn work? I was horrified. Only Jehova knows how many holes this man must have drilled in his neighbour’s backyard in search of oil at the time he was learning work.

I remained quiet while he screamed. When he was tired, he said, “Ngozi? Are you hearing me? Design somtin… let them print cards for you. Do your research and let me know. I will support you fully.” I agreed to get back to him in a week’s time and the conversation ended.

Is it just me or do you guys agree that in Nigeria we’re obsessed with packaging? That’s why someone will buy/rent a building next to an existing supermarket, spend millions in aesthetics – tiles, paint, marble counter tops, big ACs – only to open shop & sell over priced pampers and Vaseline. And I suspect it will only get worse in this era of buy-Nigeria-to-grow-the-Naira.

Anyway, I’ve told you guys before that I don’t have a single business bone in my body… so maybe there are some trade tricks and secrets that I’m not getting. I won’t lie though, I briefly considered my uncle’s offer because, like he said, I can speak good English and I can fill forms… but I know my luck; one day one angry Benin man who paid me his life’s savings for a visa to Italy to visit his daughter will hold me responsible when he is denied visa. He will use the contract we both signed to tear me heavy slap.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Enjoy your weekend people…

A peaceful world without DSTv

There was a time, some years ago, when news headlines always had one story or the other about Asian executives committing suicide. I did some research and discovered that it’s actually a thing with Japanese people, especially the men.  It’s called an honourable suicide. How it works is, a large organization starts to fail… maybe it experiences a colossal loss or there’s fraud exposed at top management level. The CEO or MD or high-ranking official directly responsible for the problems/fraud, will open a window in his large, sprawling, 20th floor office and jump out.

No suicide note, no nothing… just his brains splattered all over the sidewalk.

Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. Most of them just shot themselves, but the principle behind the suicides was the same; I have fucked up big time. I am a failure. Rather than bring shame and disgrace to my family name, let me do this honourable sidewalk dive.

To a very large extent, I understand where they are coming from. It’s from a place of accountability to oneself… you start to experience it at a very young age, especially when you are raised in one of those “What will people say?” households like I was.

I believe everyone has similar early childhood memories… like going back home on the last day of school with a report card that had: Overall Position 37/40 written boldly at the top in red ink.

On your way home, you ponder over your young life and tears start to fall uncontrollably. You feel terrible, but most of all, you feel ashamed. To make matters worse, tomorrow is the end of year PTA meeting. Your parents are going to talk to your teacher and they will find out that the students who carried 38th, 39th and 40th positions are triplets who had transferred to a new school at the start of second term.

That’s when you first consider an honourable suicide. You imagine jumping in front of the school bus as its going downhill, or hugging the hair dryer in your bathtub during your night bath. Why? Because you don’t want to bring shame to your family.

It’s called PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY.

We don’t have that here in Nigeria. If we did, the brains of the top brass at DSTv, MTN, PHCN, Arik and many more organisations would be scattered beautifully around the sidewalks of Lagos and Abuja… or wherever the hell their head office is.

Today’s rant was inspired by DSTv… so let’s focus on them.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I renewed my DSTv subscription, made payment and my decoder came on immediately. It used to happen… in 2014. I would get home from work, sit in front of the Tv, do the transfer and voila! it’s back on. That doesn’t happen anymore. And because I have a thing against call centres/customer care lines, I usually go through the pain of exploring every single DIY option that there is. NONE of these options work. None.

And it’s not just me… I was on several blogs tonight, looking for one last option. I read through the comments sections and I was appalled! Even on their Twitter page, it’s the same thing; people pay and are not connected immediately. People pay days ahead of subscription expiry and they are still disconnected!!

So every gaddem month, as if my destiny has been tied to theirs, I have to call in and speak to one idiot agent who will tell me a million times that “We siseerly aplorgize for any ikorveenience”.

The most painful part for me is towards the end of the call, after attending to you and the agent asks, “Ma, do you know about the self-service option?  You can just text blah blah blah to tree-zero-tripletree.”

                                  dstv phone call

That’s what their saying, but what I am really hearing is, “You sef, upon all this English you are speaking, are you not hip or cool enough to join the tech trends? Just text blah blah blah to tri-zehrow-tripletri and it will come on like magic, instead of calling us, wasting our time and yours”.

I was reading about Nokia yesterday and how they have crashed. I understand that their ogas were actually crying and I felt sorry for them. Nokia is an excellent brand, but my guess is that they probably got too comfortable. While their competition was growing, they relaxed.

That is my forecast for DSTv. Very soon, there will be competition… the kind of competition that will shut them down. Is this an informed guess based on profit margins and detailed business analysis? No. I’m just swearing for them… plain old, lying on the floor naked, calling to gods of the moon and the stars to bring judgment upon them.

I don’t blame them. It’s my fault for being such a Tv junkie… because when I really think about it, what is that thing that DSTv gives me that the Lord God my savior cannot give me? Is it Comedy Central? There’s plenty of comedy in the bible! Have you ever pictured a camel trying to fit into the eye of a needle? That shit is funny as hell!

Is it Crime and Investigation? There’s lots of crimes in the bible… CSI, Law and Order type of crimes. The entire bible is one big reality series.

Just imagine how peaceful my life would be. I wouldn’t have to go through this hell every month and hairdressers will no longer shampoo my left eye just because they are watching one of those silly ass Indian soaps… you know those ones where everyone has a nose ring and everything happens in slow motion.

This post is already too long and I have to go to bed. I’m not even as angry as I was when I started.

In conclusion, this is a personal heartfelt appeal to the ogas at DSTv, MTN, PHCN and Arik…

                                  begging cat

You probably had a plan in the beginning- a plan to excel and take your organization to incredible heights. Maybe you got carried away in the lawlessness that is Nigeria. Our society taught you that you can get by on poor or mediocre services. You shouldn’t even count that single water pump that you installed in one backwater village somewhere up North… the truth is, you have failed.

I urge you today to do the honourable thing. Walk up to your window, open it wide, and please do the world a favour: fly out.

Thank you.

Happy New Year in February!!

Happy New year people!!!

Yeah, I decided to drop by and say hi. How are you guys doing?
Please forgive me! As usual, I have allowed too much time go by and now I don’t know where to start from with all the gist.

There have been two major life changes since the last time we spoke so I’ll start from there. The “majorest” one is that I lost my job.

*waits for applause to die down*

For some reason, I was really embarrassed about this and that’s why I didn’t tell you guys. It happened shortly after my last blog post. I wasn’t feeling bad about the job itself because Lord knows I was miserable there… so miserable that friends and former colleagues actually called me to congratulate me after I left. It was more the way it happened that I was very unhappy about.

When people ask what happened, I don’t know what to say. I heard so many strange rumours as to why… There had been an “incident” with my business manager on the morning of the sacking firing letting-go. During the incident, I broke the cardinal Nigerian labour law; Never, ever call your boos out on a lie, even if said lie is lied upon your head. So by the time HR sent for me at the end of the day, I had almost forgotten about the morning drama. It didn’t cross my mind that I was going to be fired. If anything, I thought I was going to get a letter of commendation for showing some self-restraint by not ramming my fist down her throat that morning. Instead, I was told blah blah blah redundant blah blah budget cuts blah…

And here I am today. To be honest, although I’ve been sending out applications and I know I need that steady salary baaaadly, I am not too excited about starting another nine-to-five where my entire career is totally dependent on one man’s menstrual cycle… where every waking moment is spent wondering if you’re going to be the next to be fired. On the other hand, I don’t think I have one single business bone in my body.

Then sometimes I get even more confused by some people around me, people that I know they genuinely mean well. So what happens is that I get all this advice on what they think I should do with my life next…

“Oh Ngozi, you’re such an excellent cook! Why don’t you start a food delivery business?”

“You know you’re good at organizing stuff! You can be an events planner!”

“OMG! You know you’re great with kids! Why don’t you, start a baby factory??!!”

                           Batman slap

*sigh*

Needless to say, I’m confused.

The second major thing is that I moved into a new place! 😀 My place is the cutest house in the whole wide world! It’s also probably the smallest. It was by an incredible stroke of luck that I found it after weeks and weeks of looking at crappy apartments. It’s a small room at the back of a block of about six flats and it’s set up like a hostel. At first, I was wary about having such close neighbours who could walk up to your door and knock, but in my new place, nobody really sends me.

My only furniture is my mattress which is still on the floor. I have a camp gas (that has cooked more packets of noodles than I care to admit), an electric kettle for coffee and an air conditioner. I bought the AC from the former tenant who was desperate to sell it. It was a dumb move on my part cos I took her word for it when she said it was in excellent working condition. I moved in and discovered that the AC blows like a plastic fan but sounds like a helicopter propeller.

And that wasn’t the only thing she lied about. In fact, the only thing she didn’t lie about was the house address because I moved in and for the first few weeks, I was neck deep in repairs… dealing with plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters and AC repair men. I hope that wherever she is, she’s suffering from severe hot flashes… the kind that even an industrial AC can’t cure.

Still, I love life here. I’ve started jogging in the mornings again. With no job and lots of bills & loans to pay off, I am laying low. I’m usually indoors. When I do step out, I have to dodge one of the security guards who likes to tell me how hungry he is. From a distance, he sees me, throws his hands up in the air and begins to hail me…

“Aunty Ngoooor! My biggest aunty! I greet o!!”

Or the more irritating, “Seest! My biggest seest! The only sister I have in this place.”

Usually, I ignore him, but in my mind I’m like…

                           cyst boil

Dude still hasn’t figured out that he’s probably richer than I am.

That’s basically it. I hope you guys are having a wonderful 2016, no matter what the exchange rate is. I’ve gotta run. I’ll try and write more often… please forgive me.

Love ya!

Weird shit part II…

The part II of this Saturday story is the most painful part for me. Forgive me because I have to start from the beginning…

Some months ago, we did a recruitment project for a classy, 5 star hotel in the exclusive Victoria Island area. The job was to provide staff for all the restaurants and bars in the hotel. It was a really big deal because we had never done anything remotely similar before. For some roles, we needed highly experienced people, and for other roles, our client was willing to train on the job.

We started out by putting up adverts and the response was overwhelming. Every Tom, Dick and Akinjide who had ever worked in a hotel/motel/guesthouse/brothel/bang-as-you-go-house applied for the roles. In those months, I met all sorts of human beings… I met professional bartenders who could throw flames and knew the ingredients for cocktails that I had heard of only on Sex and The City. They dressed up in bow ties and waist coats, had excellent posture and called me “Madame”.

Then there were bartenders and waiters who showed up in ripped skinny jeans, whose highest level of experience was serving beer at Mama Iyabo’s joint behind their house.

The recruitment process was quite tedious. The first step was meeting with an interviewer. Then, if successful, the candidate will meet with a second level interviewer (yours truly). Then, if deem he/she worthy, they will meet with the client. That’s three levels of interviews. At the stage where you meet the client, the interview style is a panel interview. The panel consists of four big men (top shots in the industry) and little old me. So you guys can imagine how intimidating it is. And it’s not a one day process o… You can have your first interview one day, and not get to stage three till several weeks later.

Also, as an integral part of this gist, you guys should know that I have a reputation for being quite tough with candidates. Rumour has it that I am a rigid, evil, demon possessed witch. I can’t stand late comers, bad breath, bad dressing and bad grammar and I have a hard time hiding it.

Anyway, back to present day…

On Saturday, I got to the hotel and just as I hoped, the pool, the bar and the poolside restaurant were deserted. Only two cleaners were milling around with brooms and buckets so, with minimal shame, I stripped down to my bikini, with my stomach hanging down to my knees, and stepped into the pool. The pool is a small secluded pool, surrounded by trees and plants. I loved the level of privacy the place offered. I practiced my diving, I splashed about aimlessly, I dipped and made fart bubbles to see if the water would boil… I was having a blast.

Then, just as I was practicing my Baywatch ocean run, a guy came out of the bar and walked hurriedly towards me. He had THE DAFTEST SMILE plastered across his face. As he got closer, I recognized him as one of the candidates I had interviewed before. He looked genuinely happy to see me… Nigga couldn’t stop smiling. His head looked shrunken in his red bow tie and over-sized black suit.

“Goo morning ma”, he gave a small bow. “Well done ma”.

I didn’t know what to do in my half naked state. I thought of diving to the bottom of the pool to hide, but I was at the shallow end and I would’ve cracked my skull on the tiles. I lowered my knees in a weird squat-ish pose till the water was shoulder level and I was covered. The mumu guy was still standing there with a smile on his face.

As if I hadn’t heard him before, he greeted again but this time louder.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Fine ma. Taink you ma.”

“You work here?”

“Ehn. Yes ma.”

“What do you do for them?”

“The F&B supervisor ma. I supervise.”

“Alright…” long pause… “Okay… Well done.” There was really nothing to say. Still crouched awkwardly like a crab, I turned to half-swim-half-walk away.

“Ermmm… ma. Sorry ma. Excuse.”

“Yes?”

“Erm, ma, after that time you interviewed me, I’ve not heard from you. I don’t know if there’s any problem or maybe if I dinnor pass.”

I was already very close to losing my patience. The nerve of this idiot! What was I supposed to do? Check the pockets of my itty bitty bikini for his CV and interview rating sheet??? I didn’t even need his CV because I remembered him clearly. Yeah, the guy looks and sounds daft, but he’s an excellent restaurant supervisor. He was one out of about nine people whose names I had forwarded to the client for the final level interview.

With all the calmness I could muster, I told him that I was sure someone would get in touch with him at the right time. He hesitated, then fidgeted a bit, before grudgingly accepting my response. Maybe it dawned on him that there was nothing I could do at the very moment.

“Okay ma. Taink you ma.” He bowed again, then he left with the same stupid smile on his face.

My country people, my dilemma now is, how am I supposed to sit in that panel next week Thursday? Maybe I’m overthinking it but I can’t imagine that the young man will ever look at me the same way again, with fear and trembling. What will be the point of wearing my power suit and high heels if all he will be picturing in his head is me like this?

Bikini photo

Abeg, I think I’ll just call in sick on the day of the interview.

You guys should enjoy the rest of your week…