Friday, June 22, 2007

The Labour Strike Goes On

For now it seems like neither parties are giving way, so it appears that the strike will go on for some time. The government conceded a N5 decrease in the price of petrol, while the labour unions want the price reverted to the original N65. The increase in VAT from 5% to 10% has been suspended by the government, while the unions want it cancelled permanently.

While many people have not been going to work since Wednesday, some others (who have fuel in their cars or can afford the exhorbitant transport costs) have been. In my office, a handful made it in on Wednesday and even less yesterday. Eventually I had to check in with my manager to see if there was any point people coming in for the rest of the strike. He said with all the difficulties in getting to work, not to bother until the strike was called off.

So today I enjoyed my first full day from my 'strike holiday.' I got up early to go for a walk. I've always envied those people I see walking or running around the estate as I made my way to work in the mornings. Now, I had the opportunity to join them. I met a friend from NYSC as I turned into the street adjacent to mine and together we walked almost to the gate.

I realised that this was a God-sent opportunity to read all those books on my shelves that I have been dying to get started on. I started with Further Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes (I will start with the light stuff and move on to heavier stuff). I dozed off at some point and when I did wake up, I tried to watch TV. So many channels and still there's nothing to watch!

In the afternoon, my brother and I went out to get a few things. We ended up at The Palms shopping mall. From the car park and the activity inside the place, you'd be hard-pressed to believe that there was any kind of strike going on. The mall was filled with people shopping, browsing, watching movies and hanging out. It felt like just another public holiday. My brother gnashed his teeth and muttered incredulously "So this is how we strike?" Well, I guess if people can't go to work, they must do something else ..... The shops must be raking it in.

Back outside, the streets were near empty save for a couple of petrol stations which had queues of cars parked outside in anticipation of whenever they would start selling, which didn't look like anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the black marketers are having a field day. From what should be the new price of petrol of N70 for a litre, the going price is roughly N300 per litre. To describe the situation as scandalous and shameless robbery doesn't even begin to do justice, but as with all things here, people will put all concerns aside and buy if being mobile is a priority to them and if they can afford it.

As the strike goes on, the word is that essential services e.g. electricity and water providers will also go on strike. With our dear PHCN, let's face it, I don't think most people would know the difference between them being on strike and them 'working.' In the last week, we've had public power supply in my house for a grand total of about 20 minutes each day. So please!!!!!! To quote Beyonce, To the left, to the left! The water corporation going on strike is another thing entirely. Having no water for baths, to wash dishes, or clothes, to flush your toilets is not fun. That is a situation that I pray does not happen.

All Africa: Strike - FG, Labour Meeting Deadlocked
BBC News: Nigeria Srike Talks in Deadlock
Guardian: Strike Continues: Labour May Shut Essential Services

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


It's funny (funny = strange not funny = ha ha) the things that people unconsciously imbibe from their environment.

I have the TV on and caught the end of a show on NTA a few minutes ago (I think it was a lifestyle or health show). The presenter (woman) had a guest (man) on who was talking (I think) about couples managing their home. He urges men not to treat their wives like housegirls or servants and reminds them that women need love too.

As the presenter wraps up the show, she re-iterates that men need to take care of their wives adding that "They are not just housegirls and servants."

Not just? Hmmm, thanks for that.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is one of my favourite sites. I used to visit it everyday at one point and then kind of forgot about it as my life went off in a different direction.

I recommend it for anyone thinking about graduate school, though you'll probably find that it's biased towards doctoral students. I especially like the Careers page, which features articles by graduate students, people working in academia or contemplating such a move.

I read this essay by a recent PhD grad who was torn between pursuing an academic career and (his true love) life as a journalist and writer. It would probably speak to anyone similarly torn between life in industry and academia.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And the Rain Means More Traffic

Rainy season means many things to me: dirty cars, cool weather, careful driving, mosquitoes, lethargy and TRAFFIC!!!!!

You would think that the increased traffic on the roads would be as a result of drivers moving slowly and cautiously on the wet roads or as a result of poor visbility (during heavy rain fall for instance). Yes, it can be as a result of many - or all - of these things. It could - and usually is - also a consequence of the yawning potholes to be found on many Lagos roads. I can't speak for many other parts of the country, but since I ply these Lagos streets daily, I can talk about those.

That most Lagos roads are in a constant state of disrepair is no news at all. However, is it me or is the traffic this year worse than it was last year? It probably gets worse with each passing year and our tolerance level just increases along with it, making the difference barely imperceptible.

The Lekki-Epe Expressway is a prime example of potholes and chasms leading to unbelievable build-up of traffic. The section of the road near the Chevron roundabout is the source of particularly bad hold-up. There are at least two separate places where the road has been dug up or sliced into (for goodness knows what!!!!!!). After said work was done, the interruptions were left to deteriorate into gullies, which with the rain have become rivers that must be floated across or descended into (if you do not drive a van or SUV). And the situation looks set to worsen as the population of people living in the Lekki-Ajah axis rises. Let's not mention the on-going work to widen the roads, which in all fairness are intended to bring eventual relief but are right now a major pain the ass.

I feel frustrated that so much time is wasted sitting in traffic that is in large part caused by something that can be fixed (bad roads). Solving the other causes for the traffic (too many people on too few roads) needs some serious thinking and planning. I hope Lagos state's new administration will be up to the task (well, let's be optimistic), because there is a lot of work to be done. That the previous state government could be so uncaring of the welfare of its people is totally beyond me.

Meanwhile, and perhaps showing me to be an utter malcontent, I saw this article on the BBC site about how Lagos is the party capital of Africa.

Chinua Achebe Wins the Man Booker Prize

Thank you, Obyno, for letting me know about this. I had blogged about the nominations a couple of months ago.

The Man Booker Prize is a biennial event awarded to a write for a body of work. Achebe is the second winner of the prize.

This is the second win of a prominent literary award by a Nigerian writer in as many weeks. The Nigerian literary scene is seeing such a revival at the moment and wins like this will hopefully serve to encourage aspiring writers (and I know more than a handful myself).

BBC: Nigerian author wins Booker honour
Man Booker: Press Release

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June 12

... is the day 14 years ago that the elections in which M.K.O. Abiola was widely reported to have won were cancelled. It's also the day my paternal grandfather died. Last year marked the 30th year anniversary of his death and the entire fam trooped off to Abeokuta for a lecture that was held in his honour. Not only did I learn a lot more about my grandfather who I never really knew, I loved seeing (almost) all of my cousins again. We hardly ever get to see each other, much less at the same time so it was good to catch-up and generally indulge in idle chit-chat. I have a photograph that we all took and I like looking at it and seeing how much we have all matured over the years. It was fun times!

What To Write and What Not to Write

I was reading one of the articles about Chimamanda Adichie's Orange Prize win last week and a section caught my eye caught my eye.

Literary editor of Nigeria's Weekly Trust, Odoh Okonyedo:
"As the new leading light in this Biafra renaissance, the task on the table of Adichie is to clarify what Biafra is about, rather than her newest nostalgic and superficial romance," Mr Okonyedo told the BBC News website.

While Ms Adichie says she wanted to write a story about love during the war, Mr Okonyedo feels she should have tackled the subject more seriously.

And I ask Why? Why should she not tell the story that she wants to? I feel that I can understand the thinking that certain people, by virtue of their education, position, wealth, connections or plain good fortune, should contribute positively to society. However, sometimes so many expectations are placed at the feet of some that it is tantamount to a shifting of responsibility. In many cases, it is simply placing burdens that the person in question simply is not interested in shouldering.

In this particular case, I don't see why Ms. Adichie shouldn't write about whatever she damn well pleases. Writing is hard enough without having to take into consideration what other people expect to read from you.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Chimamanda Wins the Orange Prize

I have been itching to post this news all day, but Internet access at work was down until I left (Jeremy and Molara have blogged about this already).

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie last night won the Orange Prize for her exceptional book Half of a Yellow Sun. The Orange Prize is awarded yearly to an exceptional book published in the past year by a woman writer.

A few years ago my brother gave me Chimamanda's first book Purple Hibiscus for my birthday. I devoured it in a few days and scoured the Internet for her short stories. I read the short story also entitled Half of a Yellow Sun, which I enjoyed so much that I started to await the publication of the book with much bated breath. When I finally got my copy of Half of a Yellow Sun, I took in the size and balked slightly. I have difficulty finishing books these days, much less big books with 'serious' themes.

"A book about war? I'm not so sure ......" were my thoughts.

I needn't have worried. Half of a Yellow Sun was as much a story of this set of people who lived through the Biafran War as it was about the war itself. I'd love to say that I finished it at a sitting, unfortunately I can't say that (a result of my own easily distracted mind and growing inability to sit still and read). However, I finished it in what was a short time for me.

Prizes are not necessarily a sign of a great writer, but it's wonderful when a writer who is widely acknowledged to be exceptionally talented and skilled wins one.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fuel Crisis

Life is certainly never dull in Nigeria; I'll say that one thing. Also, sometimes when I write about some things that are happening, it feels like a deja vu. We are in the middle of a fuel shortage (yes, again oh!!!). While some papers report that it's due to a last-second increase in petrol from N65 per litre to N75, it seems that there is petrol but petrol stations are choosing not to sell (well, isn't this typical of many past incidences of fuel scarcity anyway?) Tanker drivers are on strike in reaction to a task force set-up by Obasanjo's administration to clear roadsides of vehicles parked without proper authorisation.

I hope that this is all resolved soon. I was down to an almost empty tank this morning as I drove to work. Fortunately, I was able to get some petrol this afternoon and you know that I will be economising like a mad woman. My trips will be strictly from home to work and back again, until this scarcity is over.

Read more:
The Guardian
Business Day

Changing Perceptions of African Business Women through Blogging

There's an article on African Path about roadblocks that African business women face. The author, Benin Mwangi, identifies 3 main challenges, which include property laws that make it more difficult for women to own property, family responsibilities, and perceptions of African women that might make it difficult to secure capital.

Mwangi looks at blogs as a platform for raising awareness of issues that African business women face. He zones in on women bloggers being at the forefront of changing perceptions of African women and lists some bloggers who he feels have been doing a great job at this. Read more on African Path ......

The Internet Today

This Internet connection is so patchy and so slow. It's the same old story whenever it rains, nevermind the fact that traffic in the afternoon already slows down to a baby's crawl compared to the other times of the day (wait, many babies actually move quite quickly compared to what we have here ...). I click on a link and maybe I'll get to the page I want, or maybe I won't. Overall though, this is much better than the service provider we used before.

At home, I use My Netcom Africa and after initial problems of long down-times, their service has very rapidly improved. The times when I used to call their customer service line to complain and report problems are now a thing of a past.

Monday, June 04, 2007

An Interview with the White African

There's a great interview on African Path with Hash of the White African blog. His blog explores technology issues, especially within an African context. In this interview he discusses blogging in Africa: impact, challenges facing African bloggers; and how these can be surmounted and blogging by more people encouraged.

Rainy Days & Mondays

Remember my post a couple of weeks ago about how much I detest rainy days and Mondays? Well, here's another one. Luckily for me, it wasn't raining when I had to get out of bed. That would have been almost unbearable. It is raining how though, raining like it hasn't rained in months.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

How do you read when you just can't focus?

I finished a book I'd been reading for the past 2 months or so this evening. Okay, I feel so ashamed. I still do not think of myself as a slow reader, but as I was telling a friend, just slightly distracted. My attention span has shrunk to the size of a fly. Honestly, it's become a real problem. Completing books is the least of my problems - at least, I tend to have the luxury of time and can take as much as I need to finish the book. Listening to instructions is another thing entirely! After the first sentence, my mind has wandered to Timbuktu and back. Out of embarrasment, I tend to pretend I got the whole jist of what the other person was saying and nod in an off-handed manner. A lot of times, I can figure out what I need to. When I can't, I sometimes try to pass it off like they didn't explain it properly the first time around. LOL!!

So, I finished Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I really want to start Barbara Sher's What do I do when I want to do everything? (yet, another problem of mine, and one that I suspect is closely linked to my difficulty in focusing). However, someone lent me a biography of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison, so I think out of courtesy, I should read that one next so that I can finish and return it before the end of the year.