Saturday, April 28, 2007

3rd Saturday of Voting

This is so ridiculous. For the 3rd Saturday in a row, we have restricted movement for 8 hours for elections. This time is for the senate. In a few states, last week's governorship elections are being conducted. Predictably, the turn-out has been fairly low. From some of the TV coverage I've seen so far, today's situation is a flip from the last 2 weeks, with INEC officials sitting around and waiting for the voters to turn up. This is to be expected, because a lot of the focus has been on the state government and presidential elections. And by now, I think people are tired of staying at home and just want their regular Saturdays back. We all have errands to run (though the curfews have been good for me because I was forced to stay at home and get important tasks done) and things that we need to be doing. I get the sense that today's curfew is not being so strictly observed and that people are out and about.

Meanwhile, Tuesday is Worker's Day, so is another public holiday. We didn't get it off last year at my work-place and with all the holidays we have been having lately, I don't know that we really need it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The 'News'

A friend called me this evening and asked me excitedly if I had heard "the news."

- "What news?", I asked. At work, our Internet connection has been patchy and we don't have radios.
- "Yar'Adua has been declared president-elect!"
I almost collapsed laughing on the phone.
- "That's it?" I exclaimed, barely choking down my laughter. "Is that one news? No, what would have been news is if someone else had won."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Presidential Elections

So, we had the much-anticipated presidential elections yesterday. In my area, all seemed to go quite well. As I was getting ready to leave the house at 8am, my brother told me that he had just read that the polls would not open until 10 as the voting materials had only been flown in from South Africa the night before. Well, whatever! I took the opportunity to eat breakfast and left the house around 10.

It was back to Tantalizers, where I had voted last week. As I got there, I saw a fairly long (but not too long) line of people had formed. The INEC officials were not yet there. Together with the lady standing next to me, I got a chair from the outdoor church and sat patiently reading (Yay!!!! I finally started Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo) and waiting for the arrival of the officials.

Almost everyone else went to get a chair and we all sat, talked, drank, ate and generally passed the time in a pleasant (or not so pleasant for those in the direct line of the sun) way. When the officials came, the voting commenced within minutes and we played pseudo musical chairs, as the line moved and we shuffled from the chair we were sitting on to the one in front. It was all so eerily organised, I struggled to believe that this was a Nigerian queue (sorry, NYSC, the banks, fast-food eateries and just about every other institution I have had cause to visit bring up infuriating memories). Okay, well, this was no ordinary Naija queue, this being Lekki and all.

Now, we wait for the results.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Voter's Experience at the Polls

I read this on Chippla's blog (via Black Looks). Christy asks pertinent questions about the use of laborious manual methods to store and retrieve voters' information, after so much effort was put into an electronic registration process.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Greenlight Nigeria.org

Get updates on how the elections are going on the GreenlightNigeria.org blog.

Voting in Progress ....

The family went out to vote this morning. We saw a crowd of people at the Tantalizers near our place and pulled in there. Once there, we found out that there were different polling booths and that we were not all registered to vote in the same place. After returning home to get separate cars, we went back out again. I returned to the Tantalizers as that was my place to vote. And then the long wait began. I chided myself for not getting there earlier, but I heard from people who had been there at 8AM, as instructed, that the INEC officials had not yet arrived at that time.

Thank goodness the line moved (albeit very slowly) and there were interesting conversations going on around me to participate in and listen to. Of course, it became a hang-out as people ran into people they knew. It's funny with this Lagos, especially in neighbourhoods like Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki. You could live next door to someone for years and still not know who they are. If you do know them, you probably hardly ever see them. It takes an 'extra-ordinary' event like this to bring people out of their mini islands. Well, I am as guilty as the next person of doing this, so let me not talk too much....

As I moved closer to the front of the queue (These damned queues - I felt like I was a corper all over again. Even the sun cooperated in recreating the mood by beating down on our heads with cheerful ferocity.) people started complaining about not being able to find their names in the registers. This meant that they were not able to vote.

Na wa! Why is it always one thing after another? Just when we were all commenting that these elections were turning out to be so organised too....

An INEC official was found and she speculated on whether the officials had the complete list of voters' names. She then went off, accompanied by one of the voters just so she wouldn't abscond, to look for the missing names. In the interim, a new queue was formed for people who had tried to vote, but whose names were missing. I stayed on my queue and when I got to the front handed my temporary voter's card to the official. Fortunately, my name was there and he asked me to bring forward my left thumb so that he could mark it with ink. I moved on to the second official, who marked the inner portion of my voter's card and gave me the stamped and signed ballot forms. I then moved to a side table to select my candidates on the forms.

I don't know too much about the candidates for the state assembly, but decided to vote for the same party as my gubernatorial choice. The governorship forms displayed the names and photos of the candidates, as well as their party's emblem. I scanned for Jimi Agbaje's photo but could not find it. It took me a minute to eventually find his name. Hmmmm. Why was his photo not there? Yes, it's not a monumental task finding his name printed out on the form, but it does make it 1 step harder. Meanwhile, Fashola's face beamed at me from near the top of the form, making it so easy to spot (I guess they were arranged in alphabetical order by party name).

Anyway, so I put my thumbprint next to my choices and said goodbye to a friend who was waiting for the arrival of the missing names. She said she'd be there all day if she had to. I applaud her tenactity. Some people would just have gone home and derided the whole exercise as being inefficient and already rigged.

One thing I find and that really amazes me is a prevailing defeatist attitude. I've had more than a few people tell me that I was seriously wasting my vote. "You know either Fashola or Obanikoro is going to win anyway, so why bother voting for anybody else?" How about because I would like to select a candidate who I feel has a better-thought out plan for the state?

Another trend I observed was people leaving the country in the last week, because they thought there would be some violence during the elections. I don't get that. Isn't this our country? You leave and then what? You're going to have to return at some point. That there have been outbreaks of violence in the run-up to these elections is a fact that cannot be denied, but many of the people who have left the country, like a friend pointed out, live in areas not touched by the violence. And it is unlikely that the violence would spread to those areas. I have had lots of people tell me that after I vote I should just jejely return home, because there would be rampant violence, kidnapping and peoples' heads would be cut off. Such unnecessary hysteria! Anyway, let me get into the spirit of things..... Please let the federal government declare the whole of next week a public holiday. At least that way, the ne'er-do-wells won't readily find people to fight or kidnap.

PS: I just saw my sister, Ayoola, and Mom on TV (Silverbird TV). They showed my sister as she cast her vote. Then they were also interviewed by Wildchild and Aduare. You should have seen my sister and I screaming our heads off when we saw her on TV.

Friday, April 13, 2007

2007 Man Booker International Judges' List Announced

I saw this on Naijablog today.

Several of my favourite authors were nominated for the 2007 Man Booker International Prize: Chinua Achebe, Margaret Atwood and Doris Lessing. It's an impressive list.

Now, according to the website, The Man Booker International Prize is unique in the world of literature in that it can be won by an author of any nationality, providing that his or her work is available in the English language. It will be awarded every second year.

So, is this different from the regular Booker Prize that I'm familiar with (Ben Okri, Rohinton Mistry and Arundhati Roy are past winners) or did they just add "Man" to the name?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Public Holidays Thursday and Friday

A friend just called me to find out if I was feeling better. Then he let me know that the government has declared public holidays today and tomorrow in preparation for the state governorship and state of assembly elections taking place this Saturday. Na wa oh! That's all I can say. This is coming off the long Easter weekend (we had Friday and Monday off work). So am I to assume that next week when we are to vote for president and national assembly members, we will also get Thursday and Friday off?

Nigerians! Any reason for a break.

My Foray into ChickLit

Isn't it nice to be disproved on some belief that you have held onto so steadfastly for so many years? Well, perhaps not always, but sometimes it makes for such a cool suprise.

I've always dismissed ChickLit as exactly what it is portrayed to be: light, fluffy and frivolous. I've always tended to dismiss the people who read them similarly. "Why do they read such trashy, easy nonsense?" I've pondered time and time again. "Don't they want something more challenging to read? Don't they want their minds exposed to new worlds and ideas, instead of sticking to books that feeds you stories based on the same tired topics you talk to your girlfriends about day-in, day-out?"

Well, perhaps now I am one of those light, fluffy, frivolous ladies. Or perhaps I've always been and wanted to see myself so much as serious, totally no-nonsense and intellectual. LOL! Or perhaps, more plausibly, it's something we all like to indulge in from time to time.

I've been pretty busy with work and life for the last few months. It's been so bad that the only things I tend to read these days are magazines. When I have managed to complete books, they have tended to be on topics related to work or my post 9-to-5 interests (technology and gender, non profits, etc). I could feel myself slowly morphing into those staid people who only read books related to their jobs, business, making money, becoming a better/kinder/more confident/more fully actualised person or ............. (you can fill in the blanks - you know books of this ilk). In short, I was only reading books "for a purpose" - I am sure you know what I mean.

Anyway, a colleague of mine gave me a book to read (it's been so long since someone just gave me a book to read out of the blue without me asking for it, or without even their knowing that I normally love to read). I looked at the book somewhat doubtfully, while she assured me that it was a really good read. It was Tuesday's Child by Louise Bagshawe. It was an easy read, I'll say that much and kind of interesting. Overall though, it was just okay. I returned it to its owner, reassured that my feelings about this genre of soft literature was entirely justified.

Then she gave me Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes. Phew! What a fabulous writer, is all that I can say. And so funny too! The themes are definitely girly: men, men, sex, friends, men, work and more men. But her writing was so wickedly funny and her observations of people so on-point. LCS was also an easy read, as I wolfed down the pages in record time (reading and finishing a book in small slices of time spread over 4 weeks is a record for me these days, okay?). Now, I remember why I read so many books as a girl. Aside from that fact that I had a laser-like ability to concentrate (which is now strangely gone), the books weren't very difficult to read.

I suppose until my life gets a lot less harried, I will be indulging in more chicklit. Who has time to start the same Doris Lessing book three times and still only be in Chapter 2? Err... okay perhaps I do - I can't imagine a life without my fav authors (or potential new favs) - even though I cannot be fully present in our love affair right now (I feel like a thoroughly uncommited boyfriend right now). The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is sitting on my bookshelf right now, staring at me and willing me to pick it up. Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo, which I came close to starting, has totally given up on me. Feminist Theory by bell hooks, which I started in December 2005 and am still yet to finish, is just glaring at me with utter derision.

Okay, okay, please don't look at me like that. I'll get to you all one day soon, I promise. Well, sometime before I turn 40. Or at least before I start having children. Okay, failing that, I will share my golden years with you. It's a promise.

Today's 2nd Post & Counting?

I'm ill and am home resting and catching up on some work online (I'm sure it's easy to tell - 2 posts in one day).

Saw this on someone's blog and put in my birthdate. It's been such a while since I last visited Blogthings.

Your Birthdate: December 18

You are a cohesive force - able to bring many people together for a common cause.
You tend to excel in work situations, but you also facilitate a lot of social gatherings too.
Beyond being a good leader, you are good at inspiring others.
You also keep your powerful emotions in check - you know when to emote and when to repress.

Your strength: Emotional maturity beyond your years

Your weakness: Wearing yourself down with too many responsibilities

Your power color: Crimson red

Your power symbol: Snowflake

Your power month: September


Yeah, red is my colour. I actually don't have many red outfits, but I have quite a few accessories in red. And it's one colour that makes me feel happy and invincible at the same time.

I don't understand the power symbol thing. What does that mean?

So right about my weakness. I chastise myself for that all the time.

Trying to Blog Nice

A few weeks ago I read about a blogger who had been receiving death threats and having to endure manipulated photos of herself (including one with her head in a noose) on various sites on the Internet. As a result, she cancelled her speaking engagements and has been scared to leave her house.

While some people would say "It's the Internet! It's not Real Life, so it doesn't mean anything", for people who spend an inordinate amount of their time (working or socialising) online, the distinction can become very blurry indeed. I, for one, do a lot of work online and have met a few really cool people online who have become my friends in RL (real life). It is also often the case that I am more in touch with friends who live across the world than with people who reside in the same city as me (courtesy of the wonders of instant messaging or VOIP tools like Skype). Does this speak poorly of my social skills? Maybe. Maybe not. But, I feel that technology-facilitated relationships are the emerging reality for a small but growing group of people.

Anyway, a group of bloggers are pushing for a code of conduct for bloggers. There would be different categories that bloggers can belong to e.g. one for anonymous bloggers, another for bloggers who make their identity public. The third category would stipulate that bloggers cite second sources for any gossip or breaking news they publish. This code of conduct is based on a set of guidelines already being implemented by BlogHer, the online community of women bloggers.

Although many write about the blogosphere like it is one monolithic block of like-minded people, it obviously is so far from that and, as to be expected, debates have been raging on various websites: some lending cautious support; to those in full agreement of some guiding principles; and to those balking at the sheer idiocy of attempting to impose rules on what to many represents their last bastion of free speech.

I think as the Internet becomes a more prominent part of our lives, it is important to be mindful of good ettiquete in your interactions with others - just as you would be in RL. I can sort of see why the idea of rules is offensive to many people and I am not in favour of anything that would restrict my right to say what I want to, but I also think it's important to realise that we tend to abide to an unwritten set of rules/guidelines both online and off, so what's the big deal in acknowledging that?

Some would say that, "Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me." That's not true. Words can often cause the biggest pain of all. Some would also say that, "If you can't deal with negative comments, then you shouldn't blog." I don't agree with that either. That's like saying you should not speak or share an opinion - ever - if you aren't prepared for the possibility of someone slamming your opinions into the ground. Dealing with negative remarks is a two-way street. They can be extremely hard to deal with (though people have varying degrees of sensitivity), but everyone is going to get some particularly nasty or hurtful piece of criticism, and outright insults as some point in their lives, whether you blog or not, and so need to develop some strategies of dealing with it. However, people also also need to be mindful of how they disagree and learn to dispense critism in a manner that can help to open up the channels for more open dialogue, rather than focus on scoring points.

Additional Links:
BBC News: The Editors' Blog
BBC News: Weblogs 'need content warnings'

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Blogging in Uganda

I stumbled across this interview with Joshua Goldstein of In an African Minute. Josh blogs on post-conflict development and IT for development. In an interview on Bicylemark's Communique, he talks about the blogging scene in Uganda. Aside from being about blogging, it caught my interest, because I visited Uganda in January.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Anatomy of a Woman

I went to see the play Anatomy of a Woman by Wole Oguntokun. I wasn't sure what to expect, because my friend who invited me didn't tell me what it was about.

Lord! A play by a man who thinks he knows what women want, I thought.

Well, as it turned out, Wole Oguntokun does believe he knows what women want. He writes a column in the arts supplement of the Sunday Guardian called The Girl Whisperer. So, does he?

According to the play, women want to be whatever they choose to be! I liked that. Yes, I truly want to be whatever I choose to be.

But sometimes being all that you choose to be can drive you 'round the bend and to the point of exhaution. This is something that I am acutely aware of at the moment. So, it was with keen interest that I read the New York Times article For Girls, It's Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too.

The article examines the lives of young women today (specifically in a high school in Newton, MA in the US near where I used to work) who have choices that women in previous generations didn't have, and so they really can try to do it all. However, trying to be the straight A student, athelete, community activist, good daughter, sister, friend and girlfriend at the same time is an incredibly tough task. These are "do-everything" girls.

They get receive many, and often conflicting, messages from society:
1. Bring home A’s. Do everything. Get into a top college.
2. Be yourself. Have fun. Don’t work too hard.

Fun? How do you fit in fun when you have a ton of other things to do and mountains to climb? I know I talk a lot about this apsect of women's lives a lot, but it's interesting to read something about a younger set of women and see how the pressure starts early - granted this article looks at a group of young women living in a well-to-do surburb in a developed country. While they have many opportunties to pick and choose from, they also don't have to contend with many of the issues that many young women in less affluent countries have to e.g. having their basic needs of food and shelter met, lack of water, no electicity, poor educational system, etc.

Anyway, as tough and hectic as life gets sometimes, I am so happy that I am a woman living in these times and not in any period before. I am enjoying freedoms won by hundreds of fierce, intelligent women who came before me. And I am thoroughly grateful to them for it. I may groan sometimes about having too much to do and not enough time to do it all in (a very valid concern, btw, which I'm trying to address by prioritising, taking on less things and better time management), but I would so much rather feel that I was a woman achieving - or trying to achieve - her full potential than one who, in the words of one of the young women in the article, is "a bystander in my life."