Memories: Naija Stories Lagos Meetup

As I make this post, I am at a cyber cafe where the speed is far slower than that of a snail! :( I’ve been in all day, reading up stuff in a relaxed manner, and it’s been worthwhile. (I just thought to hibernate and keep really solo this weekend.) Anyways, it’s been a week since the Naija Stories Lagos Meetup, so I decided make this post. I’ll be updating this with more pictures and more gist as soon as I get better internet tomorrow or the next. Here goes:

Last Saturday, January 8, 2010, was indeed a memorable day. Members of the Naija Stories website met in Lagos to mingle, have fun, engage in literary discourse and brainstorm the future of the online portal which has now become a rich repository of literary works by Nigerian writers who largely represent the future of our great nation’s literary dynasty.

The event which held within the premises of Verdant Zeal Marketing Communications Ltd on Sowemimo Street, in Ikeja GRA, thanks to Dipo Adesida, brought together eighteen members, including Myne Whitman, the founder of NaijaStories.com and her sweetheart, Tola Odejayi, who edits entries and moderates the website. (By the way, those are both their pen names.)

I got to the venue over thirty minutes after the scheduled 10AM, no thanks to my addiction to my laptop screen. When I quietly walked in, Abby was the one talking about herself and a bit about how and what she writes about. I also recall her explaining the origin of one of her stories because she wanted to write about her ‘alter-ego’. Remi-Roy was not so difficult to recognize as we had just become Facebook friends and exchanged a number of e-mails that same week. She was first to give that warm smile and spill my name out. She sounded so excited to see me. There was a space in-between her and the gentleman sitting close to the door, so I responded to her welcome to that seat. Oops! Let the meeting begin!!!

It was soon my turn to speak so I made some noise by clearing my cold-stuffed throat like former President Obasanjo would do before speaking. I tried to keep the whole thing as short as possible (I think I could be a lot talkative when given the chance and I become more comfortable). Other people introduced themselves while other latecomers trudged in to cause subtle distractions. The king of distractions was Christopher Ogbuehi (a.k.a Cikko) who caused the biggest stare and drew the noisiest guffaws when he told us his NS username. Apparently, he had written some mind-blowing stuff on the website and most people had hitherto been trying to imagine what he actually looked like in real life! My own surprise at seeing him was that we lived in the same hostel (Mariere Hall) at the University of Lagos four years back. Then, he was in his final year studying Law in UNILAG. The only other thing I’d share with you right now about him is that he was a king at Pro Evolution Soccer! I was in room C308 while he must have been in C305.

Tee Akindele will be remembered by me as the man with Charisma. Plus, I observed that whenever he was going to give comments, he would go on and on, never lacking substance to spit! Really, that amazed me. He also has a way of gesticulating when talking as he passionately aired his views. This he did before and after Tola Odejayi gave a little talk on his observations about most stories submitted on NS as well as useful tips about writing and making submissions. In his opinion, before a writer finally decides to submit her/his story for publishing, she should check for the flow of the story, logical consistence, and how technically sound the story is. Also, before pushing the send/submit button, you should be bold to say, “This is how I feel is right and this is why I feel it is right”.

Amazing Couple: Myne takes a shot while Tola looks on...

Thereafter, there was plenty of room to ask questions and engage in more useful discourse. Some of the popular questions/debates bothered on writing for financial gains versus writing highly literary stuff for the name. Must I pander to western sensibilities to become a famous/rich writer? To what extent should I consider my audience when writing? Am I to write to suit my audience or just write what’s on my mind? Should writers write more about real/existent places and to what degree of details? Must I tone down my use of the literary elements, my excellent grasp of grammar and rich vocabulary bank? There were so many questions to ask and deliberate on! Eventually, suggestions and observations were made about the future of the NS website. Some of the major points were the need to drastically improve the graphics and layout of the website. Myne and Tola currently run the website on a voluntary basis and as such are beginning to look into ways of sustaining the website whilst compensating writers, especially the top writers who have made exceptional contribution to the growth of the website. Some wonderful ideas are being considered and we definitely should be looking forward to a bigger and better Naija Stories.com as the New Year unfolds.

The Unveiling of Abby! :)

It was soon time to call it a day, after generous refreshment and the vote of thanks. In fact, someone who just joined NS that same day thought there was going to be a gate fee of sorts. No, thanks to Myne Whitman and her admirable sweetheart (Tola Odejayi), as well as Dipo Adesida (who provided the meeting space), and Remi-Roy who also helped in organizing the programme. I took so many snapshots as you can see and really, some of us found it difficult to leave so soon! We bantered for as long as our legs could permit. Abby was perpetually bespectacled and naughty, poking jokes at everyone, such that we became very curious to see the eyes behind the dark glasses. Perhaps, what was more intriguing was her earlier disclosure that she wanted to be a sniper as a child. I was smart enough to catch her off-guard!

Altogether, it was fun meeting up with hitherto virtual friends and networking further. Sometime past three in the afternoon, after about 15 more minutes of exclusive gist, Remi-Roy and I finally parted at the gate of the venue. We were the last to leave the venue. Perhaps, I’ve found a new aunty to gist with anytime I want to. Just maybe!

Nigerian Travel Writer & Photographer – Lola Akinmade is dreaming of adventure at the North Pole! Help Her Get There!

Quark Expeditions, a leading organisation in Polar Adventures, will be sending a writer to the North Pole in June 2011 to document and provide engaging reports about the trip in June 2011. The top five (5) contestants with the highest number of votes will make it to the finals, after which one writer will be chosen.

Currently on the Number 4 spot by votes is Lola Akinmade, a Nigerian Travel Writer and Photographer, who lives in Sweden.

On why she wants to be Quark’s Official Blogger to the North Pole, she says of her childhood dream,

“Nigerians are known for traveling far and wide. I’d be honored to continue this tradition… I remember sitting in Mr. Kayode’s geography class (my favorite) in secondary school, an atlas in my hand looking at political boundaries; countries way beyond my reach at that time. I constantly joked about it with family and friends. “I will reach the North Pole,” I often said, oblivious to the fact that I was sitting in tropical sub-Saharan Africa and had never seen snow at that time. I never, ever in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d be a few votes and judges away from realizing that dream. Never.”

Here’s an excerpt from her entry:

Vote for Lola Akinmade!

“As an experienced travel writer, blogger, and photographer, documenting our polar expedition and documenting it exceptionally through engaging reports and vivid photography will be an absolute honor and (quite possibly) a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and Quark Expeditions…

The wind will bellow in an eerie yet welcoming fashion. Frigid waves will trash against the ice breaker, intimidating yet slowly guiding us north… I will scribble “epiphanies” into a spanking new journal, filling its pages with dreams born along the west coast of the motherland and experiences leading up to this moment of grandeur. Oh…and I will blog, tweet, photograph, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Facebook like crazy too!…sharing this amazing expedition via both social and traditional media outlets with everyone who dares to dream beyond the status quo.

Finally landing on ice centuries old at the top of the world, I will scream at the top of my lungs… “I’m a loooong way from Africa!” I would sincerely appreciate your fair and honest vote to fulfill this “once unreachable” childhood dream.”

Let us go all out for Lola and help her win the dream trip to the North Pole. Your vote and support in promoting and spotlighting her entry would greatly boost her chances to make us proud and join the likes of Louise A. Boyd, James Clark Ross, John Rae, Alexander Mackenzie, and John Franklin, the great Arctic Explorers! We can do this!! Yes We Can!!!

Visit her website here to get to know her better!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

How to Vote:

We encourage fair and honest voting by reaching out to family, friends, colleagues, and others in various travel/culture/social media networks.

1. Connect with your existing Facebook account or create a simple Quark account here – http://www.blogyourwaytothenorthpole.com/login

2. Click on Lola’s entry here and cast your vote at the end of the text – http://www.blogyourwaytothenorthpole.com/entries/15. Please make sure that the number of votes is incremented by 1 (yours)

3. Pass this on via Twitter or Facebook:

“Please send Lola to the North Pole! – http://su.pr/16OQzm – @quarkexpedition @LolaAkinmade #Arctic #Travel”

Deadline: The end date for Competition entries is noon EDT on [February 15, 2011].

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Thanks! Please pass it on -> http://www.lolagoesnorth.com

Post originally from www.bellanaija.com

The Danfo Diaries: Danfo Drama in Lagos This Yuletide Season!

danfo buses in lagos Pictures, Images and Photos

I have had to hop danfo buses in Lagos with more frequency in the last couple of weeks and it’s been expectedly full of drama. Let me gist you a handful.

The other day, I was going from Ojuelegba Bus Stop to Yaba after a quick shopping experience at the Ojuelegba axis. Usually, a seven-minute fast trek would transport me to Yaba Bus-Stop, but like most of the other passengers, I was tired and did not want to compound my woes with a wearied trek under the afternoon sun. Not to even think that I was also hungry already! So we had a mild surprise when the bus conductor (or was it not even a bus park tout?) said the fare was 30 Naira instead of 20 Naira. Anyways, I entered the bus and stayed back a bit, but other passengers continued to moan and protest.

Eventually, about 8 people out of the ten people on the 14-seater danfo bus decided to step out in protest. Trying not to play ‘ajebutter’, I joined them in solidarity by stepping out of the bus. I soon joined another one alongside about six of them, but it was the same story. A middle-aged woman who appeared to have been coming back from a brief Xmas shopping spree also joined in complaining. One guy even engaged the conductor in a battle of diatribes! According to him, the conductor had no right to speak rudely to a market woman who had put some of her wares (vegetables, actually) into the boot, but would not agree to pay the extra 10 Naira. The use of curse words only intensified (just because of 10 Naira o!) Not to think that that same amount would only buy you two sachets of ‘pure water’ (or even one, if you are on Victoria Island).

Yes, they have a point about avoiding being cheated, but do you know what I’ve observed about our people? We just make a noise and rant, but we eventually give up and, at the end, precious time would have been wasted. I can feel tension everywhere I go on the streets. Some passengers after being told the bus fare, would not agree to it, but would refuse to alight from the bus on the bus conductor’s advice! They would just stay-put, and look ready to fight the driver and his conductor dirty (usually over 10/20 box difference). I’m sure you would laugh at such sights, really. I know it ain’t easy out there, but men, we gotta find amicable solutions to all these disputes. If the driver says he wouldn’t take you to your destination because there is no agreement on price, why not just alight peacefully and wait for the one with whom you would agree? Perhaps, you need to beg them to see eye-to-eye with you…

I also think that there’s gross disrespect among we Nigerians for these public transport operators, especially those on the not-so-formal schemes. [Even the Lagos BRT staffs (drivers and conductors) now receive treatment otherwise meted out to Molue drivers and conductors from passengers who are fast becoming overly familiar and impatient.] Most of us have a biased mindset towards them; just because most of them are often not-so-educated, we label them in gross generalization as riff-raffs and ne’er-do-wells! Why now? Truth is that many of them misbehave and can be very annoying, but I do believe that your pre-conceived notions about people will always have a large bearing on how they present themselves to you up-close. These guys (drivers and conductors) work hard under harsh conditions – come rain, come shine. They have street urchins and (corrupt) police men breathing down their neck, asking for so-much from the so-little they make every day. Many people who disrespect these guys would never take the faintest trace of disrespect in their own places of work o! Perhaps, you could go get your own car or get your own driver to dictate for them and talk to them just anyhow. I hope you got my point(s)!

Every day, we see angry people on the streets: in the banking hall and in the classrooms, professionals and the untrained, employees and traders, lecturers and students, government officials and street traders, LASTMA officials lying in wait for errant and not-so-lucky drivers, full-bodied men who fight and inflict wounds upon each other over rather flimsy issues. The other day, I saw in front of the University of Lagos main gate, a bus conductor slugging it out with an ‘agbero’, an unemployed street urchin who had been unleashed with the job of taxing bus drivers who work their butts out on the streets, come rain, come shine! How I wish we could all wake up from our collective and individual slumber and redirect our anger and frustrations into positive channels. “Speak truth to power”, like someone said. Make a personal resolve to be the best that you can be and sort out differences amicably. Try in your own ways to reach out and educate the ignorant in the society. Go out in 2011 to vote the right candidate and sincerely stick out your neck to ensure that your votes and those of other well-meaning Nigerians count. As a public office holder, shun corruption and corrupt practices – be accountable to the ‘poor’ people who have elected you. In the coming elections, if you truly have a mission to change the lives of your community members and fellow Nigerians for the better, walk your talk, and run for that office. Do your proper research and go ahead because you are the change Nigeria needs! People, do not sell your birthrights; neither should be collect bribe. We hold our destinies in our very own hands!

***

On a lighter note, two days ago (yes, Christmas Day), I was on my way to the University of Lagos in Akoka in search of the regular power supply that the school premises is so blessed with. I joined a bus to Bariga and as I stepped in, I observed that in the middle row, a woman was sitting by the window with her baby boy (most likely two years old). Another was sitting next to me with her daughter (probably four years old) – the girl had to stand and place her head on her mother’s laps. [There seems to be a particular age that you attain before your parents (especially moms) start allowing you to sit alone on public buses. It’s like our people see it as waste of money to allow a miniature creature like any of these two children here to occupy their own seat.] When we got to Ladi-lak Bus-stop, midway on my journey, the woman sitting next to me alighted with her daughter. Then, something funny happened! The boy started crying!! Imagine, this small boy was crying because a beautiful girl just alighted? His mother was surprised and so was I. I looked at the little ‘lover-boy’ then my eyes met with those of his mother, and all we could do was laugh some more! Well, she prodded him a bit, and then said something like: “Do you want her ‘blow-blow’…? Okay I will buy you ‘blow-blow’”. To my amazement, the boy paused his crying exercise. To prevent him from sleeping off or even crying further, his mother kept nudging him and every time she told him, “Oya, see your daddy…”, pointing out of the window, the boy kept quiet and swiftly turned his head in the same direction as his mother’s pointing hands looking for ‘daddy’. I’m still wondering about this ‘snow white’ tale: was it the strange little girl the boy fell in love with or her balloons? [‘Cos I still can’t remember seeing any balloons on that bus! :)]

***

In other news, Temitayo Ilori, a.k.a ‘Tylor’, author of “Doom’s Wing: The Legend of Tellam”, Nigeria’s latest Fantasy Novel, is getting married today in the ancient city of Benin to his sweetheart, Nwakaegho, today Monday 27 December 2010 at the All Saints Chapel, University of Benin, Benin City, in Edo State. Time is 12PM to 3PM (right about now!). I wish the ‘latest couple in town’ a long life of bliss and joyful partnership as they conquer the world and its challenges together and share in the rewards!

God bless the couple! God bless you my reader!! God bless Nigeria!!!

Photo credit: www.skyscrapercity.com

Nigeria’s Sosoliso Plane Crash 2005: Remembering ‘the 60 Angels’ and Others

By Gbenga Awomodu

Photo credit: CP-Africa.com

Yesterday, as I strolled out of the office premises onto the streets, my nasal cavity contracted a bit. The crisp dry smell of harmattan was back in the air. I felt the cold sensation the Christmas season often brings along from Santa’s home land. Xmas, for me, often comes with mixed feelings. Forty five months of the last five years have been spent as an undergraduate and most times at this season of the year, I just found myself in some lonesome emotional state. Often times, I would be back at home, where I hardly socialize. School always gave the opportunity to mingle and become so emotionally attached to friends, especially those met in school.

So, yesterday evening, I began to feel that sensation coming back, except that I’ll be having a lot to sort out during the forthcoming holiday period, so I should not really be that bothered. Anyways, yesterday I remembered what happened exactly five years ago, today! I had just finished attending the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2005) in Abuja, where I had represented Action Health Incorporated, a NGO I had worked with earlier in the year. I was to resume at the University the following month. There were two other young people on the team (Chidinma and Christopher), as well as some senior programme officers from the organisation. It had been a wonderful experience despite the thick fog associated with harmattan in the beautiful capital city.

That Saturday morning, December 10, 2005, we made our way into the local Wing of the Abuja International Airport, checked in our luggage and were soon waiting for the boarding announcement for our Chachangi Airlines flight back to Lagos. At the departure lounge, I fed my eyes with the goings-on even as I had a chat with the Chidinma and Chris. The lounge was very busy today, every seat is filled up and you could her most travelers having a gist. Particularly fascinating was the assembly of school children who were waiting for the flight to their respective destinations. Their uniforms were unique and I didn’t have the faintest idea what school they were from and I guess I was also too shy to ask.

The girls specially caught my attention – they were gorgeously dressed in their school uniforms (gowns) which had been tailored in such a skillful way I had never seen before. Each girl looked fabulous and smart in what looked like customized attire for each one of them. Many of them were bespectacled and I remember the one who was resting on another whilst reading from a book, perhaps one of those exotic novels she had bought on her last holiday trip abroad (just my imagination). Even a look at the boys too left me convinced they were a different breed. I could tell these kids were the bookworms, not even with the way they walked and the aura surrounding them.

After about two hours of waiting, it was time to leave. I could tell that most of them were Port Harcourt bound because, only a few of them left with us to board the Chachangi flight to Lagos. There had been an announcement about a plane to Port Harcourt soon to land and I assumed most of my new ‘friends’ were P/H-bound.

Photo credit: news.bbc.co.uk

The flight to Lagos was a little bumpy and I had some discomfort, but I could not put my finger to the source of that disturbance I sensed in my spirit. Maybe it was my stuffy nose, a result of moving around in the hazy Abuja weather for ten good days. So I thought. Even ‘portable’ Chidinma (a colleague and friend) who had thrown up on our flight to Abuja looked calmer and did not have to repeat her show of fright for height, like she almost did with elevators and soon avoided using them as much as possible throughout our stay in Abuja. (She later told me she felt strangely too, and had premonition something was about to happen). The pilot reassured us that all would be well despite the not-too-friendly weather condition that early afternoon. (I would rank it second only to the bumpiest of flights I have ever had, one from Maiduguri to Abuja in June 2007.) Less than two hours later I was home.

Surprisingly, when I got home, there was power supply; so after blowing as much of the Abuja trash from my nostrils and all, I settled on Grandma’s bed to watch the TV. Less than an hour into my relaxation, watching Channels Television, I saw a tiny strip of information. It was a News Alert about the Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 scheduled between the Nigerian cities of Abuja (ABV) and Port Harcourt (PHC). At about 14:08 local time (13:08 UTC) on 10 December 2005, Flight 1145 from Abuja crash-landed on the runway at the Port Harcourt International Airport. The plane, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 with 110 people onboard, burst into flames.

Wow!!! I was shocked! That was the closest I had been to a plane crash. As the evening sung its dirge into the early night, I got more details. This unfortunate incident had taken the lives of so many Nigerian children, so many adults, all over 100 – less than two months after a plane crashed in Lisa village and another one crashed somewhere around Kaduna. Pastor (Mrs.) Bimbo Odukoya, a popular pastor at the Fountain of Life Church in Ilupeju whose assertive messages had impacted so many lives, bringing joy into otherwise broken homes and hope to the ‘hopeless’ in matters of the heart, had also been on that plane! She had reportedly suffered serious burns and eventually died. And the school children I saw earlier? Sixty one (61) of them from the Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Abuja had been on board too! Sixty (60) of them lost their lives, leaving only one (1) survivor! Many passengers survived the initial impact but died in the resulting fire. Port Harcourt Airport had only one fire truck and no ambulances.

Photo Credit: CP-Africa.com

Some reporters in the Nigerian press referred to the school children as some of Nigeria’s best brains. I totally I agree! I have met a few of them and I do not need to be told by anyone else. Olufunke Faweya (a former head girl of the school whom I had met earlier that year) and Nmachi Jidenma (whom I met about three years after the incident), the founder of Celebrating Progress Africa, who has just been nominated for the Best Use of Advocacy at The Future Awards, Nigeria’s most respected Youth Awards, are living testimony of the caliber of products the LJC, Abuja, builds every year.

In retrospect, many questions come to mind about what should have been and what would have been today if those kids and the other passengers on that aircraft were still alive today, but I believe most people have considered them too; so I’m not going to bore you with that. I plead that we all resolve to lead purposeful lives and make the best of today, because we hardly have any control over what would come the next day: leaders in highly exalted positions whose decisions affect the populace in no small ways; followers who should look inwards and become proactive rather than just wait for the government and ‘our leaders’ to do the right things. I’ll leave you with the song presented last Sunday (5 December 2010) by the LJC choir. It was composed by Kechi Okwuchi, the only LJC survivor of that plane crash whose name was the 81st on the official manifest.

A tribute to the Angels
By Kechi Okwuchi (survivor of the Sosoliso Plane Crash)
It seems like yesterday
Full of excitement
We chatted non-stop
All the way to the plane
It seems like yesterday
We made plans, discarded them
Made new ones
Our future bright
It seems like yesterday
When we dropped out of the sky
To noise, to pain, to…silence
To glory
It seems like yesterday
That God had different plans
To take us to greater heights
A future not foreseen
On angels’ wings we flew
Racing past the clouds
Racing up to glory
Enveloped by His Grace
Though not with you in glory
I am a part of you
Left behind to continue the legacy
Left to run the race
As long as there is breathe in me
Dearest 60, you are not forgotten
Through the pain of yesterday
A million tomorrows are born.
© Kechi Okwuchi

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Loyola Jesuit College recently launched a book about the incident. You can access more information here on CP-Africa.com.