Sunday, May 30, 2010

What keeps you awake at night?

Gulf coast Oil Spill, Global warming, Global economic meltdown, corruption, moral decadence, etc. We wish it didn’t have to be so. He said that his heart breaks for this generation of young people because we are faced with increasing despair. He was a total stranger but we were not strangers to the challenges in the world. We were both flying to Boston, he was returning from vacation with his girlfriend and I was going for an official meeting with my team.

He once worked for the coast guard, and then served in the US Air force. He is retired now, a Septuagenarian, but has seen much of life to leave his head bare of hair. He asked me where I was from and I said Lagos Nigeria. His neighbor back in Cape cod is also from Nigeria. He has been to Europe but not to Africa. Then he asked me the million-dollar question "Are you going back to Nigeria?"

I was used to being asked that now, so instead of feeling annoyed, I smiled and said yes. So many people come to the US and abandon any plans to return home soon. "You mean you want to leave all these opportunities behind?"

I’ll be doing my country and generation a lot of harm not to return to serve my country. To whom much is given, much is expected. He said he would visit Africa someday. I didn’t ask for his name, he did not ask for mine. We both went our different ways when the Plane touched down at Logan Airport.His words stayed on with me for the rest of the week.

It didn’t take long before tears welled up in my eyes again. It is no longer news that this generation is facing so many challenges caused by what seems to be a Goldman Greed syndrome- celebrating other people’s misfortunes. The greed for power, materialism at the cost of other people’s well being etc.

Do we have to wait until "only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught…" to realize we cannot eat money?When we were kids, we could harmlessly watch TV without the terrifying images of "sex-sell" scenes splashing across the channels. Super Ted, Muppet Babies, Sesame Street, Speak Out, Tales by moonlight and its likes. We were children, not in a hurry to become adult overnight. But today, many kids have forgotten what it means to be a child. Family Economic Crisis and societal decadence stand out as a challenge. And the government, you and I must stay awake at night thinking of what to do to ameliorate the situation, I hope.

First published in "Dis Generation" The Nation newspaper

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What is the Nigerian dream?

Amidst the hectic daily schedule, and living the American dream, I am gradually learning how to find a balance and make out time to read about some burning issues in the mainstream. Just incase you are wondering what I mean by the American dream, some people define it as the process of sleeping, working and paying bills while others define it as a system that allows you the freedom to do what you want…

However, a quick research shows that James Truslow Adams, a writer and historian, first used the term in his book The Epic of America (1931). According to him, the American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

Perhaps this explains the reason why thousands of people struggle to defile all odds to come to the States, to embrace the perceived American dream. But it is not always served on a platter of gold. You have to apply yourself to achieve anything. In a nutshell, the same basic principle of life applies here too—there is no food for lazy man. One of the main differences is that the hustle is more polished. And it is easy to get distracted if you do not keep your eyes on the ball.

Meanwhile, everyone seems to have vibrant viewpoints and blue prints of what they think the New Nigeria should be. But today, I was just wondering if the Nigerian dream exists. If yes, what is it? Someone say reading the Nigerian anthem (1st and 2nd stanza) will give us a clue of the harmonious dream.

Many young people have high aspirations, one of which includes leaving the country to live their Nigerian dream outside the shores of the country. But a dream is a dream anywhere, whether in the US or Nigeria, it takes absolute committal and focus to accomplish them. It is possible to maximize one’s potential as long as we hold on to our God-given Purpose and allow it be our driving-force. "What a man can be, he must be", but not to the detriment of others.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When at a Cross-Road:

Making a choice is inevitable but you never know what your choice will mean until you have lived it. No one can help you choose, you have to search deep within and “follow your heart”. That has become a popular aphorism. However, the challenge still remains, how can we make a meaningful choice when at a crossroad? My simple reply is (just as I have always been told): Pray about it, ask God for wisdom and follow your heart. If your heart is saying nothing, take this practical exercise a colleague (Masoora/Trevor) shared with me recently:

Imagine you are at the point of dropping out of school or any other dilemma for that matter-

Step 1: Make a list with two columns, with the reasons for dropping out and the reasons for staying on.

Step 2: Score the different reasons (for instance, dropping out of school to support your family during a family financial crisis might be worth 3 points, while staying on to do a legitimate part-time job that won’t derail your academics in order to support yourself, might be worth 5 points).

Step 3: Make a second two-column list of reasons against dropping out and the reasons against staying on. Score them as well.

Step 4: Add up the points in favor of staying on, and subtract the points for reasons against staying on. Then do the same for reasons for and against dropping out of school.

Step 5: Figure out which option (staying on or dropping out) has more points. This is the "logical" course of action to take. (Call it option 1, the other Option 2.)

Step 6: Once you've identified option 1, decide whether you're happy with it or not. If you're happy with the decision, then go with it.

Step 7: If you're disappointed, or you feel like Option 2 should have had more points, or if the prospect of following through with Option 1 makes you very unhappy, then throw the stupid lists away and do choose Option 2.

Again, making a choice is inevitable but you never know what your choice will mean until you have lived it. As Robert Frost allude in his poem: “The road not taken”- "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth. Then took the other, just as fair... I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood and I-- I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference."

This article was first published on THE NATION:

Photo credit: VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm

Friday, May 14, 2010

Are you thinking of relocating?

Young African Professionals networking evenings are held every month in Washington DC area and the event attracts over 50-100 professionals interested in Africa. The theme for the April 30th event was "Home Sweet Home: How to successfully relocate to Africa". The evening was meant to address the many concerns of young Africans in Diaspora. 

To lead the invigorating discussion, three panelists were invited from different fields- Mrs. Edith Haizel, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Ghana, and former member of Parliament; Mr Julius Kliza, University Lecturer, Makerere University, Uganda; and Alban Bagbin, Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ghana.

Speaking from a University Lecturer’s perspective, Kliza said there were many factors pulling and pushing young professionals from home. He however encouraged youths to remember that there was no place like home. "Your countries and families need you and your ideas" he said.

The panelists admitted that things back home in African were not as rosy as they would have loved it to be. Among others they noted that roads are not good. No good electricity and ATM machines are not reliable. All these challenges are enough to discourage anyone from relocating. 

To avoid frustration, the speakers suggested, "relocation strategies".

"Before relocating, identify someone to entrust your wealth or ideas" Africans in diaspora were advised. This person will be very helpful in helping you integrate into the society eventually.
Take out sometime to test the waters. If you can, carry out some local projects in order to be able to understand how the system works. The panelist noted that you must not relocate because of people’s pressure. "Make sure you are ready". Meanwhile, relocating can also be a simple decision to invest in the country. "Look for innovative fields, do not join the bandwagon" said the Ugandan.

Bagbin, Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing Ghana, reaffirmed the urgent need for young talents to return home and invest in their countries. However he said even after relocating, it is important to keep in touch with Diaspora. "Africa is said to be the future of the world, not because of natural resources but because of knowledge- brain gain".

Bagbin noted that you could make a difference wherever you are. "If you think of Africa’s development, then you can make a difference" he said. And urged everyone to embrace the 3 C’s of leadership- Character, Care and Competence.

photo credit: Getty Image-- 1. Zoran Milic. 2. Bria Blake

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I thought I had a lot to say about Nigeria until I sat in front of the Camera and then realize my knowledge of Nigeria history is quite incompetent. Did I just hear you say “You are not a historian, so that is quite understandable”? Oh, I hope not. Learning more about Nigeria history has become a priority for me.

The filmmaker, Terence of Afro Legacy: aims to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of African and African American people in the diaspora and all cultures that comprise the human race. He is a historian- and this didn’t make the video-shoot easy because he knew a lot about Nigeria, more than I did.

“People who know nothing about your country make movies and music that portray your country in the wrong light—“ he said. So his passion is to create a platform for people to right the wrong of the Western Media. As a child, Terence watched movies that portrayed African from pathetic perspective, and like so many people in the West, he grew up thinking “poor Africans live in the wild”.
Does the Western World really have a ploy to deliberately bastardize the greatest black Nation and its people, in an attempt to appear invincible and thereby maintain false purity? Dr. Agboaye, the author of Wakaman Politiks, a political satire written in pidgin English, also sees the need to re-orientate the world and create a paradigm shift on how Africans are perceived.
Dr Agboaye’s new book “Is it well with Nigeria?” is described in the synopsis as a “masterpiece on Nigeria! Audacious, insightful, authorative, fearless and objective analysis of Nigeria’s checkered politics.” Utilizing indisputable historical facts and figures to boldly demystify long-held political beliefs. Dr Agboaye challenges the global community, boldly defend our motherland’s negative image and in the process rebrand, repackage and re-launch Nigerians to the world.”
The Professor of government and political science at Tarrant County College, Arlington, Texas wrote to me via Facebook “Jenny! This book is a comprehensive and up-to-date political account of Nigeria”

Why will I read this book? “There's the saying that those who don't master their history are bound to repeat the past. If we follow a methodical approach in learning about our past, there is no way we can make the same mistakes the second time around. The “wahala” there is that we continue to muddle around our mountain like the Israelites because we refuse to learn from our past. My book addresses where we came from; how we got where we are; and how to get out of our present stalemate. If Nigerians read this book, and are serious about changing our country, the sky will be the limit.”