Posts in Other Writings

The Life of A Schizophrenic Traveler

“Karen likes to pretend like she’s better than the rest of us. That’s why nobody likes her. Anyways, as soon as these fellows sort us out for the night, gimme a call, alright? We should meet up later for drinks.”

Ugh. It’s the same old attention-seeking drama every time. Nessa can’t sit still for five minutes. If there are people within earshot of her, they have to be burdened with her essence. And there’s always that one moron of a man who falls for her antics and then proceeds to dote on her. Okay, usually more than one, but who is even counting? I am exasperated. I just want to sleep.

When the Captain announced that we would have to turn back due to some technical problem with the plane, you could almost taste the collective feeling of disgust seeping through the plane as sighs echoed from different corners. This was the last flight for the day. Some guy in the adjacent row to mine swore in German – or what sounded like it, I really don’t know. He was completely bald, had no beard, and his face was contorted into a scowl that seemed like he might want to hurt the pilot if he got the chance.

As soon as we landed, we all filed out onto the tarmac. Nessa’s seat was 5 rows behind mine – she never seats close to me when we travel. Something to do with freedom to meet new people. My sister is an attention whore. Ouch, yes, but I’ve come to terms with it. When she and Greg came down from the plane looking like a couple heading to their honeymoon the ache in my stomach hurt just a little bit more. You wouldn’t think they’d only just met on the plane. Ugh.

“Hi, I’m Greg. What’s your name?” “It’s a shame what’s happened, right. I mean, When will these airlines learn?”

Hiss.

Look at this one. Please go away, with your overcooked smile and fancy jacket. Yes, you’re handsome, but I don’t really care right now. No one cares, please move along. I look away at the other passengers scurrying into the holding area where we’re all supposed to get some form of debriefing and whatnot ahead of the next flight in the morning. Everyone is sufficiently pissed. Well, except Nessa and this Greg fellow. They seem rather carefree, like this whole thing was a non-issue. Nessa is whispering something in his ear, and they both giggle.

The airline official saddled with the unfortunate task of addressing us apologizes profusely on behalf of the company and assures us we’ll be put on the morning flight. There’s a couple of people haggling over lodging plans for the night. Nessa and Mr Hi, I’m Greg are huddled together at the back smirking to each other, like they know something the rest of us don’t. I give Nessa the “let’s go” eye and she takes the hint. They share a long hug and I see him looking at me, eyes filled with longing. Prick. I suppose you want the entire world for yourself, then. He keeps staring as we walk away, Nessa’s grin as wide as that time we were at Don Jazzy’s birthday party in Victoria Island last year.

I go online and book a room at a hotel near the airport for the both of us. As soon as we check in, I shower, change and lay on the bed. Nessa is on the phone the whole time. No prizes for guessing it’s her new best boyfriend on the other end of that call obviously. She then lectures me on how I should loosen up and try to make the most of the bad situation. The hotel bar is nice, she says. There’s no need to allow these Nigerian airlines ruin your entire day. We already missed the flight; might as well find something to smile about today. I hate that she is right.

Last night was a blur. I recall realizing it was a bad idea to go down to the bar as soon as we got there. There, as if on cue, was that fellow from the flight. I should have known Nessa would tell him which hotel we were staying at. Drinks and some reluctant dancing after – well, it all is a bit hazy now that I try to recollect it. I went up early to catch some sleep, only rousing a bit when Nessa came up later and snuggled up in bed beside me. I’m not even trying to remember now, there’s a flight to catch and we’re not trying to be late.

The cab ride to the airport is brisk. The driver keeps looking in his rear-view mirror at us as we argue in hushed tones about all that transpired last night. Soon as we arrive, we head to the boarding area. The flight is in 50 minutes.

“Sorry, ma’am, your flight was for last night. It says so on your ticket.”

“I know, we were here. Your plane had issues. The pilot had to reverse the plane because of some technical issue. You people were supposed to put us on this morning’s flight. That’s what you said last night.”

“Madam, I don’t understand. This plane left last night as scheduled. It landed already in London.”

“Can you believe these people, Nessa? Where’s your Greg, by the way? He’s not traveling anymore?”

“Please ma’am, you’re holding up the line. Please let this gentleman attend to you, instead.”

Wow. This isn’t happening. I want to throw a tantrum and shake up this place but my senses get the better of me. That’s kind of Nessa’s specialty, by the way – throwing tantrums, that is. She’s awfully calm now, though, just looking forlorn. Maybe because Greg isn’t here to dote on her. I now have to call mum and tell her we missed the flight after all. We’ll have to book another flight for tonight.

Mum is surprisingly calm and I’m a little angry that she doesn’t share my frustration at the airline for messing up our flight plan. She says to wait at the lobby for her. She and Dad are coming over to get us. I tell Nessa they’re coming to get us and she just nods wistfully. This one is obviously still thinking about Greg, who apparently changed his mind about flying this morning, I guess. The bald German-ish fellow too, I wish he was here now. Maybe he’d have broken something or make these airline pricks pay for their scam. I am tired.

“Honey, Karen has finally called. She’s missed her flight. Again.”

“Sigh. Did she stop taking her meds again?”

“See, I’m tired. Please let’s go and get our daughter.”

 

 

This story was first posted on hotels.ng/travel

All in a Year’s Work: My Writing Chronicles

One year is an awful long time to wait for a new blog post. I’ve been busy and lazy at the same time. Very busy with work and other ish and lazily hiding under the guise of that to leave this here blog (and you my teeming audience *straight face*)unattended to.

But I’ve started this post near the end. Let’s get back to the start real quick.

Last year was a tough year. The long wait to get drafted for service pretty much gnawed away any inspiration I had to keep the blog – and some other stuff – going. Being made to suffer due to an inherent ineptitude/irregularity in a system, it took a lotta grace to not lose my mind. Anyways, all of that ended in September as the draft finally came at the end of the month.

By mid October I got a mail from one of the editors over at Ynaija, telling me I’d been selected to be among the Y! Superblogger project. The gist was all over the web, on Twitter and various blogs, and I was awed, to be honest. Friends were ecstatic for me and I felt like, yeah, now Imma be able to move outta my father’s house and finally have a girlfriend, yo. Lol… I checked the shortlisted bloggers from across the country and I kept wondering how I made the cut considering I was arguably the most inconsistent writer in the lot. I mean the list had people, quite renowned, who updated their blogs daily! I guess I was picked for my content, maybe.

Anyway, the Superblogger project kicked off in the first week November – same time I shipped out to camp in service of the Fatherland. The project required me to send in an article every week that month so I quickly wrote 3 in a matter of days and sent in the drafts as it wouldn’t have been possible to write in camp. My first piece went up November 14 – just over a week into camp (which was a horrendous week as the first week usually is, but we’ll be reading about that on another post). It’s been a good ride since, getting the avenue to reach a wider audience. And the mere satisfaction that came from seeing a lotta people appreciate my art and have a discourse on Twitter about stuff I wrote far outweighed the persistent inner turmoil it took to write them.

Also, at the turn of the new year, my buddy Stanley Azuakola (yep, Google the name already. Dude’s a rock star writer) of Guardian and Ynaija fame, told me about the project he was working on and gave me the honour of being a part of it.The ScoopNG site went up on January 6 and it’s been magnificent. Writing about politics, public policy and affairs is hard for me as those aren’t really my forte but the opportunity has helped me learn to pay keener attention to Nigerian politics and affairs thereby helping to make useful contributions to the national discourse.

So Imma just put the link to the Superblogger and Scoop articles I’ve written since that got published. Check them out if you haven’t. A second reading won’t hurt too:

The Limit of Intelligence was my very first piece that got published by Ynaija in the Superblogger series. I wrote about factors we overlook which had a bearing on students’ performance in college.
Looking Through Time is arguably the coolest piece I wrote last year. This one got tweeps tweeting about it for days.
The Story of Death, a piece borne out of an old blog post of mine went up on Christmas eve.
Obeying the Clarion Call was my first piece (Scoopinion) for The ScoopNG. I basically ranted and analysed about the NYSC scheme.
The Value of Vanity was my first post this year for Ynaija. Looking in the mirror inspired this one.
Grading Good Governance was written when the Minister of Information’s good governance tour came to my place of primary assignment in February.
Water board blues was borne out of a nostalgia for the days when our taps worked.
Curriculum Adaptation went up on the ScoopNG in March.
Virtual Connections and the Distance Dilema went up in April after a hiatus. This one has a poignant feel to it.
Winning the Porting Race, published by the ScoopNG in May was about addressing the drama and attendant issues with the MNP service launch late April.
When the wells dry up addresses the possible issues that will define Nigeria when the sun sets on the golden age of oil.

So, there you have it, the first chapters of my Ynaija and ScoopNG chronicles till date. Check ’em out and lemme know what you think. Remember, sharing is caring.

It’s good to be back. I’ve been busy with work, serving the Fatherland and all. Working at a broadcasting corporation barely gives me enough time to do other things. But I try to find the time to write and do stuff I love still. Many thanks to my buddy AY for consistently but ever so subtly nudging me to post here again. Writing is hard, more so if you’re writing for a magazine/newsletter – it’s pretty much like having an assignment hanging over your head everyday for the rest of your life – but it’s exhilarating stuff too and I love it.

I’m grateful for the audience Ynaija and The ScoopNG afford me. All that’s left now is for the pay to start rolling in when I write and then I’d truly have arrived, hehe.

Most importantly, I’m grateful for you, reader, who visits this lowly blog of mine to see my latest musings.

*throws on cool shades and work up my Arnold Schwarzenegger voice*

I’ll be back.

Water Board Blues

This is the Transcript for a post written for The ScoopNG. Read the original post here.

Depending on where you live in this country of ours and/or how old you are at the moment, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never had the opportunity of having drank tap water.

Yes, there used to be a time when “tap water” wasn’t a subtle euphemism for the water you got at your kitchen sink via the water pump engine in your apartment. And it didn’t come in plastic bottles either. Tap water, back when I was little, came via a long labyrinth of pipes buried in the ground linking to the water reservoirs operated by the government’s Urban Water Board.

Boreholes were a very rare source of water fifteen years ago. Water flowed in our homes; our showers worked. Of course there was the occasional incident of burst pipes that had to be tied or replaced. And just like it was/is with PHCN, when the workers at the Water Board went on strike, scarcity ensued and all roads led to the rivers. Those who weren’t close to any water body sought for the nearest compound with a water borehole facility. Life wasn’t always grand in this country, I tell you. Oh wait…

As the years rolled by, finding water dripping down the street became a rarity. Then the streets became permanently dry. It’s not that all the burst pipes had finally been fixed; water just wasn’t coming through them anymore. The taps stopped flowing. More water boreholes sprang up in various homes and instead of paying the water rate to the government, people started to pay other people for access to water. A new industry – the potable water industry kicked off soon afterwards and never looked back since.

You’d think there couldn’t possibly still be such a thing as an Urban Water Board around these days. Much to my dismay, while driving across town recently, I stumbled across a building whose sign post bore the four words: State Urban Water Board.

Questions automatically cropped up in my head. Did people still leave their homes in the mornings and go to work a job at the water board? How does the government justify floating a ministry of water works and still pay salaries when tap water has since become an issue of folklore?

Is it a settled matter that we can’t have tap water back in our homes? It doesn’t seem to be a big issue – at least it doesn’t get the level of discourse that power attracts, even at election campaigns. Are we resigned to the fact that, as the general population grows richer (if they ever do), people are going to have to sink their own boreholes to get water?

Truly, there are a few places that still get water from the water board. For most of these areas, the water is anything but potable. Smelling, unclean water often comes up through the pipes, rendering the water almost completely unusable. This is as a result of the pollution of the water bodies from which the water is gotten – very likely a direct product of the rapid rise in population and urbanization. The water board is handicapped by old equipments (for purification, pumping, etc), understaffing or a dearth of properly trained employees and, among a myriad other problems, low prioritizing by the government.

The federal government needs to rethink its stand on the issue of people having water flowing in their houses again. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the various state arms across the country need a revamping. The potable water industry is booming and people are gradually paying more for water. The cost of bottled water is a bit ridiculous. And there have been instances where we’ve had reasons to question the quality of some of these brands of water on sale.

The increasing number of boreholes may pose an environmental risk yet. Poking all that many holes in an area may yet compromise the safety of the area from the effect of environmental/climatic hazards like faults and/or earth quakes with time. Whatever rationalizations we muster up for why things are the way they are, they just won’t hold water in the face of the plunge we’re headed for if things don’t change soon enough.

It’ll take a responsible government to give people water in their homes again. Only such a government can make the painstaking effort required to revamp the water industry, staff the Water Boards with well trained civil engineers, purchase standard purification and storage equipments all in a bid to provide potable water. And should the day ever come when tap water flows in our homes again, we shouldn’t have to be afraid to drink it. Any government that can get that right would have done right by us all. It’ll have passed a responsibility test.

On Grading Governance

This is the transcript of a post written for The ScoopNG. Read the original post here.

As I make my ten-minute walk to work every morning, I usually pass by a couple of kids en route to school. Nothing particularly horrifying about a bunch of kids walking to school though. Except that some of these ones I pass by juggle various contraptions like stools and chairs along with their school bags.

The first time I noticed it, I quickly assumed that there was some sort of event at their school. Or that it was probably Arts and Crafts Day at school. Then I saw a repeat of the same scenario the next day. When it became apparent that it was a routine event, I decided to go and check out the school with my friend on our way back from work.

The school wasn’t far off – only a street away. The site was humbling and depressing.

Buildings in various stages of completion (and varying degrees of quick retrogression) sprawled across a dusty and forlorn landscape passed off as the citadel of learning for these kids. There are no chairs for the pupils to seat on and there are no black (or any other type) boards in the class rooms. The rooms offer almost no protection from the elements and grossly fall short as a place fit for disseminating and assimilating knowledge.

One thing was plain: these pupils didn’t stand any chance at getting the required level of education to make them stand out in life. If that doesn’t startle you just yet, maybe this next bit would help put things in perspective: the location in question is not a village; it’s a capital city — Abakiliki, the Ebonyi state capital.

A few weeks ago, the Good Governance team led by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, visited this city and conducted scheduled tours of various government establishments, while commissioning a few projects with a view to assessing the score card of the present government administration in the state. Preparations to receive the minister were top notch stuff.

Two days before the team was scheduled to visit my company, a flat screen TV appeared in the lobby, faulty ACs were fixed, the sidewalk was painted and polishing was done on various areas in a bid to impress. Dancers were hired and a reception party was thrown to receive the team.

While the fanfare lasted, I couldn’t keep my mind from those school kids – most of them sitting on dirty floors in a dingy, unkempt room that passed off as their classrooms. They were only about 1000 yards away and their plight wasn’t even going to be factored into the parameters used to assess the government saddled with the responsibility of ensuring they had befitting schools to attend.

The ritual involved in assessing a government’s administration without factoring in the input/opinions of the governed is practically a charade at best. This is not to say we shouldn’t have such a thing as a tour of the States by a set aside Good Governance team. Just that there ought to be a mechanism in place to check how well the projects embarked upon by various state governments affect their citizens. It should be much more than the perfunctory commissioning of facilities/projects and the luncheons. There’s got to be a way to get feelers from the people on how well the government is impacting their lives.

When teachers grade students in school, they don’t just grade them on their favourite subjects but on the entire work load for the session. And no matter how great a student fares in their favourite subjects, they don’t get to move to the next level if they lose points on the other required subjects.

Maybe the Good Governance team could do one better by also having to check, besides the projects brought to its attention, that other vital amenities/services are being taken care of by the governments they’re assessing.

After the scheduled tour of my company was done, the Minister and his team left and headed right on to the next state on the schedule. Obviously, the assessment of the government of this state would be nothing short of a pass mark. As I walked the path back home later that day I saw a couple of school kids returning from school. I couldn’t help but think that they’d been ripped off and that they, along with the many other citizens of their state who don’t get a fair deal from their government, would never be heard.

Lassa fever is the not-so-new super bug

This is the transcript for a post written for The ScoopNG. Read the original post here.

Tuesday morning, December 23, 2008, was like any other morning. Ezeugo* was preparing to have breakfast before heading out to work. He had heated some water and made tea. He planned to take it with the bread he’d brought with him the previous day from Owerri, Imo State, his home town, to Afikpo, Ebonyi state where he resided and ran a shop.

On observation, he discovered that the seal of the bread had been broken and it seemed like some rodent had managed to pilfer some crumbs off of the loaf. He did what the average Nigerian would do: he chopped off the parts nearest to the area the rodent had bitten off and proceeded to have his breakfast. After that he went out to work. It was holiday season and business was good.

At dusk on Christmas day, after sufficient partying and merry making, he headed home to rest. That’s when he noticed his body temperature had started to rise and that he felt rather exhausted. He figured it could be either one of two things: he either was fatigued from all the ensuing stress of the holiday season or he was coming up with malaria fever. The fever was more likely, he thought. He proceeded to purchase Paracetamol from the Pharmacy down the street to help relieve him. He wasn’t better by the next morning; he was weaker and hotter. That’s when he proceeded to the nearby clinic. Two nurses tended to him and, when his condition continued to deteriorate quickly, they referred him to the General Hospital, Afikpo. The General Hospital was being manned at the time by a doctor undergoing his National Youth Service.

The moment Ezeugo entered the General Hospital and the doctor took one quick look at him, he knew whatever it was that ailed this patient, the hospital didn’t have the required personnel and/or equipments to handle it. He had a hunch it was something more sinister than malaria fever and thus dispatched him to the General Hospital, Abakaliki, where he was certain the patient would get better care.

At the General Hospital, Abakaliki, Ezeugo was admitted and his attending physician administered treatments to help keep him stable. Nobody knew what it was exactly that ailed him. Some very bad strain of fever was at the top of the guess list though.

A few days later, while Ezeugo was fighting to cling on to life, his doctor started to get sick. Another doctor had to pitch in to watch over them both. Not long after that, the second doctor got sick too. Because the patient was the priority (and probably because doctors are wont to delay their own treatment when they get sick), he got more attention and thus, better treatment. It was after the first attending suddenly died and the second was in the throes of death that it became clear that there was an epidemic in the hospital. Whatever Ezeugo had, it was not a fever they’d handled before. They filed a report to the Federal Ministry of Health (F.M.O.H.), Abuja and asked for help.

When the FMOH team arrived from Abuja, they quickly checked the patient’s charts and proceeded to get an accurate history by doing a back trace through every stop the patient had made enroute to Abakaliki. Shocking discoveries were made during the investigations. The two nurses at the clinic and the Pharmacist Ezeugo had initially contacted at Afikpo had mysteriously passed away.

Meanwhile, Ezeugo had been transferred to The Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Edo State, where they had a Human Virology centre. Tests revealed that he had Lassa fever and after a series of questioning, the patient revealed the story about the bread he’d eaten. The connection was made: Lassa fever from rat pee. It was a cool diagnosis but one made after two doctors, two nurses and a local pharmacist had paid a steep price.

Lassa fever was first observed in 1969 in the Nigerian town of Lassa in Borno State. Its primary [animal] host is the Natal Multimammate Mouse (Mastomys natalensis), which exists in abundance in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. The rodents are usually hunted and cooked by the locals and serves as a protein source. The virus is usually transmitted via the urine or feces of the animal when they access stored food in peoples’ houses or even in store houses.

According to a statement by the World Health Organization on the prevalence of the disease in Nigeria, “… Person-to-person transmission occurs through direct contact with sick patients in both community and health care settings. Those at greatest risk are those living in rural areas where Mastomys are found. Health care workers are at risk if adequate infection control practices are not maintained.” In the first quarter of 2012 alone, 623 suspected cases, including 70 deaths in 19 of the 36 states were reported by the Nigerian F.M.O.H to the W.H.O. as of March 22. That is nothing short of an epidemic, if you ask me.

The cases are likely to have increased towards the latter part of the year as various states experienced flooding issues. This would have resulted in the mouse in question, along with other animals of course, being displaced. Some would probably have found their way into people’s homes in search of food and shelter thereby increasing the risk of infection for the human occupants.

The diagnosis for Lassa fever isn’t much different from that of the regular malaria fever. The symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, cough, headache, sore throat, nausea, etc – very much like the ones associated with malaria fever, (although other more markedly different symptoms occur in some few cases) except that it’ll refuse to be tamed by the usual drugs that are used to combat malaria. Many doctors are likely to miss it – and that fact isn’t as much a slight on their competence as it is on the general awareness level regarding the infection. The most efficient way to combat the disease at the moment is early administration of the Ribavarin injection or tablets. The drug is relatively expensive and not readily accessible.

The problem with Lassa is that you can hardly do anything about the pathogen carrier (eliminating the rats is practically impossible). And unlike aids, the slightest contact with an infected person increases your chances of contracting it, as the virus is present in all body fluids.

The F.M.O.H. is currently carrying out an awareness campaign regarding an outbreak of the disease and is supplying Ribavarin drugs and injections to the General Hospitals across the states. However, the problem of relative ignorance still persists in rural communities where the risk factors are higher. The awareness campaign has to be intensified and taken deep into the hinterlands as most of our foods are cultivated, stored and comes from there. Let’s say, for example, an infected bag of garri is bought at Oba Market in Benin, Edo State (which may have come from any village in the state) and transported to Lagos. Okay, you already know where I’m going with this.

If we’re to stem the tide of this epidemic, all hands are going to have to be on deck. People will have to store their foods better, and report immediately to the hospitals for treatment as soon as they notice feverish symptoms, instead of self medicating, as the majority of us are prone to do. The government, through the F.M.O.H., should ensure that efforts are increased to ensure that Ribavarin is supplied to more hospitals and maybe work out a partnership with corporations in the health sector to help leverage on the price of the drug. Most importantly, the awareness campaign is everyone’s responsibility. If you know about the disease and how to prevent it and your neighbor doesn’t, it’s your duty to educate them. It just might save your life.

*name has been changed for confidentiality sake.