Renewing Driver’s License in Nigeria: Steps to take

You know how you wish to avoid visiting government parastatals unless you know someone who’s expecting you there? I had steeled myself for ‘come what may’ this morning as I left home for the license office.

The birthday was on Friday, Oct 13 so the license was expired.

On Monday, Oct 16, I had visited the FRSC portal to apply for a 5-year renewal. I paid with my GT card, N10450 and printed out the form. Tuesday morning after dropping the kids at school I headed for the FRSC Ojodu office, having chosen that centre while filling the form

 

FRSC 1

 

The drive down was smooth, parked outside, walked into the compound with my form, unsure of how to manoeuvre my way around the large compound. Right at the pedestrian gate, I bump into a khaki on-black uniform-wearing man who asked me how he could help. As we spoke, a man walked in wearing plain clothes and the officer asked me to follow this person. I restated my purpose and he took me to a photocopy shed by a long block of offices on the right. Here, dude asks for a passport photograph which I return to the car to get. I come back, he staples the passport and forms (now 2) together and says I need to bring N2500 for FRSC and N1500 for VIO.

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I snatch my form from him and walk to the office block. Ask someone else who directs me to Room 5 window. Bose (as I later heard someone call) collected the forms and asked me to join the waiting group outside.

 

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I see a number of men called to a desk to sign and collect their licenses. I tried to ask the guy next to me if he began his process online, dude responded like ‘what you talking about?’ So, I kept quiet and readied my phone recorder to capture the next official conversation ‘where I will get asked to bring the N2500 or N1500′. But I was pleasantly disappointed. After maybe 30 minutes, someone calls my name, hands me signed forms and directs me to the VIO (Vehicle Inspection Office) block. I walk right into the office of pretty ladies. I sit, state my mission, present my forms and I’m asked to pay N1100 for tests and a Drivers’ Handbook. At first I protest the need for a test and manual when it isn’t a fresh issuance, but lady goes on to say it’s N1600 for new applicants and N1100 for renewing drivers. I calm down when I see the full fee receipted. While I move to the next desk for my eye and written test, I was soon interrupted by Officer Kareem who walked in with a presence and called my name right at the door.

“Madam Lolade.”

I look up and behold a man of average height looking sharp in his wine on black uniform. He asked how my processing was going and that I stepped outside with him.

He had been sent by the FRSC Sector commander who saw my tweets and was intent on finding who attempted to extort in his organisation’s name. I was walked to the Sector Commander’s office ( a bit farther down) who looked very stern until I broke a laugh. I narrated my encounter to him and he detailed another officer to follow me to the gate to ‘bring him’ the officer who directed me to a tout. Here, the commander repeats the lecture Mr Kareem gave me on the walk down. That Driver licensing is a tripatite process. The Processing State Board of Internal Revenue (MVAA), Road Traffic officers (aka VIO who conduct eye and road safety tests), and then the FRSC. The FRSC is the last point of call where you capture biometrics.

 

Read from bottom

 

Well, we go to the gate, the accompanying officer stopping at a distance from me so that the officer he should apprehend doesn’t suspect anything. Sadly I don’t find the ‘helpful’ officer again. I suspect he was on his way out when I bumped into him and asked for direction. There were three officers wearing brown-on-wine uniforms at the drive in, but none of them was at the pedestrian gate when I walked in. So I return to the commander’s aide to feed him back. Well, I return to the VIO, complete my written test, score 9 out of 10 (can’t believe I ticked ‘left’ when asked which side one should overtake from). As I finish, I’m led to another office where I meet the head of the Road Traffic Officers who says he’s called my husband already and he’d like to know at what point exactly I was extorted.

Sigh. I repeat my story again. Frankly, I was more impressed than exasperated at having to narrate my experience over and over. These bosses were not joking. They were ready to ‘hang’ whichever of their staff was culpable. I was very very impressed. I don’t even know how he got the husband’s number. When he was satisfied that his team didn’t drop the ball, he was very relieved. So I take my forms finally to FRSC.

Here, a lady, Ndidi Gertrude who later introduces herself as Head of HR at FRSC talked me through another 20minutes of what the FRSC is trying to do and how public sensitization is important. At first, she’s unhappy that I tweeted my experience rather than asking for the Process Owners (a term I learnt from her) but when I explain how much good documenting my experience in realtime did for the FRSC and the public, she relaxes and we had quite a good chat. We exchanged numbers and I think I have a friend at the FRSC now. My forms come back with more stamps and signature and I’m fine to dirve for another three months, hopefully my license don’t take so long to arrive.

 

Here are quick steps you should take if renewing your driver license:

1. Fill, pay and print form here: https://www.nigeriadriverslicence.org/dlApplication/renew  (A)
2. Make a copy of the printed form (B)
3. Make a copy of expired license (c)
4. Get 2 passport photographs
5. Go to the Internal Revenue Office to submit A,B,C and 1 passport.
6. Take stamped and signed docs to VIO
7. Pay N1100 if renewing (or N1600 if new application)
8. Obtain receipt and Drivers’ handbook.
9. Take eye and written test.
10. If capturing, proceed to Data Capturing (FRSC)
11. If not, photocopy all docs, obtain FRSC stamps and signatures at no fee.
12. You’re good to go!

Note: If you bypass capturing, you won’t be issued a temporary drivers’ license. You’ll need to keep you forms in your car at all times until the license is out.

Hope this helps.

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Surulere is new Amala HQ in Lagos

Move aside White House, the most valuable Amala vendor trophy has moved base and I say this with all sense of responsibility.

 

 

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Mine was so good I couldn’t pause to take a picture so I borrowed this image from Google. It comes very close to mine aesthetically.

 

 

You may have been disappointed by Amala Olaiya a few times, but when it comes to numbers, Surulere trumps every other area in Lagos when the sale of quality Amala is concerned. As usual, I have a story to tell.

 

My car brakes had been screeching for a while and when the husband took the vehicle for routine servicing last Saturday, I assumed all problems would have been addressed. I took him to the airport at first light Monday in the same car and when I was ready to go to work the hymns began again. I managed till Wednesday evening when on my way home from work, the hallelujah chorus coming from the brakes became quite embarrassing. So, on Thursday, I headed to our mechanics, somewhere in Shitta.

 

It was a quick fix, and while on the test ride, I told Kehinde (our invaluable family mechanic) that I needed to buy lunch having gone past lunch order hour at the office.

“I want correct amala, gbegiri and ogufe (goat meat). Where can I get? Sebi, I will see take away plate to buy.”

Kehinde had a tough job deciding where to take me to. He thought for a bit then he suggested the famous Olaiya. I cut in:

“I’m not looking for anywhere fancy. I just want correct food.”

That was when he explained. The problem wasn’t a scarcity of Amala vendors, it was deciding where to go.

 

“There are those who only sell early in the morning, then the afternoon ones, and then those who come out only at night”

I was shocked. “People eat Amala for breakfast? I thought ‘swallow’ was strictly for lunch and dinner?”

 

Kehinde laughed. Then, I asked him to take me to buy Amala Shitta (I had heard people use the phrase often). And he asked, “Amala Shitta ewo? Amala Shitta po l’orisirisi (Amala vendors abound in Shitta, which are you referring to?)” At this point, I gave up and just told him to drive anywhere. And we parked soon.

 

He pointed me to this not very spacious place. Thankfully, it wasn’t very busy inside. All the departments were amply spread out as is typical of an Amala establishment. The sink for handwashing is first, then someone picks out the plate, gives me with directions to the next lady further down. This young lady has a big pot of piping hot Amala placed in between her legs on the floor. I hand her my plate, ask how much a scoop is sold, she says N50, then I ask for N200 worth. Then she directs me halfway back the way I came – this is the soup and meat section. I ask for gbegiri, ewedu, ogufe and assorted meat. This other lady calculates my bill, of course without a calculator, and points in a direction I hadn’t looked in the last 15 minutes.

 

Two well-rounded ebony middle-aged-looking women balanced in this corner, almost behind the door. I went near and one asked, ‘how much you buy?’

“N650,” I replied and gave her a N1000 note.

She handed me change and I walked out with my white plastic bag swinging from my right hand. I wanted to ‘appear’ in my office right away so I could devour the goodness. Kehinde dropped off by his workshop and I sped towards Ogunlana, Lawanson, Itire, and finally hit the Oshodi highway where my office sits on the right-hand side.

 

I surprised myself when I took out another two hours responding to emails and writing before I stood up to go to the kitchen. I microwaved my Amala and moved to the eating section. The second I opened the plate, the smell first tickled my senses. My nose instinctively started running. Now I usually have a problem with people who do not know how to balance the gbegiri quantity with soup. There are the recommended ratios that make a perfect mix, and the soup lady, scored a sterling A in this department. I EMPTIED my bowl and the ogufe was the icing – N200 for that matter.

 

The elements combined in my bowl could never be achieved for the same sum at White House, Yaba, apart from the bucket of oil I’d first have to pour off my plate before being able to eat the food. And while I know that Amala HQ worldwide remains Ibadan, Oyo state, Lagos’ Amala HQ has officially moved to Surulere. Have you had a bite of Amala in Surulere?

 

 

“I am not ChuChu in here!”

Two mortifying events that happened yesterday have driven me to blog again. One incident was with my toddler son and the other is about an otherwise loving companion – a dog.

 

Yesterday, I saw my kids off to the bus. They are attending summer school as a way to keep them engaged this long holiday since we can’t afford a vacation, I’m only six months in on my new 9-5. Besides, we thought this would be a good way to slowly ease my younger toddler into formal school since she resumes at her brother’s next month. So, back to my story.

 

 

Ebuka1
Ebuka, when he was still my baby…

 

 

I walk them to the bus holding an alternate pair of sandals for big brother because I didn’t like the one his nanny wore him. He was in the bus, a bit far from the door so I called:

 

“Chuchu, come let me change your foot wear.” (His name is Chukwuebuka in full and it translates ‘God is the almighty’)

 

My three years and five months old got up, stood at his distance, and began wagging his index finger on his right hand. Not necessarily at me but he has seen me use the gesture to emphasize points or issue him stern rebukes. He said (with an accent I still don’t know where it belongs):

 

“I am not Chuchu in here. In the house? (he points to the gate) Yes. I am not Chuchu on the bus.”

 

I was transfixed and befuddled. I had never heard my toddler speak that way before. I looked at the bus driver and aunty perplexed while they smiled it off. I asked him what he just said and he repeated the same lines all over again as clearly as never.

 

“So, what are you in here?” I asked.

 

“E-bu-ka!” he answered. I then asked Ebuka to come change his shoes and he obliged.

 

Reflection

 

I call my children pet names that are derived from their first names. Ebuka is most times Chuchu and Olanna is Nana. Ebuka actually had different 2-syllabled pet names before it morphed to Chuchu which is now a bit more consistent. Olanna has always been Nana. My son’s reprimand of me was startling and unnerved me a bit. I had never heard Ebuka speak so clearly and articulately.

 

He would ‘baby’ a lot in the house just to parry attention away from his sister. He’d struggle to retrieve his toys from his sister and ask to be carried sometimes. Many times, he’d have to repeat himself over and over just so I can make out his words sometimes. And that’s because of a mixture of his funny accent and baby talking. Sometimes, he’d even point rather than speak.

 

But this Tuesday was different. And the first message straight for my heart was, ‘this is no longer a baby.’ For the first time, I felt like I had a kid to train and not a baby to nurse. In that second, I realised the need to be more deliberate in my child raising. While I turned this in my head and began the journey to my office same morning, I called the dad to share my shock (since he leaves home pretty early most mornings). I was still finding the words when I witnessed perhaps the most coldblooded event ever.

 

The security guys on my street were ganged up against a dog and one aimed a big plank for it, killing it straight away! I watched it all. I was screaming and so shaken and was narrating to my husband on the phone in the same second that one of the men dragged the body across the road right in front of me. I had to roll down the glass to engage one of the perpetrators.

 

“Why did you people kill the dog?

 

“Madam, it has been disturbing us since. It will come in the night and be making noise, disturbing. Nobody get the dog.”

 

“Sebi, una for drive am commot for the estate instead of killing.”

 

“Ma, we don try. Him dey always come back,” he answered.

 

And thus, the poor stray dog was killed. In that instant, I wished Nigeria had animal protection services that could have been called to pick the dog or even receive the dog if one volunteered to bring it over. It felt almost like jungle justice. It was jungle justice. Nigeria still has a long way to go with regards placing value on breathing beings.

 

PS – I returned to finish this piece on Saturday.

Inside my letter to Melania: I am so sorry

In the midst of all the Trump bashing, the person that draws my sympathy the most is Melania.

Trump Inauguration
Melania Trump – 45th first lady of the United States, walks into her husband’s inauguration, looking charming in baby blue.

I mean look at the poor girl. Yes she’s charming but this wasn’t part of the bargain. She was content just being married to this rich guy and having enough to take care of her lifestyle and son. She knew well how to massage his ego and had completely acculturated to the Donald Trump lifestyle and person. And then he lands her here.

In the very shoes of her distant idol. How is it that you ask me to replace an iconic, very celebrated and almost flawless woman? She was nearly perfect all round – education, check; parenting, check; humour, check; grace, check; compassion, check – what positive boxes does she not check?! She rapped, danced, exercised, loved dogs and gave badass speeches even extempo! How do you measure up to an Ivy league lawyer??!!!

There are two things Donald can do for Melania, if he is not too busy learning to be Mr President seeing that he’s been Mr CEO all his life.

  1. Give her a great team and
  2. Respect and adore her like or almost like Barrack did Michelle.

When I say a great team, I do not mean the ones that helped her choose ‘cyber-bullying’ as a ‘project topic’ when Donald was busy naming and shaming people for being different on Twitter and during his campaign.

By a good team, I mean the ones who would look in her background and find her something to be genuinely passionate about. She speaks five languages; let it count.

A bunch of people who can help her find her strength and emphasize it. It’s easier to comment on and cultivate what one is truly passionate about. The truth is that right now people do not care whether she planned to be FLOTUS or not. In fairness, there are no requirements for this position, you just have to be married to the president. But because of predecessors like Michelle, the bar is so high in terms of what is now expected of a first lady.

Back to my point, Melania dropped out of school in her first year to pursue modelling as a career. Now, a good team can make a project and campaign from that part of her past. She already dresses well and has good poise and comportment it would seem but we are yet to see her under pressure. For every time she opens her mouth in public space now, she is going to have to sound bright. Don’t make fashion statements only.

Take this as a challenge to develop yourself, Melania. Surprise yourself. Surprise Donald. Read and read and read. Ask questions. Don’t ask Donald. Befriend Ivanka (if you aren’t friends already); she seems to have a good head on her shoulders. And if this is not too much for you, befriend Michelle. Reach out to her. Ask her how she did it. You have more to gain. I bet she can be discreet if you ask her to. The press doesn’t have to know. Yes, Donald will not approve. But this is about how bad you want this. You may have to stand up to him for once.

Barrack was conspicuously the wind beneath Michelle’s wings. Yes, she has the best education the world can offer and was (very likely still is) smarter than Barrack in class yet it was he who gave her the room and confidence to be such an amazing first lady. The whole world knows you do not have that kind of support system. Your man wouldn’t  even pretend to be a gentleman in full public glare. And considering that being president is a new role for him, I expect he’d be very focused and overtly selfish about making that mark every president before him didn’t. In other words, don’t count on him.

Whatever you do become Melania, just don’t be that trophy wife. I wish you the very best. You can succeed.

 

Signed,

A fan and wife

 

Tonto and Mercy’s PDA: This is how to preach the gospel!

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The olive branch from Tonto

Can you believe that this just happened? Is it motherhood or marriage? Is it religion? Is it Christ? Someone even mentioned the Holy spirit. Read on.

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The confession continues

Forget about new year resolutions. See, there is something very deep about motherhood. I know not everyone goes through that phase. But a lot of mothers will tell you that they learnt selflessness when they became mothers. Every mother thinks their child is the best and deserves the best. Doesn’t it put us all in competition, you may think? But it is not so. It is a kind of love that is immediately activated the moment you see a little human anywhere, yours or not. It is why pictures of starving children from our IDP camps or of wounded ones from Aleppo always torment us. It is also why you think some women overreact when they hear of a mum who kills her child(ren) or why we coil when a child is raped. It’s also why it is never right to tell a mother who loses her infant to ‘look on the brighter side, you can have another one’ or ‘We don’t know why God allowed it’. How did I get here? Okay, Tonto and Mercy.

They were Nollywood arch-rivals. It was a Coke and Fanta fight. They were the younger versions of Omotola & Genevieve. Theirs was worse because Tonto was vocal about it. She has (or had) a caustic tongue. Then Mercy fell in love and married this Prince. Two babies later, Tonto meets this guy, settles into marriage and becomes a mum too. Very instructive is the way the former rivals began to brandish God following this development. They found God when they found love or did they find love when they found God?

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Olive accepted: Mercy professes forgiveness and love

Whichever way it happened, I am all for this sweetness. This is what we like to see. Love. Unhindered. See Tonto’s moment of realisation came after she had her child. It is why many women still think the ‘highest point’ of being a woman is to conceive and bring forth a child. I do not agree. But I do not deny the transformations that can happen to a woman from child bearing. Note also that not all women are so transformed after child birth. There is however a higher chance for women who go through pregnancies in the presence and with the support of a partner, to become so transformed. That is also why a lot of these women experiencing this indescribable joy can never understand bitter feminists who are largely old spinsters.

I expect that this morning’s conversation would have continued in the DMs. I expect it would have ended with the proposal of a get-together at someone’s house. I suspect it will be at Mercy’s house since she has more kids. The kids will be in the picture too when the Okojies meet the Obasanjos. It may be a beginning of playdates for the children, if all goes well and they don’t live very far apart. No, the husbands will be absent. Now we await pictures from the tea party. Thank you sisters for this public display of reconciliation and affection.

Come, let us be silly! aka ‘The Wedding Party’

The best time to write a review is always while the taste is still in the mouth. This doesn’t refer to food alone. It covers the entire spectrum of the arts. It’s pretty much like saying, the best time to write an exam is when you have just finished reading.

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I thought I already missed my chance to review ‘The Wedding Party’ movie since I didn’t grab my keypad right after watching it. Plus, loads of glowing reviews have popped up on almost every Nigerian blog or website you can think of – even if more than half of them are sponsored. So why add my own mite to the already loud noise? Because it’s been over two weeks I saw the movie and I still find myself burst out in laughter when the scenes replay in my head. Truthfully guys, I just HAVE TO let this out.

Who rang the bell for foolishness? Mo Abudu and Kemi Adetiba have some explaining to do. Do you remember the opening lines of singer Faze‘s once famous ‘Kolomental’ song?

faze-kolomental

Omo na mental case

Start to dey crase

Na who dey rock in this place

It’s Kolomental

That song must have been playing somewhere in the background of this movie when it was being shot or during auditions. I have never seen Ali Baba so ‘foolish’ (read, silly) all my life; not even at his annual January 1st comedy show. I always knew Ikechukwu had some foolishness (or goofiness) in him and I was so glad Kemi (the director) decided to hand him this script that provided the perfect opportunity to bare it all. Sola Sobowale was tastefully dramatic and this was such a brilliant outing for debutante actor, Banky W; as well as Features director debutante, Kemi Adetiba.

Between spilling blood in club fights and screaming, ‘my name is Ike-chukwu!’, I have always diagnosed martial art expert and rapper, Killz, to be a pleasant next-door guy with a high propensity and deep yearning to be foolish – if society wasn’t so patriarchal and condescending towards men like that. I’m glad he found that liberty in his role as Sola – the bestman. And oh! that Caucasian bridesmaid stole my heart – such a hopeless romantic overly flattered by the prospect of a Nigerian Prince.

Let me tell you about the Banky W we saw. It was the innocent-looking 2008 newly-relocated Banky that came to act in this movie.

banky-w
Back in the days: Ladies’ man Banky W

The singer channelled his Western loverboy personality – the one that endeared him to Nigerian ladies when he introduced the songs; ‘No regrets’ and ‘Don’t break my heart’ to us and stole our hearts. When he found and reconciled with his runaway bride at the beachside in this movie, I almost heard him break into singing:

You’re the only one for me

Why can’t you see

Girl, I knew it from the start

Don’t break what’s left of my heart

In fact, I will not be surprised to find out that he suggested singing this song but was overruled by the director (who is also his personal friend), while filming this scene.

This beach scene was the only Non-Nigerian element in ‘The Wedding Party‘. I mean, which runaway Nigerian bride escapes to be by herself at the beach with a bonfire in the background? Who helped her gather the sticks?

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Ali Baba (Mr Coker) dances with his wife – Sola Sobowale, in one of his ‘silly’ moments. Peep Sola’s manicure…

I could go on and on about this movie. Ultimately, I would say the casting director made excellent calls. Every role was correctly cast and the scripts, meticulously guided. The movie had every opportunity to derail but the director kept it steady on course. I think Ireti Doyle and Emma Oh My God had the best written scripts. Ireti was impeccable in delivery and Emma’s prayer points at the wedding reception was so carefully thought out. Who knew Madam planner, Zainab, could speak such brilliantly intoned Yoruba? And Beverly, she was the classiest bitter slut ever!

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The strongest and most important unit of society: family!

The Wedding Party is such a happy movie. I saw it twice in Asaba during the festive season and it put the ‘merry’ in my Christmas. I will see it again in Lagos, once the cinema crowd subsides and I can get a ticket. I hear the Lagos experience is the real deal.

Have you seen the movie? What are your thoughts?

Goodbye Indomie! Saving cost this economic season

I was at the grocery shop earlier today and the place was packed with items all the way to the gate. I just calmly respected my debit card by picking only what I went in for. These days, no one needs a reminder to stick to the list.

 

Grocery store aisle.
Grocery store aisle.

I know some people still struggle with handling shopping pressure so I have compiled a few tips I employ, to help keep my shopping budget sane.

 

Don’t just believe the housekeeper, look around the house yourself
You see, the times aren’t very friendly. A lot of thinking and pruning need go into the shopping list before one exits the door. Before now, I only wrote shopping guides (more like type a draft text message or Evernote) so as not to forget the necessary items. These days, I write, contemplate, edit, negotiate with the nanny, look in my kitchen store, ransack the freezer, then crosscheck the list again just to be sure that only the required are purchased and no pressing need is forgotten. There are hardly rooms for inclusions outside the list.

What's in the fridge?
What’s in the fridge?

 

Look in the computer as your goods scan. Who shame epp?

This is always easier than scrutinizing your receipt after you already paid.
I have stopped spending time at the till asking explanations from the attendant for why prices increase as rapidly as daily. I have decided to save my energy as the conversations never impact on my bill. These days, I feel absolutely no shame in staring at the computer to see the price of each item as scanned before my total is announced. This way, you can quickly spot multiple entries or identify which items to reduce or remove if your total is going above budget and the attendant is still computing the items. No shame. No pressure.

Don't let him woo you. Look at the screen yourself.
Don’t let him woo you. Look at the screen yourself.

Keep receipts from different stores or a price journal
I now stock receipts from different stores, comparing prices to decide which store to get what item from and who still has old stock. The downside to this is that you have to plan your shopping. You don’t just dash into any store. It may also mean that you will be spending more time getting your same old purchase. If eggs, fish, and plantain are cheaper at the green stall around the bend, why buy same from your one-stop shop?

 

Get creative. Trade time for money
My toddlers are eating a lot more home-made food. The N450/550
that goes into buying a bottle of Beechnut or Cow&Gate bottled food, can no longer be spared. I now use the same bottles to store and freeze her home-made sweet potato porridge, pasta, rice and peeled beans. Yes it means I have to devote time to cooking her special meals and even look up recipes on how toddlers like their meals made. The good effect this has produced is that she’s more open to trying adult meals apart from saving me a good amount of money.

 

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Porridge, beans, pasta stash… 1 bottle = 1 meal

 

Form alliances
My eggs and yams now come in from Ibadan – a neighbouring city. I found out that my friend, Funmi, always has someone come into Lagos weekly from Ibadan. This someone, brings her supplies from her parents. I have therefore teamed up with her and now get eggs for N750 a crate in place of the N1100/1200 which I pay in my neighbourhood shop for the same item. Yes, the Ibadan eggs are smaller, but I couldn’t care less.

Fresh eggs
Fresh eggs

Find alternatives. Bye Indomie!
A carton of 40packets of 70g Indomie noodles has gone from N1450 to N2200. I never thought there could be an alternative to Indomie. The maggie taste and reduced size post-cooking had become so annoying, I vowed to try another brand. Yes, I had some concerns. What if my children don’t take to it? What if my husband (a major noddles consumer) doesn’t like it? What will I then do with the carton of 40packs? But my mind was made up. I’d been exploited long enough. So I asked at the store, 3 days ago, for another brand. I got Mimee. And we have all eaten from it. I LOVED IT. Asked for my husband’s verdict and he said, he didn’t miss Indomie. N400 saved. Case resolved!

 

New favourite: Mimee!
New favourite: Mimee!

 

Conclusion

In the midst of the different survival tactics people are engaging to get by these days, no brand is indispensable. Brands should be sensitive enough to be content with marginal profits or creative enough to source other ways of augmenting income. Don’t be deceitful like Beloxxi cream crackers who in spite of raising cost price, still went ahead to reduce the number of biscuit in each packet. They were deceitful in putting no information on the carton to the effect so that consumers can buy fully aware of the change. I got home with my usual packet of biscuit only to be informed by my son’s nanny, days after purchase, that each packet now contains 2 biscuits in place of 3. Shame on you Beloxxi. I’m now searching for an alternative.

On top is the 'New' carton and under is the 'old'
On top is the ‘New’ carton and under is the ‘old’

Trump, the American ‘Change’

trump-quote-republicans-are-dumb

I’m still stupefied. I can’t believe it happened. I sort of saw it coming, but I never  thought it’d land. It happened – in the United States of America! A President Donald Trump.

I never campaigned for Hillary because I didn’t see the need to. I felt she was unfairly matched. How could she be contesting with a Trump? I assumed the choice was obvious. No contest, I thought.

In August when my husband visited Washington D.C, Georgia and Louisiana for business meetings, he returned saying Trump could be the next US president. He said a large number of the people he spoke with in the streets including cab drivers identified with his character. He was as shocked as I was that this dude actually had fans. Fans that multiplied greatly, became more aggressive and passionate enough to storm the polls on November 8.

Like Britons that exited the EU for the simple reason of wanting a ‘change’, the Americans have responded with their own ‘change’. Fed up with the system, educated and uneducated white voters, even evangelicals, voted overwhelmingly for the man who, in his campaigns, agreed with the closet anarchists they are. People love ‘new’ and Trump is ‘new’: rookie politician; unruly, fraudulent, chauvinistic, ridiculous and openly thoughtless; fragmented the GOP successfully, defeated the Democrats, outsmarted traditional media and the pollsters; and rubbished career politicians all over the whole world. It’s a collective shame I feel here.

Now that he is president-elect, how will he fare come Jan 20, 2017 when he’s sworn in and in the four years that will follow? Let me remind you of some of his proposed policies.

When the panic, devastation and elation across the world subsides, America will come to terms with their new reality: that there will be no more cool videos from POTUS and FLOTUS because Donald has replaced Barrack and Melania is the new Michelle.

On a more serious note, somehow I dare to think that President Trump will feel pressured to outperform the past Democratic presidents he castigated in his campaigns; especially Obama, Bush and Clinton. Also, I dare to think that Mr Trump will do his best possible to present a better image of himself than the one he projected at his rallies, debates and on social media. As the 45th president of the most powerful country in the world, Trump will struggle to be the best version of himself; we just highly doubt that his personal best will be enough.

With a strongly Republican Senate, one can only hope that the coming policies will bind more than divide, build rather than break, assuage rather than scathe the already fragile tolerance among Americans and with other countries of the world.

hillary-clinton
Senator Hillary Clinton was the most qualified and touted-to win Presidential candidate. She lost the election to Mr Trump but won the popular votes. she would have been America’s first female president among many other firsts. #I’mstillwithHer

Long live the United States. Congratulations America (I guess that’s in order?)

How I bought N200 meal in Lagos

Nigerians are indeed a resilient lot. In the middle of this stinging economy, someone still sells cooked rice in N50 bits and meat in N50 chunks. But before I get to that, I’ll walk you through the journey.

 

ofada-rice
Ofada! As it should be.

It was my birthday yesterday so I thought to wear a new look. I called an old hair stylist and confirmed he was free to make my hair. I drove up to his plaza on Opebi and while I struggled to find parking space, I called him to assist. Then he said he was standing outside but couldn’t see me. When I inquired where, it turned out he had moved to another plaza on Allen avenue (about 5minutes away). I turned the car around and headed to this new place. While walking me from the car, we had an interesting conversation.

Me: So when did you move and why?

Martin: Ha! This is the second place since Amazing Grace o (the Opebi plaza). I was paying 50k (50 thousand Naira) before (monthly). Suddenly, she (landlady/caretaker) said I should bring 80k. Where will I see that? So I moved to one other place, still on Opebi. We no do 3months, court came to seal the building. I didn’t know there was a problem before moving in. We just came to work one morning and saw government people. It was after that I moved here.

This new place is a whole floor milling with people: hair stylists, nail technicians, boutique operators, make-up artists; were the much I could count. Each had their corners and ‘hustled’ customers. Martins’ corner is well defined and partitioned away from others. His space was well pimped with mirrors on the wall, chairs, a hanging TV, standing fan and the usual accompanying salon equipment.

Barely had I sat when a young lady came with smiles, greeted, and asked if I would be making my nails too. I told a polite ‘no’. Another well made-up face came to market beauty products to me. I said, ‘no, thank you’. Before I would finish my hair, four more people came, greeting warmly first, then marketing one product or service; all beauty related.

It was while I sat in Martins’ chair, that the ofada (a local rice delicacy) matter happened. Martin asked a female assistant to get him N50 rice and two pieces of meat. I thought I didn’t hear right. Who still sells N50 food and how far can that go in filling a man? The food came, covered. Then I ordered for N100 rice and two pieces of meat. It came; concealed in black nylon, placed on a plate with a spoon.

When my hair was done, I grabbed the plate and began to eat from the nylon in complete market style. It was so tasty. Then I ate and I ate and ate and continued to eat until my tummy was FULL. I could not believe I paid N100 for this portion of rice. The beef was sizeable and well-spiced too. It was almost finger licking good.

It was when the rice seller came for her money that I found out the meat was N50 a piece. What?!!! Incredulous!!! People, that’s how I filled my food tank spending N200 in Lagos, Nigeria in the year 2016. I always have a bottle of water with me so I didn’t have to spend on water.

Back to Martins. He used to own a beauty parlour in a fairly big space in Opebi. He had an in-house nail technician and about four hair assistants. He ran his own generator and controlled who and what came in his shop. He even had a small boutique section.

In this new facility, everything is shared: space, water and power. They all use a central generator that kicks in when government power fails. There’s a floor manager to whom they direct all concerns. For the two hours or less that I was there, power must have failed about six times. I heard an assistant grumble about the ‘useless generator that ought to be sold’ and how the ‘useless (erratic) supply’ had damaged two of her plugged phone chargers only last week.

Perhaps the most frightening and singular most important new challenge is that: Martins just moved in with competition and there’s little he can control. This is how he copes in this economy.

The many inconsistencies that won’t make us great…

Yesterday, I ran a couple of errands that had me go through LASUTH, Opebi, Ikosi and CMD Roads. Every stop I made brought new revelations that made me marvel at how fast things are retrogressing  and how hard the government is trying to reward people’s tenacity with frustration.

 

My first stop was at a friend’s office in Opebi, to pick up the aso-ebi for his wedding, which is holding next week. While I was with him, his intercom kept going off and he’d repeat into the receiver, ‘I’m in a meeting. I said I’m in a meeting’. After the third such call, I asked if he needed to be elsewhere. Then he explained that a group of people from one of the many Lagos State government agencies were in the reception insisting on seeing a senior officer. This was the third team visiting this week (as at Wednesday) allegedly to ‘audit’ the company account.

 

Of course, he was reluctant to see them. The company he works for, an advertising agency, has already laid off half its staff in the last twelve months just to stay afloat. Parking is no longer a problem for guests as the hitherto inadequate car park now boasts only a few cars, a testament to slow business and the reduced staff strength. Yet the government is more desperate than ever to bite off whatever it is that is keeping this company open. As my friend saw me to my car, we walked past the team of 3 – donning black polo shirts with the Lagos state colour symbols on their arms. I shook my head wondering how the conversation would go.

 

Still smarting from that, I proceeded to the Lagos State High Court on Oba Akinjobi Road. I needed to swear an affidavit. As a Lagos girl, I parked outside and made sure to avoid the court touts who saw me arrive in a car. Then I went straight to those tiny buildings on your right, just by the fence, inside the court premises. To my surprise, the former office now carried a chalk inscription saying ‘mosque’. There were maybe another 20 touts and photographers hanging around there and one (who couldn’t be older than 21) approached me. He billed me ₦1500 for ‘typing’ the document, and securing the court stamp. He wouldn’t take less than ₦1000.
I was last here in 2007, when I lost my wallet along with a couple of I.Ds and bank cards. My entire transaction at the time took place in this ‘mosque’ for a few hundred bucks. My kid brother, who also swore an affidavit two months ago, said he spent less than ₦500,. so why pay this third party ₦1000? I tried to find the legal route even though everyone around me were interested in helping me in another way. A security officer later pointed me to the building where I could ‘stamp’ my ‘typed’ document (which was what I asked him).

 

On getting there, it was another tout (who I first thought to be an officer) that led me out to the reserved car park and asked that I wrote out my particulars: Name, Religion, Address, correct and incorrect dates of birth. Then he said, ‘your money na one-two (₦1200)’. I was already tired from walking around in the sun. With my car key firmly tucked away in my bag, I proceeded to negotiate. ‘Ha oga! Na ₦1000 dey my hand o and I go enter transport go house. I dey stay for Ketu. Make I give you ₦700.’

 

My brothers and sisters, this man gave me a seat in another building, and left for a couple of minutes. He returned with a COMPUTER PRINTED document, asked me to cross-check my details, collected the 1k note and went for the stamps. About 15 minutes later, my transaction was done. I walked out to my car wondering how our systems are created with deliberate loopholes to service corruption. What’s wrong with hosting a website where anyone can download these documents so that completed ones are physically presented for stamping in court? Why the ‘type’ scare when computer print outs are also acceptable?

 

As I journeyed home I saw hawkers scamper with their wares as zealous green-uniformed men (and women) jumped down from a black van. Ikeja is the state capital and hawking is forbidden. CMD Road and environs are currently under fire with demolition of ‘illegal’ structures going on left and right. Many of these house small businesses run by their CEOs and a handful of workers. As the economy crumbles and big organisations downsize, Lagos wages war against people trying to make ends meet legitimately. A friend who has produced her own juice in her Mum’s backyard, and is now trying to set up her factory, approached NAFDAC for approval. NAFDAC referred her to a consultant who she MUST ‘work’ with. I leave the rest of the story to your imagination.

 

When the hubby came home and I narrated my court experience cum negotiation tactic, he said: “Welcome to being a criminal. Lying in a courthouse is perjury.”

 

My reply? “I wasn’t under oath, please.” Sigh. The things Nigeria make you do.