Beat by SARS

Nigeria Police Force

Nigeria Police Force (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of all the lawyering I have to do, my least favourite “beat” is the police station. Every once or twice a year however, there’s either a distress call from someone whose relative needs bailing or there’s a need to follow up on some matter or the other for someone who’s commissioned an investigation. Neither is a more pleasurable visitation than the other because, as far as the police are concerned, you’re there to negotiate an extraction, be it of a suspect or documentation. Note I said negotiate and not demand, because it’s not law – it’s all a transaction. Bail isn’t free and neither is getting the police to properly do what they ought – investigate and solve crime.

My first post-call visit to a police station was with the Director of Public Prosecutions in Calabar, during my NYSC year. The smell was rancid and there were half-naked men, begging with all the energy that was left in them, that we buy them bread from the girl walking past, hawking. We didn’t (how does the head of prosecutions buy food for suspects while on an official visit?) and it seems one of them broke into tears. I have either carried that rancid stench with me in my head over the years, or all police stations have that combined smell of putrefying bodily waste and grey matter.

Another time, an idiot driving a long vehicle swerved in front of me without warning and took off my entire front bumper. The whole world, including the police at the scene, knew he was liable but he refused to accept (not being the owner of the truck), so we ended up going to the police station. Apart from having to pay a N5,000 “VIO Fee” (there was no inspection) to “bail’ my car, I was shaken by another incident that occurred while I was writing my statement. A man was brought in in cuffs and told to sit beside me on the bench. Apparently, someone had a stabbed a trader and run into this man’s shop and, somehow, he’d allegedly helped the stabber escape. About 10 minutes after he arrived, still sitting beside me, word reached the station that the stabbed trader had died before reaching the hospital. “You’re in big, big trouble, this man,” the arresting officer said and then dealt him that vicious Police/Soldier/MOPOL slap we’ve all heard about. I swear an air tsunami blew from the man’s face to mine, causing my  face to sting.

This past week, I was at a SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad)office, to follow up on an arrest for theft and the ensuing investigation. There were lots of men walking about with automatic weapons and guns always make me edgy. More than this, I was being given the runaround because I was trying to negotiate my way out of a 10% recovery fee. But shhhh!  no one in authority is to know about this . And if you believe our President, quoting an Adolphus Hitler, corruption only exists because we don’t stop talking about it.

While waiting, one police officer, who also finds time to farm, began to complain about the lack of real government support for farming. He ridiculed last year’s telephone intervention, as well as this year’s fertiliser reforms. “They’ve taken our names, for over 5 weeks now, no fertiliser. But I’m sure they’ve used our names to process the money.” Then he segues into how he used to be on patrol at the ports, guarding the fertiliser silos. “They take over 70% to the North”, he alleged, “but it doesn’t even stay there…it crosses the border into Niger and Chad!” Those evil Niger and Chad borders again.

Another officer walked in and complained that the place smelled “like a bloody hospital.” I reckon he was from another division. “Oh, there are robbery suspects next door”, he was informed, “and they have bullet wounds. They get treatment while in custody.” I squirmed a little more.


Dubai Diary

Dubai at Night. Taken with my Samsung SIII

Tex has been travelling again. This time, I went to Dubai with a large group of family and friends, to celebrate my sister-in-law’s wedding. I know Segun Adeniyi has railed against destination weddings but, usually, what the couple wants, the couple gets. Here, hopefully for your reading pleasure, are my bits and bobs from the trip.

Curses for Horses

My mum was there to represent the Texano familia, together with my aunt and a few of their friends. It was the first trip any of them would make to Dubai and, two of them being Waffi Girls, I was not surprised at their exclamations as we walked into the airport terminal.

Shuo!?! Na de same oil wen we get na hin dese people take build airport?”

“Ewooo!!! See as e big, fine!”

“God must punish all our leaders! Everybody wen don rule us before!!”

It didn’t get better after we cleared customs and drove into town, or later during the trip when we gathered for the wedding festivities. I then made the grave error of trying to play devil’s advocate, or Sanusi’s per-capita-oilwealth-gambit (he was on the flight to Dubai, coincidentally). “Well, there’s more of us in Nigeria, than in the emirates, and…”

Go joo! Ogbokodo lawyer.  Have they even sincerely tried to build anything?”

Another guest at the wedding concluded that the difference was leaders with(out) vision; no idea of anything really worth achieving or of leaving their office better than they met it. I think I agree.

The Heights are the Window to the Soul

I’ve heard many seasoned business travellers describe Dubai as “a city without a soul”. I have no idea what this actually means but I suppose it’s because of the contrived, rapid development. There’s very little history by way of organic growth and it’s mostly huge skyscrapers punctuating what used to be a blank desert canvas. Perhaps the Emiratis themselves, as a people, are not the most friendly, and immigrants making up the majority of the workforce also has something to do with this worldview.

In contrast, these travellers love Nigeria, with its crinkum-crankum, yanpanyanrin, jagajaga, and all the other things we Nigerians love to complain about. Our bad roads, our lack of stable or regular electricity, our acute leadership deficit, our endemic corruption, our suya, the way we drink and drive – the things that make Nigeria what it is.

I say SOD THAT!!! If it was within my power, I would gladly sell Nigeria’s soul to the devil, if it would make us as soulless yet as efficient as the UAE. My first visit to Dubai was in 2006 and I know how much has changed infrastructurally since then. I’ve lived in Nigeria all my life and, well…to hell with the soul.

Compare the Comperes

I made my debut as a wedding reception compere and I think, with the experience, I have new-found respect for those who make a living keeping the tempo upbeat at wedding receptions. I suspect it was my sister-in-law’s way of keeping the reception nice, intimate and family-ish, asking me to compere with her Uncle. It was by no means a disaster but we didn’t really get the audience to engage with us, at least not at first.

Things came to a head when, in order to fill the dead air caused by the bestman and the DJ searching for the music for the former’s speech, I was forced to resort to a collection of sayings and quotes on marriage. You know, of the “By all means marry. If you find a good wife you’ll be happy, if not you’ll be a philosopher” variety.

I unleashed the first one. Crickets. Except for my darling Mrs Tex who laughed. I unleashed the second and still, dead air, apart from a few sarcastic guffaws.

Deliverance was sent to me from on high through my Texinas, who’d been running around nearby and demanded to have a go on the “micra phone”. I was struggling, so I readily agreed, placing the mic under the 4-year old’s mouth.

“Hello Everyone…”

“HELLOOOOOO!!!” I couldn’t believe it – the crowd responded.

“Ehm…if you want to have a baby, first of all you need to get married.”

Raucous Laughter.

Then it was the 6-year old’s turn.

“Hello Everyone…”


“My name is [Texina One] and I’m very excited!”

“AWWW…. WE’RE EXCITED TOO!” More laughter.

“Shall I continue with my boring jokes?”, I asked.

“NOOOOOO!!!!” But now there was laughter.

Luckily for me, the bestman was ready.

The Middle-Eastern World Cup 

On the last morning of the trip, I had to take a walk to a pharmacy to get some meds. It was 10am and, while I had no idea of the temperature at the time, I swear I was close to fainting, after an extremely leisurely 10-minute walk. I’ve read about air-conditioned training centres and match venues as we prepare for Qatar 2022 but unless, they’re planning to air-condition the entire country for the duration of the tournament, I have to ask, WHAT THE [CENSORED] WERE THEY THINKING!!??

“Submission” is a Myth


When we discuss the submission of a woman to her husband, in accordance with the instructions of the Apostle Paul, the picture I see many painting is of a lowly woman, who mustn’t speak unless she is spoken to; who must wait hand and foot on her husband; whose sole purpose in life is to seek her husband’s approval and yield to him on everything. Luckily for me, my parents were largely equal partners, with Dad’s word prevailing mostly only when it came to disciplining us, their four boys. Most other things were as a result of mutual consultation and compromise.

Where does this instruction to submit come from and what exactly does it say? Let us look at scripture:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” – Ephesians 5:22-23

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” – Colossians 3: 18-19.

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” – 1 Corinthians 14: 34

One of the things that has struck me as a Christian, growing up in church and listening to sermons over the years, is how much of an effort modern day preachers (both orthodox and Pentecostal) make to provide as deep insight as is possible on scripture. It is now very common for preachers to discuss the Hebrew or Greek etymology of the original words from which the English translations were derived. It also frequently happens (although most pick and choose when this is acceptable) that the preacher discusses the cultural context in which certain instructions were given.

For example, see the following text from the 1st letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Chapter 14 –

5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved… 13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

Most conservative churches/Christians still frown at women with uncovered hair in church and during family prayers. However, many “charismatic” preachers explain that this admonition was necessary in ancient Corinth because prostitutes used to come into the temple to solicit men. Covering one’s hair as a woman was primarily to distance one’s self from women of easy virtue.

Both extremes of the Christian spectrum however appear to still fully embrace the doctrine of submission, at least where it comes to one’s husband. Women are no longer silent in church, as this was also apparently issued within the context of a cultural construct. *Shrugs*

Being logical, what this suggests is that if culture no longer supports a Biblical instruction that was not expressly declared a sin, we ought to reconsider how much importance we attach to strict adherence.

Some may argue that submission, or deference, of a woman to her husband is part and parcel of most indigenous cultures and this is probably true. However, culture is nothing, if not fluid.

From ancient times probably till about 50 years ago, the husband was undoubtedly his family’s sole breadwinner and protector. Perhaps this is even why (going back to the Bible)  a man was required to take his deceased brother’s widow as his own wife. Most wives were homemakers, ensuring the family was fed and the children looked after. She would be utterly defenceless without a husband and the man’s word simply had  to be yea and amen.

Then came this beautiful thing called education, recalibrating our civilisation. Families, on the whole, began not needing to decide which children would go to school and which would stay at home. Girls began to have the same education as boys and what we have today are men and women, husband and wives, standing on very similar footing with regard to earning power. Today’s woman is lifting a lot more weight, on the average, than her counterpart half a century ago. Today, some women even earn more than their husbands and it is said that many men in this position assume control of the wives’ salaries, deciding how much of it she should receive as an allowance. Why should such women be subordinates?


And let us even abandon cultural logic and examine the dynamics of romance and coupling. The great majority of women were chased, intently, by their husbands, with gifts and words and persistence and promises.  As a man, you go through all that and reward her by insisting she be your doormat?

The truth, as I see it, is that submission is a two-way street. In functional, happy marriages, wives submit to their husbands and the husbands submit right back. Otherwise no one would be looking furtively at the their wristwatches at bars and hangouts, for example. Today’s marriage needs to be built on a lot more mutual love and mutual respect for each other. In some matters the husband is boss. In others, the woman is the boss. Besides, with the admonition for the wife to submit comes the one for the husband to LOVE his wife. Loving and walking over one’s wife are irreconcilable, to my mind.


Let me end with an anecdote I first came across on the internet many years ago.

At his 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, a man was asked by one of his guests how his marriage had lasted so long. “Oh, that’s easy”, the man replied, “We decided very early on that she would let me decide all the big stuff and she would decide the small stuff.”

“Small stuff like what?” the guest asked.

“Oh, like where we would live, what colour we would paint it, the kind of furniture we would have, where the kids would go to school, what sort of car we would drive and so on.”

“That was the small stuff?” his guest asked incredulously. “So what did you get the final word on?”

“The really serious stuff, like who our country should go to war with, who we should elect as president and how the owner of the team I support is an absolute donkey.”


So, Mrs Tex recently had a baby. Habemus nueva Texina  – dodgy Latin for we have a new Texina. After delivery, we were moved into a recovery ward. 6 women in the room, with their baby-daddies (“partners” is the politically correct term in England) and frequently wailing babies, each couple with its unique story, from my perspective, at any rate.

The couple beside us on the first day (we were there for 48 hours or so), appeared to be a (British?) man of Arabic descent and a woman who sounded eastern-European. They stood out, not because I am xenophobic, but because I noticed after a while that they were communicating in heavily accented English, like in Maria de Los Angeles or one of those Hollywood movies set in Germany, in which all the officers of the Reich speak in a thick German accent, the thickness being directly proportional to the proximity of the officer from the Fuhrer. The other foreign couples only spoke English to the nurses. It was for this reason that I noticed them and started paying attention to their conversations. Their most remarkable exchange was when he asked her, for the umpteenth time apparently, “Are you alright?” She retorted angrily in her thick accent “Every time you ask if I alright!! What you want me to say??? Ugh!” And then she walked out and left him with the baby for a bit.

Then there was the Yoruba couple, like us, across from us. Except that the just-delivered mum wasn’t too happy with her partner. How could I tell? Well, she had this very loud conversation on the phone, in Yoruba, complaining bitterly. Husband’s name has the same intonation as Rotimi, Kayode, Bidemi. Shall we call him Deremi? Conversation and a contextual translation for non-speakers of Yoruba are provided below.

E wo, inu mi o dun si Deremi joo. O ti lose  spark e as a husband. Look, Deremi’s bloody pissing me off right now. Carries on like he has no clue about being a husband anymore.
Ko ki n ba mi se anything mo. Ko ti e ki n help mi rara. The man does nothing to help me around the house. Nothing!
Shebi bi mo se n s’ise l’oun naa n s’ise. Meanwhile, ko ni fun mi l’owo anything. We both work, don’t we? Yet he doesn’t give me a bleeding penny.
Maa lo si’bise, maa s’obe fun’le, maa we f’awon omo then, to ba d’ale, a wa ni ki n lie down s’ori bed I go to work, come back and cook, bathe the kids  and then at night the plonker wants a shag…

Yeah, very colourful. Moving on now to the most interesting couple we shared the ward with. I shall use their real names because they sounded middle-class (why then were they in a public hospital?) and the chances that they’ll read this blog post (it’s not from the Economist or Horse & Hound) by an inconsequential African are slim. So, meet Matthew and Alice of posh street, South Kensington.

Matthew and Alice had twin girls, who we shall call Bethany and Margaret. Having Matthew and Alice in the next cubicle was  like being next to Boris Johnson and Lady Thatcher. Strong, affirmative, cultured language and, to my constant amusement, the most officious (almost pretentious) manner of speaking to each other. When they arrived (they took over from the Arab/Romanian couple), they came in congratulating each other.

“I do say, Alice, that was quite a stunning, five-star performance, you having the twins. Well, done!”

“No Matthew, indeed, it is you who are the star of the show, with your unwavering support for me these past months.”


Ho, Hum, La, Dee, Da. Then they settled in and Matthew picked up Bethany, who apparently was already his favourite, as he never really mentioned or spoke to Margaret. “I simply adore you Bethany, you precious little sausage, you. A priceless sausage you are!” And then he proceeded to call her a sausage for the next hour. Lovely sausage this, pretty sausage that, Ho, Hum, La, Dee, Da.

Eventually, Matthew’s upper-crustedness kicked in and, unlike us plebs and foreigners, he wouldn’t spend the night on a hospital chair beside his wife. “I feel awful at leaving,” he said, “but I don’t think I really could stay, could I? I’ll be back first thing in the morning. A million thanks again for being such a smashing champion.”

“No Matthew”, she replied, “I would like to reiterate my appreciation of your care and attention. You’ve been wonderful.”

I swear she said reiterate. To her husband. Reiterate. Ho, Hum, La, Dee, Da.

When he arrived the next morning, she said “I’m afraid I’ll have to put you on nappy duty straightaway.”

“Grrrrrrreat! I thought so. Ah, Bethany’s done a poo. A super poo! She’s a super pooper. Super pooper, super pooper.”

Later, the doctors gave the twins their first physical exam, after which Alice informed Matthew “The twins have passed their first tests with flying colours!”

“O!M!G! Smashing!!!” said Matthew. I saw him do the running man, in my mind’s eye.

Alas, we were discharged and saw no more of the diamonds in the rough. I could probably do 500 more words on Matthew and Alice.

Artisans and Our Skills Gap

I frequently refer to artisans as the third leg of Nigeria’s axis of evil, after politicians and civil servants. I believe that if, or whenever, politics and the civil service are eventually fixed, artisans will still be the one thing holding us back.

In a sense, I exaggerate but we all use tailors, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc and have the scars to show their skills deficiencies. Plumbing simply never ends in most houses. In spite of the “German foundation” damp rises in in almost everyone’s walls in Lagos. Your electrician will fry your switchboard and vanish. Then, the tailors and carpenters – do I really need to justify their inclusion in this horror show?

And in this instance, we know it’s just a Nigeria thing. Growing up, the best basket-weavers were Ghanaians (but we drove them out, didn’t we?) and the best-tailors were francophone (les Togolaises et les Senegalaises). Right now, in masonry, that brick/stone effect that people do on their walls, the best people to do it are the Beninois and the Togolese. Why is it only in football that our non-skilled labour trumps that of our neighbours along the West-African coast? What is that they do differently? I actually do not have an answer to that question but I know, from short spells in Abidjan and Porto Novo that the lifestyle is very different from ours. Attitudes also seem to be different, with the Porto Novo experience particularly underscoring this.

For a period of about three months, during the ASUU-enforced two-year break between secondary school and university (circa 1995), my uncle and aunty dumped my cousin and I at the Songhai Centre in Porto Novo. The Songhai Centre is an agricultural skills acquisition “school” where students from all over the Benin Republic come to train before moving on to large-scale, commercial farms. The food was not to my liking and we (my cousin and I) spent more time watering the crops than anything else (arosser!) but I recall one of the students saying how he needed to complete 24 months at Songhai to become employable at a larger farm. At the time I thought, 24 months to learn how to plant, weed and water crops? Who has time for that? These days, especially after an artisan has come to do remedial work, for the 5th time, on work he did shoddily, I wonder whether he had any structured training at all.

More recently, I have met two Togolese masons who are both frequently contracted to come and work in Nigeria. One of them came to our meeting in an LR3 (so he’s done okay for himself). He also spoke about attending a training school for a few years and then working as an apprentice under a master-builder. I doubt very many of our masons are crossing the borders in the other other direction.

Perhaps it’s the easy-going life that they live that reduces the pressure we have in Nigeria to achieve more over less time. Maybe it’s therefore easier for them to contented. Perhaps their societies are more accepting of people who don’t have university degrees. We need to find out whatever it is that makes them stay long enough in skills schools to properly learn trades and just copy.

The reality is that we don’t have enough corporate jobs to employ everyone who has undergone higher education in Nigeria. There is also a stark hierarchy, where employers are concerned, of graduates from tertiary institutions: Federal Universities (there’s even an elite sub-class in there) > State Universities > Polytechnics > Colleges of Education.

Finally, employers generally pay higher salaries to people with foreign degrees, a premium for the better education they’ve ostensibly received. Clients generally pay more for lawyers renowned to be more highly skilled in an area of law than others.

Would we as consumers be willing to pay thrice as much for properly trained and qualified technicians and artisans?

5 Reasons Why The New Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge Should be Left Alone


Yesterday, I went on the newly-opened Lekki-Ikoyi bridge for the very first time. Yes, the N250 toll was more than double what I would have paid on the Lekki-Epe toll road but my journey time was more than halved. Many have kicked against tolling infrastructure that was built with taxpayers’ money and there may well be some merit in that argument. A suit has been filed against the Lagos State Government in this regard and we will have a judicial pronouncement on the matter soon enough. In the meantime, here are 5 reasons why I think the road should be tolled.

1.    The Location

Apart from revenue, tolling also serves to control drivers’ behavior. Take the Congestion Charge in Central London, for instance. More than anything else, the toll was introduced to reduce the number of people driving themselves into London’s central business district. Call this elitist if you like, but we can’t have the whole world driving through the primest of the prime real estate in South-Western Nigeria. The toll is low enough to be practical for the residents of the newly connected vicinities yet high enough to prevent it from becoming the world’s thoroughfare.

2.    The Lekki-Epe Concession

The Government of Lagos State is led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Now, yes, this is an ad hominem but the chances are that pacta sunt servanda will mean a whole lot more to them than the Federal Government. Unlike the unlearned Federal Government, which has failed to honour most of its obligations under the BiCourtney airport concession (e.g. closing down the general terminal and moving all domestic operators to the Concessionaire-operated wing), Lagos State will be keen not to create another alternative route to the Admiralty Toll Plaza. I haven’t seen the Lekki-Epe Concession Agreement but any lawyer worth their money (and intent on protect his client’s money) would have protected his client by restricting the creation of more than one alternative route.

3.    Journey Time

If you live in Lekki, you can now get to the Third Mainland Bridge in less than 10 minutes. Even Vin Diesel would struggle to do that with a souped up car on the Ozumba route, given the toll plaza, the traffic lights, the numerous intersections etc. And that’s even on a Sunday morning with little or no traffic. Time is still money in 2013, right?

4.    Have You Been on the Bridge at Night?

No really, have you? The bridge is a work of art. I overheard someone describe the drive at night as “almost sexual”.  Now I don’t know anything about that, but I guarantee that a few marriage proposals (as well as many ulterior ones) will be sealed with a walk or a drive on that bridge.

5.    Property Rates

This is more wishful thinking than anything else, but if Lekki is now only 3 minutes away from Ikoyi, should Ikoyi rentals still have a 50% (or more) markup on similar housing units in Lekki? I think not. Then again, with all the empty houses in Lekki, should there be a 40% (or more markup) on Agungi downwards? No? So what was my fifth point again?


The Convention

*This piece is a work of fiction and the ribbing is intended to be in good humour.*


This story cannot begin without me telling how I got into the business; how I became a surgeon of destinies. Well, I am only in my first year or practice, so perhaps I’m still a resident or trainee surgeon but well on the way to being a consultant. Forgive the medical metaphors, I probably watch a little too much Grey’s Anatomy in my ever-shrinking windows of spare time. I’ve become much busier these days. And I digress.

One Sunday, at Church, rather than have a conventional sermon, the preacher invited a motivational speaker to talk to us about fixing all aspects of our lives, especially our marriages and careers and getting everything back on track. I was spellbound. I had just lost my job in the aftermath of the bursting of the banking sector bubble and had been trying to figure out the next phase of my life. After I heard the man who would later become my mentor speak, I knew what I wanted to do. I made sure I met the speaker after the sermon and spent the next 3 weeks begging him to let me be his personal assistant. I was well-educated enough and I was willing to work for absolutely nothing. Soon enough, I was taught the basics of the trade.

“First of all”, he said, “you have to dress and sound like the archetypical dream husband. You must be immaculately groomed. Low haircut, chiselled hairline, bespoke suits and a high-sounding but not too evangelical lilt to your voice.”

So I invested some of my bank severance money in 2 expensive suits, a killer pair of black leather shoes (the plan was to expand my shoe options once I got onto the speaking circuit), and cufflinks. My banker’s shirts had always been well cut, so no problem there.

“Next”, he said, “you must develop the ability to make the most mundane things sound unbelievably profound. The simpler the concept ostensibly sounds, the more profundity you can inject into it. Especially, most especially, if you rhyme.”

“Rhyme?” I asked. “Oh yes”, he replied, “to make it in the big time, you gotta learn to rhyme a rhyme.”

Fast learner that I am, I retorted, “You mean to win the bingo, I have to learn the lingo?”

“Precisely”, he said, laughing heartily. “You’re catching on very quickly.”

“What else must I learn in order to earn?” I asked eagerly.

“Calm down now”, he cautioned, “a gig isn’t a day at the crèche. Not too much rhyming. Remember, profound. There’s a thin line between profound and cheesy. A great Life Coach never crosses that line. Okay?” I nodded.

“You also need a treasure trove of scripture to buttress metaphors of increase and promotion. We are in the business of selling hope. Hope that if a person truly believes it, he can achieve it. Now, if you can garnish the hope with scripture, legitimise it so it doesn’t sound like being greedy or covetous, you cannot go wrong.

“For instance, the scripture says ‘Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers’. This clearly supports the aspiration to ‘go higher’, to ‘be better’. Our message is, if you hold on to God, it’s okay to also want prosperity.”

I nodded again, soaking it all in.

“Now, to the imagery. Again, it has to be crisp, catchy and validative of improvement in personal circumstances. So, lots of ladders…”

“You have to empty your bladder to climb that ladder?”

“Bladder, sha?” he asked, looking confused.

“Well, if you take the bladder as an organ that removes harmful things from our blood, the statement could be symbolic of purging oneself of the harmful things in one’s life – vices like smoking, excessive drinking, womanising…”

“You know what?” said my mentor, “let’s forget the ladders. How about mountains?”

“There’s a fountain beyond that mountain?”

“Dude, calm down. That’s not profound enough.”

“I respectfully disagree, sir. Finding a fountain after a mountain symbolises a reward, perhaps a divine one even, after the struggle of, well, surmounting the mountain. In  fact, how about ‘surmount the mount to reach the fount’?”

“No, no, no, no! Forget mountains, then.” For some reason, my mentor seemed upset. “Let’s think altitude, you know, a variable height.”

“Someone’s already done that. Your attitude determines your altitude? Haven’t you heard that one before? Aspire to go higher? Acquire the fire? Perspiration determines your elevation?”

“You know what?” my mentor said, taking in a deep breath as if to calm himself, “there’s a Life Coaches convention in Abuja next week. Newbies like you can attend the 2-day course and become Associate Members of the Chartered Institute of Motivational Speaking and Life Coaching. More than anything else, there’s a chance to meet other mentors. Much greater coaches than myself. Perhaps they might be able to show you an even better way.”

So here I am at the convention in Abuja. It was during the flight that I decided that I wasn’t going to be a mere life coach – I was going to be a surgeon of destinies. It sounded profound enough. I had also started working on a mantra that I wanted to run by the coaches at the institute, but I won’t bore with you with it.

As I enter the convention auditorium, I hear an attendee ask his colleague if he would like a coke. The colleague replied, “Not for me. A coke will make you choke, but a Fanta is made for banter.”

Ah, I say to myself. I am in the right place.

200 Broken Covenants

On the final weekend of the year 2012, we awoke to the news that Covenant University had expelled roughly 200 students for the gross malfeasance of missing the final church service of the semester (or “term”, some would say). One by one, people trooped into the village square that is Twitter to air their views. The more popular trend of thought was that if indeed there was a violation of school rules (again with the secondary school terminology), the punishment was egregiously excessive. This was more so because the news report suggested that the students were only expelled because the Chancellor of the school was especially angry at the poor attendance at church and the expulsions were summarily handed out.

At the other end of the opinion spectrum were people who believed, given that the expulsion letters reportedly cited violation of a section of the university’s student handbook, that people generally know what they’re signing up for when they enrol at Covenant University and students who knowingly break rules ought to face the punishment.

In the middle, a position taken by many of my learned friends (a cautious lawyer, what a cliché), were people who decided to reserve categorical comments until they had seen the wording of the rules allegedly broken and the punishment prescribed.

Eventually, some wording emerged but not from Covenant University. Some, of the excessive impunity camp, believed they had found support for their position on the website of the National Universities Commission (NUC). According to the excerpt, “(1) A proposed institution shall have an adequate environmental base and shall be open to all Nigerians irrespective  of ethnic derivation, social status, religious or political affiliation. (2) Accordingly, its laws and status shall not conflict with the conventional responsibilities in academia or interfere with avowed traditional institutional autonomy.” Much was made of the first of these two requirements but, for me, it does not go much further than the issue of a candidate’s admissibility into the institution.

Shortly after that, a screen shot of a very pertinent section of the student handbook, the contents of which students reportedly sign to adhere to, began to circulate, the text of which is reproduced in full below.

  • [Unclear but presumably a list of school assemblies]
  • These assemblies are mandatory for all students.
  • No student is allowed to remain in the rooms whenever there is a university General Assembly
  • Any student caught in the hall of residence during any General Assembly shall be issued a letter of warning and may be expelled if the act becomes habitual.
  • Any student caught in the hall of residence during any General Assembly, particularly Chapel Services, Sunday Services and variety Night shall be suspended for four (4) weeks at the first instance and may suspended for One (1) academic session or expelled from the University if the act becomes habitual by being caught twice for this same offence.

This last text puts paid to any controversy. Every organisation, even a religious one, must be governed by rules. These rules cannot be subject to the effervescence of the governing authority’s temper, no matter how divinely we may choose to believe it is being inspired. That is the recipe for chaos and anarchy. What is more, the typical university, private or not, has a proper governance structure. The Vice-Chancellor is the head of administration, with the professors and other senior academics forming the senate. The senate is usually the supreme disciplinary body on campus. It is extraordinarily strange for a student (let alone 200) to be summarily expelled (ie without a disciplinary hearing) merely because the Chancellor (the ceremonial head of the university) commands it. A university that charges top naira for tuition cannot be run like a fiefdom.

However, the reality is that 200 students have been expelled. Two hundred young adults have had their dreams, ambitions and lives truncated without due process being followed. In fact, expulsion isn’t available to the University, even for “habitual” offenders. It is also unclear if the University bothered to sift habitual offenders from first timers. What can these students do about their situation? The idea of a law suit has been bandied and the students would be well within their rights to pursue legal redress. However, they need to be mindful of the fact that law suits in Nigeria take time to reach a conclusion. If Covenant University chooses to appeal a most likely unfavourable judgment (and this isn’t too far-fetched if the Chancellor is as given to whims as the reported command to expel 200 students suggests), they could very well be in court until 2018. Litigation should be the last resort, when all else has failed.

The first step would be to write to the University’s Council, requesting a reversal of the expulsions, highlighting the fact that the punishment meted out was far in excess of what the University rules stipulate. This is not only inappropriate, it is also unconstitutional (s. 36 (6) (8), 1999 Constitution). A copy of the letter should be sent to the head of the NUC, also requesting its immediate intervention. The parents of these students also need to pool their resources together to wage a public relations campaign to get Covenant University to reverse these expulsions. Publish the expulsion letters side-by-side with the relevant sections of the student handbook. Nigerians are typically fearful of ‘victimisation’ but you/your child currently stands expelled – what’s the worst the could happen?

Everyone else who is concerned must also apply as much pressure as they can. Focused, articulate, logical pressure, showing that while we appreciate the need for discipline and conformity to laid down rules, we are also trying to build a society in which constituted authority respects the confines of its power within the same legal framework.


Interesting things typically happen in transit on flights between London and Lagos. Tolu Ogunlesi’s recent YNaija piece reminded me of a few of my own experiences. Once, a woman who’d probably got lost in the Terminal 5 Duty Free, and on account of whom the flight had been delayed for nearly 45 minutes (they were about to take her luggage off the aircraft) finally showed up, wheeling in a humoungous holdall. Now, even if the overhead locker above her seat had been empty she would still have had trouble fitting her luggage into it. However, this was the London –Lagos flight and she was the last person to board, so the odds that it would be vacant were next to nil. Said lady, opening the locker and seeing it full, casually remarked “You Nigerians sef, is this your seat?” and proceeded to toss all the other bags on the floor. Of course, pandemonium ensued.

The incident after which this piece is titled is no less remarkable for its shock-factor. We were well into the British Airways flight, dinner had been served and cleared, alcoholics had had their nightcaps and passengers were falling asleep on their second or third movies. The lights had long since been dimmed and we were nearing the end of the silence just before the flurry of activity that usually precedes landing; that point when the flight map shows the aeroplane somewhere between Morocco (?) and France. Suddenly, three sharp slaps rent the air, thwap, thwapp, thwapp! “You thief!” the slapper accused.

Going by standard fare in Nigerian comedy circles, the recipient of the slaps must have been a Yoruba man, as the final syllables of all the exclamations that followed left him with his mouth wide open.

“Ha! Ha! Haaa! You slapped me? Me, you slapped me?? I will kill this old woman o!” he screamed. He spread his fingers wide and raised his arm in a pre-slap arc. A gentleman sitting in the row behind them quickly grabbed him mid-swing. “Control yassef” he urged the incandescent man, “are you not a man?”

“You stole my money,” the middle-aged lady alleged.

“Me???!! Steal money from you??? I have three thousand pounds in my brief-case!” as he lunged for her again. But the intervener refused to let go. “You’re a man. Control yassef. Control yassef,” he urged.

By this time, the BA flight attendants had run over in military formation and asked the man to come four rows back, to the rear of the plane, two seats away from me. A male attendant remained with the woman, while the person interviewing the alleged thief was female.

“Did you take her money sir?” the attendant asked. The man, in his late 30s to early 40s, started denying very loudly but she insisted he calmed down before answering. The man, still upset, very firmly refuted the accusation. The male attendant came over very shortly afterwards and asked to confer with his female colleague in the galley. They soon emerged, with female attendant looking slightly embarrassed.

“Ok sir, Let me first of all apologise for what just happened. My colleague has spoken with the passenger beside you. She’s now said she’d been dreaming that someone’s hand was inside her purse and suddenly woke up… I’m really, really sorry sir…we’ll also have to ask you to remain here at this seat until we land at Heathrow… I’m so, so sorry, sir.”

The man was silent for a few seconds, appearing to contemplate the misfortune that had just befallen him. Then, with absolutely no warning, he burst into tears and cried thoroughly, bitterly, broken-heartedly for a good five to ten minutes.